How to Make a Cookbook Fundraiser

Published on 01/05/2017
Cookbook cover: dough and rolling pin

The idea of cookbook fundraising isn’t new, yet selling cookbooks still raises lots of "dough" for nonprofit organizations, associations, schools, churches, synagogues, hospital auxiliaries . . . and the list goes on.

Despite easy access to free online recipes, people still love to collect cookbooks.This is especially true of beautiful fundraising cookbooks that support a good cause. What's more, a cookbook fundraising project brings together volunteers to share recipes and stories, and creates a stronger bond between volunteers and your organization.

For more info about the benefits of a cookbook fundraising campaign, request our ebulletin Top 10 Reasons Why Cookbook Fundraising Works.

Below are the basics for how to make a cookbook fundraiser. To receive our in-depth ebook Cookbook Fundraising in Simple Steps, please send an email to

1) How to get started on your cookbook fundraising project

Organize the cookbook committees:
  • publishing committee with one or two co-chairs
  • recipe collection and testing committee
  • production committee (or can be the chair/co-chairs)
  • sales and marketing committee

Generate a cookbook idea
: your cookbook should fill a need or want of your community audience

Set a production budget and get quotes: what is the best way to design, layout, and print your cookbook? How many books to print?

2) How to collect and test recipes for your cookbook fundraiser

Decide how to organize your recipes:
  • General: appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, desserts, brunch, etc.
  • By season: spring, summer, fall, winter
  • By holiday: Thanksgiving, New Year’s, etc.
  • By meal: breakfast, brunch, lunch, supper, picnic, holidays, etc. This is appropriate for an entertaining cookbook where recipes are organized into full menus.
  • By ingredient: eggs, vegetables, poultry, meat, fish, etc.
  • By geographical location: country, state/province, region, city, street, etc.
  • By cooking technique: grilling, roasting, braising, frying, barbecuing, baking, etc. This works for a single-subject cookbook like a meat or fish cookbook.

Collect recipes:
  • Determine how you will issue a call for recipes in your organization and the community. This could be through your website or newsletter.
  • Develop a recipe contribution form that prompts contributors for all the info you need to gather. Don't forget to get a contact email or telephone number in case you need to follow up with e contributor. Also, be sure to include a deadline date to receive recipes. Four weeks should give people enough time to respond.

Test recipes:
  • Break out recipe testers into groups by cookbook chapter.
  • Throw a few potluck dinners to test many different recipes at the same time.
  • Try to incorporate recipe testing into your usual meal times.
  • Develop a recipe testing questionnaire: include questions about the appearance, presentation, flavor, texture, and aroma.
  • Estimate about one hour to test a recipe and make notes as you make the recipe.

If you don’t have the time or resources to test recipes, ask your recipe contributors to make their recipes, paying careful attention to measurements, ingredients, and instructions. When in doubt, you can always spot test recipes that you are unsure about.

Write recipes:
Good recipe writing adheres to three basic principles:
  • Be accurate: Make sure that recipes are precise. They should all use standards of measurements (teaspoon, tablespoon, etc.) instead of vague measurements (pinch). 
  • Be clear: Think of writing your recipe instructions as you would a step-by-step scientific method. Keep the wording simple and in short sentences. Try to be descriptive when explaining each action in the recipe. Give people an idea of how long to cook something and what the dish should look like when it’s ready.
  • Be consistent: This is a challenge for a compilation cookbook. What one person calls a sauté pan, another person will call a frying pan. Set up a master list of cooking terms, equipment, and methods to be used universally in the cookbook. This way, the reader won’t get confused when making recipes from your cookbook.

3) How to edit and design your cookbook fundraiser

Cookbooks are essentially “how to” manuals about food. Your recipe ingredients and instructions need to be clear and consistent. This becomes more of a challenge with a fundraising cookbook of recipes from all different sources. Hire a professional cookbook editor to catch missing ingredients, fix confusing instructions, and make all recipes as standardized as possible.

Once your cookbook is laid out, it is important to compare the manuscript to the book layout in case any text has been inadvertently left out. A professional proofreader can review your cookbook with fresh eyes to spot glaring typos that others may have missed.

