My #1 goal for this post is that I can provide insight and advice to anyone who might be planning for a fundraiser yard sale for their own adoption or any other cause.
I also hope that those of you who played a part in this day can see how big of a success the event was for us.
I'll break this post up into four sections, as follows:
1. What we did
2. How it went
3. What I learned
4. What I would do differently next time
1. What we did.
As soon as I decided to have a garage sale fundraiser, I began to do some homework. I spent a lot of time researching on the various adoption Facebook groups I belong to, and ordered a book called "Adopt without Debt" by Julie Gumm that contained a lot of great information about yard sales. If you are in the process of adopting and don't already belong to the Facebook group "Adoption Fundraisers and Support," I highly suggest joining! Through this group, I stumbled across a "pay it forward" style thread involving a yard sale banner that is traveling around the country to different families hosting yard sales. I got my name on the list just in time to reserve it for our sale!
Once I had done my homework and had gotten a rough idea of what the day would look like, I started asking for help from my friend and family members. I did this about a 4-6 weeks before the sale itself, which gave people enough time to plan ahead for the date,and also to start thinking about cleaning out their closets, cupboards, garage, etc.
I decided to do a three-in-one event, adding both a pop can drive and a bake sale to my yard sale. I had originally planned to sell lemonade and cold bottled water as well (many other adopters said these were huge hits at their sale) but we ended up scrapping that plan at the the last minute as we had a chilly autumn day that day.
I made sure to plan our sale on the same day that our semi-annual neighborhood sales were happening, knowing that there would already be an increase in shopper traffic that day.
I created an "event" on Facebook, so that I could easily communicate with anyone who wanted to volunteer that day, and also so that my friends could begin spreading the word about our sale to potential shoppers.
I let people know that I would be accepting donations, but asked that they not drop anything off until the week of, as we did not have the space to store all of these items (big mistake, see more on this in the "what I learned section").
The next thing I did was create little quarter-sheet-of-paper "save the date" flyers on brightly colored paper. My initial plan was to compass the neighborhood passing them out, but we had just had some phishy solicitors going around the week before, along with a couple of break-ins potentially tied to these solicitors, so I decided it was not a good time to be going door-to-door, as people were on high alert (our neighborhood rarely sees any crime like this). I also realized that with the size of our neighborhood, hitting each home would take hours and hours of our time, which we just don't have much to spare these days. Instead, I watched our neighborhood Facebook group for anyone hosting a yard sale, and then asked them each if they would be OK with handing out these flyers at their own sales (they all said yes). In my post on the neighborhood group I also asked if anyone would be willing to take a small stack and pass them out to their block, and I had a couple of people volunteer for that.
Sidenote- I live in a HUGE (like couple hundred houses huge), well-known subdivision that is bordered on three sides by very busy main roads, and I believe this was one of the biggest contributing factors to the success of our sale. If you do not live in a high-traffic area, consider having your sale at a friend or family member's house who does (if they are willing of course), or even a church or business' parking lot.
Beyond raising awareness for the sale itself, these flyers were great because many of the yard sale hosts who passed them out for me also ended up donating a lot of their leftover sale items to my sale.
Here's an image of the flyers I created
Once we got our garage cleared out, we opened the door to donation drop offs. At first things were coming in at a very manageable pace, one load every couple of days, so we were able to price items as they came in. This was extremely helpful. I tried sorting things out as best as I could, and spent a couple of hours each night out in the garage putting stickers on items. Some people suggested NOT pricing items and just letting people make offers, but in the end, I was very glad I priced each individual item. (more to come on that topic in the "how it went" section).
The week of the sale:
The neighborhood's Facebook group was truly one of my biggest assets in this whole endeavor. I ended up connecting with a woman who let us borrow a cash register, 4 clothing racks, and 7 or 8 huge wooden tables! The kindness of strangers in all of this was such a wonderful surprise! Another neighbor offered to use his trailer to help my husband and I go get the items. We picked all of these up on the Monday before the sale. It was so nice to get all of this from one place and not have to worry about returning items to multiple people/homes. (We did borrower a few card tables and clothing racks from a couple of friends, but they all live close.)
Another friend found a HUGE box of hangers for free on one of the local yard sale sites, which was also a huge lifesaver! Monday night we started hanging and pricing clothes.
Never underestimate the power of advertising! If you have friends that want to help your cause, but are not able to get out to your house, put them to work cross posting on Facebook pages, Craigslist, and other sites to get the word out about your sale. One thing I had a friend do was to create little 8 1/2 x 11 signs to be hung up the day of the sale, with different quotes and facts about orphans and adoptions. These ended up being a huge hit and great conversation starter the day of my big sale.
Other friends took a revised flyer I whipped out (based on our save the date version) and helped share it around Facebook. Every little bit helps so much.
My parents showed up on Thursday, which was such a blessing because my husband and I both had to work all day Friday. Donations started POURING in Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Thursday you couldn't even move in our garage. Bless my mom's heart, she spent the entire day on Friday hanging, sorting, and pricing clothes. I was absolutely astonished at how many total strangers showed up with van-loads of items to donate for our sale... it was very humbling and slightly overwhelming, but more than anything I was just so thankful because I knew we would have no trouble attracting buyers!
