Turning a Rummage Sale into a Blockbuster Event

Dottie Diller has organized the rummage sale at St. Susanna’s in Mason, Ohio for the last six years.  Before Dottie came on the scene, the rummage sale netted around $2,000 annually.  With Dottie at the helm, the sale has netted over $14,000 in a single year! The parish has several hundred families that donates goods, and has a spacious facility to hold the sale, so Dottie and her crew have capitalized on these resources to make this an extraordinary event.

Rummage Sale

How does she do it?  Here are a few tips that you can apply to any size rummage sale :

  • Have a specific goal – when volunteers can visualize what they’re working for, they will be more enthusiastic.
  • Control pre-sales – decide whether pre-sales to volunteers are permitted; if you do, make sure all items are priced before pre-sales begin.
  • Create a boutique room – one of the most popular spots at St. Susanna’s; best quality items are priced at specialty or consignment shop prices and set up like a retail store with its own checkout.


  • Sorting – throw away anything that is soiled or in disrepair.  Items that won’t bring a price over 50 cents are displayed in a Bargain Basement area and not individually priced.  Price all other items individually.
  • Hang up as much as possible – all it takes is one person to wade through a perfectly stacked and folded pile of clothes to turn it into a messy mountain of madness. You can price items higher and they will sell quicker and stay more organized if you can hang them.
  • Pricing – get people who have experience in the type of product.  Check out pricing websites.  Don’t use fancy labels, they won’t stick to fabric – masking tape and permanent markers work best (as long as the items aren’t displayed in the sun, where the adhesive tape can melt).
  • Price jewelry separately; if you have a lot of jewelry, consider setting up a separately manned display and checkout area.
  • Appliances – find someone who can test each item to determine if it is in safe, working order. It’s okay to sell non-working items as long as they’re not deemed to be unsafe, and are marked accordingly.


  • Unique items – for unique or high-value items, consider a blind auction, where interested individuals place their bid and contact information on a slip of paper and placed in a sealed container until the sale is over; high bidder gets the opportunity to purchase first; work your way down the list until you get a buyer.
  • Overhead – St. Susanna operates a school on their campus, so they must schedule their sale to take place immediately after the school year has ended. They actually rent a storage facility for a month or so to store early donations.  They also rent tables.
  • Attracting volunteers – recruit small group leaders to contact their members; provide child care; have a variety of shift lengths; permit controlled pre-sales.


  • Concession stand – providing concessions will keep people at your sale longer and will boost sales; if you are unable to recruit volunteers to run the stand, consider offering the opportunity to another outside organization to set up, operate, and clean up.
  • Have a plan for disposing of leftover items; contact local mission groups like Goodwill or Salvation Army to see if they will schedule a pickup immediately after the sale.

Other fundraising ideas here

Other Noteworthy Resources:

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