How To Host A School Supply Swap

So, You Decided to Have a School Supply Swap

Man framing Sun
Bright Idea. Andy Ryan

Maybe it was all of those back to school sales where you bought lots of sale-priced items you didn't need.  Maybe it was the stuff you bought because it was on the school supply list, but then once school started you found out you didn't need most of those items.  Or it was all of the stuff from previous years that is still new or gently used and collecting dust.  Then there are also all of the school clothes your children have outgrown that are still in great condition.  You sat in your home, staring at all of this stuff, and then realized - families everywhere are going through the same thing.  Your families now need different school supplies and clothes, and you know that there are other families who have what you need, while you have what they need. You need a school supply swap.

Ask Yourself - What Supplies Do You Want To Swap?

Woman Asking Question

 Know what you want to swap.  Knowing what you want to give and receive will help you decide the next steps in organizing your school supply swap.  Really, knowing what you want to swap means that you can decide with whom and where you want to swap.  Do you have supplies and clothes that you know you can swap with other families living in your block?  or the families from your small book club or church group?  Do you have a lot of items that you know are needed somewhere in your community but you just aren't sure who needs them?

So, just how big of a swap event do you want to have?

People with bright Hands
Just How Many People Do You Want There?. Caiaimage/Martin Barraud

Do you want to limit your swap to just a few close friends, your child's classmates, your child's school, or the whole town where you live?  You need to know the answer to this question to pick a location for the swap.  For a swap with just a few people, you can have the swap at someone's home.  Larger groups will probably need a public place that is centrally located to the people who would want to attend.  

PTA/PTO's are great organizations for hosting swaps  These school support groups are expert in pulling the whole school community for events.  If you would like to host a school-wide event, speak with your PTA/PTO to pool resources for success.

Get Down To Swap Details

Girls pick pencils
Very Organized Supplies. Marc Romanelli

 Now that you know how many people you would like to come to your school supply swap, it is time to pick a location, date and time.  When you reserve the building space for the swap, be sure to inquire about any fees and if there are tables or other items available for your use.  If tables, chairs and other set-up items are not available through the location you have booked, talk with other community groups to see if you can use theirs.  

Larger swaps will require more volunteers to help organize items and direct swap attendees through the swap.  Decide if you will have a specific drop-off time for all items and then a return time to get items, or if you will have people drop-off and get new items throughout the day.

Time to Promote Your School Supply Swap

blank billboard
Time to Promote. Ditto

Once you have the basic details of time, date location and a general idea for people to bring items and get stuff, you need to make sure that people know about the swap.  This is easy for the smaller swaps - simply tell these few people when you see them.  A good rule of thumb is the larger the swap, the more promotion you will want to do.  

That doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on advertising.  Many venues exist for free promotion of community service events.  Think flyers, newsletter and community announcements, and social media shares. The important thing is to make sure that you have gotten the word out about your swap to everyone that might want to participate.

The Leftover Stuff After The Event

Suitcase of clothes
There will be leftover stuff. Tulio Edreira / EyeEm

 The big day has finally arrived!  People came, brought their perfectly good stuff, and got supplies and clothing that they needed.  Somehow, after swaps there are always perfectly good items that are leftover.  Have a plan for what you will do with leftover items.  Your school PTA/PTO may want to keep them on hand for any student who need supplies in the future.  You could offer the materials to teachers for their classrooms (there still might be leftover stuff.)  Clothing could be donated to local shelters and charity organizations.  You could also arrange with your school districts' Transitional Housing Coordinator to see if they would like any leftover items.  The thing is, you want to have a plan to make sure that all of the stuff goes somewhere, other than a trash can.

Celebrate and Evaluate Your Success

3 people talk
Review With Others To See How It Went. Musketeer

Post event you should sit down and review what worked and what could be improved. Decide how often you would like to have a swap in the future.  Get feedback from attendees about what they liked and what they would want to see in the future.  You may even want to think ahead about who could organize it and when, along with reserving a space to host the event far in the future.  

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