3-Day Thursday: Fundraising … our yard sale experience


When Debbie and I registered for our 3-Day Walk, we knew that we had a long road ahead of us … literally, with the 60-mile trek we’ll make in July, and figuratively with the training and fundraising we’ll do before the event.

Since we’re neighbors, we knew we had to get creative with fundraising in our neighborhood.  Direct appeals are effective for friends and family, but we didn’t want to hit our neighbors with a double-whammy, with both of us asking for financial support.

Instead, we decided to hold a yard sale, and asked our neighbors if they would like to donate items to sell – we got a great response!  The timing was great, with people doing spring cleaning … we had lots of clothes, toys, housewares and decorative items, plus bigger things like those Little Tykes plastic playhouse and kitchen set, a ping pong table, kids’ train table, bikes, strollers, etc.

I’d love to have pictures to post, but didn’t have time to take any!  Despite our “9-2, no early birds please” on the signs and ads, people were knocking on my door at 7:45!  We were steady from then until about 1 when things finally slowed down (and I ate the bagel that had been in my apron pocket all morning … did I mention that I get cranky when I’m hungry?!?)

Here are highlights and some tips from our sale:

  • How we prepared and what worked well:
  • We advertised in our local weekly paper, Craigslist, email to friends, and signs around town. 
  • We had a table of breast cancer awareness items (bracelets, rubber ducks, and corded pens from Oriental Trading) that we offered for $1 each.  People were generous in putting their change in the decorated coffee can on the table.
  • We priced items fairly, but priced to sell … we weren’t bargaining.  When people asked “will you take $2?” for a $3 item, we firmly but politely told them we thought the items were priced fairly and that it was a fundraiser for the Breast Cancer 3-Day (not money simply to line our pockets).  In all but a handful of cases the potential bargainer bought the item at the asking price.


  •  Things we’d change if running a 3-Day yard sale again:
  • We feel we could have saved the $30 it cost to place the local ad, most of our traffic was from the other sources.
  • A bake sale would have been a nice addition to our trinket table, and would have helped the kids be more involved.
  • Even though all the signs and ads indicated it was a fundraiser, it didn’t stick in the minds of people who spend Saturday mornings going from sale to sale.  Yard signs, t-shirts, and signs on all the tables would have helped spread the message.

The bottom line:  The yard sale was a lot of work, but a success.  We netted $640 to split between the two of us.  That, plus a $100 check I mailed in this week puts me only 189 cups of coffee away from my fundraising minimum.  I think I can, I Think I Can, I KNOW I CAN!

Who else has some fun and creative fundraising ideas to share?  I’m willing to step outside my comfort zone for The 3-Day Walk!

14 comments to 3-Day Thursday: Fundraising … our yard sale experience

  • I don’t have any ideas, I just wanted to thank you for the post. We’re having a yard sale in June and I’ll have to use a couple of your ideas.

  • What a great idea for a fundraiser!

  • This may be something unique to my area of the world, but do folks in your neck of the woods ever hold socials? A social is basically a party that people pay to attend, and it’s almost always a fundraising initiative. People hold them to earn money towards their weddings, for their sports teams, to help new community projects get off the ground, to support charitable causes… for all sorts of reasons. You charge a small admission fee, (usually $5 or $10), and make additional money by selling alcohol, hosting a silent auction, doing a 50/50 draw, raffling stuff off… all that. There is an overhead cost, (renting the hall, getting a DJ if you don’t know anyone, and purchasing the alcohol), but some stuff like the silent auction and the raffles can be handled by soliciting prize donations from local businesses. You can make an awful lot of money at it, and it’s usually a lot of fun.

  • You could still do the bake sale, or a car wash, and get the kids involved. It probably wouldn’t net you near the amount of money that the yard sale did, but every bit helps. If you decided to do a social type of thing, you could always have a silent auction of things that have been donated by local businesses (gift cards, gift baskets, rounds of golf, bottles of wine, etc.). This is an excellent cause, and I suspect if you walked into most places and asked, they would give you something, as long as you have something official to provide them. We have something like this for our school, to raise money for tuition for underpriviledged children, and we raise tens of thousands of dollars. Even on a smaller scale, though, it could work!

  • andrea

    Great work with the fundraiser! Another good idea since you girls are neighbors would be a neighborhood Boob-b-q!

    Invite the neighborhood over for a cookout and charge $5 bucks a person or $10 for a family and grill some hot dogs, If you clip coupons you could get great deals on dogs and buns, have a few people bring a dish to pass and go to the local grocery stores to see if the can donate utensils, buns, pop, water, etc. Last year a friend of ours did it and had a great turnout! Good luck!

  • Congrats on your success. I really can’t think of a good fund-raiser idea for two people to put together that hasn’t already been mentioned.

  • Wow – awesome!!!! I love the bake sale idea – and I’m going to use it this weekend at our garage sale!!!! I’m picking up the poster board for signs tonight also! I just might have to bake some goodies now!!!! This is our 2nd sale. The first one got us just over $800 so we are hoping to do just as great this time!!!!

  • I’d love to see pictures of your events!

  • Carol – I’ve never had a yard sale before this one … boy, there’s a lot of work in setting it up. Well worth the effort, though!

    Stephanie – it was a beautiful day to have the sale, and good to chat with people about why we were doing it.

    Memory – I love the idea of a social! Years ago friends had a cocktail party fundraiser; maybe we should consider something a bit more family friendly :)

    Sandy – you’re right, it all adds up! I used to put my bottles/cans out to recycling. Now we return them for the deposit at the store … all those nickels sum up to dollars!

    andrea – I think this is a great idea! I wonder if my 11-year-old son would be willing to invite friends to a boob-b-q though.

    Beth – thanks for your support. Our team feels bigger than just the two of us because so many people buoy up Debbie & me.

    Lydia – I hope you have as good a turnout for your 2nd yard sale … let me know how the bake sale goes!

    LuAnn – I’ll definitely post pics about the 3-Day Walk itself. I just didn’t have a spare minute during the yard sale (which was good, to be busy!)

  • How about an ice cream social? That’s family friendly. And less work than BBQ’ing.

  • You’re doing great!! Best of luck and I am cheering you on.

  • That was a wonderful idea! I’ll have to keep that in mind.
    I am a Mary Kay Consultant and I do fundraisers for any client that asks. She hosts a party (or I host a party for her at my house ) and I donate 20% of sales directly to her charity. If you know of any women who have their own home businesses like this (MK, Pampered Chef, Avon…) I bet you would find at least one to do this for you. Good luck :)

  • That is a lot of money for one day’s work. Good for you. I know you can do it, too.

  • softdrink – ice cream is always a hit! Yes, we could do “make your own sundaes’

    sarah – thanks for your vote of confidence!

    Stacy – I don’t know any home party people in my area, but I’m sure they’re out there. I can go online and find a local rep, thanks for the idea!

    Margot – yay! I know I can, too … I can’t let any doubt creep in :)

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