Relay for Life Fundraising Ideas
Relay for Life is one of the oldest and most well-known fundraising movements in the world. It spans 20 countries, 5,000 communities and has raised more than $5 billion dollars to date. About 4 million Americans take part in Relay for Life events every year.
But what exactly what is Relay for Life? And how do you go about fundraising for this worthwhile cause? We’ve got the scoop below.
What is Relay for Life?
The American Cancer Society Relay for Life is a multi-national fundraising effort that utilizes community-based events to raise donations for cancer. The funds go toward improving cancer survival rates, decreasing the incidences of cancer and improving the lives of both cancer patients and those who take care of them.
Relay for Life fundraisers vary greatly from location to location, but all are a marathon-like event that require at least one participant from every team to walk, jog, skip, run or otherwise move around a track or course for 24 hours straight. In addition to this, all events also feature a dinner, in which all participating cancer survivors are honored, as well as a candlelight vigil, a survivor lap and a closing ceremony.
The first Relay for Life event was held in 1985 in Tacoma, Washington. It raised $27,000, and started a trend that has only grown in the years since. Relay for Life events can now be found not only in America, but also in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Portugal, France and more.
To learn more about Relay for Life or to sign your team up, visit Cancer.org.
How A T-Shirt Fundraiser Can Help Your Relay for Life Efforts
If you’re looking for easy fundraising ideas for Relay for Life, t-shirt fundraising is your best bet. It’s low-cost, requires minimal effort, and it can be a great way to raise awareness for your efforts and your cause.
To give you some idea of just how powerful t-shirt fundraising can be, this: In the Southeastern U.S., a branded shirt generates nearly 4,000 impressions each. If you have 25 people on your Relay for Life team, and each of them has a shirt, that’s a whopping 100,000 impressions total – meaning 100,000 people have seen that shirt, read what it says and learned about your cause.
On top of this, people tend to actually remember what they saw on a t-shirt, too. It’s not just out of sight, out of mind. According to stats, recall from t-shirts is more than 80 percent in all areas of the U.S. In the Midwest, recall is at its highest, with 95 percent of people recalling a brand on a shirt after the fact.
In order to take advantage of this powerful fundraising medium, however, you first have to design a great shirt. It should be something your participants and donors want to wear, as well as something easy to see and read from afar. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure to include a Relay for Life ribbon on your shirt design as well. Lavender represents all kinds of cancer, but you can also choose a ribbon that corresponds with the type of cancer closest to your heart. For example, if you’re walking in honor of your grandmother who died from breast cancer, you might choose the pink ribbon.
You’ll also want to use a platform like TStacker to design and sell your shirts, as this cuts out a lot of cost and hassle from the process. You aren’t required to pay any up-front fees, and your team members and donors can easily purchase the shirts online at their convenience. You don’t even need to mess with shipping, either. We handle it all for you. You just sit back, and wait for that donation check to hit your mailbox.
Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas
If you want to bring in as many donations as possible, you can also supplement your t-shirt fundraising with some other fundraising efforts, too. Here are just a few of our favorite creative fundraising ideas for Relay for Life:
Host a Block Party
Rely on some good old, neighborly generosity, and throw a big block party. If you’re doing Relay for Life with family or friends, host it in your cul-de-sac or on your street. If your business has a Relay for Life team, host one in your parking lot or on the lawn instead.
- Music or a band
- Games and activities
- First, start connecting with local businesses, and see who would be willing to donate services. This could be food or drink, or it could be things like face painting, décor or other supplies. If you can find a volunteer DJ or band, that’d be even better. Be sure to tell them they’re free to hand out promo items/CDs at your event or set up a booth to give out information – whatever it takes to get them to help out!
- Next, create a flyer for your event. You’ll want to include the date and time, as well as the entry cost (ideally $5 to $10). If you have to create these by hand, it’s fine, but it’d be especially great if you could enlist a loved one with graphic design skills instead. You can even see if a local printer would be willing to donate some copies for you. Then, post them all over the neighborhood – on telephone poles, local restaurants and at central parks and playgrounds.
- Now, plan some activities. Come up with some fun ideas for your block partiers to participate in. What about a cake walk or bake-off? Hot-dog eating contests are low-cost, as are yard games like ring toss, three-legged races and red rover. You might even want to see if a local party rental place would be willing to loan you a bounce house or inflatable for the day.
- Finally, host your event! Set up a table at the entrance, and collect entry fees for everyone who stops by. Be sure to have a volunteer manning each activity, so all your guests know what to do!
A bowl-a-thon is a great way to have fun and raise money all at the same time. You just need a few lanes at a local bowling alley, your team, and some helpful donors!
