How to Organise a Swish
I can't believe we are in August already. It’s usually about now that I expected to be ramping up the promotion of my annual SWISH event to raise money for charity. This year it’s just not feasible so won’t be going ahead sadly.
Swishes (or clothes swaps) are a great opportunity to clear out those good quality items you never got around to ebaying from your wardrobe. You bring those "as new" things you never wear, swap them for stuff you will wear and raise money at the same time.
I’ve hosted 5 of them so far and they’ve become a community event to look forward to. Here's my story regarding why they came about
Our lives changed forever on the 2nd July 2015 when my dad was taken from us very suddenly with heart failure.
We were just getting our heads around it when we received the devastating news the following April that our mum has a terminal brain tumour and at most had 12-18 months longer with us even with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which she stoically endured. We lost her 18 August 2017.
She was a very glamorous woman, right up until the last couple of weeks of her life I had to make sure I'd got my nail kit with me to do her gel nails. She loved her clothes and jewellery, always had her hair done and make up on and was often stopped by strangers and complimented on how lovely she looked.
I organised my first SWISH in March 2017 while she was going through her treatment after I'd helped her have a sort out of her wardrobes. She was delighted that her things were able to be part of the fundraising activity. Her clothes and jewellery are proudly worn by members of my community and I'm sure she'd be happy that they are continuing to be enjoyed.
The idea for the event came about at this meet up of members who’s enjoyed my free 21 Day Style Challenge in Jan 2017. From conception to event we had around 6 weeks and at that first event we smashed my ambitious target of £1k and went on to raise almost £1800 for Cancer Research and Wigan and Leigh Hospice who’d looked after my mum.
I’m very fortunate to have a group of willing and competent volunteers who make my events a real team effort. We have evolved our system over time to make things as streamlined and easy as possible to run so that no one has too much to do. I have been happy to pass on the benefit of my experience to several other organisers of fundraisers over the past couple of years too.
It really is a win-win way of raising funds for charity and can be a great social event too. We’ve learnt from our mistakes at the first couple so if it’s something you think might be useful read on to benefit from our experience.
Here’s how we go about it:
Set the date and book your venue. Ideally this will be a large space with kitchen facilities to serve refreshments from. Enough space for tables and chairs for attendees to sit and chat with their coffee and cake. You’ll also need large tables to lay the clothes out on. I like to make sure there is plenty of parking and good accessibility too. Keep the costs as low as possible for room hire as this will come out of your takings – I book for 4 hours - one for prep, two for the event, one to clear up.
Enlist your volunteers and appoint co-ordinators to take responsibility for their bit. You will need a ‘kitchen team’ to sort the refreshments, a ‘sorting team’ to organise the clothes prior to the swishing and a ‘raffle team’ to organise and sell the raffle tickets. You only need to recruit the coordinators – let them recruit their team of helpers. This way it spreads the workload.
Ask around your network for raffle prizes; these can be anything from tombola type prizes to vouchers for services. We usually procure prizes totalling to ££££’s as many of my business network are happy to donate vouchers for their services which are high ticket prices. You could be creative and have folk offering to do an hours gardening/ironing etc. The way I run the raffle is great for niche products or services – more on that shortly.
Set up a Just Giving account so that you minimise the need to handle the money. You promote this link and people donate their ticket money directly. On the day you may still have a few people pay on the door but encourage them to book in advance. This helps with planning for refreshments and seating requirements. You will need to make a note of the names and create a guestlist to tick off at the door.
Get someone who is tech savvy and familiar with social media to create an event on Facebook/Eventbrite with the ticket link and encourage your network to promote it by sharing with their network.
Ask for people to bring full length mirrors on the day.
On the day
Team arrive 1pm to set up. You have the kitchen, a welcome table and a raffle area plus clothes tables
Clothes tables - label them in sizes 10’s, 12’s, 14’s etc. Have an area for accessories. (You can have hanging rails and hangers, but this makes for a lot more work and organising.) It will look a bit like a jumble sale but that’s half the fun.
Kitchen – we always have a selection of teas, coffee and soft drinks plus home baked cakes. These are unlimited to guests so make sure you have plenty.
Welcome table – you need the guest list printed off and a slip of paper with the itinerary, so people know what to expect.
Raffle – have plastic pots, one per prize. Label the pots with the prize details. When you sell the tickets, the buyer can choose which pots to put their tickets in. each pot is then drawn separately. This ensures that people only win prizes that they actually want. You could also have a lucky dip prize or tombola.
Doors open at 2pm. Guests drop off their ONE bag of stuff and the items are allocated to the appropriate tables while guests enjoy refreshments and mingle.
Organisers talk at 2.30pm. A short talk explaining the rules of swishing – you only take what fits, so try on. No minesweeping, give everyone a fair chance etc (I always talk about something to do with clothes too.) Also explain why you’re raising money.
Swishing commences at 2.45pm
Raffle drawn at 3.45pm
4pm Thank everyone for coming and ask everyone to help clear up one black bag each
Have a team of people ready to take the bags of leftovers to the charity shop
Tot up the money and put your feet up with a glass of wine.
I've since gone on to organise several more events in my mum's memory, including walking on fire and glass and I'm not sure of the exact total but I think it's around £9-10k for various cancer charities. I feel quite proud of what we've achieved.
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