When we started our adoption in 2013, we knew it would be a long haul with a lot of expense. This year we finally reached a point in the process where we can be matched with a kiddo! This also means we’re going to have to start making some large payments. We wanted to know: What’s an effective way to help raise money?
Answer: Garage sale! Or yard sale… or rummage sale… or whatever term you prefer for “sell lots of used stuff.”
Yes, when I asked around for successful fundraising ideas from the adoption groups I follow, the top answer was to do a garage sale. I had zero, I’m telling you ZERO, intention of doing a garage sale EVER! It was just going to be too much work for too little benefit, I thought. This concern was reinforced by a friend of mine whom I told about the sale. He laughed and joked, “So you’ll make about $45?”
Thankfully, we made a lot more than $45, and here are my tips from how we did it.
1. Set a date
This probably seems obvious but it’s not as simple as you might guess. I researched popular garage sale dates in our area, typical weather patterns, and other major events that might be happening certain weekends. You want to try to pick a prime weekend to draw in as many people as possible. Also, extend your sale for as many days as you can. Our city has a 3 day limit. We held our sale Fri-Sun with great success. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the longer you’re open for business the more customers can attend, and the more money you’ll make.
Again, this might seem obvious (“In my driveway, duh!”) but think about where your house is located. Will people have a hard time finding it? Do you naturally have heavy traffic nearby? Do you have space to set up lots of stuff? Will people be able to safely park at the location? If your home isn’t the ideal spot, you’ll want to start asking friends or family if they will let you borrow their driveway for a couple days. You can even share the sale with them so they get some monetary benefit for playing host.
3. Start advertising!
We did our advertising in two phases. The first 4 weeks was focused on notifying anyone and everyone who might want to donate their stuff. We made a Facebook page to invite friends and family, shared flyers at our places of employment, and notified our church group. At first I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough stuff, but after only a couple weeks our 2 stall garage and spare bedroom were FULL! It helped that we had our sale right around peak house selling season; we had friends who were moving and needed an easy way to get rid of extra “stuff” that wasn’t worth relocating.
Here’s the flyer I designed to use on Facebook and with people we knew (distorted for privacy):
The second phase was in the 2 weeks prior to the sale. This was focused solely on getting people excited about coming. We put an ad in the local paper (our paper also includes an online ad), posted flyers in public places, and updated our Facebook group to remind people to come.
Here’s how I modified the flyer for public advertising:
Make sure your advertising clearly indicates that it’s a fundraiser. People who are passionate about your cause will go out of their way to promote, donate, and attend your sale.
4. Price your items
I know, I know… how do you price 8,947 separate items?? I hear ya. We had planned to do a ‘name your own price’ sale but after a lot of feedback we decided to post prices. Where we live people are not used to bartering at all, and naming a price sort of feels like bartering to a lot of people.
I used this handy printable to guide me with pricing:
My regret is that we did not price everything as we received it. In hindsight, I would not have allowed anything in the garage or spare bedroom until it had a price. Trying to sort through everything to organize and price it a week before the sale was a nightmare. We ended up not having prices on quite a few items at the start of the sale; those items did not sell until we put stickers on them.
5. Borrow display props
Tables, clothes hanging racks, shelves, tarps… You’ll want as much space as possible to display. You can also get creative about displaying the items. We put kids’ stuff on tarps in rows so the kiddos could walk up around and easily see or interact with the items. I propped a ladder near a tree and strung a rope between to use for extra clothes hanging space. Think outside the box when coming up with ways to let shoppers see everything you have.
6. Be organized
From day 1, have a plan for organizing. Not only should your items be priced before you store them, you should have designated spots for different categories. This way when sale day comes you can easily put items out in an organized way. People want to shop by categories the same way they do in a store, so make it easy for them.
7. Have freebies
People love free stuff! Psychologically, people are more likely to buy something if they already feel like they’re getting a deal. I set aside small stuffed toys in a basket with a sign saying “FREE Tiny Treasures for Tiny Shoppers! Thank You for Coming, Kids!” The kiddos loved it! They were pacified by a mini Beanie Baby and Mom and Dad had more time to shop without distraction. I also put out free lemonade and cookies. The more comfortable people are, the longer they will linger, and the more likely they are to buy something. Finally, anything that was kind of junkie was set out for free. Again, this was a ploy to draw people in and encourage them to buy other items. No one left with only free stuff; they all made purchases.
8. Recruit enough help
Unfortunately, we did not think we needed much help with our sale. “We’ll just sit back in a couple lawn chairs and take money for a few hours,” was the silly thought I had. No. We had 5 people helping on day 1 and it was not enough! This was mostly because our sale became HUGE from all the donated stuff. When we started the sale I envisioned a couple rows of stuff in the driveway. It ended up being about 5 times bigger than I anticipated. You’ll need help staging, engaging chatty customers, and taking money.
9. Relax and have fun
I am not adding this as a filler for the list; it’s important. If you’re stressed or irritable, people will not want to stay. Once your sale is underway you need to be ready to roll with the punches (something WILL go wrong), be sociable, and create an enjoyable atmosphere.
This was our first ever garage sale and we made over $3200 in 2 and a half days! If you’re willing to put in some time and hard work, you can get a huge payoff at the end.
So tell me, what are your tips for hosting a successful garage sale fundraiser?