- Head up to your local bowling alleys, and see if one would be willing to donate a few lanes for a couple of hours in the near future. If not, see if they would offer you a discount. Be sure to let them know it’s for a good cause.
- Then, have your team start getting pledges. They can tap their friends, family members, teammates or colleagues, and get each one to donate a certain amount per pin knocked down. If you have a great bowler on the team, this can end up being pretty lucrative!
- Finally, get to bowling. Invite your donors out to watch, and offer them refreshments as they enjoy the game. Be sure to keep careful track of the scores of each game. At the end of the day, you’ll need to tally up how much every player got, so you can collect the proper amount from their donors.
Is there a holiday coming up? Why not host a breakfast with the kids’ favorite holiday character, like the Easter Bunny, Santa or Cupid? You can even bring in a photographer to snap memorable shots they kids can take home.
- One holiday character costume, plus a volunteer to wear it
- A venue
- Breakfast food items
- A photographer or photobooth
- Start by lining up your venue. A local YMCA, community center or even school cafeteria can be a great option, as each will fit plenty of people. You may even be able to reserve these facilities for free.
- Next, rent the appropriate costume from your local party or costume shop. Be sure to find a volunteer who’s willing to wear it for the day, too!
- Then, meet with local restaurants and groceries stores, and see if any would be willing to donate breakfast food for the event. This could be bacon, muffins, eggs or even just cups of orange juice. Every little bit helps.
- Enlist a local photographer to help you capture photos of the event, and charge each parent $5 per photo snapped. You can also rent a photobooth, and let the kids take funny, spur-of-the-moment pics with their favorite character.
- Finally, once all the details are aligned, start getting the word out about your event. Talk to local schools, sports leagues, churches and day care centers, and put flyers up at local businesses. You can also send out emails, use social media or send out mailers to your neighbors.
- Then, it’s time to host your event! Get entry fees at the door $20-$25 per child, and let families sit wherever they like. Chances are, they’ll all be bringing friends along, so make sure there’s plenty of seating and table space. Also, be sure to have a few volunteers on hand to help with handing out food! Buffets are fine, but chances are one or two families will need help along the way, so have someone there to lend a hand when needed.
Auction off the CEO
This is a great fundraising idea if you have an office or corporate Relay for Life team. Here’s how it works: You hold an auction, and offer up your company’s CEO, president and other executives to the highest bidder. The winner gets to have them as their personal assistant for the day!
- A PA system
- A volunteer emcee
- Poster board
- Popsicle sticks
- First, talk to your leadership team, and see who would be willing to participate. You can even trickle down to department heads and other bosses, if you don’t get enough interest from your executives.
- Once you have the people in place, it’s time to choose your venue. You’ll want to somewhere that’s large enough for all your employees, and one that has a stage for all to see. Send out invites via email, and set a date and time for the event. Make sure all attendees know to bring their checkbooks!
- Next, create bidding paddles. Cut circles out of your poster board, and number each one sequentially. Glue the numbers to the Popsicle sticks for easy handling.
- Finally, host your event. Hand out your bidding paddles at the door, and have your volunteer emcee bring each auctionee up on stage, one at a time. Then, they should ask for bids from the audience, starting at $50 to $100 dollars (maybe even more if it’s the CEO!) Audience members will hold up their paddles when placing a bid, and if the emcee says “going once, going twice” and no one else chimes in, the bid is complete!
- At the end of the event, collect checks from all winning employees, and be sure to forward their info to HR, so the CEO or executive’s schedule can be coordinated with them.
Christmas Light Hanging
Everyone loves Christmas lights, but no one likes actually putting them up. It’s cold out, it’s so physically taxing, and it just takes up so much time!
Why not take advantage of this conundrum, and offer up complimentary Christmas light hanging in exchange for Relay for Life donations? It’s a win-win for everybody. All you need is a team of volunteers – preferably fit, active ones who don’t mind a little physical labor – and you’re ready to begin.
- Find your volunteers. Ask around at school, church or work for anyone who’d be willing to pitch in for a day or two and help. You can also look to local sports and wrestling teams, and see if they would join in, too.
- You’ll also need to get some supplies, too – mainly a few ladders, some gloves and hooks. Extra bulbs could be a big help as well. You can check with a local hardware store and see if they’d be willing to donate some supplies, or ask your volunteers if they have anything at home they could bring along with them. It’s okay if they’re a little used.
- Next, start advertising your service. Make flyers, and hang them around the neighborhood, at local community centers and businesses, and in area schools and churches. You can also spread the word on social media, or even create a car magnet for your vehicle, so everyone on the road will see your campaign.
