If one of your resolutions this year was to have fun, work with other gardeners and use your skills to raise money for a good cause, consider organizing a self-guided garden tour yourself or through your local garden club. Like gardening itself, a tour requires attention to detail, planning, legwork—and time and effort. Also like gardening, it reaps rewards in spades—and might become an annual event. Working together for a common purpose galvanizes people and allows them to use skills perhaps not often called upon, or to hone new ones. Here are some tips to get you started.
• Form a committee of eight to 10 primary volunteers to be responsible for specific projects or areas, and invite someone to be in charge of the overall effort. Count on lining up at least 40 volunteers in all for an average-sized tour of up to 10 gardens.
• Provide rough job descriptions and an idea of the time commitment involved—how often you'll meet and for how long, and estimated time for specific projects. Many groups start planning their event a year in advance.
• Decide early where proceeds will go so volunteers have a sense of what or who their hard work will benefit. State the cause on all advertising material.
• Agree on the date or a rough time frame—the third week of June, for example. Ask the local Chamber of Commerce to see if there are other events scheduled for this time that could either detract from or support yours.
• Check local bylaws to see if you need a special permit. Your municipality might cover liability insurance, or the charity you're raising funds for might have insurance coverage.
• How much should you charge? Prices vary across the country from $8 to $20 for a one-day event. Decide what information is needed on the ticket, such as addresses and brief descriptions of the gardens, a rain date and an easy-to-follow supplementary map. Tickets should be numbered with non-reproducible ink.
• Will you be offering refreshments? Lunches and beverages can be made available for sale at selected stops on the tour. (Food-handling bylaws vary, so you might want to arrange this through professional caterers.)