Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ideas That Work

idea iconGiving Back

Last Saturday, the Lexington Learning Center raised over $2,700 at a multi-family yard sale. While the return was excellent, the real feat was the way Center Director Joyce Gillis got Center families involved with the event.

“It was a huge effort,” Gillis said. “It was a lot of work, but it was also kind of fun. It really had the effect of bringing Center families together.”

When the director learned that her Center’s funds would be cut, she posted an announcement in the Center waiting room asking for parents’ fundraising ideas and support. But she didn’t see a significant response until she approached parents personally.

“You have to go out and speak to parents and ask for their help. That’s what it all amounts to,” she said. “People like to be asked. Then it sort of snowballs.”

Gillis involved Center parents in every step of the planning process. She began by asking them to make lists of fundraiser ideas.

“The parents are the ones that benefit from the Center. In order for them to feel like they’re contributing, I thought we should get their ideas,” she said.

When a yard sale popped up on several people’s lists, the group chose it as their first fundraiser since they felt they could pull it together fairly quickly. Then they put together a list of items they thought people would be interested in buying.

Gillis sent out a mass email to active and former parents listing the items they needed and asking for donations and support. The director was up front about the Center’s needs. “I told them what the situation was, that we were in danger of closing, and that we would like as much help as we could possibly get,” she said.

Several parents donated items for the sale. One family brought in a truckload of their own things and a second truckload from a neighbor. Another supporter donated a wicker furniture set with a retail value of $3,000. The Center was able to get $750 for the set.

The event was held at a Center family’s home, and most of the items were stored in the family's garage until the day of the sale.

The director said part of the sale’s success was due to a massive advertising effort. Advertised as a Mammoth Multi-Family Yard Sale, the event was listed on Craig’s List, Facebook, community calendars and bulletin boards and the local newspaper. Parents also made fliers and signs and put them up all over town.

Gillis sent out several group emails asking for help in the days leading up to the sale. “I sent one close to the end when we still needed certain items, and another saying that we needed help the day of the sale,” she said.

She also worked to get students involved. When pricing toys, she would ask them what they thought a toy was worth. They also helped transport items for their parents.

Besides raising money, the event also raised awareness for the Center in the community. All signs, fliers and listings mentioned that the sale was a fundraiser for the Center, and Board Chair Ernie Pearlstein moved around at the event letting people know that proceeds went to the Center.

“It’s a way of letting people know that the Center is here and that there is a need,” Gillis said. “The funds aren’t falling from heaven.”

The director said that overhead for the fundraiser was very low since practically everything from signs to baked goods sold at the sale was donated. She said that she would definitely encourage other Centers to try a yard sale.

“It’s a way of bringing parents together. They’re working toward a common goal, and doing something of value to the community,” she said.

The Lexington Learning Center isn’t taking a break from fundraising. Supporters have a list of other events they plan to hold: next Saturday they’re doing a carwash.

Gillis said the future of her Center depends on families getting involved. “Up to this point there hasn’t been a lot of involvement from parents,” she said. “Getting them together is making a uniform group. They have a lot at stake. They’re trying to get help for their children.”


Anonymous said...

The Center in Altoona PA also tried this and we made $750 dollars in one day. We had a wonderful time doing this it was alot of fun. We aso had media help.

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