Fundraising Tip #13: Soliciting friends of friends

Written by on August 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Most of your fundraising solicitations are sent to first-degree contacts: your friends, your family, your co-workers. But many more people are affected by MS, and that which affects your loved ones affects their loved ones, too. Why not expand your network and reach out to these second-degree connections?

In my case, I walk for my mother, who was diagnosed with MS in 1990. My three older brothers are unavailable to join me in the MS Challenge Walk, but their motivation to fundraise is no less than mine. I wanted to ask them to send a solicitation letter to anyone they knew that I might not — but then I figured, I'm already sending more than a hundred letters myself, I'm set up for such a process, why not do it for them? I instead asked my brothers for names and addresses from their rolodex. I then prepared a different letter to those individuals. Instead of beginning with:

"I am writing regarding this September, which will mark my sixth participation in the MS Challenge Walk, a two-day, 30-mile event that raises money for and awareness of multiple sclerosis, which affects my mother."

I wrote:

"I am writing regarding this September, which will mark my brother Ken's sixth participation in the MS Challenge Walk, a two-day, 30-mile event that raises money for and awareness of multiple sclerosis, which affects our mother."

I continued to make these little changes throughout the letter, constantly referring to myself in the third person, and ended by signing by brother's name. After getting final approval of the letter from my bros, I mailed the letters with self-addressed stamped envelopes directed to me. Sure enough, a week later, those envelopes started coming back with checks in them: "I got your brother's letter and am happy to help you in your walk for your and his mom!" Now that I've made that initial contact, I can (and have) solicited these same people for future walks under my own name.

Note that I am not promoting identity theft or forgery. Pretending to be someone else requires a friend or relative's full permission and cooperation, and they should be kept abreast of who you are soliciting and how.

Online networks like Facebook and LinkedIn help us meet friends of friends, but "social networking" works in the real world, too. Ask your siblings, parents, co-workers, and friends to fundraise on your behalf, and leverage your connections to bring us that much closer to a world free from MS.

Ken joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2005, more than a decade after his mother was diagnosed. After walking for three years and 150 miles, he switched to the support crew and now rides his bicycle along the trail, providing whatever encouragement (and snacks!) he can to the 600 walkers. He is also an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

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