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What can a fundraiser learn from the Great British Baking Show?

Posted February 9, 2021 by Virginia Davidson

fundraiser learn from cooking show

If you’ve watched the Great British Baking Show, you know there’s a lot to learn about choux pastry, the differences between Swiss, Italian, and French meringue, and of course, how to avoid a soggy bottom. I’d argue that beyond the baking-specific lessons, though, the Great British Baking Show offers some important wisdom fundraisers can use to evaluate their development efforts.

Great British baking show and fundraising


For starters:

What’s the signature bake of your fundraising efforts?

This is a component of your fundraising plan that’s tried and true. You’ve honed it so that it reliably meets or exceeds goals and works well. Maybe it’s your membership program or year-end appeal. Whatever it is, this is something you feel confident about. You’ve invested the time and effort into it, and it shows.

If you can’t think of an element of your development efforts that’s reliable enough to consider your signature bake, that’s okay. Pick one and focus on improving it until you can point to it as the signature bake of your fundraising efforts.


Next question:

Can you shine in the technical challenge?

I’m not asking if you can make twelve identical egg custard tarts. Instead, think about whether your systems are working. Do you have a good process in place for gift entry and sending acknowledgments? Are you able to accept gifts online in a manner that’s convenient for both your donors and your organization? Can you merge appeal letters successfully, or do you feel like you have to relearn how to do it each time? When you need to run a report, are you able to do so easily? A donor management system like Little Green Light can help simplify many of these tasks.

If your operations are working well and you’re adept at the core functions of your fundraising efforts, congrats! You’ve mastered the technical challenge.

If not, that’s important information for you to be aware of. Make note of the areas where your fundraising operations fall short. Your goal is to improve your fundraising operations until you’re confident you could be the star baker of the technical challenge.

Are you ready for a showstopper?

The signature bake and technical challenge are the building blocks of your fundraising program. When you’ve mastered these, you can feel assured that there’s a solid foundation for your fundraising operation. Your operations work smoothly and efficiently. Now you can explore adding a new element to your fundraising plan: The showstopper.

The showstopper is something that requires careful research, planning, and effort to get off the ground. Maybe it’s something new to you, like launching a planned giving program. Or, it could be augmenting an existing effort, like increasing the number of recurring donors. Whatever your showstopper is, it’s going to take resources to ensure its success—most especially, your own time and effort.

Most showstoppers that fail on the Great British Baking Show do so because of underdeveloped skills, sloppy planning, or poor time-management. Think of all the times the custard didn’t set or Rowan, who always over-promised and under-delivered. That’s why it’s crucial to master the signature bake and technical challenge before you consider a showstopper.


Thanks to the time and effort you dedicate to mastering your fundraising signature bake and the technical challenge, you’ll be a more skilled and efficient fundraiser. When you apply those skills and techniques to each fundraising effort you take on, you’ll be able to fundraise more successfully in support of your organization’s mission.

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