Recession-Era Fundraisers for Cash-Strapped Organizations

You know how different types of fundraisers occur more frequently during certain times of the year? It seems that November and December are bake sale months. Bake sales can be a good source of quick cash for some organizations. Putting them on doesn't require much investment of time or money (relative to the alternatives). Here are some tips to make the most of your group's bake sales:

If you have the goods (or the bakers) but lack a place to set up shop, ask yourself, Where can I find a lot of people in one place at the same time, who would love to buy a nice snack or could be tempted to buy one, and who lack access to snacks? The answers might suggest bake sale options such as these: 
  • Bus Stop Bake Sale: Where are the busiest bus stops during rush hour? This could be a good place to sell your scones, coffee cake, and other breakfast items.
  • Black Friday Bake Sale: Hundreds and hundreds of shoppers, waiting  in line for hours, and many of them hungry…just waiting for someone to show up with freshly-baked scones, coffee cake, and other treats. 
  • Baked Goods for Bar-Hoppers: In my neighborhood, there are a lot of bars and clubs. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, there are a lot of people, lined up, waiting to get into these bars and clubs, some of them with a hankering for a snack. (These folks might prefer savory items to sweet.)
  • Baked Goods for Block Buster Movie Buffs Lined Up For Blocks: See Black Friday Sale.
For these options, you may have to make your sale an ambulatory one. Instead of putting the goods out on a table, put the goods on your person, and "work" the lines of people who are hungry, bored, or unable to resist home-baked goodies. Specifically, put on an apron with deep pockets and fill them with your (wrapped) cookies, brownies, etc. Have a sale partner, who works the line with you, taking money, making change, bagging purchases. Or use a rolling cart or wagon to display your goods.

You can apply the ambulatory bake sale concept to other situations, like these:
  • Sports events
  • Parent-teacher conference nights
  • Intermissions of holiday sing-alongs, recitals, and other shows
  • Polling places Florida, Ohio, and other states where people stood in line for hours
  • Gas stations in New Jersey, New York, and other places that Sandy visited.

How to make your sale easier:
  • Ask your friends, family members, the bakers on your board of directors, and your organization’s volunteers and supporters if they plan to bake for the holidays, and if so, to donate some of their creations to your sale.

How to make your sale more profitable:
  • Make a “donate-your-spare-change” jar prominent and available.   
  • Consider what else you can sell at your sale, i.e. decorative bags (baked goods in a cute bag = instant gift), other small items.        
  • Make available a sign-up sheet on which customers (and perhaps future donors) can share their names and contact information. Give them a good reason to sign up, i.e. discounts on your theater’s next show, a free copy of your group’s report on where to buy locally-produced/organic/fair-trade food, etc.      
  • Sell raffle tickets. (Have a raffle.)
  • Dress up as a snowman or Santa Claus, and pose for pictures with customers in exchange for a donation.
  • To attract post-event donations and potential volunteers, send out a press release and photo – the more interesting your story/photo, the more likely it will be used.
  • Check local public land use, health code, and gaming (for raffles) regulations relevant to your sale.
Key Principles:
  • Incorporate into your bake sale as many additional opportunities for customers to spend money as you can.
  • There aren’t (m)any one-size-fits-all-organizations fundraisers. It’s up to you to consider if an ambulatory bake sale would work for your group. Would your board/volunteers be willing to hawk cookies, etc. to lines of people? Can you find folks to bake and donate treats for you to sell? Are there places in your community that attract lots of people, waiting to get in/their turn, etc.? Would these people buy what you are selling? How does a bake sale fit with your organization’s mission? (Diabetes prevention groups  - this fundraiser isn’t for you.) Are you selling baked goods that people will want to eat, or those industrial-sized muffins-in-plastic-wrap that you can find at the gas station, by the cashier?
  • Take names and … contact info and enter them into your database! Then put your newly acquired data to use!