: A back-of-the-book index helps readers find specific information quickly. A good index is essential to cookbooks. Book indexing is challenging and we don’t suggest you “try this at home.” Instead, work with a professional indexer. It takes skill to wade through your book information and build an index that is clear, easy to read, and properly categorized.

 Your cookbook cover is your “billboard.” You only have a few seconds to entice readers to pick up your cookbook and want to know more about it. Your recipe layout needs to be consistent and serve the purpose of attractively and logically presenting your recipes. Less is more. Work with a professional book designer for maximum impact!

Food photography
: If you are taking your own food photos, make sure they are well lit and look appetizing. You can also work with a professional food photographer and food stylist. There are also many websites that offer beautiful stock food photography at reasonable prices.

4) Getting your fundraiser cookbook printed

Printing your fundraising cookbooks will be the biggest expense of your project. Plan wisely to achieve the perfect balance of specifications to match your vision and stay on budget. Refer to our Resources section on Production Planning for complete information about book printing.

Overseas printing: If you are creating a 4-color hardcover coffee-table cookbook, printing overseas will save you about 40% for offset color book printing. The cost savings can enable you to make the book you want without having to cut corners. Printing a cookbook overseas has a turnaround of about 8 weeks. The book printer will prepare all the customs paperwork and coordinate the book shipment from start to finish.

North American printing
: If you are creating a one or two-color softcover cookbook, with less than 100 pages, printing in North America will be more advantageous. The turnaround is about 4 weeks.

Offset versus digital printing:
 Offset printing uses ink that is applied to paper by rubber blankets imprinted by a metal or plastic plate of each book page. Quality and color are superior to short-run digital printing. Digital printing works best for 1-color books with press runs of 500 or less. The equipment is similar to laser printers. Color covers are usually printed on short-run offset presses.

5) Selling and marketing your fundraising cookbook

Your organization has worked enthusiastically and hard putting together a fantastic cookbook of recipes to raise money for the cause. Here comes the really fun part: showing off your new fundraising cookbook to family and friends, and to the community at large.

Book distribution:
  • Decide how you will be selling and distributing the cookbooks. Giving people a few different options to buy your cookbook is optimal:
    • Cookbook committee members, organization employees and volunteers, and recipe contributors can take batches of 10 books at a time to sell directly to their family and friends
    • Sell cookbooks at your organization
    • Sell cookbooks on your organization’s website (remember to add shipping cost if mailing copies)
    • Leave books on consignment at local bookstores, kitchenware stores, gift stores, schools,
      hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants—even at popular hairdresser salons!
Cookbook launch: Consider your cookbook fundraising book launch as the main event of your marketing campaign. The launch gives you more opportunities to reach out to the media, local stores, local food writers, friends and family, and the general public. Make the event an exciting and splashy soirée with special guests and surprises.

Publicity: Publicity is known as “free” advertising disseminated through news stories by the media (print, TV, radio, and online). Send a polished media kit to local radio, TV, and newspapers. This kit usually includes a cover letter, a copy of the cookbook, and a press release. Other free publicity ideas include giving away cookbooks for contests and donating free copies to your local libraries.

Digital marketing:
  • SEO (search engine optimization): Make sure your website or web page contains optimal keywords so people searching for your cookbook fundraiser and relevant info will find your site.
  • Blogging: Create a lively blog to showcase your cookbook. Invite readers to participate and give feedback about recipes they have tried. Include lots of images and even videos.
  • Social media: Get social and put your fundraising cookbook up on Facebook and other social media platforms. Offer recipes and tasty tidbits that your readers will be excited to read and share. Instagram and Pinterest are perfect to share your mouth-watering food photos.
A community cookbook provides a legacy of history and culture that connects the past with the present. It's a fundraising project that will excite and inspire members, volunteers, donors, and sponsors.
Award-winning Callawind specializes in high-quality fundraising cookbooks designed from scratch. Our professional cookbook services include editing, design, layout, and printing,

For more information, please visit our website at, email, or call 1-844-833-9109.

To receive our in-depth ebook
Cookbook Fundraising in Simple Steps, please send an email to