- Finally, start offering up your services. You’ll want to begin right after Thanksgiving, and go up until the last week before Christmas. As far as pricing goes, your best bet is to charge per strand - $15 or $20 each. Most homes will require 5 to 10, so the cash will add up quick. You can also charge extra if they need help installing other décor in the yard or on the home. The more funds raised, the better!
Dress Down Days
This is another great Relay for Life fundraising idea – especially for a buttoned-up business or a school that requires uniforms. Here’s how it works: You simply ask your employees or students for a donation, and all those that join in get to “dress down” on a designated day! That means they can wear jeans, t-shirts, even pajamas if that’s their dream!
- First, work out the plan with your principal or president. You may have to loop HR in too, just to make sure dressing down won’t violate any codes or rules. If all agree, set a day for your “dressing down” and decide on an appropriate donation for each. ($30 to 50 is usually good.) You’ll also want to set a deadline for when donations must be made by, and designate a teacher or employee to collect each donation.
- Next, get the word out. Send out emails to all your staff, or have teachers announce it in their homeroom classes. You can also hang flyers in the halls, the cafeteria or in common areas.
- Finally, it’s time to forget those buttoned-up outfits and enjoy a day of comfort. Be sure to set some ground rules, so no one wears anything inappropriate or offensive. Remember this is for a good cause, not to make a scene!
Make Fast Food Friends
This is one of the most successful Relay for Life fundraising ideas around. All you need are a few generous fast food restaurants, and you’re set!
- Ask to talk to the manager at all the local fast food restaurants in your area. Talk to them about Relay for Life, and the reasons you’re raising funds for it. Then, see if they would be willing to donate a portion of one day’s sales (or the sales of just one item) to your team. It can be something as small as 5 percent.
- Designate team members to be on site at all participating restaurants on donation day. They can ask for donations from patrons directly, answer questions about Relay for Life or simply encourage customers to buy the designated menu items while they’re there.
- Finally, send all participating restaurant managers a thank you. Let them know you appreciate their help, and you can even consider putting their logo on your team t-shirts!
Need more Relay for Life fundraising ideas? We’ve got dozens more for you to try. Just head to our fundraising ideas page now.
Relay for Life Team Name Ideas
Coming up with Relay for Life team names can be difficult. After all, you’re going to be using it for months – even years – to come, and it’s what donors will see and hear first when they learn of your efforts. You want it to be powerful, persuasive, descriptive and maybe even a little bit clever or funny.
Stumped on what to call your Relay for Life team? Here are some great ones. Feel free to use any one you like!
- The Curesaders
- Sweat for Survival
- The Tumornators
- Cancer Crushers
- Walking Warriors
- Laps for Leukemia
- Banking on a Cure
- Kicking Out Cancer
- Sickness Striders
- Walking All Over Cancer
- Racing for a Remedy
- Tread for Treatment
- All-nighter Fighters
- Marching for Melanoma
You can also include the name of your organization, company or school. The main thing you want to convey is that your efforts are designed to fight cancer, help cancer survivors or raise funds for cancer. As long as that comes across, you’re golden.
Fun Relay for Life Themes and Games
Many Relay for Life events have themes – like “Carnival for a Cure,” for example. Then, teams can come up with fun Relay for Life games and activities around these themes, and get everyone involved and excited about the event.
If you’re not sure what theme your Relay for Life event theme should be, here are some of our favorites:
- Carnival for a Cure – A carnival or circus theme can be fun for everyone involved. You can do cake walks, dart throwing and even invite a clown over to entertain.
- Aloha Cancer – Say “goodbye” to cancer the Hawaiian way, by throwing an island-themed, luau-style Relay for Life. Hand out leis, play Hawaiian music, and have tropical snacks and drinks.
- A Cure for Christmas – If your Relay for Life event is around the holidays, try a Christmas theme instead. Have Christmas trees throughout the venue, and have your participants decorate them as the night goes on. You can also sing Christmas carols, have gingerbread cookies and do a secret Santa.
- Racing for a Remedy – Give your event a racing theme, and bring a Go Kart in for the night. You can dress up in racing tracksuits, have checkered flags at each tent, and even have “pit crews,” who hand out snacks and drinks to those on the course.
- Fighting Cancer Fiesta – Try a Mexican fiesta theme for your Relay for Life, and have your entire team wear sombreros, ponchos and boots. You can serve spicy snacks and even bring in a mariachi band.
- Scrubbing Out Cancer – This can go one of two ways: Don a pair of scrubs, and give your event a medical theme. Or opt for the cleaning angle, and wear aprons, carry feather dusters and have a clothesline at your tent. Either way, you’re “scrubbing” out cancer!
Movies, TV shows and other pop culture references make fun themes, too, just make sure they’re something that’s accessible to all ages. You want as much participation as possible!