University of Toledo CRUSHES Goal!

Event Leadership Team announces Gross Fundraising Total

Event Leadership Team announces Gross Fundraising Total

The National Campus Leadership Team recently spoke with the University of Toledo to learn more about their phenomenal success! UT hosted their Relay For Life event on November 16, 2018 with 1,626 participants who all came together to raise an astounding $57,621 - 15.2% over their net goal.

Here’s what we learned:

NCLT: How did you prepare for a successful year and event? Did you host any pre-event fundraisers, what kind of support did you provide to participants, did you rely on support from university administration? Basically what kind of prep work did you do?

UT: This year we asked all committee members to set goals for themselves. Then they wrote out tasks and deadlines needed to reach those goals and would earn points for all of the goals they met! This helped give them a set plan for the year, especially since most of our committee was new this year. Additionally, we held a summer retreat and held weekly meetings once the school year started which facilitated another helpful thing - communication between our Director Board and committee members. We also did quite a few pre-event fundraisers, including a 5K that we hosted with UT Rocketthon, sold hats and stickers designed by one of our committee members, and held percentage nights at Chipotle, Panera Bread, Panda Express, and Blaze Pizza. Something new this year was that we did not rely on the University for finances. In fact this was the first year that our event was not funded by a University budget. While in the past organizations that host events on campus would receive funding from the Student Activities Board to help support event expenses, this year it was decided that student organizations that host events for other organizations - like we do for the American Cancer Society - would not receive funding. Because of this we did not receive the money we normally did to cover the cost of the event venue, sound and stage equipment, and other miscellaneous expenses. Our committee went into this year knowing we wouldn’t have that additional money, so we pushed extra hard to fundraise more than usual to cover those costs. We did work with the University for logistics with support from staff in the Office of Student Involvement and the Student Rec Center.

NCLT: In all of your planning was there a favorite or most used resource?

UT: Like we mentioned earlier, communication was a large part of our success. Google Drive and GroupMe were super helpful! Every committee member had access to a Relay For Life Google Drive which made it easy to see what everyone was doing. We also had a GroupMe that included all committee members which made it easy to share last minute updates.

NCLT: At the actual event what kind of onsite fundraising or entertainment was available? How did you draw people in?

UT: We had quite a few on-site fundraisers put on by participating students - lots of food and drinks like coffee, kettle corn, baked treats, etc.. Our Relay Committee worked to provide entertainment including a bounce house, a ping pong tournament against the local priest, live bands, Minute To Win It games on the main stage, a video game tournament, Olympic Games tournament, and finally a casino room.

NCLT: How did you engage in mission during the event?

UT: As with all Relays we try to take care of our survivors and caregivers during the event, but something unique this year was related to cancer education. We played a Kahoot game that was made up of Relay trivia and cancer statistics. Over 300 participants played.


NCLT: Why do you think you were able to successfully exceed your goal? What was different this year or what did you keep the same?

UT: The biggest thing that was different this year that led to surpassing our goal was the mindset of the committee. Committee members were absolutely dedicated to not only reaching our goal but going above and beyond. This year we did a few team building exercises at the beginning of the year to make sure everyone knew each other’s names and titles. Expectations were set at the first meeting in the spring of last year and consistently talked about leading up to the event. Additionally we created a “Battle of the Branches” point system to reward committee members for things like wearing purple during meetings, accomplishing the goals they set at the beginning of the year, and having perfect attendance and meetings and events. It helped that they became friends throughout the process and saw each other outside of our meetings. The committee was close-knit and became friends with each other, which made it easier to work together as a team. It seemed that no matter what the committee position, it truly was a team effort - everyone wanted to succeed personally and event-wide. The positivity and dedication of the committee was arguably the main catalyst to this year’s success.

NCLT: What advice do you have for other campus or community events that are looking to crush their goals?

UT: The biggest advice we have is that your event is only going to go as far as the dedication and passion your leadership exhibits. You can plan, organize, and execute all you want - but if there is no heart behind it the event will not reach its potential. Hard work gets you to the event, but passion gets you through the event. In addition, we would advise committees to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising. If a fundraiser didn’t work last year don’t be afraid to cut it - it didn’t work, don’t waste your time. But don’t be afraid to start new things, because the little fundraisers add up in the end! Ensure the event is as fun as it can be - you hope participants will come in with a generous wallet but for the most part people like getting something in return for their money. A big part of fundraising is ensuring you can get the largest group of people there for the longest amount of time - the longer they are there the more money the event will make. Don’t give up when things get hard, and just make sure that every time you meet your committee you ask them to remember why they are here - for cancer patients, survivors, and their family members.

As told by Katy Merkel and Allison Boesel to Megha Mathur.

