Wouldn’t it be fun if your volunteer group had enough money to purchase lots of special items to enhance the lives of your residents? One of the purposes of my blog is to highlight fundraising ideas that we’ve found to be successful.
A favorite fundraiser is the yard sale that we’ve organized annually for many years. We’ve used the money to purchase special items to benefit the residents such as mobility equipment, furniture, landscaping items, and bathing supplies.
Through trial and error, we’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks along the way, and I’ll share those ideas with you. I hope you’ll also feel free to share your tips in the comment section.
(I’m writing this under the assumption that you’re holding the sale at the nursing home as we’ve always done. However, you could also hold the sale at someone’s house.)
Before the Sale
- Check local laws regarding garage sales. For example, in our city signs advertising the sale can’t be posted more than 3 days in advance, and they must be taken down within 1 day after the sale ends.
- Ask for donations of items to sell. Think about staff, family members, neighbors, friends–nearly everyone has unused items they no longer need. Specify a time frame and location for dropping off donations.
- Advertise, advertise, advertise! Ask volunteers and staff to share on Facebook or Nextdoor. Check out local newspapers or TV stations that provide community calendar listings at low or no cost. Post colorful fliers in the nursing home and at local businesses. Use signs that are easily readable and rainproof.
- Ask for plenty of donations of plastic bags as well as newspapers for wrapping fragile items. We’ve also asked local businesses to donate cloth shopping bags. This is free advertising for the business, visitors appreciate the sturdier bags, and it’s good for the environment.
- We’ve always found it best to pre-price everything in advance with individual stickers. While this might seem like a lot of work, it avoids confusion during the busy sale and makes the day go much smoother.
- I’ve been told the general rule is to price an item at 1/4 to 1/3 of the original price if it’s in good condition. We tend to price on the low side, as it seems better to sell everything at a lower price rather than have a lot of unsold items left at the end of the sale.
- This is a great opportunity to ask staff to look for unused or outdated nursing home property (equipment, furniture, decorations) that can be sold. You never know what might be tucked away in a storage room or a cupboard.
- Arrange to have an alternative location in case of bad weather. We’ve used the chapel/community room at the nursing home.
During the Sale
- Sell cold soda or bottled water that you’ve purchased on sale. Visitors appreciate this, and it’s a good source of extra income for you.
- Have an electrical plug-in available so visitors can check to be sure donated appliances really work. Batteries should also be available.
- Playing easy-listening music in the background provides a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere that encourages visitors to stay and shop longer.
- Provide a tape measure if visitors need to check to see if a piece of furniture will fit into that special spot in their home.
- Have a mirror available when people try on sweaters, caps, scarves, etc.
- Display similar items together. People usually know what they’re looking for and this will help them find it.
- Try to keep everything neat and organized during the sale. A cluttered mess will drive people away.
- During the final couple of hours, set up special sales to get rid of as many hard-to-sell items as possible. For example, do a buy-one-get-one-free sale, 50% off, or everything you can fit in a bag for $5.
- Two good signs to clearly post at the sale are “All Sales Final” and “Cash Only”.
- Be sure to thank everyone for coming!
After the Sale
- Pre-arrange for a thrift store to pick up unsold items at a specific time. Check to see if they have restrictions on what they’ll take, so you don’t end up with items you can’t dispose of. For example, a thrift store in our city won’t accept exercise equipment or microwave ovens.
- Ask all volunteers to get together for a debriefing after the sale, and write down notes for next year’s sale. What worked well? What should we do differently next time?
I know some of you have great yard sale tips, too, and I would love to have you share them in the comment section. Perhaps your ideas can help us have an even better yard sale next year!
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