The best way to get donations is to hit the pavement. Face to face communications with local stores in your area are the best tactic. It's harder to say no to someone face to face than from a letter request. Remember the worst they can do is say no - then just poliety moveon to the next local store.
I agree!! I just sat down one evening and made a list of local museums, dinner theatres, zoo's, amusment parks, aquariums, sports teams (pros & minors). I live in Pennsylvania so I listed about 10 of the most popular ski resorts and then hotels around them. Made up a letter, put it on school letter head paper and mailed them out. Our auction is in February and so far I've gotten a pretty good responce back.
Let me know if you would like to use the letter I used as a format!
I'm a parent volunteer for a band booster group. We did the basket raffle at last year's pancake breakfast and for the first year attempt did fairly well. We had about 40 baskets and brought in $1200. In retrospect we did it the hard way by collecting all the items and making the baskets ourselves. This year I'm going to solicit for COMPLETED baskets and plan to send out letters as you mentioned. I wonder if I could get a copy of your letter?