Pie in the Sky is the Best Thanksgiving Fundraiser!

Photo Courtesy of Community Servings
11.21.2012By

Photo Courtesy of Community Servings

I wouldn’t care if I had turkey on Thanksgiving, but not having pie tomorrow would ruin my day. Whether it’s apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan, or any other kind of pie–I love them all! I bet you have your favorites, too.

Boston-based Community Servings had pie lovers in mind when they created their Pie in the Sky fundraiser back in 1993. The concept is simple. Local restaurants, cafeterias, and bakeries make delicious pies, which Community Servings sells to fund its mission to deliver hot, nutritious meals to the critically ill and homebound in Greater Boston.

It’s a simple idea, but what Pie in the Sky has done is impressive. 150 businesses are participating this year, and those that can’t bake pies help with distribution, logistics, fundraising, and delivery. Celebrating its 20th year, Pie in the Sky has raised $6 million and expenses are just a tiny slice of the pie (7 cents from every dollar raised).

Do you have a Thanksgiving pie fundraiser in your city? If you don’t, this is one idea worth exploring. There are rewards and challenges.

Upside: It’s a great way to engage local businesses.

My background is in business fundraising, and I was always looking for ways to raise money from local, standalone businesses–especially restaurants. A pie fundraiser certainly fits the bill.

Downside: Not every food business has the right equipment to bake pies.

Every pie made is helpful, but you’ll need to identify a couple of businesses that can make pies en masse. One option is to target the large kitchens of local colleges. A few years back, Community Servings sold me a pie that was made in the kitchens at Harvard University. Big kitchen = lots of pies.

Upside: Employee engagement is the hot thing in cause marketing right now.

And a pie fundraiser is great way to get employees supporting a cause. If not baking, employees can help with logistics, delivery, and, most importantly, pie sales. This year, Community Servings has 600 pie sellers that to-date have sold 16,000 pies!

Downside: You gonna need A LOT of help.

At this late stage, Community Servings is still recruiting volunteers to pick up and deliver pies and staff their cash-and-carry pie sales. Putting on a pie fundraiser is a lot of work, but it can dramatically build your base of supporters and give them valuable exposure to your organization.

The keys to a successful pie fundraiser are volunteers, logistics, and quality control. Community Servings has lots of volunteers, but they also have the support of Caldwell Banker real estate offices in Eastern Massachusetts. Their network of offices makes distribution easier as buyers can pick up their pie at a local office instead of journeying downtown for their crusty creation.

Quality control is also key. This isn’t a church bake sale. Pie makers should be ServSafe Certified. The pies also have to taste good! That’s why Community Servings recruits pie testers and sorters to ensure quality (that’s the job for me!). While supporters are making a donation when they buy a pie, they want a delicious pie that they’ll be proud to serve their Thanksgiving guests. If you screw up someone’s dinner, they won’t be back next year.

I don’t know about you, but this post has made me very hungry. Pie anyone?

Does your nonprofit or business host a pie fundraiser? Are you planning one for the holidays or for next Thanksgiving? We would love to hear about it!

Photo Courtesy of Community Servings