Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to Host a Benefit Yard Sale

Having a benefit yard sale is hard work! We spent the last few weeks gathering donations for our yard sale to earn money for the orphans in Africa {specifically Zambia}. We made about $400 which we are donating to Mothers Without Borders!  This was such a wonderful experience, and I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends, family, and many strangers. It was fun to meet new people who are actively engaged in our community, and we learned about some new programs we can participate in to help people in need locally.

One of the kind people we met told us where to find our local shelter and asked us to donate any of her clothes that didn't sell. We had soooo many clothing donations for the yard sale, we took most of hers directly to the shelter so Camille could be more involved. Here Camille is holding the smallest of the three bags we donated.
I was so excited to tell Camille that her two pennies turned into more than $400 because of her desire to help other children; I only wish she could have been there to take part in the mayhem fun. We were going to hold the yard sale last weekend but I didn't prepare adequately for the rain {I momentarily forgot that we live in Washington where it can rain at any given moment. All. the. time.} So we had to push it back a week. Unfortunately she is in Idaho for a family reunion. We wanted to wait for her to return, but we had donations spilling out all over our little condo and had other donations stashed in two of our friends' garages. We just had to press forward.
Dang that rain, and dang my poor planning. Which brings me to the rest of today's post.

Prior to our yard sale I did some research and made a list of things to help prepare me for the yard sale. That was definitely helpful, but there are several things I would have done differently. My biggest suggestion is to recruit, recruit, recruit! Have fun and get all your friends to help out!

Storing & Collecting Donations
Storage. One thing I didn't consider was that my place would fill up so fast with donations! People were very generous for which we were so grateful. If you don't have a garage, I would recommend recruiting a friend {or two or three} with a garage to help store things, especially furniture donations.

Donation Drop Offs. Next time I would ask people to bring donations to me instead of trying to go around picking them all up. I wanted to make it easier on the people so generously donating items so I went around collecting. In the future I would only do this for elderly people who couldn't bring it to me.

Clothing. We had sooooo many clothing donations! Next time I would probably be very picky about the clothing donations I would accept. We had a hard time displaying them at the yard sale and most of them didn't sell. I would select only the best of adult clothing and accept all unstained children and baby clothes - those were the best sellers. I would suggest the donater take all remaining clothing to their local homeless shelter so it can benefit those in need.

Be Picky & Sort Promptly. It is helpful to sort items with people as they make donations; this allows you to be more picky about the items you accept. If they just drop off a bag, you may be left with many unsellable items that you have to get rid of {either trash or hauling to other locations}. If you don't want to hurt people's feelings, you could say, "We already have a lot of this item so I can't accept any more," or "I am running short on space so I can only take these donations."

Yard Sale Prep & Organization
Haul it Together. I live in a condo and our HOA prohibits yard sales. We had to haul all of the donations over to my sister-in-law's house {thank you Tiffany!} and it took four minivans filled to the brim to get all our donations over there. Oh, and then two more trips for the furniture donations. So six trips total! We took everything over the day before and it took about 6 hours for two of us to load and unload everything, set up tables, and sort. Next time I would get several friends with trucks and/or vans to come help load everything up all at once. Then we could all help unload and sort items onto their respective tables.

Indoors. If you can do it inside, I would highly recommend this! We had to postpone our yard sale because I didn't prepare adequately with tarps and tents. Even when I was prepared and the forecast was clear it rained in the middle of setup. Because there was so much stuff we had to set up in the back yard, cover everything with tarps, and move everything to the front the next morning. What a pain! If you set up indoors the day before you can leave everything as is.

Don't try to display everything! Books, movies, toys, clothes, miscellaneous cords/chargers work well in boxes. If you put it all out, it just looks cluttered and junky {oops}! People are probably willing to dig a little through these items, but only if it's organized. Cords should be wrapped up or put in ziplock baggies. Labeled boxes of baby and children clothing can be sorted by size and gender. For example, one box would say: baby girl clothes through 18 months. Another box: Baby Boy Clothes through 18 months. And so forth. Adult clothing should be hung on hangers except for jeans and tee shirts could probably go in a box {also labeled and sorted by gender and type, not size - remember, be picky about donations!} We had a blanket out with all the toys dumped on it so the kids could play with them. I think it would have been better to have the blanket out and put some of the best toys on it with the rest in boxes next to it. Then sort the toys by size {if doing general pricing for large, medium, and small toys} and label the boxes with price.

Some items should definitely be displayed. I didn't sort through the jewelry very well, but wish I would have sorted all bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earings and displayed them appropriately. Nicer things could have been arranged into cute little vignettes to make them more appealing than just set out on the table. Just couldn't resist posting these cute jewelry displays found here. You could put bracelets around a candlestick or vase. And that looks like an upside down bowl with a plate on top. Kind of quirkly and fun. IMG_1311  IMG_1315

What about rings in a pile of beans found here? Maybe. But check out the background stands that the bracelets are on. You could DIY one of those with an empty toilet paper roll. Oh, man. I just crossed the line of waaay too much time and energy spent on this. Next...

Sheets as tablecloths. Some of our tables were old and/or stained and would have looked much nicer with a sheet covering them. The nicer your stuff looks the more people will be willing to buy it. I was surprised at how many quality items weren't sold at our yard sale.

Plug it in. I had electrical cords, batteries, and light bulbs for people to try things out. Unfortunately people probably didn't know that and certainly didn't ask. Next time I would actually have things plugged in and batteries installed {with a BIG sign on table that batteries are not included}. I would keep this table close to checkout so people don't trip on the cords.

Signage. I would make a huge sign saying where money is being donated. We talked to people as they came in and had some info at the cash table, but most people just handed me the money and didn't even look at the sign on the jar.

