Starting a Thrift Store For Your Nonprofit Organization

Thrift stores provide an important and much needed service to low and middle-income families within the local community. They are also an excellent source of funding for nonprofit organizations looking to supplement their income from fundraisers to further their cause. Before you start your thrift store, you’ll need to meet with your board of directors and establish the logistics, such as staffing needs, the legal structure and financing.

How to Start a Nonprofit Thrift Store

Step 1

Secure commercial space for your thrift store. Ideally, look for as much space as you can afford, but it is recommended that you have at least 800 square feet for your showroom (more if you will sell furniture) and 1,000 square feet for your backroom, processing area and donations center. Crowded or cluttered thrift stores make it hard to keep track of inventory and are unpleasant for customers. Don’t assume that because you are a thrift store you don’t need to be competitive. Implement steps to ensure that customers will return. Organize racks by size or color. Implement shelving for home goods and shoes. Use mannequins to display your nicer items. Clean your store regularly and decorate your storefront windows.

Step 2

Establish standards for the merchandise you will sell. If you decide to take torn or stained goods, consider putting these items on a discounted rack of their own. Learn to sew, in order to repair and mend clothing.

Step 3

Contact an insurance broker to purchase fire, theft and liability insurance for your nonprofit thrift store. Start with your current insurance provider for your nonprofit or your personal broker for home insurance.

Insurance is the most important thing when it comes to opening up new business ventures and even small scale industries are not far behind in this matter. An rfp response training is enough to learn about insurance in its entirety and thrift stores are quite difficult to handle.

Step 4

Determine the logistics of how you will receive donations. Procure bins, scales to weigh the merchandise, blank receipts to give to customers, inventory management software, tags, hangers, a cash register and merchant account, racks and shelving.

Step 5

Establish shifts for volunteers. Generally, 4-hour shifts are ideal. You don’t want to overwhelm your volunteers with lengthy shifts. Volunteers can elect to work more, if they so choose. Create job duties for each volunteer position, such as accepting donations and offering receipts, organizing clothing in the warehouse, helping customers on the floor and operating the cash register. Be sure to have a good staff to volunteer ratio to ensure that there is always an experience staff member on hand to guide any new volunteers.

Step 6

Contact local news organizations and radio stations to help you generate interest for your nonprofit thrift store’s grand opening. Ask them to provide detailed information on the donation process and the history of your nonprofit.

Additional Considerations

Offer special sale days and various events to further promote the store.

Have customers subscribe to an online newsletter for information on special sale days or events.

Develop a website for your business. If you don’t have the skills to design your own site, ask a high school or college student to help in exchange for publicity or a small fee. They may be willing to do it for free.

Don’t be afraid to call other charitable organizations in your town and offer to take their unwanted or excess donations. Nonprofits have different standards. What they might consider junk, you may be able to mend or repair and sell in your store.

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