To read a checklist summary of this activity, click here
Planning for it
If you're interested in cake sales, you might also find some good ideas and inspiration in our Cake Auctions how2guide here, and we would strongly recommend that you read our know-how section on Food and Drink: Law and Best Practice here for any activity that involves preparing, handling or selling food.
Before you start
Before you start any fundraising activity, it's always a good idea to contact your chosen cause and let them know what you're planning, and how you're aiming to go about it. You should also try and discuss with them exactly how you're going to collect, look after and hand over any money you raise on their behalf. There is advice on handing fundraised money in our know-how guide here.
In the case of cake sales, this might seem pretty straightforward - you make the cakes, you sell them and you hand over the cash - but there are still a few issues to consider before you start. Mostly these are to do with costs in advance - remember that it’s always best practice to avoid financial outlay wherever possible when you're fundraising - so you might want to start off by thinking about:
Who will be paying for the ingredients?
If you're doing a small, one-off cake sale, you might be prepared to cover the cost yourself. If you're planning to have a bigger sale, or a regular presence at a local market or at your school, church or workplace, you might want to consider another option, such as asking a local business for sponsorship. Supermarkets are often happy to do this, but you will need to approach the manager in writing well in advance of your event. See here for our know-how guide on asking companies for sponsorship, or our letter template asking for food at fundraising events could be adapted and used to ask for ingredients instead.
If you’re fundraising at work, you could always ask your employer to cover the cost of your ingredients in exchange for the batch of mouthwatering treats that you'll be selling to keep their staff happy in the foyer every Friday lunchtime.
You could also ask friends and family if they'd be prepared to help launch your fundraising efforts by donating one of more of the ingredients needed.
Will you be making the cakes yourself?
Just because you're going to be selling loads of cakes doesn't mean you've got to make all of them - and plenty of people enjoy baking as a hobby. Many hands make light work - if you're selling at a fete or fair, perhaps you could persuade a group of helpers to make one small cake or a batch of smaller cakes each? That way, you have a group of people each covering a small cost instead of taking on one larger amount yourself. See here for advice on building a volunteer fundraising group.
You might also persuade some of your helpers to lend a hand with selling the cakes on the day, and with advertising your activity to their friends and family.
Are there any other costs you need to consider?
If your sale isn't part of a larger event, you will need to advertise it well. Do you need to find someone to help with the cost of designing and printing posters, leaflets of fliers?
If you are selling at a market, fete or fair, are you going to be charged for your pitch, or could you persuade the organisers to donate your stall for free?
Have you got all of the equipment you need? Most people have a bowl, wooden spoon, weighing scales etc, but it may be that you want to use a specific size of cake tin that you don't have for example. Many large kitchenware and specialist cake decorating shops provide cake tins to hire, so you should definitely consider this as an option rather than buying them - they might even let you hire them for free, if you explain what your event is in aid of.
It may be that, at first, paying some start-up costs is unavoidable for you to be able to do the best job you can of your cake sale, but always remember that the aim is to raise as much money as possible for your cause, so you're going to need to be able to guarantee getting this money back and a fair bit more for your activity to be worthwhile. If it's going to be a gamble, don't do it!
Once you've got a rough plan as to how you're going to pay for, produce and sell your cakes, it's time for the "who, what, when and why?"
What kind of cake will you be selling? Are you thinking of cupcakes in the canteen or lovingly hand-crafting three-tiered wonders made to order for special occasions?
Have some fun thinking creatively about this:
- Could you make cakes iced in the colours of your charity?
- If you're selling your cakes at an event like a fundraising football match, could you ice batches of buns in the colours of each team?
- How about baking a batch of plain fairy cakes and hosting a "decorate your own cake" stand for smaller children?
- A summer fete could call for scones with jam and cream, while puddings and sweet mince pies are more appropriate to a Christmas Fair.
- Baking can even be appropriate to a location - the cafe at Stonehenge does a roaring trade in rock-cakes, for example.
What ingredients you will choose to include or avoid is something you should also think about. Many people have allergies to certain types of food, or have made the decision to avoid various ingredients, eg animal fats or battery-produced eggs, but limiting your range of ingredients when faced with this doesn't have to be a problem if you plan for it. All things are possible in cake world, so whether it's a vegan Victoria sponge, flour-free fudge cake or fully fairtrade flapjack, with a little imagination it will always be possible to produce a tray of tasty treats and accommodate peoples' requirements at the same time.
Whatever ingredients you choose to use, always make sure that they're ALL clearly marked on your cakes so that people can see for themselves what went into them. For somebody with a serious nut allergy, for example, this could save their life.
Definitely spend a bit of time researching recipes - the internet is full of free recipe sites, and libraries have whole sections devoted to cake making and decorating - but remember to be realistic in your plans in terms of time, ability and recoupable cost.
