A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2021


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Neighborhood Events for Fun and for Fundraising - Part II

By Fred Gillette

In our Winter edition, we looked at a variety of events designed to promote community. We continue with events that serve this same purpose while providing the additional benefit of raising funds for the neighborhood organization. We conclude with an outline of the tasks necessary in order to carry out a successful event…be it for fundraising or just for fun.

Fundraising Events

Many neighborhood organizations periodically have needs for funds, beyond those that may be derived from dues. They may be needed to support some special neighborhood project such as a community bulletin board or sponsorship of a sports team. It may just be to bolster a fast- depleting general fund. Although funds can be generated as a secondary outcome from informational or educational events it is not really improper to have an event whose most obvious objective is the accumulation of dollars. We will look at some tried and true as well as some more innovative approaches.

The Garage Sale

This old stand-by seems to be the easiest to organize. It involves selling products which are in abundance in most neighborhoods … donateables or discardables. Neighbors are solicited to donate items which they might otherwise have given to some charitable organization...or, perhaps, even items that were candidates for discard. Someone provides some street-accessible space (perhaps…a garage…or a driveway?). The event is announced through neighborhood signs and newsletter notices. During the sale, usually two or more members are on hand at any one time to act as cashiers. Beyond this, the garage sale requires very little in the way of planning, and the logistics are rather basic. So basic, that perhaps we need say no more. Usually the sight of items piled outside a home is a clear signal to those who maintain alertness for such sales and a readiness to at least take a look.

Flea Markets

This is usually just a departmental garage sale. Typically, garage-sale type items are organized into general categories with each booth or table operated by a separate cashier. As the quantity of goods greatly exceeds that of a typical garage sale, a larger space is required. Often a playground or school auditorium serves well. At some of the more ambitious flea markets, locally made goods as well as some manufactured items may be included.


It is typical for fund raising auctions to have a higher quality and value of merchandise than would be found in a garage sale or flea market. Members usually donate items of broad general appeal such as tickets to popular events or new merchandise. Auction attendees then bid on items with the assumption that there are no leftovers since there are no minimum bids. This raises the anticipation that some real bargains might appear. And when they don't, participants console themselves with the recollection that this is all for a cause that they, hopefully, support. In efforts to show support for the organization, bids are sometimes relatively high. For some reason, this is particularly evident in the ubiquitous "cake auction".

Other merchandising

There are more specific categories of items that lend themselves to marketing as part of a fund-raiser. Already mentioned in Part 1 of this article are the printed neighborhood walking tour booklets for which there are several possible marketing outlets.

A similarly marketed item is the neighborhood calendar. A good photographer can easily come up with a dozen interesting shots of your neighborhood. They need not be of scenic grandeur. An early morning photo of some significant edifice may be impressive, but an action shot of a popular grocer will be even more appreciated. A group of church go-ers or a sidewalk scene will also generate that many sure-purchasers of the calendar. Modern photo-printing processes make calendar production no more expensive than printing a brochure, just don't expect museum-quality reproductions. But that won't be necessary to make this a well received item. Many photo shops can connect you with services which will take your photos and raw data and produce the calendars for you. A local book store is a most logical marketing outlet, yet any business that is supportive of the community might be willing to try to sell some calendars for you.

Another well-tested merchandise item is food. A bake sale has the advantage of using merchandise that is of little or no direct cost to the organization. Even better than the garage or rummage sale, the leftovers are more joyfully disposed of. This is the kind of event that may be difficult to hold on its own merits, unless the displays are at some already high traffic area, like a main street corner on Saturday afternoon. You may want to consider including this as part of some other neighborhood event, such as staging it at the annual street fair or as a side attraction at the neighborhood history show.


There have been several traditional fundraising events based on game-playing...usually involving games of chance such as lotteries or raffles. These are popular for their simplicity. They don't involve a lot of equipment or even an ongoing event in order to conduct business. Some willing members just go out and sell chances to win some cash or merchandise or service prize. Other gaming involves creation of some special event and actual "playing", such as bingo or roulette-type games. These represent dual purpose events where a main objective may be fund-raising but there is a strong element of fun and community-building for attendees.

It should be noted that although these "games" can be reliable fund-raisers, these types of activities may be controlled or forbidden by local laws. There may not many cases of neighbors paying heavy penalties for such transgressions yet you should be aware of potential problems.

Educational and Informational Events Doubling as Fundraisers

In Part I of this feature we discussed neighborhood history presentations and neighborhood tours. Although the effort to put together such events is both admirable and justifiable without any material motives, it is quite reasonable to consider their fundraising potential as well. Neighbors know that the local neighborhood organization has not been established as a profit making endeavor. Further, there is widespread awareness that there are many ongoing costs involved in running the organization. Most neighbors will thus not be put off or priced out of a history presentation or walking tour by a request for a modest donation. Both of these kinds of events can also lead to the publication of booklets or guides that could simultaneously promote a sense of community while bolstering the organization's coffers.

Event-management Jobs

Any event can best be served and promoted by the sharing of tasks, especially at the planning stages. A planning committee becomes of obvious importance. A general meeting cannot easily stay focused as discussions delve into sizes of beverage cups. There are many identifiable jobs to be done such as:

- overall coordination,
- securing and preparing the site,
- obtaining and scheduling a presenter,
- hardware acquisition and preparation,
- publicity,
- site preparation,
- hosting or greeting participants,
- budgetary matters e.g. paying bills and keeping records,
- clean up,
- reporting results to the general meeting and
- evaluating the success of the event.

Some individuals may do more than one of these. Of utmost importance is assurance that each of the above is attended to.

It is probably obvious that neighborhood events are matters of great importance, both to organizers and participants. It is worthwhile to give them the amount of attention they deserve. Be willing to give much thought to what is needed and how best to meet those needs. Also, be willing to experiment. Someone had the first bake sale, maybe you will have the first satellite debris auction. And finally, share these experiences with others. Make some note of what works and what doesn't. Share them with the future activists in your group. And please, share them with other neighborhood groups. Neighborhood Life is committed to publishing other anecdotal information on neighborhood events. We all have much to learn from each others' experiences.


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