I am not a fan of yard sales. Hauling my ill-fitting, out of style clothes, random housewares, and misunderstood chachkes out to front yard for neighbors and strangers to pick through seems embarrassing at best. That’s one reason why I choose to donate my old stuff.
Another reason is the amount of time and energy it takes to hold a yard sale. It’s a lot of work and often the payoff is not worth the effort. That’s why I don’t usually recommend yard sales as fundraisers for nonprofits. It sounds easy enough: collect stuff that people no longer want and sell it to people who want it. But most nonprofits aren’t in the retail business and therefore aren’t equipped to manage the donating, sorting, pricing, vending, and hauling of lots of random stuff. It takes a considerable amount of organization to pull off a successful sale.
That’s not to say it can’t be done. For years, the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA’s rummage sale and FOCUS’s flea market were not to be missed. People lined up around shopping centers waiting to get in. They eventually added “preview sales” where you paid to get in a day earlier. The sales were so successful (and the organizations had so much stuff to store) that they opened year-round retail establishments.
If you’re considering a yard sale as a fundraiser, start by checking out the pros. The Senior Center’s yard sale is going on today and tomorrow. In the past, this sale has brought is almost $15,000! When you stop by, you’ll see why. The sale is held inside the Senior Center, so there’s no concern about weather. There’s great ambiance. A gentleman plays jaunty tunes on a piano as you shop. Everything is clean, sorted, and clearly priced. There are no heaps, piles or boxes to dig through. The volunteers running this sale have been doing it for years and they know what works.
Don’t even attempt this as a fundraiser if you don’t have an experienced yard sale-er on your committee. In addition to the planning, advertising, and organizing, you need someone who understands the yard sale subculture. For a better idea of what’s involved, heed these words of advice from the Yard Sale Queen.