Tips for Bake Sales

bake sale 1.1Family and friends have been anxiously awaiting this post since mid-November! Not because they need the vital information I’m going to share for hosting a successful bake sale, but rather for the glory this post is going to give to God for the great things He hath done!

A friend of ours was diagnosed with cancer in July.  This homeschool mother of 7 and her husband have had a rough year in all areas, and then along came this cancer diagnosis. In an effort to *do* something helpful, our homeschool group decided to host a bake sale. Here’s what I learned in the process!

PRAY hard!

Hosting an outdoor bake sale in November isn’t the most *brilliant* of plans, but that’s what we did. Here in the mid-west, November weather is typically pretty blustery. The week leading up to the bake sale was chilly, but not too bad. However, the forecast for the Friday of the sale, was downright awful! Everybody called to let me know that Friday was going to be miserable, hands down. But what can you do when you’ve got ads out everywhere, and all the radio stations have been announcing this fundraiser for days?

You pray, that’s what you do. And it helps to have a 13 year old in the house reminding you that God is a miracle worker. I told all my girls that we were packing a change of clothes to take along, because we would probably get soaked…with a forecast of 100% chance of rain, and 30 degree temps…don’t you think it prudent to plan ahead a little? But my daughter kept chiding such plans…”Oh ye of little faith, Mom!”

So we kept baking, baking, baking…and praying, praying, praying!

Involve the Kids!

bake sale 2This tip deserves its own spot in the post. Being homeschoolers, each family had children coming along eager to help. One family had the awesome idea of making costumes! They came with the cutest sandwich board type costumes–one of a cupcake, and another of an M&M cookie. Another family had a chef’s costume, and another donated a banana costume (banana bread, anyone?). We had a line of around 20 children clowning around attracting business for us. Those costumes did the trick!

One of the boys threw in a pogo stick for extra credit. Now THAT got people’s attention!

Enlist help!

This goes without saying, but I thought I’d better say it anyway. Mass email your support group, being sure to call the ones who aren’t online and try to get an idea of what items they are bringing to the sale. You don’t want to end up with four tables of brownies, for instance. Well, maybe you do–especially if a moment of chocolate is necessary for the morale of the troops on sale day.

We shared around the following jobs:

  • Decide on a good location for your sale, and work out all the details. Staples graciously allowed us to use their parking lot free of charge.
  • Get ads in the local newspapers, and call/email the local radio stations with a public service announcement to make sure news of the fundraiser reaches as many in the community as possible. Do this a week or two in advance. In our case, the radio stations gave a free blurb every day leading up to the bake sale, and then really pushed it for us on sale day. The newspapers gave us a free “story” spot due to the sale being a fundraiser.
  • Make flyers to put around town at the local businesses!
  • Make signs to put up at big intersections on sale day!
  • Make colorful neon poster board/cardboard signs for the kids to hold to attract traffic and passersby on sale day. (It’s a good plan to make plenty of these, and bring extra poster board and permanent markers along to make more if necessary. Wind and rain–and kids!–can wreak havoc on the best of signs!)
  • Get two (at a minimum) canopy tents for your sale, and make sure you have weights to anchor them down at all four corners. In addition to this, buy two or three shower curtains and rings to attach to the back of the tents to provide added protection from wind and rain. The rings will clip along the upper tent poles perfectly, and the shower curtain can be clamped at the bottom corners to the tent legs. Works great!
  • Do you want to raffle an item off to make a little more money for your recipient? We raffled off a homemade quilted denim throw. Just be sure to have tickets and a ticket jar on hand!
  • Have a jar on hand for donations, and tape a picture of the recipient to it so buyers will know where their money is going. They may want to donate additional funds directly to the family, or a medical expense account. So be prepared with that information.
  • Round up however many tables you will need to display your culinary works of art!
  • Be sure to let the home bakers know how you want the foods packaged, and whether or not to price their items.
  • Be prepared with a money box and however much change you think you’ll need on hand. Many people start out with $50 in ones, fives and about $15 of that is in quarters.

Pricing or Not Pricing?

On the subject of pricing, initially we price-checked what pies, rolls, breads, cookies, etc were selling for at local grocery stores. We wanted a good idea of what the public would be willing to pay for the same items–of the homemade variety.  We asked our contributors not to price their items, thinking we would make up a pricing sheet or board that would cover everything in generalities. However…

The day before sale day, we decided–after much prayer and weighing out the pros and cons–to not price anything. Talk about a leap of faith, but we felt impressed that we needed to let the Lord pour out His blessings on this sale, and that pricing things would only limit our profits.