Food. Keep checkout table separate from food table. We had cookies, lemonade, rice crispy treats, chocolates, and licorice for sale but there just wasn't enough room and people were always hovering at the checkout. I would have a separate table with its own donation jar for food items so it looked clean and inviting. This way people who don't find any treasures to buy will realize they can just have a snack and/or make a donation.
Are you inspired or worn out just reading about it? It was a ton of work to put on this yard sale, but it was definitely worth it. I am inspired by the kindness or our community and the generosity of people when they know you are helping others. But keep in mind helping others doesn't have to be a huge project! You can make a small monetary donation {if everyone gives a little it turns into a lot!} or just donate some clothing to your local shelter. Even sharing your smile helps make the world a better place.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Planning a Benefit Yard Sale

Have you ever noticed how similar the words garage and garbage are? Well I suppose one man's trash is another man's treasure. My husband thinks that should read, "One man's trash is another woman's treasure." At any rate, we are leaving garbage out of the equation and having...a yard sale!

Remember when Camille wanted to give money {and toys} to the orphans? We went through our house to see what we could whip up for a yard sale to earn some money to donate to Mothers Without Borders. We realized we didn't have nearly enough stuff to sell so we decided to get others in on the action.

I did a fair amount of online research to prepare for the big day {all of which is below}, but no amount of reading could prepare me for the actual yard sale madness. I'll post tomorrow about our experience and the things I would have done differently.  But for now, here are some good tips for hosting a yard sale. Some of these ideas were mine and some came from here and here.

Written advertisements: school newsletter, church newsletter, newspaper {ask to have it posted in local events and classifieds}
Flyers: post on bulletin boards at grocery store, laundromat, etc. Ask your friends and family to post in places they frequent. {This was especially beneficial - many people who saw the flyers donated items}
Electronic: Facebook and Craigslist. You could also try television & radio network websites.
Make sure to list items that will be of interest to people, particularly furniture.
Put signs out the night before and use balloons.

Maximize Profits
Have a soda/snack table to help raise money. Maybe we can get these items donated?
Check purses and pockets of donated items for money.
Ask people if they would like to round up to the nearest dollar {ie. purchase is $4.75, round up to $5?}
Bargain with people - the idea is to sell as much as you can! Slash prices when business drops off.
Have a bag sale during the last hour of the sale {anything you can fit in this bag $2}.
Donate anything left over to charity!

Get racks to hang clothing on. Here it suggests to tie pipe pieces to rafters, but that only works if you are inside...
If you're doing a fundraiser, ask a local dry cleaner to donate hangers for hanging clothes.
Have a kid area for kids to play with/bond with toys. Yes, this is sneaky and hopefully effective!
Have a calculator and lots of small change handy {$50 in fives, $25 in ones, and $20 in quarters, $5 in dimes}
Have an extension cord, batteries, and light bulbs so people can test to see if items work. Also make sure you have a screwdriver to open battery compartments.
Have a tape measure so people can measure furniture if they need to.
Provide a changing area and mirror.
Keep a large supply of plastic bags on hand so people can wrap and tote their new treasures easily.
Label anything that needs it.
Keep big items close to door. Have "Sold" signs available for those that have to come back for those big items {don't hold for pickup unless you have already received the money, otherwise you may end up with "unsold" items}.
Have basic prices posted on tables and at checkout. Keep valuable items close to register.
Have a sign on all tables reminding people where all proceeds will be donated.
Located near checkout have information about the organization you are donating to.

Don't be afraid to ask for help; this is so much more fun when you are doing it with your friends and family! People are usually excited to help out, they just need to know specifically what to do. Make a list of things you need done and assign them in advance. This keeps people involved so they don't drop out at the last minute thinking you have enough help.
Have a sign making party. Making signs took waaaaay longer than I expected! Hours, people. {cut me some slack, they were big. and I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So what.} I made mine by myself but it would have been much more fun to be making them with friends.
Have a sorting party {can you tell I like parties?} Get together and sort stuff. This is also a good time to price things that may not fit in general pricing categories.
Day Before: buy helium balloons, set up signs with balloons {and make a note of where they were placed}
Day of: set up tables, organize displays, someone to answer questions/reorganize/straighten up, make sales {assist bargainers/slash prices}, take payments, take down signs, take unsold items to charity.

If you're considering hosting a yard sale for a fundraiser, this is the ultimate source for tips!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Barbies and Pennies

One day I found an egg carton in our kitchen with two pennies in it and a sign that said, "mune 4 the orfns". At least I think that’s what how Camille spelled it {someone accidentally recycled it before I could take a picture}. Translation: Money for the orphans. Then there was a Barbie next to it with a sign taped to her: "We love you!"

Of course I hopped online to see how we could get this Barbie to a little girl who would love it. It seems that orphans in our country are pretty well taken care of through the foster system, so we looked to other countries for those orphans who could benefit the most from our contribution {which will be more than two pennies and a Barbie doll}. We decided we could sell that Barbie and other items we would normally donate to charity and send the money to the orphans in Africa.

I remembered hearing about an organization called Mothers Without Borders and with Camille's help decided that this would be the best way to help orphans. I always worry that monetary donations will be spent unwisely and go mostly toward overhead costs rather than to children. But not here! I have compared them with other organizations and Mothers Without Borders has the highest percentage of funds going to programs benefiting the children. If you are thinking about making a monetary donation to an organization, you can find out how your money will be spent by visiting Charity Navigator. This website tells you how charities spend their money {on programs vs. administrative costs and fundraising}, background on the charity, and lists charities with similar missions. Pretty handy!

So what about you? Do you have any causes that are close to your heart? How do you help your kids get into the giving spirit or how have they encouraged you?

Oh, and just for the record, I have no affiliation with Charity Navigator. I heard about them from another mom and have found their service to be helpful in my efforts to donate.