I don't know how often you work at bake sales, but I work at them more often than I thought I would when I started college. I also didn't know I would become so obsessed with baking. I feel like I'm pretty good at it most of the time, and I really enjoy it. During the last couple of years, I've been lucky enough to turn this odd sugar-addiction into something that (I hope) helps others.
Two of the organizations I'm involved in on campus here at UA have bakes sales from time to time. One is Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society. Technically I am the "Fundraising Chair", but really that just means bake sales, which is something they were doing before I joined. Usually we have them to raise money to go towards the publication of our literary journal, Dewpoint. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw all of my obnoxious bake sale pictures last week. We were raising money for our trip to the Sigma Tau Delta National Convention in March (where I will get to present my food poems! Exciting!).
The other organization is really more of a cause. If you've never heard of the International Justice Mission, you should totally go check out their website. IJM is an international organization that fights modern day slavery and human trafficking. We have a university chapter of IJM at UA, and mainly we raise awareness and funds for IJM. I wanted to help somehow, so I asked my friend Josh, who is the UA chapter president, if we could have bake sales! And I'm so glad I've been able to contribute by doing something I love to do.
In this post, I'm going to tell you about some things I've learned about bake sales. I'm not saying these tips will help you raise a million dollars or anything, but hopefully they'll help you raise some money for whatever cause you're passionate about.
1. Advertise: Let people know before hand that you're going to have a bake sale! That way they'll be prepared the day of. You can post fliers, Tweet about it, write a Facebook status about it, etc. Use your social networking skills! Sigma Tau Delta had a Valentine's Day bake sale last week, and fliers were posted all over the building where it was going to be located a couple days ahead of time. Someone even created a Facebook event for this bake sale. That way you can invite all of your friends and get them to invite all of their friends.
2. Visual Appearance: This may seem obvious, but I'm serious. You want the baked goods at your table to look appetizing. You want them to catch people's eyes. You want them to look so delicious that people have to stop at your table. I know food coloring can be messy, but don't be afraid to make things colorful! Our bake sale last week was Valentine's Day themed, so there were a lot of red and pink and heart-shaped things. Chocolate sandwich cookies with pink filling, cookies with red and pink M&Ms, pink macarons, individual cupcake-sized pies...I was so impressed!
3. Individually wrap everything: Ziploc bags are your bffs when it comes to bake sales. Ziploc bags and Saran Wrap. You don't want anyone giving you funny looks when you reach into a bag or tray or something and touch the food you're about to give them. Even if your hands are clean or you have hand sanitizer -- individually wrap or package everything. If you're looking for something cuter than Ziploc bags, you can also buy treat/party bags. I usually buy clear treat bags at Target in the party section, but I'm sure a craft or party store will have more options.
4. Bake things that can be individually wrapped: Unfortunately, as cute as cupcakes are, they are sometimes not the best for bake sales. You want to bake or buy things like cookies, brownies, muffins, whoopie pies, donuts possibly, mini pies, etc. Things without frosting, unless it's like royal icing or decorator's frosting, which is a little hard to the touch after it has set. Forever ago when Pinterest had just become popular (there was a time before Pinterest!?), I saw a pin of a cupcake in a clear cup and then inside a treat bag. At the bake sale last week, I tried this and included a plastic fork inside the bag and they turned out perfectly!
5. Keep the cost low/all the same: This is something that may just be specific to the bake sales I've been involved in. At Sigma Tau Delta bake sales, we're selling to college students who are on their way to class, possibly late, and possibly in a rush to get to their next one. By making everything the same price, like a dollar, it's easier for people to stop and buy something quickly. Also, the lower the price, the more people will consider buying. Obviously you don't want to make the price too low because you do actually want to raise some money. But if you're expecting a lot of buyers, this shouldn't be a problem.
6. Get a card reader: One of the biggest excuses people give when they don't want to buy baked goods is, "Sorry, I don't have any cash." And then we're like, "No problem! We have a card reader!" I think most students are telling the truth when they say they don't carry cash with them. If this has happened to you, you should totally invest in getting a card reader for your phone or iPad. The Sigma Tau Delta vice president has one and always brings his iPad to our bake sales. Sometimes it's tricky when it comes to actually swiping the card, but there's also an option to enter the card number instead. Then it will give you the option to enter an email address so you can send the buyer an email receipt. Check out the Square card reader's website for more information!
7. Location: Set up your bake sale in a place that has a lot of traffic. This may seem kind of obvious, too, but it's still important. We have our Sigma Tau Delta bake sales in the English building and we set up in the lobby right in front of the main entrance. So when people open the doors, we're pretty much the first thing in sight. At the IJM bake sales, the table is in one of the main buildings on campus. It's got a dining hall, a food court, a Starbucks, the university supply store, a post office, you get the idea. Unfortunately, as crowded as this building usually is, the lobby always has tables set up that organizations can rent. So different groups are there everyday. Because of this, students usually just breeze right through and try not to look anyone in the eye in order to avoid getting stopped by the people at the tables. Kind of like kiosks at the mall, you know? So, while it's very crowded, the students are almost immune to the organizations set up there. We still made a bunch of money after being set up there for a week but it's just something to think about.
I hope these tips help you at your next bake sale. Let me know if you have any additional tips or questions!