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Cinderella's Fundraiser

Tired of holding typical fundraisers, the William Byrd Cheerleading Booster Club in Vinton, Va., decided to try something new. The club held its first Cinderella's Closet Sale in preparation for the prom-shopping season. 

The William Byrd Cheerleading Booster Club got the idea of holding a consignment sale for dresses--and the name--from other organizations' sales. "In this area, the name is synonymous with the event," says booster club co-president Missy Altice. "People understand that it's a sale for used prom and homecoming dresses. They can sell ones that are hanging in their closets or buy ones that are new to them at much discounted prices."

Although it holds several other fundraisers throughout the year, the club wanted to try something different. "With this economy, it's really hard to keep knocking on doors and asking people to buy products," Altice says. "With the dress sale, we weren't beating down all the same old doors. That's why we tried it."

The sale lasted two days, and was held in a local mall. The club has a connection with an individual who was renting space in the mall for an annual consignment sale. The booster club was able to use part of that space to hold the dress sale, free of charge. "It was perfect," Altice says. "The way it worked out, we included her sale in our advertising, and she included ours in her ads." 

After the date and location were set, the club focused on its advertising efforts, using social media to reach the teenage market. "We put it on our Facebook page and created an event that invited everybody in our group," Altice explains. "We also had the cheerleaders invite all of their friends and asked them to continue passing the link.

"We also got permission from our school district to send information to all of its high schools," she continues. "We took flyers over to the schools, and asked for information to be sent out with the schools' electronic newsletters, too."

The night before the sale, the club members were on-hand to collect the dresses as they were dropped off. Owners paid $5 for each dress being sold (with a discount if one person brought several dresses), and another $5 was deducted if it sold.
 
The sellers filled out a sheet with the price and description of the dress, and signed a release specifying that if the dress did not sell and was not picked up, it would become the booster club's property. "We didn't want to track people down, trying to get their dresses back to them," Altice says. "We had some rules on the registration form, and we had sellers sign a form saying that we would not be held liable for any loss or damage to their dress. That protected us from someone saying, 'The zipper's broken, but it wasn't broken when I dropped it off to you.'"
 
After filling out those forms, the sellers received a number that was used to keep track of the sales. "We had little tags that we put on the dresses to cross-reference the dress's number to its seller," Altice explains. "For example, if you brought in a dress, I may give you the number 201. If you brought in five dresses, they would all be tagged with 201. Then at the end of the weekend, you would give me your number, and I could pull your folder and see if your dresses sold. If they did, I would give you cash, and if they didn't, I would give your dresses back."
 
To make it easier on the sellers, the club only accepted cash. "We didn't want people who sold their dresses to worry about tracking down bad checks," Altice says. "We allowed checks written to the booster club for the $5 dress registration fee, but for the sales, we only took cash. You feel more secure in selling your $100 dress if you know there's going to be cash when you come back."
    
Altogether, the club had about 220 dresses at the sale and sold 45 of those. "For our first attempt, I think that was good," Altice says. "We definitely need to work on getting the word out for next time. We also need to make sure we have a way to get information out to the parents, and not just the teenagers.

"The people who were there loved it," she continues. "I didn't hear anything negative, although I wish we would've had a little larger turnout. But we made a good profit for our first try. We made $1,000 in two days, and we gave 10 percent of what we made to a local women's shelter, so our club ended the weekend with a $900 profit."
 
If another club would like to do something similar, the most important thing, Altice believes, is publicizing the event. "Make sure you get the advertising out in a timely fashion," she says. "Try to reach the kids as well as their parents. If you can generate excitement within the teens, that's good--if they find out that so-and-so's going, they will want to go, too. Also, you will need about two months to plan the event, and then you should start advertising about three weeks in advance."

Another piece of advice from Altice is to attract teens from neighboring schools. "A lot of times, girls don't want to wear a dress that someone wore at their prom last year. They will not want to wear it again, because they know it was Suzy's," Altice says. "So someone from the neighboring school is the perfect candidate to buy that dress."



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