Oklahoma University Relay For Life event raises over $54,000 in one day

Giving Tuesday, a national day of giving that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a big opportunity for Relay For Life events nationwide to capitalize on a national focus on philanthropy. The University of Oklahoma did just that, and raised over $54,000 on Giving Tuesday. According to the OU Event Leadership and their American Cancer Society Staff Partner, they were able to raise so much by planning ahead and focusing in on relationships and relevance in fundraising to drive revenue on Giving Tuesday.

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Planning ahead and engaging the entire event leadership structure at OU Relay For Life was major component of their success. Taking part in fundraising on Giving Tuesday wasn’t a last minute push or a minor focus for the event. The Relay For Life at OU laid the foundation for Giving Tuesday weeks in advance and worked with committee members to set personal and team Giving Tuesday fundraising goals. The University of Oklahoma’s ACS Staff Partner Sam Detrick said that the most important part of setting these goals was the shared sense of purpose - the mission of the American Cancer Society. Sam said about the ELT, “They raise the money because they know what it is going for.”

One of the two most popular - and successful - fundraisers for OU Relay For Life on Giving Tuesday was partnering with fraternities and sororities to fundraise for Relay For Life. The OU Event Leadership worked with the Team Captains of the fraternity and sorority teams to encourage competition between the teams, causing a snowball effect: once one team got on board, even more were interested in competing. One of the main strategies used by these Greek Life teams was phone (or text) banking, calling and texting their family and friends to ask for donations, all the way up until midnight on Giving Tuesday.

This partnership was made even stronger when many of the fraternities’ and sororities’ local leadership chose to match the fundraising efforts of the participants from their organization. These matching donations alone made up $19,000 of OU Relay For Life’s impressive Giving Tuesday total.

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On Giving Tuesday, the the second of the two most successful fundraising tactics was a “Box Challenge” fundraiser on social media. This fundraiser, posted most often on an Instagram story, Snapchat story, or on Facebook, encourages social media connections to donate to Relay For Life. When doing this Box Challenge fundraiser, Relayers post this image to their social media along with their Relay For Life fundraising link, encouraging their network to “buy a box” by donating the amount within the box. Participants would then re-post the graphic with the donor’s picture or name over that box to indicate it had been “sold” and for donor recognition.

The participants and teams at OU Relay For Life had a growing sense of competition throughout Giving Tuesday to become the number one fundraiser supporting the mission of the American Cancer Society on Giving Tuesday. Furthermore, the OU Relay For Life Event Leadership Team found a way to make the Giving Tuesday fundraising even more competitive: with a prize of AirPod headphones for the top Giving Tuesday fundraiser and a raffle for 4 Oklahoma City Thunder tickets for all participants who raised over $100 on Giving Tuesday.

Relay For Life of Puerto Rico's Estudiantil Metro

Being hit by a hurricane was by far the biggest scenario our island had to overcome in 2017. The days after September 20, 2017 were uncertain but mostly full of hope. Every community gathered to make the best of what was left after the storm. We, as a non-profit organization, did our best to continue not just the fight against cancer, but to demonstrate the importance of working as a team to create bigger, better things for our community. It was relevant for us to be volunteers in our community so we could help lift our island and continue our mission.

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With such energy by November, almost two months after the hurricane María, many emails, messages and phone calls started coming through asking if Relay For Life Estudiantil Metro would be possible. At that moment I realized how powerful Relay For Life events were in the community and how engaged American Cancer Society volunteers were with our mission. After facing the biggest catastrophe in Puerto Rico, people were still thinking of us, realizing that cancer patients need us now more than ever.

As a staff partner I knew we had a great challenge to overcome, but not once did I imagine the extraordinary impact that the event would have on me, the committee, and every volunteer involved. It was necessary to analyze our previous event, which was not our best. We started by considering the things that were a success, those that could be bettered, areas that could use new ideas, and so on. The Event Chair, Jorge G. Jorge Torres, and I began a race against the clock to better understand the task set before us, and the possible challenges we would have to overcome. Relay has been around for so long, giving hope to so many, and this time it would be no different.  

Many changes had to be done for us to be able to do Relay again. We had no venue available to host the event. We were used to an open space with lots of room to move. All the parks on the island were devastated because of the hurricane and there was no promise that any possible venue would be in its best condition for us to host a Relay. There we had our first and most challenging transition - the move to an indoor event.  I started the transition by researching indoor events - mostly by looking for pictures and videos of indoor Relay For Life events throughout the Relay community. Our Executive Vice President, Dr. Lillian Santos, helped us out by reaching out to the Global Relay For Life Leadership Team for some best practices that we could use as a guide.

