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3 Common Questions

What if I don’t collect enough books?

While asking members of your organization to bring in their used books to donate is a good starting point, this doesn’t always yield enough books for a profitable book sale. To ensure you have enough inventory and variety for customers, you may have to look elsewhere. There are lots of other avenues for collecting donations, including the following methods:

  • Ask your entire network to donate. Contact friends, family, coworkers, and other supporters outside your organization’s administration to donate. Post on social media or send emails before the fundraiser letting supporters know that you need used book donations. It’s best to do this well in advance so people have plenty of time to gather and drop off books.
  • Set up drop boxes in your community. Ask local businesses, churches, and schools if you can place donation boxes in their facilities. Make sure you tell the organizations about the timeframe for donations so they can promote the donation opportunity. For example, you don’t want people planning to drop off their books after the pick-up date.
  • Contact local libraries. Often, local libraries discard or give away books that are old or worn. They may even part with books that are in great shape but aren’t the most recent. While you may not want to sell the most worn-out, battered copies, there will be plenty of viable options that were pushed off shelves to make room for an influx of bestsellers.

When you ask for donations, make sure to clearly state your organization’s name and cause. If you are placing drop boxes in locations like churches or businesses, include extra information about your mission and the purpose of the fundraiser. People are more likely to donate if they know who the ask is coming from.

What if I don’t have enough volunteers?

Depending on the size of your sale, you might need quite a few volunteers. It can be hard to find the help you need, especially if your organization is on the smaller side.

If you’re short on volunteers, consider trying a few of these strategies to get extra help:

  • Ask each volunteer to bring at least one more person, like a friend or family member, to help out at the event.
  • Reach out to your network to find additional volunteers — consider asking coworkers, members of your church, and other acquaintances.
  • Ask other mission-driven or service-based organizations if they are willing to “donate” volunteers to your cause.
  • If you are hosting on behalf of a school, ask students and parents to sign up for volunteer shifts.

Finding volunteers can be hard, especially for small or brand new teams. However, there are probably several organizations in your area that would be willing to help you out. Just make sure you communicate your organization’s name, mission, and reason for the fundraiser so potential partners understand the context behind the event.

What is the best way to increase participation?

Marketing your used book sale is the best way to make the fundraiser a success. You’ll need to spread awareness beyond your own staff and volunteers. To ensure you get the most out of your marketing efforts, start promoting at least one to two months before the sale.

If your organization hasn’t hosted many events, it can be tricky to know how to market them to your supporters. While there are lots of creative ways to promote fundraising, here are a few common strategies to get started:

  • Post about the sale on social media.
  • Promote the sale in emails and newsletters.
  • Make flyers and posters to distribute and display in your community.
  • Ask your location to promote the event.
  • Ask supporters to share the event with their network.
  • Tie the fundraiser in with another event like a bake sale or holiday celebration.

Along with finding a great location, focused marketing efforts can make the difference between average and extraordinary supporter turnout.

How to Plan a Used Book Sale

Find used books.

Collecting books is the most important step in planning a used book sale. Since these books make up the sale’s inventory, you won’t get very far without a decent collection of used books. Aim to collect more books than you’ll need so you don’t run out halfway through the fundraiser. After all, you can always donate the leftovers to another organization or thrift store.

The best collection method is one that doesn’t cost your organization anything. Asking for donations is a good place to start, but you may need to expand to other strategies to find enough books. It’s best to start your search early in the planning process in case you hit any snags or roadblocks.

Set up a location.

Location is key to getting customers to attend your used book sale. Look for high-traffic areas and venues with lots of space for spreading out and organizing the books. School cafeterias or gymnasiums are a great option, and if you’re fundraising for your school you probably have access to these spaces for free.

If you don’t have access to a cafeteria or gym, branch out to your organization’s contacts. Ask around for supporters with connections to event spaces, churches, or other ideal locations. You can even partner with your local library and host the sale as a joint fundraiser inside the library.

Find volunteers.

You’ll need volunteers to help out with the fundraiser’s operations. The number of volunteers needed depends on the size of your sale. If you’ve collected hundreds of books to sell, you’ll need a hefty volunteer team.

You might think a fundraiser like this only requires a few volunteers to accept donations and sell the books. However, there are lots of different jobs and responsibilities for volunteers to take on. Here are some of the tasks volunteers will need to manage:

  • Collecting and managing payments
  • Selecting donations to sell
  • Sorting the books into categories
  • Making signs and price tags
  • Marketing the event
  • Stewarding event tables
  • Setting and cleaning up the event

Before kicking off your fundraiser, make sure you have enough volunteers to handle the event’s operations. Designate one task at a time to volunteers to effectively manage their workload and ensure the event runs smoothly.

Why hold a used book sale?

Because we live in the digital age, it might seem like the demand for printed books is a thing of the past. Why sell books when it seems like everyone is glued to a screen? While it’s true that books will probably never take back the role they lost to the internet, there are still plenty of reasons people will buy used books from your organization.

Children’s learning and development benefit from books.

Books benefit everyone by increasing discipline and attention span. However, children experience the biggest benefits just by reading books at a young age. Replacing a portion of their screen time with reading can improve concentration, creativity, and language skills.

Not every family has the resources to provide their children with books to aid their learning development. Your organization can directly benefit children by providing an affordable way for their families to access new reading material that will make them excited to crack open a book. Plus, if your school is the one fundraising you can help your students improve their reading skills all while fundraising.

You can reduce the books’ environmental footprint.

Each year, about 320 million books are thrown away. Discarding books rather than recycling or reusing them means they end up sitting in landfills and adding to excessive waste around the world. By hosting a used book sale, your organization can do its part to keep some of these books out of the garbage and adopted into new homes.

If your organization focuses on the environment, waste reduction, or wildlife conservation, this fundraising idea is a great choice. You could even hold the book sale in tandem with other waste-reduction fundraisers like shoe drives or community yard sales.