Chris Janota, Garage Sale Rover
Last week, hundreds of bargain hunters descended upon Geneva, Illinois just west of Chicago, for the city’s annual citywide garage sale. About 150 homes hosted individual garage sales, and shoppers drove from sale to sale, securing deals on secondhand goods that might have otherwise ended up in the landfill or languished in storage. “People look forward to the event, it gives them a chance to meet their neighbors and brings a sense of community”… Said Laura Rush the Communications Manager who organized and hosted the first annual city wide garage sale sponsored by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.
Want to organize a citywide garage sale in your own community? We offer you these step-by-step instructions to get started.
1. Find a Sponsor
Bring the idea of a citywide garage sale to your city, a local nonprofit, chamber of commerce, community organization or neighborhood group and see if they are willing to sponsor the event.
The first question the group may ask is how much money will it cost to coordinate the citywide garage sale?
To ease concerns about funding the event, Rush recommends charging a small registration fee to residents signing up to host sales at their home; Geneva charges $20 per house. The revenue will pay for the costs of organizing the event: purchasing ads and printing maps of the sales.
The sponsoring organization will, however, need to dedicate some of its staff time to event coordination that won’t necessarily be covered by registration fees. Garth Schultz, environmental analyst for the city of El Cerrito California estimates that El Cerrito’s city staff spends about 25 hours organizing each semi-annual event, for a city of 25,000 residents with 65 garage sales per event.
It is important that the garage sale has a lead coordinator – one point of contact to plan and execute all event logistics, Schultz says. That organizer may be staff from the sponsoring organization or an enthusiastic volunteer from the community, like you.
2. Sign up the sales
Once you’ve found a backing organization and designated a lead organizer, you’ll need to create a registration form to sign up residents to host garage sales at their homes. The registration form can be a printed copy or online, but it should collect such information as the resident’s name and contact information, the street address of the garage sale and a brief listing of any special sale items to interest shoppers.
To find garage sale hosts, send out the form through city or community newsletters and email lists and post the form on popular local websites and community bulletin boards.
While each community is different, Schultz has found that 65 is a good number of sales for El Cerrito’s citywide garage sale. When the city hosted the event once a year, over 120 sales would sign up, spreading shoppers thin over too many garage sales. Geneva‘s first annual turnout of 150 was a spectacular turnout for their 24,000 population.
3. Spread the word
To find shoppers for your citywide garage sale, you’ll want to promote the event through avenues that reach avid garage sale shoppers best. Use registration revenue to purchase ad space in popular local newspapers or websites, but don’t forget about free means of advertising: local bulletin boards, publications’ community calendars, press releases, newsletters and Craiglist.org.
Schultz also suggests asking garage sale hosts to help publicize the event, posting signs in their neighborhood or placing their own free ads on Craiglist.org or other websites.
4. Draw up directions
The Geneva City Wide Sale uploaded all their listing to Garage Sale Rover to have them appear on the free mobile app. It was a useful tool for shoppers to view and organize a route and get voice guided directions from sale to sale. Rover can help you too! When you upload all your city wide sales to Garage Sale Rover your listings will appear on our free iPhone and Android app, your online google map and a pdf map. You can distribute these maps to garage sale shoppers by sharing the online link and by printing and distributing the pdf map throughout your community.
5. Ask for feedback
On the day of the event, stop by a few of the garage sales and gather information from the hosts that can help improve the next citywide sale: How many shoppers did they receive? Did the shoppers come all at one time or was there a steady flow throughout the day? Where did the shoppers hear about the sale?