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Fearless Fundraising–by guest blogger and Big Sister staffer Laura Toni Holsinger

I’m not a fundraiser.  Well, at least that’s what I told myself to minimize disappointment as I began my quest to raise $1,000 (yikes!) for Big Sister through this year’s Rodman Ride for Kids.  Turns out you don’t have to be a fundraising pro, you just need to ask.  Here’s a look into my unexpectedly exciting journey through the unfamiliar world of fundraising.

July 28:  I started out with an e-mail.  Yes, just one e-mail. As I browsed my contact list, I added them one by one: My aunts, my dad’s friend from college, my sister, my grad school classmates. Before I knew it, I had sent an e-mail to more than 30 friends and family.  While I had a great template e-mail to send, I decided to add my own personal touch.  Nothing like that hook to get the family involved!

Sisterhood has had a profound impact on my life. My mom grew up with five sisters (and one brother!), modeling the value of sisterhood through her relationship with each of them. I’m lucky enough to have a sister, Beth, who is also one of my best friends. And over the past nine months, I’ve been volunteering as a Big Sister to Toni, an amazing 12 year old girl from Boston that I’ve been privileged to get to know and mentor. Sisterhood is a gift. Your support can provide that for more girls in Greater Boston.

Oh no, what will they think? I hate asking for money!  I stared at the screen for a bit, and hit the send button. And then, I waited. 

July 29:  My first donation!  A high school friend comes through with a $25 donation.  I’m off to a great start…$975 to go!

August 1:  Another donation.  This one is quite a surprise.  $200 from one of those people that I thought might read the e-mail and then delete it.  $775 to go.

August 13:  Donations are slowing down. Time for another e-mail!  It turned out to be a nice reminder for those friends and family that initially thought to themselves “Oh yeah, I should support that,” and then forgot.  It worked!

September 5:  It’s official, I’ve reached my goal!  But why stop there?

September 14:  New goal:  $1,500.  Third and final e-mail goes out to those that still haven’t donated with an announcement that I’ve increased my goal.  Two donations came in within 24 hours!

And I’m still going!  I had no idea how much support I would receive by sending a compelling e-mail and sharing my story with family and friends.  What I’ve learned from all this is not to be afraid, especially if I can somehow benefit a cause I truly believe in.  I have also learned that people can be exceedingly generous; even when you least expect it.  All you have to do is ask.  Next year, $2,000.

Our 21st Annual BMW Raffle to Support our Mentoring Programs

Big Sister's 2008 BMW Raffle

Big Sister Association of Greater Boston is currently holding our 21st annual BMW Raffle. Each year, during the summer months, Big Sister employees drive a brand new red BMW convertible to various downtown locations to sell raffle tickets. One day they may be on Federal Street, another on Summer Street, or perhaps they’re in Faneuil Hall—even on a Saturday. Most of Big Sister’s employees aren’t fundraisers, they’re social workers. They’re out there every day, rain or shine, selling tickets because they know that with every $1,000 that they raise (that’s 10 tickets sold), there’s the opportunity to take a girl off the waitlist and match her with a caring, supportive adult mentor. The agency charges no fees to the girls or their families for their services. It costs Big Sister Association an average of $1,000 to make and support a Big and Little Sister match. This money goes toward hiring and retaining skilled social workers who play an integral role in the success of the match.

Most people might assume that with the current economic situation and all the rainy days that Big Sister Association has had to contend with, ticket sales must be as bleak as the weather. It’s true; ticket sales aren’t as robust as previous years. But, there is something else going on in downtown Boston this summer, a silver lining amidst dreary weather and a drearier economy. What is that something? Simply put: goodwill. Even in these tough economic times, as folks scale back their purchases and worry about keeping their jobs, some people are still giving to those who need it the most.

Take for instance Mike Mepham, a 27 year old businessman working at Retail-Convergence, who stopped at One Beacon Street on a rainy Tuesday to buy a ticket. As he was writing a check for $100 he said to the social worker, “Everyone who can should donating money to charities like this, now more than ever.” Then there was Jeff McCormick, chairman and managing general partner of Saturn Partners, out to grab lunch by Post Office Square. He noticed a young man with a broken down car sitting on the sidewalk in the middle of the Financial District. That young man is Hieu Nguyen of Dorchester, who sat for what seemed like an eternity waiting for a tow truck. McCormick walked by Nguyen and then noticed the red, shiny BMW across the street. He turned around and asked Hieu to take a walk with him to see the car. As Hieu and McCormick approached the car and the Big Sister employee selling tickets, McCormick said “I want to buy a raffle ticket for this young man. He needs a new car.” McCormick dropped a crisp $100 bill on the table and walked away.

Finally, there was a woman, name unknown, who approached the raffle ticket seller at One Boston Place. She smiled at the Big Sister employee and handed her $100 in cash for one raffle ticket. When asked for her name, the woman said, “Put this raffle ticket in the name of someone in Boston who needs a new car or $38,000.”

Only 1,750 tickets can be sold, creating great odds for the ticket purchaser and the potential for raising $137,000 to support the girls of Greater Boston. What would Big Sister do with $137,000? We would hire more professional social workers to make and support the Big and Little Sister matches. We would create more mentoring programs to better serve our City’s neighborhoods. In short, these crucial funds would create opportunities for the girls in our City who are most in need of the loving, caring attention of an adult.

But…with only 2 weeks left, only about 1,000 tickets have been sold. So, it’s time to buy a ticket and help us raise money for our mentoring programs for girls. Go to www.bigsister.org and make your purchase today! And, if you know someone who needs a new car or $38,000, let Big Sister know by July 28. We will select one person, 18 years or older, to enter the raffle. Write to us at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, 161 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. The drawing will be held at Faneuil Hall on July 31 at 1:00 p.m.

Sure, you’re taking a gamble, but if you’re going to take a chance right now, why not on the success of our City’s girls? Resources in Boston may be tight, but goodwill is not in short supply.