Share Delicious, Healthy Recipes with a PTA Cookbook (and Raise Money too!)

This week on the National PTA Facebook page, we posted an image of an adorable cookbook created by the Pennsylvania State PTA for its annual convention.  Our online friends were quick to click that “like” button, as requests for “MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE!” found our wall and our inbox.  We hear you loud and clear, friends, and we’re happy to share more information on how to get started with your own PTA cookbook.

Following Pennsylvania PTA’s example, creating a cookbook full of nutritious recipes is a great way to expand your PTA’s work on childhood nutrition, health, and physical activity. By creating a resource, you are helping families who are looking to find ways to lead healthier, more active lives. Many people complain that eating healthy is hard; especially when they don’t know what to cook or if healthy foods will still taste as good as unhealthy alternatives.  But word of mouth is a powerful thing and when a healthy recipe is recommended by a friend with the assurance that “you won’t believe this is low-calorie/low-fat, etc.,” people tend to listen!

Here are a few tips to get your PTA cookbook underway:

Where to Start:

Organization is absolutely essential to any large project, and that requires having all the information you need upfront. One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle is figuring out who your vendor/printer will be. Over the past several years, a slew of online cookbook vendors have popped up, many of whom are focused specifically on compiling cookbooks for fundraisers. This can be a great resource; especially if you’re not sure you have the manpower to type out and format the cookbook. If you’ve got the time, your local office supply store like Staples or Kinkos can also print and bind your cookbook, and will most likely be a less expensive option.

Be sure to perform due diligence in comparing price points and breaks for things such as printing per page (black and white, color), binding options, shipping and handling, and any additional processing fees. Talk to your vendor directly to ensure that there are no surprises when you put the order through.  With pricing information in hand, you’re ready to figure out how many recipes you should collect.

How Many and What Kinds of Recipes You Should Collect:

How many recipes you should include is linked directly to the number of contributors you will have and your pricing points. Be realistic about the number of recipes each contributor will provide, and don’t forget that for every recipe you include, your page count, and total printing costs, will change.

Before you send out your call for recipes, glance through a few of your own cookbooks to get a feel for the layout. A few of the typical food categories include: appetizers, soups and salads, breads, side dishes, main entrées (poultry, beef, pork, seafood, vegetarian), crockpots and casseroles, snacks, breakfast, holiday fare, and desserts.  Make your selection of categories keeping in mind that 1) keeping the number of categories relatively low will help simplify your task 2) if you’re using tabs, the more tabs you have, the more expensive your final cookbook will be.

Who Should Contribute:

As it goes with PTA generally, so it goes with creating a PTA cookbook: The more the merrier! By including as many contributors as possible, you are not only gaining more tasty recipes from your community, but you’re also widening the base of people who will most likely purchase your cookbook. Not to mention, many hands make for a lighter load!  Take advantage of the collective knowledge of your group and pull in as many “must have” recipes as you can. Do you have any local “celebrities”? How about principals, teachers, superintendents, coaches, local business owners, restaurant chefs, nutritionists, etc. that have wide ties to your community?

Following Pennsylvania PTA’s example again, it’s a great idea to recruit a local chef to contribute some cooking techniques and tips for your cookbook!

Sending Out a Call for Recipes:

When you send out your call for recipes, ask for original or modified recipes. As tempting as it may be to simply pull a recipe from a cookbook, those materials are copyrighted and protected by law. If contributors include replication, make sure that the source is cited.

We recommend sending out calls in two waves. For your first call, ask for recipes by providing a template (see below), submission instructions (email or mail), and setting a deadline. After the deadline passes, take stock of the recipes you have received so far. When you’re ready for the second call, you will be able to specify what categories you need more of. You may need to reach out to get the recipes you need.

Use a Word document template. This step can make your life so much easier if you’re relying heavily on emailed responses. By providing the template, you ensure you get all the information you need and you spend less time typing up recipes. Templates can include the following fields:

  • Recipe Name
  • Contributor’s Name
  • List of Ingredients (with amounts)
  • Cook times and temperatures
  • Recipe Yield and Serving Size
  • Preparation and Serving Instructions
  • Nutritional Information (if available)
  • Contributor’s Note (this is a great way to personalize the recipe and let the contributor let a little of his or her family shine through)

Personalize Your Cookbook

The more personalization there is to your cookbook (and individual recipes), the more precious your book will be to your buyers and contributors.  PTAs often hold drawing contests to pick the front cover, but there’s more space than just the cover. Why not find a way to fit more drawings into the cookbook on empty white pages or divider/tab pages? You can also ask contributing families to have their child draw a picture of the meal to include with the recipe.

Promote, Promote, Promote!   

Make sure that you give your group ample opportunity to get the word out about your PTA cookbook.  Work with administrators to get in contact with other parents and families. Use your social media networks to connect with friends and family members who want to purchase copies. Meet with local businesses to see if they are willing to keep copies to sell in their stores. If any major school or community events, check with organizers to see if the PTA can sell there.  Promote, promote, promote!

Undertaking a fundraiser is a big job, but breaking down the task into smaller pieces and planning from the get-go will make your job easier.  Many thanks go to the Pennsylvania PTA, and Jean Lisiecki and Julie Lesitsky, for their advice and assistance!

If you have any questions or suggestions for future projects, please feel free to comment below and connect with us on Facebook at

Emily Karsnak is a Marketing and Communications Specialist for the National PTA.  

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