In this third part of MamaBake’s Bake Sale Guide, we talk about how to organise a bake sale from the ground up.
While a bake sale may seem easy on principle, you need to organise many things at least a month or more before any baking actually happens.
You need to:
– Get your team together, decide your team leader and a treasurer
– Find as many people as you can to participate in baking or manning the bake sale on the day
– Divide up responsibilities including baking, hiring/supplying/purchase/transportation of equipment, who will set up, who will work at the stall, who will pack down the stall etc.
– Choose a location
– Choose a day and time
– Start planning who will bake what
– Start organising hire/borrowing/purchase of equipment
– Decide how you will divide up the costs of purchasing baking ingredients; will everyone pitch in an equal amount to purchase everything that is needed or will each person simply use what they spend as their ‘donation’
Each state and local council has its own specific rules about compliance with food safety regulations and other specific rules regarding the production and sale of food outside of a commercial kitchen.
As each council is so specific, it benefits you to call the relevant council directly rather than relying on any guidelines that you might find online. These can sometimes be filled with jargon or contrary statements, and you don’t want to get in trouble with the authorities for misunderstanding the rules, or to get in worse trouble if a community member decides to complain about some aspect of your stall or conduct.
In some situations it is necessary for participants to have food safety certificates to ensure that food preparation and storage is done safety. Sometimes only a leader or overseer is required to have this and can monitor other members, but again this needs to be clarified for your specific area.
Licences often need to be obtained to have any kind of food stall. For example, in Brisbane, to operate a food stall you need to have a food business licence. This can be purchased and obtained at the local council and there are a range of licences available, from one off licences to annual ones. This won’t apply if you are doing the stall on the grounds of a school or other non-council managed location. Again, when you are fundraising for a charity, school or community group, it helps to mention this when you speak to the council, to see if there are alternate options for fees.
Many councils also require that each food product have an accompanying clear and accurate list of ingredients so that customers will know what goes into what they purchase and to accommodate for food allergies. I would advise against labelling your product as ‘allergy free’ as legally there’s no way for you to guarantee this.
For charities, each has very strict guidelines about the way people raise funds for them. Always talk to the charity first before embarking on your fundraising initiative. Written permission may need to be obtained.
Location will first depend on what the bake sale is for. If it is for a school fete then the bake sale will be held on the school grounds. If you are raising money for a community group or charity, then it makes sense to hold the bake sale at a weekend market or similar within the relevant community area.
You want to pick a location that is free or at least very cheap, and if you talk to the organisers of a market and explain the purpose of your bake sale, they may be happy to help you out with a discount or to allow you to use the space for free.
A location that is highly visible but also protected from the weather is the ideal choice. If your bake sale is in the colder months, then do consider holding it indoors, like in a community, church or scout hall so that you will not be impacted by bad weather. If you plan to hold it outdoors, regardless of season it is good to have a stall with portable sun shade over it, to protect both volunteers and product from sun but also rain.
Locations can quickly book out at events like markets, so it’s a good idea to call and enquire when you first start thinking about a bake sale.
– First are foremost, for the bake sale itself you’re going to need a couple of trestle tables on which to display your baked goods. Schools, scout halls, churches and markets often have these for you to borrow, but make sure you organise this prior.
– Already mentioned is a portable sun shade if you are doing your bake sale outdoors.
– Trestle tables look a lot better covered with a couple of brightly coloured table cloths.
– Make some large signs for your stall. These are easy to make yourself with a sheet of plywood and some paint. If you’re doing it for a charity or community group, they may have their own fabric banners with which you can advertise the cause. But you’ll still want a big sign that says ‘Bake sale’ or ‘Cake stall’. Make the text large, neat, legible and correctly spelt, but also try to make it colourful or attention grabbing.
– Have tongs and disposable rubber gloves if handling unpackaged food
– A cash box with a lot of spare change will be especially useful for keeping funds safe. Record how much spare change is added first so that people can be reimbursed, or add it to the funds raised.
– Labels and ingredients lists for each product will be needed
– Collect together some nice looking aprons
– Have spare rolls of cling film in case you want to change the way you have displayed or packaged your baked goods. Also good to have would be some small paper bags or cellophane bags and paper napkins for those planning to consume their purchase immediately
– For sanitation purposes, have some spray-able cleaning liquid, cleaning cloths and hand sanitiser for volunteers manning the stall
– Posters, flyers and promotional material need to be made and organised as well. That is discussed further in the following section
Consider various methods of advertising the cake stall/bake sale:
– A post on the school/club/charity website
– A notice in the school/club/charity newsletter
– Several posts leading up to the event on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever other social media is being employed.
– Community and local newspapers may advertise for free
– Local radio stations may also do a plug for your cake stall, especially in country areas.
When you’re deciding what you want to make for a bake sale, think about the customers you are likely to be baking for. It’s all very well to make an interesting recipe which you love, but if it is too unique or unusual, then it may not sell.
Also consider the weather and pick your recipes according to what is appropriate.
