Our chapter just hosted our 3rd annual Preschool Fair – we had 32 schools and over 200 families attend our event. It was very successful, and things are already in the works for us to do it again next year!
If you’re considering hosting a Preschool Fair, I would definitely encourage you to go ahead with it, as it is a very worthwhile community event! Here are some thoughts and ideas to help you plan:
TIMING FROM START TO FINISH:
- You will need a few months to organize your event – at least 2, but 3 or 4 will give you more time to advertise and allow your volunteers to pace themselves much better!
- Start by getting a group together, then find a location, set a date based on the availability of that location, and then get in touch with schools.
- You need a large exhibition space – a neighborhood community center works well, but may be expensive compared to other options. Consider a church or school, which may be cheaper.
- Since you’re hosting a community event (especially if you make your Preschool Fair FREE to the public,) you might get someone to “donate” the space for free or at a reduced rate! (We have found that many in the community are happy to help out!)
- If one of your preschools is located in a large space or has access to a gym or cafeteria, ask if they would be willing to host! (The last 2 years, one of our preschools, which is part of a K-8 school, has offered its cafeteria for free!)
SETTING A DATE:
- You should consider when most schools begin registration for the fall, and then have your fair just before that, as that’s when most parents will be looking.
- Consider a time that works well for parents and schools. (Each year, we have had our Preschool Fair on a Saturday morning from 10 – noon – there is no scheduling conflict for the schools, and parents are home and able to attend.)
GETTING SCHOOLS TO PARTICIPATE:
Compile a list of schools based on the focus of your fair (ex. Do you want to include daycares, art and enrichment programs, etc?) In your first year, you may spend a good deal of time researching schools to compile your list, but any initial work you do will set the stage for next time if you choose to do it again!
- Consider whether to charge schools a fee to participate:
- If you’re not sure of their interest level and you have enough money in your budget, you may decide not to charge the schools anything your first year. If you’re short on time to plan your fair, this could be a good option, as it takes extra time for schools to send in their registration checks.
- Charging a small fee to the schools is a great way to cover the costs of your event. If you are able to get sponsors to provide various items, you may even have enough money left over to donate to charity.
- The ideal way to get in touch with schools is by phone. If it’s your first year, this is the best way to introduce your fair and if you’re short on time, this is a great way to get replies quickly, but you’ll need several volunteers to help.
- If you have more time and if the schools already know you, you can easily contact them by email and allow several weeks for them to register! Your volunteers will only have a few callbacks to make, so they can focus on other things!
- It’s surprisingly easy to get business to donate things for your event! DEFINITELY mention your chapter’s mission and non-profit status when shopping around! (This really helped us get some things for free or at a reduced price, and almost all of the companies we contacted seemed happy to contribute to a worthwhile community event!)
- Companies also get GREAT exposure by providing their goods and services at such an event – it’s important to realize this when approaching them! Consider new businesses, small shops and local chains in particular! (These companies were especially grateful to us for getting the word out about them, so we have had great success working with them the past 3 years.)
- Each year, we were able to get donations from:
- A local coffee company: coffee and cup
- A bakery: 300 mini-cupcakes
- A play gym: they brought and set up play equipment and activities for kids in the middle of the room.
- A magazine publisher: 200 bags so all of our guests had a place to put the brochures and information they collected (VERY helpful!)
- And this year, we also got donations for raffle prizes – when parents returned the surveys we handed out (asking for feedback about the fair) they could be entered in a drawing to win prizes! This part is totally optional, but if you have time to get donations, I would definitely recommend it!!!
- With some luck, your sponsors will agree to donate again next year – here are a couple of easy ways you can build a good relationship with them:
- Acknowledge them in your flyers and handouts. (We included a small space at the very bottom for thanking our generous sponsors, where we featured their logos – Small compared to the MOMS Club logo and the fair’s details, but it provided them extra publicity.)
- Don’t forget the follow-up thank you – a hand-written note is always a nice touch!
- To promote your event, make flyers and hang them up in kid-friendly locations a week or two before the big day.
- You can also get the word out with various neighborhood email groups and email lists.
- Local newspapers and magazines are also a great resource, since there is often free advertising in the Calendar section. (Online versions too!)
- Your guests will be VERY grateful if you compile all of the information from your preschools and provide an overview in an easy-to-read handout. (Each year, our handouts included each school’s address, phone number, website, what ages they serve and some key words indicating what type of program they have – ex. co-op, Montessori, etc.)
- It’s also very helpful to include a map in your handouts of where each school’s table is located at the fair so parents can find them easily.
- If you’re contacting the schools by phone, have a list of questions ready before you start, so that you can get all the details for your handouts without calling back.
- Of course the easiest way to get the information for your handouts is to email the schools a registration form which includes all of your questions. They can fill it out and mail it in along with their payment if you’re charging the schools to attend.
DAY OF THE FAIR:
- Several volunteers are needed for set-up, clean-up and greeting guests/passing out handouts.
- It’s great advertising for MOMS Club if you also have a MOMS Club table where you can provide information about your chapter and give people the option of signing up for more info. It would be good to have at least one person at that table at all times to answer any questions.
- It’s also helpful to attach surveys to the front of your handouts and collect them as people leave. (We keep ours short: How helpful was this fair (circle 1- not helpful to 5 – very helpful), How did you hear about the fair? What could we do to improve the fair next year? And would you like more info about MOMS Club, if so list email. The surveys have REALLY helped us improve from year to year, so I would highly recommend it if you’re considering doing it again next year – we had surveys for the schools too.)
There is some good work involved in organizing a preschool fair, but it’s definitely manageable. Both the parents and the schools will be very grateful, so it’s a worthwhile project that really gives something valuable to the community! I hope you decide to go ahead with it!!!