Thursday, September 2, 2010

Green to Gold

From the bean of Green Bean.

It has been 10 long days since I'd squinted into the sunlight, breathed fresh air, walked without a "walk-run" in my steps. Even longer since I'd not had that film on my hands. The kind that comes from touching other people's castoffs. From folding someone else's bed linens or sorting someone else's wooden trains from plastic action heroes.

But today was it. The last day of our community's three day Rummage Sale event. An event precipitated by months of "eBaying" Jimmy Choo shoes and girl's Gymboree clothing, of selling furniture and bicycles on Craigslist, and of planning with women who'd become my closest friends.

Tomorrow it would all be worth it. We would have raised thousands (and I do mean tens of thousands) of dollars for our cash strapped school. We would have found a new life from millions (billions? there were some nights it felt like billions) of second hand items. And we would finally have clean hands.
Fundraising doesn't have to be a dirty business, though. Gone are the days when money for a worth cause could be raised only by hawking virgin wrapping paper and non-fair trade chocolate. I dropped out of the blogging world last spring but into the fundraising one. In a race against budget cuts, we came up with several creative fundraising opportunities that were good for the bank account and the conscience.

Here were some of our ideas.

1) Rummage Sale.
  • Find a place to store your donations so that you can start collecting them at least 6 weeks prior to your event.
  • Sell higher value items beforehand on eBay, which allows registered non-profits to sell commission-free, or Craigslist. Do your research, though, before listing. It is not always worth it to sell through one of these other avenues but sometimes, you can make much more than through a traditional rummage sale.
  • Cull through your donations and sell only ones that are intact and in decent shape - in other words, something you'd buy yourself. Few customers will dig through mounds of dirty linens to find the one comforter set that is in pristine condition. Get rid of the stuff no one will buy and price the remaining items higher. Rejects were mostly donated to thrift stores or, if they were fabric, to places that recycle textiles.
  • Give yourself at least a week to organize the sale. Put like with like. Price items after researching on eBay or Craigslist.
  • Advertise.
  • Line up security. I kid you not!
  • And open your doors. We were successful having an opening night for community members only, a opening day for all the public (charging $10 an hour for early birds an hour before we officially opened) and a final, third day where all items were 50% off.
  • Have charities lined up to pick up your items that don't sell to facilitate clean up.
2) Fundraising Gardens.

Victory gardens have been a hot topic and many folks now grow their own fruits and vegetables. Many more keep chickens or bees. In addition, some schools have amazingly abundant edible gardens. Harvest all that and sell it! We auctioned off two true CSAs - community supported agriculture - boxes last year. Community members from all over the city contributed fruits, vegetables, eggs and recipes in boxes that will be delivered once a month for the three busiest "food" months of our season.

A farmers' market is another possibility. It might be possible to join an ongoing farmers market for a few months or hold one once a week or once a month at the school or other facility. Get people eating healthy, eating pesticide free, eating local, and paying for it! Talk about win, win, win.

3) Show Off Your Skillz.

Like many of you, I've picked up a number of uncommon skills along my green journey. It may surprise us, but not everyone knows how to can jam, bake bread from scratch, knit a pair of slippers, or plant and maintain an organic garden. These skills are very "in" and people are happy to pay to learn them.

At a charity auction, a friend and I auctioned off a Jam Making party. It was so popular, we were asked to add spots for two additional bidders and were still receiving phone calls the week prior to the party from folks who had lost out but wanted to learn to can. Another friend auctioned off crochet lessons and still another friend auctioned off Indian cooking lessons.

An artisan bread baking party would likely have been just as successful. Even basic cooking from scratch lessons would have made more than scratch. The ideas are endless - how to make a rain barrel, how to keep backyard chickens or bees, a tour of your edible garden, how to green your house in 1 day, and so on.

4) Fruits of Your Labor.

I know the parable about teaching people to fish but, honestly, sometimes people just want the fish. Or, in our case, the jam. At the same charity auction, I collected jars of homemade jam from 12 different members of our community and displayed them all in a thrifted basket. There were a number of bidders and the person who ultimately won the dozen jars of jam said she planned to give them out as hostess gifts through out the year.

I'm guessing that people would also pay to have artisan bread delivered monthly. I know that I, personally, bid on monthly delivery of homemade meals from around the globe - with donors making meals that reflect their culture. The Italian meal was to die for!

5) Go Outside Your Community.

There are plenty of other green fundraising ideas on the Internet. Fair trade coffee. Gift certificates to places like Tonic (aka Green Dimes). Hawking Smencils around Halloween time. Selling fair trade coffee year round. Google "Green Fundraising" and you'll find a million ideas.

So raise green by spreading green!


The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Wow, you certainly have been busy! And what a great cause. Our schools need help from us now, and who wants/needs more giftwrap?!! Just think of all the soccer fields that are filled with families on Saturday mornings right now ... I'll bet they'd love to take home a fresh loaf of bread or a jar of jam and support education at the same time. A late fall farmers market right at the school on Saturday morning? Yum! Thanks for the idea. I'll be looking into this.

Simply Authentic said...

REALLY great ideas! I'm impressed and glad to hear that you were able to raise so much money for the school. All the ideas definitely sound like a much better and more needed option for fundraising than chocolates and popcorn tins. Your hard work and dedication is evident in the payback--congrats!

Wendy said...

Awesome post! And right now, since my daughters' competition dance team is talking about fund raising it's actually appropos for me ;).

Thanks for the tips. The rummage sale is a good idea, and I know that their school has done them before - with dismal results, but I think part of it was location, and if they were to have done it at a different location, they would have had more success. I think I'll pose the idea (again) to them, and perhaps offer to do more than donate a few items ;).

I love the idea of the garden/CSA shares. That's totally an idea I can get my teeth into ;).

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Bean!!! Hi!!!

Our church does a "garage sale" every year now, and it many years ago expanded from the four-car garage in the rectory and now takes up the entire--and I mean ENTIRE--school building. People line up outside for hours, they have to hold people at doors to keep the official number in each classroom to a fire-marshall-acceptable number, other organizations do their own side-fundraisers selling food and drinks outside the school to keep people's blood sugar up--it's a huge deal, and like yours it generates huge revenues while helping find a new home for stuff that otherwise won't have one.

I love your jam or bread party idea! Next time I'm asked to "donate" something for a silent auction I'm totally going to do that.

Green Bean said...

@Farmgal: That's the ticket! I think we can easily move into a society that offers jam instead of giftwrap!

@Authentic: Thank you!

@Wendy: Good luck with the Rummage Sale. We had ours in our school gym but had debated obtaining a commercial space for next year. That was a friend's brainchild - here there is a lot of empty commercial space and the owners could obtain a tax deduction by allowing us to use it for 4-6 weeks to collect donations and set up.

@Jenn: Take it and run with it girl! I'd totally bid on your stuff at a silent auction.


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