So we made it a “donation only” bake sale!

Sale Day Arrives! Drum Roll…

Okay. So we were ALL praying that God would give us great weather, right? Well, the local farmers must have been praying for rain, because the night before the bake sale the wind howled, the skies erupted and the rainwaters gushed! However, morning arrived and we loaded our Suburban full of baked goods in only a slight misting of damp! All the way to the bake sale, we watched the sky. Incredibly, it looked fairly clear above the city! We arrived at the Staples parking lot along with several other families, and got both of our canopy tents set up with no wind or rain or damp at all! God is SO good!

In fact, besides being chilly, the weather that whole morning was great! We had a ten or twenty minute shower mid-morning, but other than that, it was truly a miraculous answer to our prayers! We had two moms that really planned ahead for “miserable” weather, one brought a cooler of hot chocolate and cups (which we and our customers guzzled freely!) and the other brought a bag of ponchos for the kiddos out holding signs. She also brought a gigantic pot of hot chili, cheese and crackers for those of us working through the lunch hour! (I’m telling you, these ladies are the ones you want for friends when the going gets tough!)

Around 1 p.m. the wind came up, and the radar was warning of major rain moving into the area by 2 p.m. Sure enough, it moved on in! Still we held out, and people stopped by, feeling sorry for us, I’m sure! Many of them told us they wouldn’t have stopped except for the children lining the sidewalks by the road.

Soon we caved into the weather around us and started tearing things down. We were cold, but happy! Off we went to a friend’s home to count money and see if the day had been the success we hoped for!

The End Result

bake sale 3Doing the bake sale on a donation basis made our job so easy. Most people didn’t ask for change, so we had them directly deposit their cash and checks into the donation jar we had on one of the bake sale tables. We did come prepared with change, but would have only needed maybe $20 worth of quarters, ones and fives at the most.

90% of our customers responded SO generously to our “donation” bake sale.  We had people buy $50 worth of foods, and pay for it with $150! One guy paid $30 for a pie…and the stories go on and on. Yes, some people got away with a steal, but the generosity of others more than covered those instances.

Our bake sale might have made $300-$400, had we priced every single thing. We were hoping to make $500 which would cover two chemo treatments for our friend with cancer.

But guess what? Back at the house after the sale, we just kept counting and recounting the money because we could hardly believe our eyes!

On a Friday, a day that everyone expected to be absolutely miserable (and indeed, it turned into an awful, miserable day after 2:30 p.m.)…God must have pulled out all the stops because we ended up making exactly $1,500!

Yes, $1,500! We immediately called our friend, the one we were raising funds for, and told her the good news. She was blown away. Finally she was able to speak and she said,

“I have 3 months of chemo left and $1500 is the exact amount I need to finish paying for them.”

Wow. Of course God knew this need, and knew how to meet it. It was our privilege to be His toolsl! Especially as many of us were a little bit skeptical about how much money we could make off of a bake sale in the first place.

In spite of our misgivings, we turned the end results over to God–weather, profits, getting a late start planning, etc. We decided ahead of time, no matter what happened, we would praise Him. And He sure blessed our socks off!

Luke 6:38 says,

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

That is sure truth to take to heart in times of need. Not necessarily referring to money, but also to love and service, and sharing whatever talents God has blessed you with. We all have something He wants to use for His glory!

And while you’re at it, NEVER underestimate God!

6 thoughts on “Tips for Bake Sales”

  1. Our awesome God! How I love to be in the wings watching Him work! How I thank God for ‘our’ 13-year old and her faith! What a blessing for all of you to be involved! Every one involved should write a journal entry of their thoughts and memories of the bake sale so each of you can celebrate it in years to come! Thanks, honey.

  2. What an heart rending story. The Lord uses His
    own in so many unknown ways. There’s a verse which I can’t locate that says “and being in the way, He or I”. This recounting of providing and sharing brings it to mind. You were in the way for blessing your friend and God used that availability.

    All the efforts of each of your team mixed together baked up a wonderful blend of God’s best blessing.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Love you

  3. Mary,

    This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for serving our Heavenly Father and I am so proud of your girls too! The faith of children is amazing!

    Hugs,
    Lew

  4. I agree, Anne. Things like this involve a lot of work, but the blessing far overshadows it all in the end. This was a triple on the amazement factor!

    Lewanna, I love seeing you here! Thank you for commenting that–it means a lot to me to have reconnected with you and your sis after all these years!! Hugs, back! ;O)

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