Project Fuelled by Cake!

I vividly remember organising a cake sale at primary school with friends when we were ten years old. We wanted to help people who had been affected by the Latur Earthquake in India, which left10,000 dead. I found the letter we received from the Red Cross a few years ago, thanking us for our hard work and “very generous” donation of £12.73.While our total wasn’t all that impressive, receiving a thank you letter from such a major charity at the age of ten left a lasting impression.It made me want to continue to do charitable work.

Over the past four years I’ve moved on from raising a few pounds to raising a few thousand pounds… In 2011 I set myself a target of raising £3,000 before I was thirty and initially I asked for sponsorship for challenges, like marathons and triathlons.

dad and i

dad and i

But after a while I was still short of my target and I was bored of pestering people for sponsorship.  So I returned to the world of cake sales.Whereas 10-20p was the going rate at Primary School, I asked friends and colleagues to part with £1 for a piece of cake.  Gradually our kitchen became a cake factory on a weekly basis. Through sponsorship and cake sales, I raised £2,000 for Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham, Cancer Research UK and Bliss.

cake stall

cake stall

But somehow I got a little bit carried away and the baking theme developed into an idea to produce a cake recipe book. What was I even thinking?I’d never written a book in my life!But I wasn’t alone in my love for baking. And so I set about putting together “Fuelled by Cake.”

I realised I needed to have a few well known sporting celebrities in order to sell the book beyond my close circle of friends and families.So I pleaded with friends, enlisted the help of colleagues at work and pestered a few press officers. The result? Recipes from Olympians, sports stars and media stars...and consequently a more marketable product.

I was put in touch with Dave McCourt at Banana Design and after speaking on the phone, Dave agreed it was a project they could take on at a reduced rate.For three months, I was probably in touch with Dave more than with close friends.So many emails went back and forth, with edits here and tweaks there, questions about layouts, colours, designs… I took out a loan from the bank of mum and dad and a few weeks later 600 bright pink books arrived on my doorstep.

The book arrived!

The book arrived!

The first three hundred books sold really quickly, so I decided to be brave and get another 600 printed.I suddenly had a lot of books to sell. And this was where the real challenge began. I set up a very basic website which would allow on-line sales to anybody around the world, but I relied heavily on some of the celeb contributors to spread the word.

Chrissie Wellington in particular was a star.Each tweet from her led to about five book sales and she also signed a few copies which people were willing to pay a bit more for.

Even Chrissie eats cake

Even Chrissie eats cake

Elly Oldroyd managed to talk Matthew Pinsent into buying a copy, while I convinced Katherine Grainger and Judy Murray to part with their cash in return for a book or two. I think my mum and dad were loving going to the post office with packages addressed to famous sporty people!

Nightingale House Hospice took them to events and promoted the book at the Hospice.Meanwhile, I asked a few local businesses to sell the book, I went to my old Primary School fete, I sold them before competing in Endurance Life events. I even took them to friends’ weddings and hen dos. 

Friends were amazing

Friends were amazing

My friends were amazing. Some bought 40 odd books and set about selling them to their friends and colleagues; a few held Fuelled by Cake sales.  My mum and dad did a sterling job in the Wrexham area. I remember mum proudly telling me how she had even managed to sell one to a lady she met on the train!Everyone I know helped to spread the word. 

mum

mum

But all the while I felt I could have sold more had I received greater support from the two bigger charities I was fundraising for. Bliss wrote a press release at the start of it all, but didn't really engage much after that, despite having a Bake for Bliss event every year. 

I felt Cancer Research UK just didn't want to know.It was almost like I was a nuisance for them. They told me I shouldn't be using their logo on the book. And then they told me it was difficult to promotebecause I was raising money for other charities as well as for them. The only time their national social media engaged with the project was after two years, when I mentioned that we were up to the £5,000 mark.I recognise they are a big charity, I appreciate thousands of people fundraise for them and they do incredible research.But the whole experience really has put me off ever fundraising for them again. 

When I transferred the total amount raised of £7,220 to the three different charities, the Hospice were so grateful and chatted to me on the phone about it, as well as talking about it on Facebook and Twitter.Bliss even followed up my call up with a thank you phone call the following day.Both of them have tweeted about it.Cancer Research UK simply gave me their bank details to transfer the money. Which I did straight away. I’ve heard nothing since. Silence.

Local charities are so desperate for the money and often lose out to those with a national reputation and presence, but they are no less worth supporting. Their smaller scale also means that they are easier to engage with, and you can develop meaningful relationships with staff. The whole process is just better, and you feel that you are really making a difference, rather than just getting a slap in the face for your efforts. Projects like Fuelled by Cake don’t just happen - they involve a lot of people and a lot of hard work, personal investment at risk and time.

Would I think twice about doing another book? No. I’m really proud of what I have achieved with so much help from other people. I also think that I can apply the lessons from Fuelled by Cake to make an even more successful, as yet un-named second book. But I would definitely think long and hard about who I was fundraising for.

Thank you so much for all of your support.  If you are thinking of doing some charity baking, here are some handy tips.  And just remember...

Top advice!

Top advice!