Fundraising to help cover adoption costs can be controversial—and for good reason. Many grown adoptees express distaste for “crowdfunding” in particular (such as GoFundMe and You Caring) because they say it commodifies adoptees, treating them like a charitable case. Mothers (who oftentimes place for financial reasons) might wonder why people are more likely to donate to a family hoping to adopt her baby but are less likely to help her financially to keep her baby.

These are important voices and opinions to listen to when considering how to help offset the high cost of domestic infant adoption. This is a complex topic that I will not be fully diving into, but I will instead offer some tips for an alternative way to raise funds: a garage sale!

Rather than simply asking people for cash, a garage sale fundraiser allows you to work to raise funds while also partnering with friends or family who happen to be decluttering or donating items anyway. Our family held a huge sale several years ago during our second adoption process, and just recently, I hosted one at our home for a good friend’s recent adoption. Both sales were very successful!

Here are a few things we learned along the way:

1. Ask for LOTS of donations!

Create a flyer or other eye-catching graphic requesting garage sale donations and spread it far and wide among friends and family. Both times we held a garage sale fundraiser, we did so in the springtime when many people are already cleaning and organizing. We asked that if people were planning on bringing a load of donations to a thrift store, that they consider giving them to us instead!

We had more than 20-25 families donate things for our sale, which completely filled our two-car garage and some of our dining room! The more quality items you have, the more successful your sale will be.

2. Advertise really, really well.

The way you advertise (or don’t) can make or break your sale. Beginning around one week before the sale date, post it on Craigslist, Facebook, and any other garage sale site popular in your area (like Include a thorough list of items you will have and be sure to highlight any special or big ticket items (golf clubs, video game system, furniture, etc.). Take photos and include them! People want to know what to expect and whether coming will be worth their time.

When you make directional signs for the sale, make them BIG and bright! Use neon-colored poster boards and thick black writing. You can’t have a successful sale and raise money if people can’t find you!

3. Price (most) items but be willing to negotiate.

People coming to a garage sale are looking for a good deal, even if it is a fundraiser. You will raise nothing on items you fail to sell, so be willing to negotiate.

Some people recommend not pricing items and letting people make offers, but I think this is a bad idea. Most people will be uncomfortable being forced to make offers, so price your items. An exception would be things like clothing or books that you can assign one flat price (say, $1 per item) to save time. Pricing is work, but it’s worth it so that people have a comfortable shopping experience.

4. Take credit cards.

While not necessary, being set up to accept credit cards as payment can be extremely helpful. People might spend more if they know they can use a card, and occasionally, someone might donate above the actual amount of their purchases. It doesn’t hurt to have the option!

I requested a free card reader from Square and downloaded their app. We only paid processing fees, and all money was deposited directly into our bank account.

5. Advertise that it is a fundraiser but don’t overshare.

It is helpful to let people know that you are raising funds for an adoption but do so without oversharing your future child’s story. If you are matched, keep in mind and remain respectful to this child and his or her expectant mother by not sharing details with customers—even those who might be interested and ask.

Bottom line: in all situations, especially when working to raise funds, conduct yourself in an ethical way.

When the sale is finished, donate whatever is left. And celebrate!

If you have held a garage sale fundraiser, what tips would you offer? What sort of things contributed to your success or failure?