The Unicorn Woman Logo
How To Get Them For Your Live Show
Original version printed in TRR Pony Express, May/June 1995 issue, p 37
Reprinted in The Hobby Horse News, October/November 2003, p. 9, 14, 20
copyright 1994, 2002 Melody D. Snow

As a tackmaker, I receive numerous requests for live show donations each year. Most hobby "businesses" do. Most of us send something, but there are ways to ask that increase the likelihood of the show holder getting a bigger donation. This article will share some of those secrets.

Your request should be sent early enough that the donor has time to send you something. Once, I received a request for a show fund-raiser auction. The show holder wanted something special and unique, but she only gave donors two months to prepare that something. I had several paying customers waiting for orders and if I had stopped to create the perfect donation, the customer orders would have been late. Thus, this show holder hurt her fund-raiser by not giving enough lead time.

How early you should send out the requests depends on what you are asking for. If you just want anything, two months should be okay. If you want something special, like a customized horse, you better give more like six - twelve months.

Remember: if you ask early enough, you can mention those donations in your show packet and that may increase your show attendance.

Most of the requests I receive for donations are for 100% donations. This is best for the show as all proceeds go to the show. It can also be the easiest as the donation is sent to the show holder and the deal is over.

It isn't the only way, though. There are also partial donations. NAMSHA uses this method with a great deal of success in the NAN Auction, where many auction lots have a percentage going to NAMSHA and a percentage going to the donor. For big ticket items, this is a nice way to go as the donor gets a little money to cover costs.

Another way to do partial donations is for the show to purchase items at a deep discount from the donor. If you have a bit of a show budget, you might consider approaching some model related businesses and see if they'd be willing to give you a nice discount in exchange for advertising in your show packet.

Always ask your showers first. I've attend some informal Texas shows where the showers provided all of the door prizes and there were some really neat things.

Next, ask hobbyists you've done business with or who have donated in the past. While I don't have a problem receiving a request from someone I don't know, if the show holder is someone I've dealt with for years, I'm more likely to dig into the box of special goodies.

Don't forget other sources of donations. Try your local toy store, especially if they have held Breyer Signing parties. In exchange for the donation, you may offer them a vending table, in addition to the normal ad credit (see below). Try other horse businesses, like tack shops or leather stores. Unless your show is really large, you will need to stick to companies you frequent.

Your request letter should be presented in a professional manner. A form letter is fine, though personalizing it with the person's name or short note is a nice touch. It should be typed, either as a hardcopy or as email. Hardcopy has the advantage of being something that sits on the recipient's desk and gets shuffled a few times, reminding the recipient of the letter. But, it does cost more. Email is cheaper, but sometimes it gets deleted pretty quick. Also, some people -yes, really-still do not have internet access. You will either end up skipping these people or have to send a hard copy to them.

Whichever way you decide to send you letter, be sure to include all the necessary information. Here's a list of things that influence my decision as to whether to donate, what to donate, and how much to donate:

  1. Your full name and address. This should always be included. Don't wimp out and only identify yourself as "such and such show". (Remember to include your name on all follow-up correspondence, too!)
  2. The show name, date, and location.
  3. NAN Qualifying Show status, if any. If you are making your request by email, include the link to NAMSHA that lists your show as approved. Also, include if your show is associated with any other organizations.
  4. The number of years the show has been in existence. This is very important. If the show has been going for five years and has an established list of regular showers, you probably will get more donations than if this is your first show. I frequently base the number/value of donations sent on the show size, which is usually larger for older established shows.
  5. Number of expected entrants or the number that attended last year. I prefer the number that attended last year as this gives me some idea how many flyers/catalogs I should send.
  6. Number of divisions. If your show has separate Novice and Senior divisions, say so! Your potential donor may have some older items that are ready to be passed on to a Novice just starting out.
  7. Amount of Ad credit offered. Offering ad credit in the show packet and/or results in exchange for a donation isn't a requirement, but it is a standard courtesy. Your donor will expect it. Also include the cost for additional advertising and for class sponsorships.
  8. The show packet (if requesting by snail-mail) or website link to the class list (for email requests). This isn't mandatory for snail-mail requests, but it is a nice touch. With email requests, it is only a tiny bit of extra typing, so always include your show's website link. It shows that you are serious about this show.
At times, you may be able to make your request in person. Great! Go for it. You may get some unusual or larger sized items. However, if you are asking at a live show, remember your donor may be busy showing or selling. If you don't get a response, it may be because the donor had other things on her mind. Don't hassle her at the show, but do send a follow-up letter afterwards.

Generally, the donor pays for the cost of delivering donations to you. With increases in postage, this can be a considerable expense. If you are going to be at other shows in your area, you might want to mention that in your request, stating, "I can pick up donations for XYZ Show at the following shows I will be attending this season." Personally, that is the only way I donate heavy weight items. I'm on too restricted a budget to give away donations and pay a big shipping bill, so I save heavier items for the local shows where I can hand deliver to the show holder.

Don't be offended if your request is ignored or denied. It isn't an insult to you. If this is your first year holding the show, consider asking again next year. The donor may be waiting to see if you are serious or maybe she has already donated all she can this year. Also, if this is the first time you were turned down, ask again next year. If, however, you've been turned down several times in a row, save your postage!

Always send a thank you note to your donor. You wouldn't believe how many show holders forget this and they hurt their chances for future donations. People do remember who was grateful and who wasn't.

There are two basic times you can send a thank you note. The first is the easiest for the show holder and that is as soon as you receive the donation. However, do consider sending out notes after the show. I personally prefer these as the show holder can include a show report and/or a copy of the results, whichever has my ad. Some people are very organized and send out thank you notes at both times. See what works for you.

If you are holding a live show, I hope you'll try some of these suggestions. They should help your show be a success!


Article Copyright 1994, 2002 Melody D. Snow

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