Protecting the Right to Vote With Something Sweet
VoteRiders Digital Communications Coordinator Erin Carden speaks with Bake Back Better Founder & Chief Baking Officer, Dina Jacobson, about Bake Back Better’s mission to protect and strengthen our democracy, one cupcake at a time. Bake Back Better is now partnering with VoteRiders for a third time and has launched a new campaign to support VoteRiders’ voter ID outreach work in North Carolina, where a voter ID law was recently reinstated ahead of important municipal elections this fall. – September 25, 2023
What is Bake Back Better and what is your role?
I’m the Founder and Chief Baking Officer of Bake Back Better, a grassroots fundraising organization that raises money for organizations and political campaigns that work to amplify and uplift the voices of all people.
I’m sixty years old and I live in Los Altos, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. Along with Gen Z, women in their 60s are saving the world. I started Bake Back Better in 2020 — it grew out of the Covid baking hobby. Everybody got into their sourdough and I went for the sweets. It developed organically. I recognized that I could donate baked goods to help raise money for Joe Biden — it was right in the thick of his campaign. I had never been that politically engaged but considering the political and social climate that we were living in, it really woke me up.
So Bake Back Better started as a small operation where I was just giving away extra baked goods in exchange for donations to a high-profile presidential race, which was wonderful, it put a lot of attention on Bake Back Better and got a lot of donors interested. Although it started as a small operation with me just giving away extra baked goods in exchange for donations,
Now we’re focused on supporting organizations and candidates where an infusion of cash can really turn the needle and make a difference.
As Chief Baking Officer, I’m kind of the “Jill of All Trades.” I do fundraising, volunteer coordination, and organizing with other groups around the country who may be interested in forming their own group, or even just doing a one-off baking campaign — and I still do some of the baking too.
When you’re not working on campaigns for Bake Back Better, what do you do with your time?
I’m a part-time freelance Event Marketing Consultant who helps companies increase their revenue, gain new customers, or get people interested in their products. I might help a company with their sponsorship at a trade show, or if they’re producing their own show, I will get involved in attracting new clients. I’ve helped companies design ideas to attract more clients and help make sure their events run smoothly so that they can get their message across effectively.
It pays for a lot of sugar, butter, and flour. I really enjoy the balance. I love my clients. It’s a different world and it also helps my skill set with Bake Back Better because I’ve learned a lot about marketing through that side of the business.
What kind of work goes into launching Bake Back Better campaigns?
It’s very much project-based. We start out by connecting with a deserving organization, then we’ll develop a marketing plan, and then the final week is production week where we all get to work baking and driving to deliver the cupcakes. For that, I’ll connect with Bake Back Better volunteers to help support the campaign. I have a nice group of approximately 100 volunteers — it’s developed over the years, it didn’t start out that way. They don’t all raise their hands each campaign, but of that list, 30 to 40 people will say, “Hey, I can either help bake or deliver cupcakes.”
I also have some people with very specialized talents who volunteer, like a volunteer photographer and a volunteer social media expert. And now I’ve got someone who’s doing some writing. So we have a really great talent pool. There are also some people who come and pack the cupcakes for delivery, they love the social aspect of it and connecting with other like-minded people. It’s very fun. It’s a huge team effort and I have great volunteers.
I originally found Bake Back Better volunteers through my personal network. At first I was doing everything myself, but this was when it was maybe 15 deliveries a week per campaign, and I quickly realized that wouldn’t scale with one person. So, I started posting on Facebook and saying, “Hey, I could really use some people to help me drive and deliver cupcakes.” Now, whenever anybody donates, I follow up and say, “Would you be interested in volunteering?” And a significant number of donors have turned into volunteers. Plus, word spreads. People will say, “I don’t want to make phone calls or go door to door, I want to do something different. And I love to bake.” So our volunteer network has grown a lot.
Yesterday I found out about a pastry chef who’s interested in volunteering and I’m thinking, ”Oh my gosh, maybe we’ll do a specialty premium dessert for our next big campaign!”
What other kinds of campaigns has Bake Back Better supported in the past?
We always look for organizations and candidates where this kind of money is going to really move the needle and make a difference. I would say first and foremost, we work with voter registration and education efforts — like Field Team 6 and, of course, VoteRiders! Our most recent campaign was with the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy, which is in the Central Valley of California. They need constant support to keep their 100% volunteer operation running. We’ve also supported state legislative candidates who are running in close competitive races like Northeast Arizona Native Democrats and Democratic Club of Stockton.