Here's the point at which (I think this was taken Tuesday night when only a few drop offs had come in so far), I knew we were in for a BIG sale.
Apparently our signs worked right away, because by the time we got back to the house at 7 or so to find our huge crew of busy volunteers pulling stuff out of the garage in the dark, we were already getting people driving by slowly IN THE DARK scouting out our sale! Garage sale shoppers are a serious breed, let me tell you!
Signs are SO important in getting buyers to your sale. As we live near the dead center of our huge neighborhood (which is full of twisty-turny roads and can be very confusing to navigate through), I knew it would be important for us to have adequate signage. I made 11 big bright neon signs to post along the main roads that said "Adoption Fundraiser- HUGE SALE- credit cards accepted" (I thought of all the times I drive past yard sale signs, wanting to stop but then I don't because I don't have any cash on me) and then a bunch of smaller, "arrow" type signs with our address on them to post throughout our development to lead people to us. Also, because our neighborhood also has a very large city park in it with a lot of ball fields and pavilions in it, I made sure to post a big sign down at the park to let people know about the sale. note: yard sale signs are expensive! This was definitely the biggest expense we had. Thankfully a friend loaned us 6 signs, but had we known the cost earlier this is another item I would ask to borrow. If you do buy your own- don't waste your time with the flimsy little signs that need to be stapled to poles. get the kind with stakes attached, that are sturdy plastic so they can be left out overnight and will survive the dew and the rain.
Here are the signs we used:
hint- when you make the signs, make the arrows so that you can flip them around and have them work for either direction.
Throughout the neighborhood leading to our house
Here is the little map I made
The other great thing I did to prepare for our sale was that a few weeks before we had the sale I ordered a credit card reader. Through the company Square, if you get a referral link from a friend (I found someone on the fundraiser Facebook group), you get the device for free, and also get the first $1,00 of transaction processing without any fees. This was a wonderful thing to have, and I ended up doing about 20% of my business through my card reader. They are so easy to use and really save a lot of time, plus people tend to spend more not having to worry about running out of cash. (send me your email address if you'd like a referral link).
2. How it went.
The day was honestly one of the craziest, coolest days I've ever had. I was running on fumes and adrenaline, as I had a hard time sleeping the entire week beforehand, but I don't even remember feeling tired that day. It was just so cool to see so many of my friends gather in the same place for the same cause! I met so many wonderful strangers that day who shared their adoption stories of their own, and also met so many kind neighbors, some of which are now becoming friends.
Once we got everything set up, I honestly don't know where a lot of it even came from! I'm convinced some of it fell from heaven =my dad says no- he remembers how many times that doorbell rang the two days before the sale. We even had some donations show up the morning of!
Here are a few photos of the sale all set up and ready to go:
Since it was too cold for lemonade, we had coffee and hot cider (just gave away for free). Here are the facts/quotes signs my friend made for us.
So many clothes! (this only shows about a third of them)
So many of everything!
Thank goodness we had a lot of tables!
I had asked any of my friends and family coming that day to wear their "Worry Less, Love More" shirts, so this also provided for some great photo opportunities in our new shirts :)
These girls and I all went to college together, but really grew in our friendship these past few years after we spent a couple of years meeting weekly for a Bible study group. We no longer meet weekly, but try to get together as often as possible given a few of them are now mothers and one more is a mom-to-be. Our child will certainly not lack for friends their age!
This is a dear friend I met through work, and has been such an encourager and help to us!
Another work friend, she also helped us one night the week before the sale getting items ready and donated many nice items to our sale.
The biggest helpers and supporters- my parents! My husband's mom also helped a lot too, she just wasn't able to be there the day of the sale due to work, but she gets huge credit for driving 5 hours the night before just to drop off items to us!
2 out of 3 of my college roommates. One came in from out of state the night before,and the other showed up even through she was 11 days away from her baby's due date! Talk about dedication! The 3rd would have certainly been there I'm sure, had she not just recently moved a few hours away to start grad school.
The funniest thing about yard sales to me is that you always sell the stuff you think is total junk the quickest, and the items you think are really nice and priced really fairly tend to sit there all day (I can't be the only one who has had this experience).
We stayed busy all day, right up until about 6 pm. Just when I would think we were slowing down, more cars would show up. It was certainly the most busy in the morning and early afternoon, but never close up shop just because it slows down... there is definitely a big "after lunch" crowd that rolls in around early evening.
We did open for a few hours the next day, which brought in another good amount of money for us.
The following weekend, our friends' neighborhood was having sales, so we took the nicest items over there. I felt like we were really busy and we definitely sold a ton of stuff, but apparently I was selling it TOO cheap, because we really didn't make a lot of money. That's OK though, we got rid of a lot of stuff that day, and had a fun day hanging out with them.
TIP-It's important to find a happy medium between striking a bargain and nearly giving stuff away. For example, I had one item priced for $20 and let someone buy it for $3.
