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The cake sale: a beginner’s guide to fundraising

As part of our work as field evaluators with Global Giving UK, we were tasked to fundraise £650 to cover the cost of our training. But as with most things on the Field Evaluation Programme, this was not seen as a mere contribution, but a challenge and learning experience in itself – helping us to better understand the process charity fundraisers go through every day.

Seeing as my last fundraising effort consisted of a few low-impact begging posts on Facebook and little to show for my crippling 30 mile walk which seemed to involve all the mountains in the Lake District, I was more than a little daunted by the task. Although admittedly, my effort there was minimal, even reluctant.

During our training, we were introduced to the idea of network mapping, that is, writing out every possible existing personal connection you have and the potential fundraising opportunities each could present.

When I first did this, I was surprised at how many possible avenues there were for raising money – my dad’s climbing wall, my friend’s gigs, my aunt’s school. I sat for a few moments above my completed (and may I say brilliantly colourful) map and indulged my imagination for a few minutes, playing out months of successful fundraising ventures, the money rolling in, my final total exceeding all possible records.

But then a much more sensible and rather boring logic wormed its way into these musings and pointed out that because of the relatively small size of my fundraising goal and the tragic lack of free time left around a full time job, the planning of a trip of a lifetime and the frantic cramming of the Spanish language, probably just one big event would suffice. And my eyes fell to the easiest and most lucrative target: my office.

It’s funny, but I’ve never really envied the job of a fundraiser. Mainly because of the many negative stories there have been recently about some of their tactics – which I’ve already discussed at length on here. I always thought it would be a difficult and often disheartening job to find new ways of asking people for money, and preferably without irritating anyone.


But I loved every second of the cake sale and office pub quiz I ended up running during my last week in the office. This could partly be because it reignited my interest in baking – something I’d forgotten I enjoyed after the discovery of my own severe food intolerances made the process depressingly futile. My twelve-year-old self, a food tech star pupil and frequent pie-maker, would be very proud. I even made the best cake I have ever tasted, which incidentally is gluten free and contains mashed potato.

Mainly though, I enjoyed it because it helped me to realise that yes, there are a lot of nos in fundraising, and that’s inevitable, but all of these disappointments are worth it for the yeses. And I imagine if this was my full time job, these would be the people who’d get me to work in the mornings. Even though the scale of my effort was pretty small, I was so touched by people’s generosity, which came from so many sides and so many unexpected places. Whether expressed as a large donation, time put in to help me publicise and run the event or amazing baking efforts, I was humbled by the contributions of my colleagues. Someone I’ve never met – the husband of Lucy, our receptionist – even wrote a whole ‘Around the World’ themed quiz for me.

And the proof is in the pudding. After two evenings of furious baking, two cake-laden commutes to both of our offices (one of which is in the depths of Kent) and one pub quiz presented through the tail-end of tonsillitis, I raised £450 in donations. Coupled with the £200 or so raised through Facebook and family members, I managed to hit my fundraising target.


So how do you make a fundraising cake sale a success?

  1. Make excellent cake (preferably containing mashed potato)
  2. Be best buds with your Internal Communications Manager (very important)
  3. Work for a charity (even better, one that runs the majority of payroll giving schemes, and a large number of staff have charity chequebooks to hand)
  4. Exploit any and all connections (particularly have to mention superstar sous chef Adam Laughton here – absolute gem)

My little fundraising experience is sure to be useful when I come to look at my projects’ fundraising tactics and help them think about their networks and activities. And maybe, just maybe, I’d now even consider working as a fundraiser one day.

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