Swap event toolkit

Don’t shop for it, swap for it!

Many of us have clothes or household items we no longer want or need. Rather than throwing them away, a swap event lets people exchange their unwanted items for useful ones. Reusing items helps to reduce waste, helps our environment, and let’s face it, everyone loves a bargain! 

This toolkit tells you everything you need to know about organising and running a swap event, whether you’re planning a swap party for family and friends in your living room, running a swap stall as part of a school fete, or hiring a hall and running a big event, this toolkit is for you! As well as step by step guidance we’ve also included a downloadable poster, checklist and sample risk assessment. There are also some social media posts you can use and lots of advice and top tips.

Plan and prepare

Time it right

For a successful swap event try and get as many people along as possible. Think about who you want to invite to your event and when might be the best time to hold it to make sure they can come. See if there are any local events taking place that you could link in with, such as a school fete.
Two to three hours is usually enough time for a swap event, but bear in mind that you’ll need at least an hour either side for set up and take down.

Pick a venue

If you are planning a smallish swap event for friends and family then you could use your living room whereas a larger event open to the public will need a bigger venue. If you are planning an event at your local school or community centre, it’s worth popping in for a visit before you book the venue. This will help you decide how you’ll set up on the day.

Top Swap Tip! If you are planning to include clothes at your event, you’ll need to think about whether you will display them on a table, or hire/borrow clothes rails and hangers.

Team work

The more people you have to help you out on the day, the easier the event will be. Roping in friends and family to help with your event is the obvious way of doing this.  If you’re planning a larger event you could advertise for helpers on free notice boards, at schools or your local community centre. The Next Door website is also a good way of recruiting volunteers, or you could even put a piece in your local magazine or newspaper.
Once you have your team of helpers it’s a good idea to run through how the event will be organised to make sure everyone knows which items your event will accept and what their role will be on the day.
Potential roles for helpers/volunteers include:

  • helping with spreading the word about the event
  • greeting people and handing out ‘Swapping vouchers’ (see below)
  • setting up the event and tidying up afterwards
  • writing the signs and organising the tables
  • sorting the swap items into categories, sizes, etc
  • hanging up clothes (you may want to allocate more than one person to do this as it can be a time consuming job) providing and/or serving refreshments
  • bagging, collecting and taking the unwanted leftovers away
Top Swap Tip! Usually charities are happy to take leftover items after the event, but it’s best to check with them first.

What to swap...

Have a think about the kind of items you want to swap before promoting the event. You might want to focus your swap event on one type of item, such as clothes, books or children’s toys, or you could accept a broader range of items.
It’s a good rule of thumb to say that items have to be:

  • clean
  • fit for reuse
  • small enough to the taken away on the day

...and what not to

The items below are suggestions, but it’s up to each swap event to decide what they will and won’t accept. You could consider not accepting:

  • electrical items which have not been PAT tested
  • battery operated items, including toys
  • beddings such as duvets, this will help to avoid dust mite problems
  • hazardous paint, waste and chemicals
  • items which are too awkward and/or heavy to take away on the day
  • certain furniture items such as chairs with upholstery which will require fire safety tags

Offer a cuppa

Depending on the venue and size of your event, you may want to provide refreshments. This is a great way of attracting people to the event and it also allows any early birds to have a drink and/or a snack while they wait for other items to arrive.

Spread the word

If your swap event will be open to the public, make sure you promote it beforehand.  There are many ways to do this, including:

  • putting up posters in the local area e.g. libraries, shops, notice boards, schools, doctor and dentist surgeries. We’ve provided a template poster for you to download and print out
  • advertising in your local community newsletter
  • sending a press release to the local newspaper
Top Swap Tip: To make sure you’re not left with lots of leftover items, it’s a good idea to specify a maximum number that people can bring.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are great ways of promoting your event, as they can reach lots of people and are cost effective to use.

We’ve put together some guidance on how to use social media to promote your event, as well as some example posts: Social media notes.

Stay safe and legal

If you are hiring a venue, it's important to find out if your event is already covered by the venue’s insurance and also to research suitable cover such as public liability and product liability insurance.

If you are offering refreshments check the venue has suitable facilities or make sure you are prepared with your own. It is also worth being aware of food hygiene standards and to label any allergens.

To make sure everyone stays safe on the day, it’s important to carry out a risk assessment for the event. Here’s a sample template you could use: Swap event risk assessment example

Running the event

Make sure your Swap Team turn up nice and early to set up before the event begins to avoid rushing round at the last minute. Use our handy checklist to make sure you’ve done everything: Swap event checklist.

Top Swap Tip!  Bunting, ribbons and balloons are always useful to draw attention to events and they also get people into the swapping spirit! 

Enjoy the swapping fun!

Keep a record

To record the success of your event and share your achievements with others, you could keep a log of the number of people who attend your event and the number of items they swap. If you are hosting a large event, you could ask your ‘Greeter’ volunteer to make a note of each attendee and the number of items they’ve brought to swap. We’ve given you a suggested form you could use: Swap event monitor list.

Winding down and tidying up

Once you’ve said goodbye to your last Swapper the tidying up begins!
Hopefully you won’t be left with many leftover items, but it is important to consider what to do with them. If you are planning a series of events or know of another swap event then you could reuse the items. Make sure you put everything away, hand the key back if required, and eat up any leftover cake!

Top Swap Tip!  Bring some empty bags or boxes along to make it easier to move any leftover items!
Share your success

Even if you are only organising a small event it’s still great to let people know how it went and share your successes.  This helps to encourage people along to any future swaps and inspire others who might be thinking about holding events.  It’s also a great way of thanking all your volunteers and the people who came along on the day.  As with advertising the event, you can do this via social media, and articles in your local community magazine.

If people who came to the event are likely to return to the venue for other reasons, use our sample thank you poster to let them know how the event went.