What is the most rewarding & challenging part of being a part of Bake Back Better?
The most rewarding part is when you see a candidate who you support, win. But, you also have to look at the long game and look at things that this money has enabled an organization to do. For instance, the Democratic Club of Greater Tracy is now able to hire an intern thanks to our campaign.
Connecting with great groups like VoteRiders and all the volunteers is extremely rewarding. You come for the cause and you stay for the fun — and it’s a lot of fun to engage in this kind of work.
The challenging part comes from the fact that it’s a volunteer organization so keeping volunteers motivated can sometimes be hard. It’s really important to remember that no matter a win or a loss, we have to remind ourselves that we’re playing the long game. We might not see the result we wanted right away, but we can’t let that discourage us, we can’t give up. We must never give up.
What made you want to dedicate a Bake Back Better campaign to support VoteRiders?
I first became aware of VoteRiders through Fair Fight. VoteRiders was listed on Fair Fight’s website when I did a campaign for them way back in the day. I looked at VoteRiders’ website and read about your work and I realized just how fundamental having an ID is. You have a presidential candidate saying, “Vote for me,” but in some states, you can’t vote for them if you don’t have the right kind of identification. You can’t get to step 10 if you can’t get to step 1.
Voter ID is not glamorous. Few people think that going to the DMV is their idea of a good time, but this work is so important. I was amazed by some of your voter stories. Getting an ID doesn’t just help you vote, it can change your life — like the person who couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have the right identification. He was living on the margins and this ID got him back into a more mainstream existence, a life where he can start saving money and develop a better future for himself.
What was the first Bake Back Better campaign supporting VoteRiders?
In 2021 we partnered with VoteRiders for the first time. We made red velvet cupcakes and raised $4,865 for VoteRiders’ general fund. The following year in 2022, we made orange chocolate cupcakes and raised $6,489 for VoteRiders’ Voter ID Clinics in Florida.
What is Bake Back Better doing with VoteRiders now?
Everyone needs to get their orders in by October 11. We’re requesting a $35+ suggested donation. A donation of $100+ comes with a custom VoteRiders cookie logo set. The campaign extends to Seattle and San Francisco’s Bay Area.
We’re really pleased with the partnership. I’ve had the privilege of talking to VoteRiders founder Kathleen Unger. She’s an inspiration. I feel like she had a crystal ball back in 2012 when she first founded VoteRiders because nobody was really thinking about the right to vote back then — but she was.
Right now, the work of VoteRiders is more important than it’s ever been. With where things are congressionally, unfortunately there’s no ability to make any sweeping voting rights change at the federal level. At the same time, states have been passing new and harsher voter ID laws at an unprecedented pace, particularly since 2020. It’s unfortunate that we’re dependent on grassroots organizations to make change happen and help so many eligible voters exercise their right to vote, but if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we have to do.
I’m so grateful for the fact that I live in California, where it’s easy to vote. You don’t have to have an ID to cast a ballot that counts at the polls — except for some first-time voters. Election officials confirm that I’m an eligible voter through my signature. I can drop off my ballot — there’s a place a quarter of a mile from my house — and we have automatic mail-in voting.
What kind of impact will a donation to VoteRiders make?
A donation to VoteRiders helps eligible voters get the ID they need to cast a ballot and participate in our democracy.
A $35 donation gets one voter a ride to the DMV or other ID-issuing office. A $50 donation can fund the cost of securing a vital document — like a birth certificate for one voter to obtain an ID. For $500, you can cover the cost of a virtual phone bank or text bank in one state so VoteRiders staff and volunteers can follow up with voters who are at risk of not having ID to vote. And $1,000 would support our training of volunteers for a series of letter-writing events to encourage voters without ID to seek VoteRiders’ assistance.
What would you like to share with someone who is considering donating through Bake Back Better?
While other donation campaigns may call out to you, only Bake Back Better has cupcakes too! We all deserve a little sweetness and there’s nothing more sweet than cupcakes paired with democracy.
Sometimes I get people who look at me like, “What’s the catch? How can 100% of the money I donate go directly to the organization?” It’s true. We’re 100% volunteer-run and self-funded. If you donate to Bake Back Better, your entire donation goes to the organization that we’re supporting for that campaign.