How to host a charity bake sale

Our emotional connection with food and its ability to bring people together makes a bake sale the perfect way to raise funds for charity or non-profit organisations. 

A bake sale appeals to all ages and demographics, is suitable for groups and events of any size and is relatively easy and cheap to set up. 

Anyone from first-time bakers to professional cake artists can get involved, and the best part about it is getting to eat cake in the name of a good cause!

It may sound easy but there are some things you may not have considered, so read on to find out how to make your bake sale a success!

How to organise your bake sale

Although bake sales are pretty straightforward to set up, give yourself a few weeks in advance to allow for promotion, sourcing ingredients and finding an appropriate venue.

Secure volunteers

The number of volunteers you’ll need depends on how large you plan to make your bake sale and whether people will be responsible for multiple tasks.  

You’ll need a few people handy to help with baking, sign-making, money handling, setting up and selling.

You should also assign someone to be responsible for making decisions to avoid too many conflicts within the group. 

Find your location

We recommend contacting local schools, churches, supermarkets or even universities to check whether they have any events coming up. By joining an existing event such as a school fete or summer fair, you can keep costs low and instantly acquire customers. 

If you’re going it alone, some venues might agree to host you with some sort of incentive – for example, promoting their venue as part of your marketing for the event, or even a minimum spend at a bar.

If the weather is nice, an outdoor bake sale set up in a public area like a town centre or supermarket is a great way to draw people in. Make sure to ask permission first! 

What the venue needs

Consider the practicalities. You’ll need somewhere with trestle tables or similar to lay out your products, and if you’re serving tea and coffee, you’ll need an electricity supply or a nearby source of hot water. 

It might also be a good idea to have a few more tables and chairs for customers to sit, chat and enjoy their cake and hot drink with friends or family. 

Be mindful of young children if you are going to serve hot drinks and ensure that they are only been handled by a responsible adult.

Sourcing your products

If you’re planning to make your event a regular occurrence, you may need to contact the Food Standards Agency to discuss food hygiene. However, the agency also states that occasionally selling baked goods to the public does not require a certificate.

Below are common ways to secure food to sell at a charity bake sale.

Bake them yourself

Grab your friends and family and host a baking night to get everyone involved. Perhaps, turn it into a competition and award prizes for the best-looking cakes or most unique recipe – just don’t eat too many of them! 

If you’re stuck for ideas or want to bake something more exciting than a Victoria sponge, you can visit sites like BBC Good Food or Waitrose for baking recipes and inspiration. Remember to make gluten-free options for those with coeliac disease.

If you’re a regular baker, don’t be scared to show off and make something amazing! Getting people talking about your bake sale will also get people talking about the cause you are supporting! 

Ask for donations

Ask local bakeries or cafés to donate to your bake sale. They may ask for you to promote their brand as part of your marketing material, but it’s a good way to increase interest with professional-looking goods. 

Buy from a shop

You could buy cakes from a supermarket or bakery, however you need to factor in the cost of the cakes when setting your prices and this can make your bake sale more expensive than it needs to be. 

If you’re purchasing fresh products from a shop, check the sell-by dates as they often last a maximum of two days.

Products with a longer shelf life such as pre-packaged cakes are fine to buy in advance, but keep all products in airtight containers, away from moisture and extreme temperatures.

Dietary requirements

Approximately 7% of UK citizens follow a vegan diet and 8.5 million of us avoid wheat. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to consider dietary requirements when sourcing the products for your bake sale.

Offer a vegan/non-dairy option. Many supermarkets now offer plenty of options for non-dairy customers. This doesn’t just apply to the cakes – if you’re serving tea and coffee, be prepared to offer almond or soya milk.

When storing your products, keep the gluten-free and vegan options far from everything else.

How to price your bake sale

Most of your products will probably be donated by friends, families and businesses, so you won’t need to charge much for each baked good. However, It can be tempting to increase the price of your products to raise more money for your chosen cause.