Who and where
Who will be buying your cakes depends largely on where you're planning to sell them. If you're going to be selling at a school fete, you might be preparing batches of cheap, brightly-iced buns with sweets on top. If you've been offered a stall at a farmers' market, you'll have customers looking for natural, local ingredients, so might want to consider fruit loaf, apple tarts or locally-produced honey cakes. They'll be more expensive to make, but you will be able to charge more for them.
If you're hoping to provide a service selling special occasion cakes to friends or colleagues, you should research how much other people are charging for a similar product.
If it's a one-off cake sale day you're planning, you might be able to persuade smaller local bakeries, cafes or food shops to sell your cakes for you. This probably won't be something they'd be happy to do regularly, as it could prevent customers from buying their own stock!
Cake sales can work best as part of a larger event, so it may be that the larger event's venue dictates what facilities you will have to sell your cakes.
You can sell cakes at most events with just a (clean!) table and a box to keep your money in (remember to take a cash float!) so it's a very flexible fundraising activity. However, if your creations are more complex, you'll have a bit more to think about.
- Will your cakes require any special storage or handling?
- Will they need to be kept refrigerated?
- If you're going to be outside in the middle of summer, you should avoid cakes covered in cream, butter-icing or chocolate.
- How will you get them to your venue in one piece?
- Will you need bags to sell them in?
- Plates to serve them on?
- Washing up facilities?
- Rubbish bins?
Where you sell your cakes will also affect how much you will be able to charge for them, so if you're offered a venue, research if anything similar has taken place there in the past, and if so, how it was priced.
If your cake sale is part of a larger event or in your school or workplace, it's unlikely you'll need any additional licences, risk assessments or insurance to carry out this activity. If you're planning to sell cakes in any other location, you should always get the permission of the owner and get the go-ahead from your local authority before beginning.
Remember that knocking on doors to sell your wares is never something you should attempt.
When to sell them
Cakes might be a great "impulse" purchase, but if you let people know when your cake sale is due to take place, you're going to sell even more and make more money.
Decide how regularly you will be baking. If you can make a regular feature of your cake sales, e.g. at church once a month, or outside the school gates every Friday afternoon, you'll create an expectation, and people will be more ready to buy every time you're there. Your school or workplace newsletter or website might also agree to advertise your efforts for free.
Even if your cake sale is going to be a one-off, you should aim to put up posters (there is a poster template here) or deliver fliers around the area where your sale is going to take place, to let people know you'll be there. Try and include a colourful picture or a photo of a homemade cake if you can.
It might be that you're planning your sale to coincide with a charity's national fundraising day, in which case you won't be able to choose the date, but if you can, think about times of year when people are most likely to be buying cake anyway - religious festivals, public holidays and Valentine's Day would all be good places to start.
If you always have cake at work for colleagues' birthdays, perhaps you could suggest that (provided a certain amount of money is raised by your workmates) you'll bake instead, and give the money to your chosen cause.
When to make them
You'll also have to plan a timetable for all of this baking, both for yourself and for any helpers who'll be providing cakes. Some cakes can be baked, cooled and then frozen, others can't - make sure you follow the guidelines in the recipe you have followed if you're planning to store cake in advance in this way.
If you have a group of people making cakes for an event, make sure everyone has been told clearly when and where they should deliver their offerings, and to mark any tins, trays or boxes clearly with their names if they want them back. Its important to make sure you have also asked every volunteer baker to provide a FULL list of ingredients and a "baked on" date with their cakes.
Two quick tips relating to time:
You should always label your cake with the date it was baked, and (if the recipe provides it) a suggestion to how long it can be stored for.
You'll sell more cakes in the afternoon than at any other time of the day.
YOU know why you're holding a cake sale, but the people you're aiming to sell to won't unless you tell them! Make sure you promote your fundraising cause, whether it's on your posters in advance, a banner on your stall, by including information with each purchase or any other method. You could also ask the local newspaper to feature your cake sale - click here for a letter template to help you do this.
Remember, this isn't just cake you're selling - it's "cake-in-aid-of!" Letting people know that your cakes are being sold to support a cause doesn't just help spread the word about your charity - it also gives people a legitimate excuse to buy more cake!
When nothing is left but crumbs and cash, you should aim to get your fundraised money to your chosen cause as quickly as possible.
Let people know how much you've raised, whether it's in your school or work newsletter, or by asking the local paper to write a short piece.
Thank everybody who helped, from the supermarket who provided the ingredients to the people who helped sell cakes on the day. If you've got a further fundraising event planned, you should also take this opportunity to let people know about it.
And when your event is over and the washing up's done, don't forget to share what you know with us here at how2fundraise, either on our "My fundraising" pages or on our forum, here
Law & best practice
Inform your charity
It is good practice to let the charity or individual know you are fundraising for them - a quick phone-call will do, or drop them an e-mail. They may have useful resources and advice to offer. If you haven't yet decided, there are a number of websites that will help you.
