7 Mistakes to Avoid at a Bake Sale

Updated: Nov. 10, 2023

Are you guilty of any of these fundraising faux pas?

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A selection of cakes and chocolate brownies for sale
Shutterstock / Marbury

Everyone loves a bake sale: delicious, homemade treats and the sweet, smiling faces of kids fundraising for activities. It’s a community-friendly event with many ways for children and parents to participate. As easy as they can be to hold, there are many mistakes people make that derail an otherwise fun and profitable sale. Always remember to label your bake sale goodies.

Don’t forget to bake up a few of these big-ticket treats for maximum profits.

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Various desserts on display in bakery window.
Shutterstock / Elena Elisseeva

Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong location

You know the real estate mantra: location, location, location. Same goes for bake sales. Ask local businesses with plenty of foot traffic, like supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centers to host your group. School-based events like concerts, drama performances and athletic events can also be great bake sale opportunities. Local churches may be willing to host your sale after services, and check with your town’s recreation department or community center about events like parades, fireworks and festivals.

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Gooey and delicious chocolate brownies neatly stacked for sale on a market stall at a food festival.
Shutterstock / Nicky Rhodes

Mistake #2: Not coordinating the treats.

Inviting parents to bring treats without a plan means you may find yourself with several pans of brownies… and not much else. Organize a sign-up with categories so you can control what’s coming: a paper sign-up sheet, a group email or be really tech-savvy with a free tool like SignUpGenius that shows folks the available slots for treats (and supplies like napkins and plates, perfect for folks that aren’t bakers) and can send email reminders. Since many children and adults have food allergies plan accordingly with some allergy-free treats.

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Colorful polka dot paper plate, plastic spoon & fork, napkin on wooden board background.
Shutterstock / Nogwish

Mistake #3: Showing up without supplies

Don’t assume your host will be able or willing to give you basic supplies. Ask parents to bring folding tables, and a pop-up awning if the event will be held outside. Bring napkins, plates and utensils. Also, have plastic baggies, foil and plastic wrap ready for customers who want treats to go. Bring trash bags, paper towels, and a broom with dustpan for cleanup. Hand sanitizer and disposable gloves are also a good idea.

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Group Of Children Holding Bake Sale
Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Mistake #4: A lack of advertising

You can’t just rely on foot traffic. Invite people to your bake sale by having the kids in your group create fliers to hang up in the area. You can advertise your event for free via Facebook groups (most towns, school districts, and PTOs have one) and sites like Front Porch Forum. Ask your host if they’d be willing to share the event on their social media, too.

At the sale, be sure to have plenty of signs, plus some nice packaging doesn’t hurt either!

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Baked goods on a tray.
Shutterstock / Nicky Rhodes

Mistake #5: The prices are all wrong

The goodies need to be priced to move but also to make a profit—it’s a tricky balance! A good rule of thumb: what would you pay for bake sale treats to support a good cause, and go from there. Price the treats in increments of 25 cents so that making change is easy. Near the end of the sale, reduce prices to move the last of your inventory.

Here’s a list of treats to bring for a best-selling church bake sale!

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Pleasant baristas selling a box of cookies to the customer.

Mistake #6: Forgetting customer service

Everyone appreciates good customer service. Talk to the kids in your group about making eye contact and greeting people with a smile. Kids should rehearse a short, simple script to talk about their group and why they are fundraising. And a “thank you” after every transaction is a must.

When dealing with younger kids, be sure to help them make change, and remind them to keep clean as they go. And as tempting as it may be when serving an ooey-gooey dessert, remind them: no licking fingers!

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Female hands cleaning table in the living room.
Shutterstock / plantic

Mistake #7: Leaving a mess behind

Not cleaning up after your sale is a surefire way to burn future fundraising bridges with your host. Leave the bake sale site cleaner than you found it. Take all food, supplies and trash with you. Have your kids thank the owner or manager who provided the space for your sale in person or drop a card in the mail.

These are the lemon bars that win every bake sale!