We're still tallying up items, and I'm still trying to sell some of the nicest leftover items on Craigstlist, but a safe estimate is probably around $2500 raised from the yard sale/bake sale (I didn't separate these amounts out) and around $150 from the pop can drive. Certainly a huge success!
My husband, my volunteers and I probably logged about 200 hours of work combined, but as the saying goes, many hands make light work and so many people seemed eager to lend a hand. If you have the people who are willing to help this is certainly a worthwhile venture!
3. What I learned
I certainly had a few surprises through all of this. I'll try to be brief here, as I know you've been reading for quite some time already.
-One of the biggest surprises I had, was how many people tried to negotiate on prices, no matter how cheap I had stuff marked. Lesson learned- price a little high, so you always have room to bargain down. If you want to make $2 on something, price it $3 or $4. Even when I had stuff marked for 25 cents, people would try to take me to down to a dime!
-Another thing that surprised me was that even though I live in a community where adoption is very common and well-supported, the vast majority of folks who showed up were not there because it was an adoption fundraiser- they were there because it was a yard sale. They were there to get a bargain. This is not to say that many people didn't let me "keep the change", add to our donation jar (we made about $150 from this alone- certainly worth doing, despite my insecurity about it), or just our friends and family who showed up and handed us checks. One neighbor even rounded up a $30-something sale to $300---- that was one the craziest moments of the day--- I was fighting back tears and shaking as I slid his card. He and his wife live a few doors down and foster children and just genuinely have a heart for this cause. They were strangers before this event, but I have a feeling we will become friends, and it's great to know we share the same heart for these children. What a blessing!
-Going into the sale, I was overwhelmed by the amount of clothing we had. In my previous experience with yard sales, clothes just did not sell. I was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite to be true with this sale. I sold more clothes than anything else. The key is to have ALL CLOTHES HUNG, and sorted by size. I sold most of the clothes on day 2, which is when we had one rack for each size.. People just don't want to pick through, dig through, and rummage for their size. When you put everything on hangers and put an entire rack in front of them with things that fit, they WILL buy! Goodwill prices have even gotten expensive, so when someone can come and fill a bag for $5 of very nice, gently used clothes- they will! Ask your friends for racks to borrow, you'll be surprised how many people have them. Worst case scenario, you can buy decent ones at Target for $20, or you can also look into renting them.
Here is the set up we had for clothing on day 2:
Each rack had a sign attached that said what was on it along with the price (i.e. "Womens size Medium- 50 cents each item)
For our Sunday sale, we let everything know that just about everything was half off, and that's when we introduced the "Fill a bag for $5" option for clothing. The day before each item was sold as marked. We sold a lot of clothes that way, and of course made more money on day 1, but marking them down the 2nd day was a nice way to make some extra cash.
-In our experience, the following items did not sell and were just more worth moving and storing than was worth it: printers (for some reason we ended up with about 6 of these- I did sell a few, but only because I practically gave them away), older style TVs (we had some really nice ones with DVD players built in, and I couldn't even sell them for $1 and had a hard time getting rid of them for FREE!, shoes (now the strange thing here, is that we ended up setting up the sale again a 3rd time at a friends house the following weekend and sole a ton of shoes- but only after I weeded them out and kept only the very nicest ones- maybe having all the junky ones in the pile made the whole pile look junky? not sure here), coats (also a huge surprise to me- we had our sale in the fall and had some really nice coats- maybe this was just a fluke for us?), and books.
4. What I would do differently next time
If and when we ever do a big yard sale again, there a few things I'll do differently.
Start at 9- It's important to start early to attract those early buyers, but give yourself at least an hour after daylight before opening for business. No one likes getting up at 6am- if shoppers show up, that's fine, but in your advertising list a little bit later of a time.
Avoid donations of: TVs, heavy furniture that's not likely to sell, books, and printers.
Set a cutoff date to incoming donations at least 2 days before your sale
Start collecting donations early, even if it means you have to dedicate a room or two of your house to storing them. Ask that anyone donating clothes makes sure they don't have any stains or tears on them.
Get your clothing racks a couple of weeks before the sale, and get those clothes sorted and hung well in advance.
Price everything with room to bargain (but not too high to where people are not even going to ask)
Plan for a two day sale (at minimum)- We didn't end up "opening" until almost 2 pm on the second day. We still ended up with a decent profit, but I bet we would have made much more had we done earlier hours to catch people on their way home from church.
Write out thank you cards each night, as you get donations in- this only takes a few minutes at a time, and this will prevent you from forgetting where everything came from.
*EDIT*- Another adopter mentioned that after her sale she sorted out the nicest leftover clothes and took them to consignment store and made a few hundred dollars that way. I wish I would have done that, as I had some items that even had the tags on them still. This is certainly something I'll try next time!
Take the day before the sale off work!
Well, that's all I have. I truly hope that you found this post to be helpful and informative, and I really hope that if you are planning an adoption yard sale for yourself, you find it to be as profitable as I have!
I personally do NOT like event planning, so going into this sale I kept telling everyone if I do an event, I follow the motto "Go big or go home"... we certainly went big, and we certainly made a big dent in getting our little kiddo home!
Best of luck to you!
Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments!
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