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How to run a Secrets Room

by PTAsocial in November 29, 2018

A Secrets Room is fast becoming one of the most popular PTA events, probably because it's so versatile! It can either be a great profit-maker, or a lovely way to give the children an event to remember. But what is a Secrets Room, and how do you run one? We've got the lowdown right here……..

Secrets Room? What's that?

The PTA source gifts suitable for family members, then children can visit the room and purchase a gift for a loved one, have it wrapped and labelled then take it home. For lots of children, this is the first time they will have chosen a present for mum or dad all by themselves which is a very exciting experience!

Mother's Day and Father's Day Secrets Rooms at a lower school in Leighton Buzzard :

How does it work?

There are a number of ways to run your Secrets Room, and the amount of pupils at your school might dictate the way you decide to do yours.

You can run it as an individual event, for example a Mothers Day Secrets Room. This could be done during the school day or at lunchtime with permission. Or if you're organising a larger event such as a Christmas Fair, you'll have a captive audience ready to buy those lovely gifts!

Some PTAs send slips home in advance for parents to fill in and return so that they know how many gifts to buy, whilst others guesstimate based on previous years, or the number of kids in the school.

PTA Chair Hannah posted in our Facebook PTA Q&A group, "We ran a Christmas Secrets Room at our fair for the first time this year. We sold advance tickets for £2.50 and purchased gifts that cost us no more than £1. On the day of the fair, the children visited the room without their parents and picked a gift for them. It’s so lovely as for some it’s the only time they pick something that is truly what they want to give. We do it for Mothers and Father’s Day too, and we make about £500 profit for each."

The Gifts

Canny PTA shoppers start stocking up for their Secrets Rooms in the January sales! Wholesalers or pound shops are a fantastic source of gifts that will keep the cost of the presents low for the children, like these gorgeous festive drinks bottles – a bargain at 59p each 🙂

Or if you have a talented PTA volunteer or parent who loves to craft, check out our Pinterest crafts board for lots of easy makes that would be perfect presents for a Secrets Room, just like these filled mason jars.

The other option is to ask for donations of unwanted gifts, either throughout the year or in the lead up to the event, perhaps in exchange for a mufti day. This will of course increase your profit margin, but on the other hand you won't be able to dictate what you sell in your Secrets Room, or how many children you'll be able to cater for. There are ways round this though, you can purchase "top up" presents if you find yourself short, or one school we know of asks different Key Stages to bring in different types of gifts, for example KS1 bring female gifts while KS2 bring in presents suitable for men.

Aaargh – all that wrapping!

Relax, there are easy ways to prevent a backlog of presents to wrap on the day 🙂

If you've bought gifts in bulk, pre-wrap all of them except one which you can use as a display model. This is by far the quickest way to run a Secrets Room, but it does require advance preparation (although you could organise a wrap night with pizza and wine to make it more fun?!)

If you've gone with the donations option you won't be able to wrap in advance, so cut lots of sheets of paper in various sizes and set up three or four wrapping stations with volunteers armed with sellotape dispensers! Children can write a label for their gift while you wrap.

You could even buy paper bags which the children could decorate themselves instead of using wrapping paper, then pop their chosen gift inside and seal with a sticky label.

Secrets Room top tips

  • Keep your gifts at pocket money-friendly prices (under £3 if possible)
  • Take orders and payment in advance where possible – you could sell tickets via the PTAsocial web app and get the money paid straight into your bank account!
  • Try to buy gifts that aren't linked to a particular event, so any leftover items can be sold at a later date if necessary
  • Don't limit your gifts to just mum and dad, you could also sell presents for grandparents, teachers or siblings too – especially at Christmas
  • If you're running your Secrets Room at a fair, make it a very special "children only" space – you could use drapes or a tinsel curtain to cover the door, or maybe make the entrance kiddy size by using a playhouse door!
  • Bulk buy throughout the year for bigger discounts, including wrapping paper
  • Be prepared to experience the ultimate feel-good factor when you see the children's faces as they choose their very own gift for someone special – it's priceless!

Have you organised a successful Secrets Room? We'd love to her your stories – email us, tweet or share your pictures and ideas with over 2,200 other PTA volunteers in our Facebook group for PTAs

And there's still time to download our Ultimate Christmas Fair ideas, unmissable ideas for your festive events!

About PTAsocial

PTAsocial’s easy-to-use digital tools empower PTAs and school parent organisations to efficiently plan school community events, and radically increase volunteers and funds raised. Find out more and start a free account here.

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