Pricing the goods depends on a variety of factors such as the types of goods your selling and the location of the event. If you’re selling butterfly cakes and brownies at a school fete, for example, you should keep prices low and no more than 50p per item.

If your location attracts adults and you have higher-quality products, you can price them from £1 upwards. 

Increasing your profits 

Bake sales are a great way to make money by selling cakes, pastries, teas, coffees and other sweet treats, but there are other ways to raise funds during your event. 

Upsell to customers

You could try upselling to your customers before closing a sale. For example, offering tea and cake at a set price, or offer to wrap some extra cakes up for them to take home to family or share at work.

Add games

Add another revenue source by offering easy-to-play games for your customers. For example, you could offer customers the chance to guess how many sweets are in a jar for a small fee, with the prize being the jar itself!

Create a form to take people’s details, such as name and email address, so you can contact the winner later on.

Promoting your bake sale

Promoting your bake sale is importing to ensure you get enough people to attend and cover any overheads you incur. How you promote the event depends on your venue and date, here are some effective ways to drum up interest.

Advertise at the venue

If the bake sale is in a local building like a school or church, put up posters in the local area or in the location itself. 

Alternatively, if it’s in a university common area, you can target student media outlets and ask them to advertise your event via their newspapers or social media pages.

Radio stations

If you’re hoping to attract a large crowd, and have prepared enough stock, contact your local radio station and ask them to make an announcement live on air.

Social media

Don’t forget to harness the power of social media. You can make a facebook event for your bake sale and advertise it on local groups and pages.

Making the event public means people can share and invite others, giving you a larger reach. 

If you’re working with local organisations or other businesses, tag them in every post. That way, they can share your event to their much larger audiences. 

Get in touch with the charity

Charities often have a large social media following and are always keen to promote events that support them. Many charities also have their own magazines or newsletters, so be sure to place an announcement in one of these publications.

Legalities of hosting a bake sale

Organising a bake sale is, in general, pretty fun, but be wary of some of the legalities you must abide by. 

You can’t fix prices

Technically speaking, you can only ask for a donation with fundraising, so while you can suggest a price, the buyer is entitled to donate what he/she thinks the product is worth.

You must list all allergens

It’s a legal requirement to label common allergens such as wheat, eggs and milk. If you don’t know whether or not a cake contains an allergen, don’t guess!

You must donate all event proceeds

You can keep the physical cash for yourself and donate online via a debit or credit card. Alternatively, some fundraising sites like JustGiving offer a ‘donated offline’ option. You don’t need to contact the charity directly unless they’re not listed on one of these sites.

Running the bake sale

You’ll need more than a dozen cakes and brownies to run a successful bake sale. Below is a general list of things you’ll need: 

  • Table
  • Tablecloth
  • Money box
  • Price cards
  • Calculator 
  • Air-tight containers
  • Plates
  • Paper bags
  • Plastic knives and forks
  • Tongs
  • Napkins
  • Disposable hot drink cups
  • A kettle/hot water dispenser
  • Teabags/coffee
  • Milk/sugar

Other top tips

Do a little market research before you start. What sweet treats do people like? How much would they be happy to pay for a cake?

Make or buy big cakes. Cupcakes are fun, but a carrot cake, lemon drizzle or three-tiered Victoria sponge can be cut into slices for maximum profit.

Maintain good hygiene standards. Only accept home-baked cakes from those with proven experience of baking.

Reach out to local businesses to enhance your product offering. This could be cakes from a local bakery (who would be happy to take the free promotion) or even prizes from supermarkets or department stores as a raffle.

Keep posting on social media throughout the day of your event to drum up the interest. Scarcity marketing is a great tactic – even little posts such as “last three brownies left!” can bring out the last minute crowds.

Further reading

For details on where to find free venues, visit MyCommunitySpace.

For health and safety guidelines, visit the health and safety executive website.

For vegan recipes, visit BBC Good Food.

For guidance on food allergies, visit the Food Standards Agency.

Good luck with your bake sale!

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