Planning a school yard sale fundraiser can be a very low-expense, high-profit fundraiser for your school if you take the time to plan it out. We raised between two and four thousand at our small 200-student elementary school each year that we ran a yard sale fundraiser. Here’s how we did it…
Planning a Yard Sale Fundraiser
Yard sales, Tag sales, Garage sales, and Esate sales are all extrememly popular in the Fall and early Spring. People love shopping outdoors in the fresh air and finding a bargain. While they do require a bit of labor and several volunteers, since everything is donated, yard sale fundraisers are unlike any other because they can bring in profits of up to 100%.
- Assign a Chairperson
- Enlist about 20 volunteers to advertise, sort & price items as they arrive at the school, set up, act as customer service reps, and clean up. If you’re having a difficult time getting volunteers, go to your high school and enlist some. Most high schools require volunteer credits to graduate.
- Set up a volunteer schedule so you’re sure to have plenty of volunteers on-hand during every time slot.
- Choose a date. Hold the yard sale on a Saturday or Sunday morning in the Fall or early Spring, from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM. Be aware that early birds will begin arrriving by 8:00 AM, so setup should be complete by then. Setup can take up to two hours.
- Gather at least 20 long tables. Your school may have these or you may be able to borrow them from the local boys & girls club, church, or Lions club.
- Announce the Yard Sale and ask for donations. See Advertising below. Note that donations can be dropped off in the school lobby for the entire week prior to the sale. You’ll need to have volunteers available each morning or afternoon to move the items to a holding area in your school (we used the school stage), sort through the items, and tag them. Exclude items such as clothing (except costumes which sell well), electronics that require special disposal (TV’s, computers), large appliances, upholstered furniture, and any furniture larger than a standard dresser (no couches, armoires, beds – these are too big to move around).
- Make a very large sign and place it in front of the school, visible from the street.
- Make phone calls to local bake shops and donut shops asking if they’ll donate coffee, donuts, muffins, or bagels so you can have a bake sale table set up.
- If the yard sale is outdoors, sell sale spaces to anyone that wants to bring their own items and sell them. Sell spaces for $20-$30 for a 12’x12′ or 12’x24′ area. Let them know they have to bring their own table. Clearly mark off the spaces with chalk, tape, or rope so there’s no discrepancies the day of the sale.
- Three weeks prior to the Yard Sale, send flyers home in school backpacks, email school familes, post online to CraigsList, and write an editorial announcement for the local newpaper to publish. Newspapers publish school fundraiser announcements for free. Make note that you’re looking for donations (with restrictions, see above) to be dropped off the entire week prior to the sale.
- Two weeks prior to the sale, place the largest sign you can at the front of the school, visible from the street.
- Five days before the sale, place a free ad on CraigsList under For Sale – Garage Sales.
- Three to four days before the sale, hang signs around town in high-traffic areas, like at busy intersections, at the local Senior Center, near active soccer and baseball fields, and outside churches. Most towns allow posters to be attached to telephone poles as long as you take them down after the sale. See this post about how to and not to create & hang these signs.
- One and two days before the sale, send email reminders to school families.
- Remember… the success of your sale depends on your advertising so go overboard!
LOGISTICS OF A YARD SALE
- The yard sale can be held either indoors or out. Outside is best, but always reserve the school cafeteria in case of rain. Set up at least 20 tables. One will be a bake sale table. One or two will be a Cash-Out table. Place both at the Exit so customers have to walk by them to exit the sale area. Label the Bake Sale and Cash-Out tables clearly with large signs so customers know where to pay.
- Every item should have a label with a price prior to the start of the sale. Price low and be negotiable – you want everything to go! Here’s a valuation guide from Salvation Army. Price your items on the low end of these valuations.
- Mark all price tags with green or purple pen only so you know it’s YOUR price tag. The day of the sale give each volunteer a green or purple pen so if they negotiate a new price, they can re-tag an item. By using an odd color pen, the volunteers at your cash-out table will be able to verify the agreed-upon price.
- If the sale is held indoors, set up the day before. If outdoors, have 20 volunteers at the school by 6:00 AM that morning to help set up the 20 tables outside and carry every item outside. Be set up by 8:00 AM for a 9:00 AM sale.
- To sell even more you can sell large paper grocery bags for $25.00 each. Tell customers they can fill that bag for the $25.00 (Exclude gold jewelry from this – you’ll get more by cashing gold in at the local jewelry store.). Write on each bag you sell in large colorful marker “Fill This Bag for Just $25.00”. As it gets later in the sale, sell these bags for $20, then $10. As people cash-out their purchases throughout the day (and only as they cash out) tell every one of them to come back during the last 15 minutes or half hour of your sale because anything leftover will be free.
- Costumes sell very well at Fall yard sales. Figure out a way to hang these to it’s easy for people to sort through them.
- Dispose of unsold items a few ways. Ask the school if you can put some items in their dumpster. Arrange a few volunteers to bring their pickup trucks and drive items the local donation center. Arrange with a local charity like Big Brother Big Sister, Salvation Army, or Cradles to Crayons to come with a truck at the end of the day and give them any leftovers. Be sure to have at least 10-15 volunteers available to clean up at the end of the day. Dispose of all trash.
THINGS TO HAVE ON HAND FOR A YARD SALE
- Cash box with lots of dollar bills and coins for change.
- Pens and small stickers to label sale items
- Green or Purple pens for pricing items.
- Cream, sugar, and spoons for the coffee
- Volunteer work schedule
SAY THANK YOU
Remind your volunteers to say Thank You to every buyer and send a hand-written Thank You note to any business that donated to the sale. As the Chairperson, be sure to thank every one of your volunteers.