A reader asks me: “My kid’s school is interested in doing a swap to raise funds for the school. How do you run a swap?”
This is a great question. The answer depends on what you want to accomplish with your swap.
There are five kinds of swaps, and some can make a lot of money.
1. A swap that is actually a pop-up store. The Rose Bowl Swap Meet in Pasadena, Calif. is a good example of that. Vendors pay for a space and the better spaces cost more money. Some of the stuff for sale is valuable, some of it is junk. There are good deals and over priced items. The property owner makes money on selling vendor spaces, parking spaces, and food and drink. The vendors keep the money from their sales.
2. A swap that is essentially a yard sale. It is called a swap, but it is just like a yard sale. An example of this is when an entire block or gated community has a big yard sale. Because many people are involved, there is a lot of promotion and you can attracted a lot of attendees and therefore make a lot of sales. The amount of money you make depends on the quality of your stuff for sale and the prices you set.
3. A free swap. These are not totally free because there is an admission price. Typically, admission is reduced if you bring a bag/box of items to be swapped. An example of this is the Swap o rama rama and the BargainBabe Frugal Festival from 2010. Free swaps are a great deal, even though you pay a bit of money to get into the swap. I like free swaps because it IS a lot of work to organize and I think the person who creates it should be able to make some money off the event. Admission fees usually only cover the cost of putting on the swap, so it’s not a huge money maker.
4. A really really free swap. This is just what it says – really, really free. There is NO money involved. A good example of this kind of swap is the FullCircles Ottawa’s Really Really Free Market. You find a spot with a free space (a park, a gym, a community center) and ideally, tables. You bring what you want to give away and you take what you want. I have seen some more complex rules of free swaps so that everyone gets stuff, but I really would rather have it be more open. The only thing is that if you see someone taking everything, then the organizer should kindly ask them to wait until the end to take whatever they want. Speaking of “the end” – arrange to have a charity come by with a truck to pick up what is left. There will be more leftover than you might think. If you can’t arrange a pick up, then arrange ahead of time that several people with vans will take the left overs to Goodwill or a drop box. Make sure you bring a box of large heavy duty garbage bags to gather up the left overs.
5. A swap that is a fund raiser. The best example of this is Milton Academy’s annual Swap-it. This swap has been going on for decades as an annual fund raiser. Items are donated from the students, alumni and local residents. They are sorted and tagged into a huge room. There is a special early sale for just students and alums. The next day the swap is open to the public. On the third day, everything is half price. On the fourth day, everything is a $1. The last couple of hours, it is $5 a bag. At the end of the hour, the huge space is empty of merchandise. A swap like this is a lot of work, takes a lot of volunteers, but can raise a lot of money.
There are no set rules for swaps. You set up the kind of swap that fits your situation. I’d love to have a great discussion on the subject of swaps.