Collect your prospects. Make up a new contacts group and add people's names and email addresses to it as they contact you.
Send out a welcome letter with all the details. What and when are the biggies are questions to make sure you answer. Make sure that everyone's on the same page. Specify as loosely or as tightly as you like, but make sure that everyone knows that you're swapping (for instance) single focal beads 1-2" in diameter vs. pairs of 1/2" - 3/4" beads. Give a mail by date rather than a due date. You can be flexible in your scheduling as to when you'll redistribute the items and get them ready to mail out, but if you give a due date, people will often underestimate the amount of time it will take to get to you. A mail by date is fixed.
You will get some early participants. Open the boxes only to check and make sure that everything arrived safely. If the participant didn't wrap each item individually (the way you'll ask them to in your welcome letter) then you can do that for them. Leave the cash sent for postage in the box. Four or five bucks isn?t a lot of money, but if you've got twenty swappers, that's a pretty good chunk of change that you'll have to pay all at once to mail those packages back out if you haven't saved it for that purpose. I also don't allow myself to choose my item until swap day, but that's just to make the task of sorting it all a little easier. :-) A built-in reward.
Let each person know that their items have arrived safely. If someone sends you a mistress gift, send them a thank you note.
Allow for some late-niks. There will always be a couple or more. Decide how loose you'll play the mail by date. Keep in touch with the group, letting them know the status. You don't have to tell them *who* is late, just tell them that you're waiting on one or two and as soon as you possibly can, let them know when you plan to mail them.
It will always take longer than you think.
You need to be able to concentrate, especially if you're going to do groups of various numbers. Pick a time when you can sort without interruption.
When packaging, make sure that fragile items won't bang around loosely in the box. That causes far more shipping damage than boxes getting crushed. (Which is actually pretty rare) Don't rely on the integrity of those "video" boxes you get at the post office. Those boxes pop open and when they're getting squished, the seams bulge open, spewing their contents all over the place. Wrap tape longitudinally around the box as well as across the name and address area. Make it a challenge to get that box open. ;-)
Tell them when the packages got mailed.
Scan or photograph the pieces and put them up on pbase or picturetrail or on your web site. (Don't throw tomatoes at me, carved stampers, I'm going to, I promise! ;-) I'm just a *tad* behind on that.
Okay, that's it for me, I'm sure other people have lots more hints to add to this. :-)
Have fun with your swap!
In all the swaps I've participated in and hosted, I've learned a lot. I haven't hosted one recently because I realized I wasn't doing it very well.
Here is what I've learned:
Send a letter to everyone as soon as the swap is closed to new members. State rules and regulations clearly. Keep in touch on a weekly basis and ask if everyone is doing well and see if anyone has questions or needs help. Send a reminder a few days before swap needs to be mailed.
Things swappers need to know from you are: date swap is due, how many to make, what size to make them, how to package the swap items. Remind them to put something in with the item telling who they are and if you they want, include something about their item and themselves. Items need to be packaged so that the swap pieces don't rattle around or get broken.
What you need from them: send a return address label and Priority Mail Stamp for their packages.
Set a reasonable time for swap items to be turned in and stick to it within a reasonable period of time. I'm such a wimp on this that I've let swaps go way past their due dates. A week is a fair amount of time. If it's going to be longer for a member, ask the others if they mind waiting for that person.