It is best to avoid making anything that needs refrigeration and that can become a food safety risk if temperature is not maintained. Uncooked dairy such as whipped cream or uncooked egg products should be avoided.
Also as mentioned in the first 2 parts of MamaBake’s bake sale guide, avoiding nuts and having some items which do not use gluten or eggs is a good idea. A couple of vegan items could be beneficial, but this may depend on your likely customer base.
As ingredients need to be listed, it is best to bake things from scratch which do not use additional pre-made items such as packet mixes, store bought biscuits, cereals etc. which have their own lengthy ingredients list and also add significant amounts of preservatives, sugars and colours to your product.
In the planning stages with your team, try to get a wide range of recipes to be made and divide them amongst the team. Plan according to team strengths also; perhaps each person has a baked good that they’re brilliant at making.
Being able to obtain portable cool storage apart from ice filled eskies is expensive and difficult, especially when needing electricity or a generator to run a fridge. Try to avoid needing this sort of equipment at the stall.
Consider whether the goods will be stored overnight at one person’s home and in their fridge, or whether it will be the responsibility of each person to bring their product to the bake sale location prior to the start. Decide how things will be stored effectively and how best to organise this amongst your team.
Don’t expect your baked goods to sell themselves; make your stall look beautiful and attractive.
Ideas for presentation:
– Purchase or make bunting (easy to knock up with some cloth scraps or paper, twine or string and some staples) and string it up around your stall. This gives a cake stall the wonderful look of an old fashioned English fete
– Paper lanterns, balloons, garlands, ribbon etc. can decorate your cake stall
– Try to get some different heights on your display table. Use tiered plates, elevate some plates on some old books or on upturned bowls to get some height variation. This prevents your display from looking flat and draws the eye. We use this principle in patisseries, presenting different products at different heights and on attractive platters or plates
– Use a couple of attractive table cloths to cover your trestle tables
– Doilies are apparently cool again
– Present pre-packaged goods like biscuits in clear cellophane bags tied with ribbon or square paper boxes with clear film windows, which can be cheaply obtained and food catering wholesale stores. This way product is presented in a way it can be easily seen and purchased. Label each one clearly with a price tag.
– Make sure volunteers look neat and tidy and have long hair pulled back or similar. Being well presented in person means people will be more likely to purchase your goods.
Pricing can be the trickiest part as you’re trying to balance a price that people are willing to pay for your goods, with avoidance of underselling or overpricing.
Try to double the amount spent on ingredients at the very least. This is why making expensive and complex products for a bake sale is inadvisable; you’d do better just donating the money than making something costly and trying to sell it for beyond cost price.
In pricing you also have to consider the other costs such as packaging, fuel, energy etc. So don’t undercut yourself by making everything just $1 or $2.
Try and use round amounts for prices though, in 50 cent increments would be best. ie. $2.50 or $3.00 etc.
Dividing goods into plates or packs can be useful for pricing. Sell a bag or a plate of 5-6 biscuits small biscuits for $2 or $3 depending on the ingredients for example.
Have plenty of spare price tags so you can change prices if things don’t sell well. But give it some time before you change prices. People can be slow to warm up, not want to purchase sweets until just before they’re heading home or until after they’ve had lunch. Don’t feel pressured by people telling you that your product is over-priced and that they will give you less for it; they don’t care how much money you raise, they just want what they want for cheaper.
Money handling and recording
Once you’ve assigned a treasurer, they should be in charge of keeping the raised money safe, tallying the results and giving the proceeds to the school/charity/club/community group.
During the bake sale, consider keeping a notebook where you record the item sold and how much it went for as you go. Or to have it more steam-lined, make a spreadsheet with all the items agreed upon on the left. In the next column have the price decided per pack/piece for each item. Then you just have to draw a notch next to the name each time one of the items has sold and it will be very easy to tally and calculate the expected total. It’s important to keep accurate record of things that have sold and how much you should have earned, for accountability to prevent any disputes between team members.
Consider emptying the cash box periodically through the day to prevent keeping a large amount of money at the bake sale site. The treasurer should decide a safe place in which to deposit the money.
If you are rapidly approaching the end of the allotted time and you still have treats unsold, mark down the prices or give customers some extras. Better to get rid of the product for some money rather than leaving it unsold.
Make sure you’ve rostered on volunteers who are happy to help pack down and transport equipment at the end of the day. You don’t want everybody disappearing and leaving the mess for just one person to clean up.
Ensure that the funds are given to your chosen group.
Definitely report the success of your bake sale, even if it was just mediocre. If you have advertised in newsletters, social media, websites or local papers, put up a piece about how the event went, how much money was raised and perhaps plug the next fundraising event that your group plans to hold. Build on your hard work and success by reporting it to your community.
If you happen to be team leader, consider sending out thank you letters/emails to your team members thanking them for their assistance and congratulating them on the success of the event. Such praise and appreciation will increase the likelihood that people will help with fundraising activities in the future.