Contact Any Celebrity Member Heather Thompson from Tampa, Florida found that writing celebrities for free autographs and memorabilia is a great way to raise money for a nonprofit organization. We spoke with Heather about her cause and its successful campaign…
Tell us about the project you’re raising funds for.
I was and am attempting to contact celebrities for donations to the Susan G. Komen Foundation 3-Day Walk in Tampa, which raises money for breast cancer research.
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What exactly were you looking for from the celebrities?
I requested autographs, memorabilia, sponsorships and financial donations. Basically, any and everything. Items were the real goal so we could auction them off for money.
How did you request these items?
I originally sent out 100 letters to celebrities and then an additional 200. The first 100 were the best responses from the celebrities. I chose the specific names because the Contact Any Celebrity database allows searches by cause, so I know if a star is interested in supporting my charity from the get-go.
What were the responses like?
Wow, well I sent out about 300, but this is where I want to point out that it takes work. To get a little, I had to do a lot. Out of the 300 letters I wrote I only got about 30 responses, and I only had five letters returned to me.
How did the celebrities and their representatives response?
It was honestly amazing. I was surprised at how personal the responses were. I got phone calls from assistants and personal letters of support from stars.
One of the best I got was from Cyndi Lauper. I got a phone call from her personal assistant and she said that Cyndi wanted to be a little more involved that just sending an autographed headshot. So we sent a 3-Day t-shirt to her and some other items, and she signed and sent them back along with some extra autographed headshots. I received an autographed headshot and personal letter of support from Al Roker. Judith Light sent a script from “Who’s the Boss” with her signature on it.
You really got some big names!
I know, but that’s not the end. Ryan Seacrest and Dustin Hoffman, to name just a couple, also sent autographed headshots. One of the biggest responses has been from the Tampa Bay Lightning, our NHL Hockey Team and the Stanley Cup Winner. We initially got a signed hockey puck. Then, through a connection, our request was noticed by a player who’s mother had recently dealt with breast cancer. We suddenly had promises for team autographed jerseys, hockey sticks and other pieces of memorabilia.
When is your auction?
The auction is actually August 26 at 6 p.m. We are having it at the James Joyce Pub in Ybor City-South Tampa. We also landed sponsorship of the auction from Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.
Did you find it easier to get support and sponsorship when you had a few celebrity names behind your project?
Absolutely! It helped big time. Without the celebrity names we would have never been able to land a corporate sponsorship at all! And now, we’re getting local promotion and beer through Pabst. We also managed to get food. And the pub was donated by a wonderful local business person.
So what did you say in your letters to celebrities that was so effective?
In the first batch of letters I decided I needed to be as clear and to the point as possible. I kept it down to two paragraphs. First I said why I was writing and what the cause is that they would be supporting. I gave all of the who, what, when, where and why. I also set a deadline for contact and for items to be sent in. It makes it seem a little more urgent and important if there’s a specific date and specific information than not being specific.
Listing contact information was very important for me. In the letter I listed my phone number and my email–any way for them to get in touch with me. Later I learned that was a very smart thing to do. some of the representatives wanted to call and be sure I was legitimate and that I was really working to benefit a charity.
You said you sent out two letters. What was in the second one?
The second batch was the bigger one, and in this one I mentioned that I had already sent one request with no response and that I was extending the deadline. I also listed the support I had already received. It had the desired effect, and I got a second wave of responses and memorabilia.
You mentioned you used Contact Any Celebrity to get your information. What was so helpful about the service?
Well, Contact Any Celebrity was so much more than I expected. It’s more than just a listing of who and what. In other words, it’s not like just a “star map.” I felt that the contact information was valid and up-to-date, and there’s so much information in the database. Everyone I looked for was there. There were also so few returned letters from everyday household names. In this country we seem to value celebrity and fame so high. To get things we can place value on and auction off for a great cause is wonderful. It was great to actually get responses from stars. The service is priceless.