Our church women’s group needed to raise more money to support their charitable groups, but the membership is dwindling owing to aging and health problems. The faithful “old timers” are mainly septuagenarians, octogenarians and a remarkable quartet of nonagenarians; recruiting younger working women has been difficult. We’ve held the traditional fundraisers, a spring rummage sale and a Christmas bazaar for our budgetary needs, but the labor to do them has increasingly fallen on a smaller group of women who can still physically do the necessary work.
So I suggested an “easy” fundraiser: compile a cookbook using favorite recipes contributed by church members, their families and their friends. What could be easier than that? And for want of another volunteer, I became de facto chairman. Five women volunteered to form a committee to help.
I had chaired a similar project eleven years ago and forgotten it was not as easy as it sounded, but assumed we could merely revise and update the old cookbook with some new ones. I contacted three publishers that do fundraiser cookbooks, and although the one that had done our previous one seemed as reliable as before, they charged extra for the plastic wire binding the committee wanted so we chose the company that included it in their base price, other considerations of cost per book and freebies compared. We also decided “recipe notes” such as “my favorite;” “from my grandma” or “the best I’ve had” would not be included as those extra cost that would not necessarily enhance the cookbook’s value. Moreover, the chosen company offered a coupon that reduced the cost a minimum twenty-five cents per book if the collection of recipes were sent in June. For 400 books that would be a $l00 savings. Our goal was a low cost, bare-bones book that would still be attractive and useful and bring in the additional income desired.
Our project began in March with a two-month window of time to collect 300 recipes. I had a weekly bulletin notice announcing our group was soliciting recipes, had forms they could use to write them on, or they could use their own paper to submit them. I also wrote a column for the church’s newsletter about the project.
The publisher had guidelines for the recipes: each had to have ingredients listed and directions given in narrative form. We should not have recipes that listed ingredients and, for example, state in the directions, “Mix the first six, stir in the next three, etc., and bake.” Also, ingredients and directions had to be in logical sequence and I edited or re-wrote many after making calls to the contributors about amounts, pan sizes and baking temperatures and times. Later, as the deadline neared, I returned a few recipes and asked the contributors to rewrite them. One that stands out in my mind is a cooky recipe listing the ingredients but directed, “Mix everything till a sticky dough is formed and bake.” When the contributor demurred, I reminded her an experienced baker might know the directions to make the recipe come together but not the novice who purchased or was given the cookbook and end with a fiasco.
Early during the two-month collection period, most recipes were sent in by friends and relatives of the church or committee members, but few by members of the women’s organization . Some wanted old recipes in previous cookbooks contributed by persons who had passed away be included more as a memorial than because of its outstanding value, but since decades have gone and new users would wish more contemporary recipes, the latter took precedence.
I worried as the deadline approached we would not have the 300 recipes we’d aimed for, but didn’t want a few contributors to be dominating with more than five from each person. The publisher suggested to make a cookbook salable to a bigger group of purchasers we should limit contributions to two or three; they would list contributors name in the index without additional cost, and with that incentive, a rush of recipes were turned in on the last day of the deadline!
Following the deadline, our cookbook committee met to count the number of recipes and put them into the eight categories that will comprise the cookbook: APPETIZERS & BEVERAGES; SOUPS & SALADS; VEGETABLES & SIDE DISHES; MAIN DISHES; BREADS & ROLLS; DESSERTS; COOKIES & CANDY; THIS & THAT. I had counted 315 but when each committee member did a count for one or two of the categories, they totaled 355. Should we eliminate 55 to achieve 300? They decided we should spend the additional twenty cents per book instead of going through all the recipes and weeding that number; we’d send in 350 recipes and eliminate five.
Well, when I went home to re-count, I came up with 335, and independently decided it was easier to eliminate 35 similar type recipes such as salads, dressings and main dishes, and cakes with purchased whipped toppings and culled the number to 300 rather than look for fifteen more to achieve 350. Being cost-conscioous, if the goal was a money-making project, we’d save $80 by limiting the number of recipes to the original 300.
In early June, the recipes were boxed, along with the contract for 400 books, personal pages describing our women’s organization, the acknowledgement page and a sketch of our church to which our organization belongs, and sent by priority mail. But there was a hang-up: the publisher insisted an artist’s release be sent for the sketch, which, in my ignorance about publications, had assumed that it was already on our church’s offering envelopes and other stationery so was by default permitted. Luckily, the artist is still a current member and graciously signed a release letter that was faxed the same day.
Now we await the galleys to proof and the publication of the cookbook in time for sale in September when the women’s group re-groups after a summer hiatus.If the “proof is in the pudding” let’s hope the effort was worthwhile!