Fundraising Materials and Publicity
All of your fundraising materials should make it clear where all the funds you raise will go, that you are fundraising in aid of the charity and that you do not represent the charity. If you are not fundraising for a registered charity, then you must not use the words ‘charity’ or ‘charitable’. If you are fundraising for a registered charity, remember to include their registered charity number on your fundraising materials.
Make sure you have a secure system for handling the donations.
It is usually a good idea to ask your employer if they will match-fund your fundraising income, but remember to check that they will match-fund this activity before you start and if so, if there are any limits.
Ask the charity you are fundraising for if they are registered for Gift Aid. If they are, please ask donors/sponsors to sign a Gift Aid declaration. This enables charities (and higher rate tax payers) to claim tax back from the Government and increases the overall value of your gift to the charity. You can incorporate this into your forms, or just include a declaration in the materials where people commit to make a donation. If you or anyone involved in your fundraising activity is receiving a benefit from taking part, be that through participation in an activity or the purchase of goods, certain rules apply and you need to check these out.
A risk assessment doesn't have to be a complex document, but it is always a good idea to run through one at a level appropriate to your activity to ensure you are taking the appropriate health and safety measures.
Use your risk assessment to help you identify any insurance you may need. Generally if you are hiring a venue, it will be insured and you should ask what cover is available when you hire. Some charities are able to offer insurance to people fundraising for them, so it is worth checking with them. For more information on insurance check the know-how sheet on insurance.
While you should not be put off including food, remember that food at fundraising events will need to comply with regulations applying to specific types of food. The Food Standards Agency provide lots of really easy to understand guidance on what you need to do and when you are required to do it. Even if there is no legal requirement to label the food, it can be done voluntarily, giving the product name, a list of ingredients and details about ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction, such as nuts. Ensure the information is accurate.
Alcohol and entertainment
If you are planning to sell alcohol or offer entertainment during the event, and entertainment includes live or recorded music you will need a licence, though it is likely that the venue you choose will already have this in place so check with them. If they don't have one, you can easily implement a temporary event notice, which if approved will allow you to sell alcohol. If you don't want to obtain a licence to sell alcohol and you are not offering entertainment, then you can allow people to bring their own drinks and you might want to make a small charge for 'corkage'.
Raffles at events
A raffle is known in legal terms as a lottery and all lotteries are governed by the Gambling Act 2005 but a raffle held as part of an 'exempt event', such as a pub quiz or community fete, does not require a license. Pages 13 to 15 of the Gambling Commissions guide to Lotteries and the Law also gives clear advice an what is allowed and what you need to do. Further guidance is available by calling the Gambling Commission helpline on 0121 230 6666.
If you are running an activity you are required to take 'reasonable' steps to make it accessible to people with disabilities. This doesn't mean you need to invest in expensive equipment, but it does mean you should look for a venue that has good access, print material in a font size that people can easily read and so on. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has lots of really useful publications including one called 'Organising accessible events' and a very friendly help-line so do give them a call on 08457 622 633 if you are unsure.
It is a good idea to take pictures of your fundraising activity. Most charities will be really pleased to receive them for newsletters and other materials, but just check the photography and filming laws before you start, to reassure yourself.
If you are producing your own materials for your fundraising activity, you must only use materials that you have a right to reproduce. Copyright law gives the creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, broadcasts, films and typographical arrangement of published editions rights to control the ways in which their material may be used. The safest option is to use material you have produced yourself, such as photos or drawings. Although some material is available without copyright restrictions on the internet, don’t assume that all materials are copyright free.
If you are collecting names and addresses then you need to comply with the Data Protection Act. You’ll be pleased to discover that it is pretty much what you would do out of common courtesy and respect for people’s privacy, but check it out and make sure that you are getting the details right.
Don't let all you hard work go to waste. Have a plan B in case you are not available on the day, or shortly before. Keep good records, so that they can be used as a handover pack and find someone willing to take over should you be indisposed.
Codes of Fundraising Practice
The Institute of Fundraising has developed the Codes of Fundraising Practice to provide a guide to the law and best practice in relation to fundraising activity throughout the United Kingdom. Check to see whether your charity has committed to best practice by becoming members of the Fundraising Standards Board. You may find information in the following Codes useful:
Handling of Cash Donations
Fundraising in Schools
Accountability and Transparency
Guidance for 'In Aid of' Volunteer Fundraisers
You can find all the Codes of Best Practice on the Institute of Fundraising’s website.
This how2guide/know-how sheet is produced by how2fundraise.org, an on-line service provided by The Institute of Fundraising. It is intended to provide general information only and should not be taken as a full statement of the law. Please bear in mind that the Institute does not give professional legal or accounting advice, and while care has been taken with this information, you should consider whether you need to seek advice before taking any actions or incurring costs.
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