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As part of having an indoor event, it was necessary to host an activity that would impact the community with the meaning of Relay, even with the changes that had to be made. The entire committee worked hard to make sure that our event had the essence of Relay For Life in everything we did, including our “why” - our survivors, the fight against cancer, our friends and family, and so much more. As a team, we divided our efforts to have an unforgettable day of event and create an experience that would make every volunteer involved become even more committed to our mission. Fundraising was an area that we needed to work on. Several ideas used in other events throughout the nation were analyzed and implemented, and others that we had used before were modified. This combination allowed us to surpass our event goal and give back to those who need it the most.

Within the structure of our Relay committees in Puerto Rico, we have Ambassadors. These are the volunteers in charge of providing constant communication and orientation to Team Captains. We divide the total number of teams and assign several Captains to each Ambassador. This year we improved this initiative by making sure that each Ambassador had better, stronger, and constant communication with the Team Captains with a special focus on providing ideas to fundraise, motivate team members, and help each team meet their goal.

Being a part of the communication and receiving resources from Campus Relay For Life leadership has given me the opportunity to get to know the best practices in general of some Campus Events and I also had the chance to moderate and implement new things on our event. On calls, they’ve shared ideas for fundraising strategies, samples of emails they share to Team Captains and other resources.


One of the strategies that we introduced was taken from the “Zero to Hero Program” done by the Relay For Life of Harvard and MIT. The purpose of the program is to identify those teams that are not raising any funds or that are below the goal. An email is sent to the Team Captain trying to identify if there is any help that we as staff or committee can give out, as well as remind them of the importance of the donation they make to the American Cancer Society and how it translates to the community. Our Ambassadors and the committee member in charge of the accounting of the event were responsible to follow up with the teams and give them multiple ideas to get the donations needed. We also gave them the chance to meet with us in person to better guide them in the process.

A chaperone is an adult (25 years and older) that oversees the support of the team on behalf of the school. He or she works along with the Team Captains and is the main liaison between the school and us as an organization. The chaperone could be a teacher, parent, counselor, etc. For the first time this year we also had an Ambassador for the chaperone, so their needs could also be met. This, in particular, had not been done before. It helped improve the commitment of the students, the school, and the chaperone. It also gave a higher sense of belonging to the chaperones and, in most cases, providing the unique support to the chaperone gave some structure to the Team Captains and the team members. We hosted a meeting for them without the Team Captains so they had the opportunity to look at other details that were important to them particularly.

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Also with some resources found in Society Source, I found multiple ideas to make fundraising more fun and innovative, as well as focused on online fundraising. We created an online competition that was called 50 in 50. The idea was for all the team members to raise at least $50 in no more than 50 days. We designed the rules, due date, tools for the team members to pass along to family members and friend, prizes, and more. This was the hit of our fundraising campaign.

Different from other seasons, we gave special attention to new Team Captains. This was done by having them attend separate meetings (additional to the regular team meetings we have before the event with Captains and chaperones) to guide them throughout the preparation process. This helped the students to feel more comfortable asking questions and getting to know Relay better. Therefore, it improved a new Captain’s performance during their first time in that role.


On the day of the event we had nearly 2,500 participants between the ages of 15 and 23 from 20 different schools and 1 university. We celebrated our 10th anniversary with this event and not only reached our fundraising goal but surpassed it by $56,059.69 for a total of $136,059.69 - a 55% year over year increase. Even with the challenges we faced, the community came together to support our mission of saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the fight for a world without cancer.

Since the event’s completion, we’ve been working on maintaining the great things that were highly positive, evaluating those that could be modified, and maintaining communication with the teams. We have been working on a program that encourages early contact with our teams and it involves their visit to our Hope Lodge, our visit to the participating schools, and others that will be implemented during the beginning of the season.

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We are looking forward to incorporating ideas and new strategies to raise even more money to fund the mission of the American Cancer Society next Relay For Life season!

As told by Sharon Tossas, Staff.


RFL: Florida International University and ACS CAN

Guest Blog: Florida International University

Recently, the Relay For Life of Florida International University had a record number of signups for ACS CAN memberships. Read about how Michelle Juarez, the Logistics Director of FIU RFL, and her team accomplished this record, and take some ideas back to your event!


1. How did you incorporate mission and get people excited about ACS CAN?

Our community manager first introduced it to our executive board and explained the mission to us. We were encouraged as a board to take a decision and incorporate it into our efforts. The way that we were able to incorporate and get people excited was by starting with our committee who was able to hear from a survivor who works directly with ACS CAN to come and explain it to all members. We thought that it was a good way to have each member then be able to communicate that message to others and understand what ACS CAN stood for. We then got our committee to each meet a goal of people to sign up and then also incorporated it into our pre events and our gala in February.

2. How did you encourage people to register for ACS CAN? What did that process look like?

Because the registration was $10, college students were put off by signing up however this is why educating our committee with a speaker really helped because some of them were able to convey a smaller and condensed version of the speech to regular students. Also when we incorporated it into our pre events there was someone walking around campus and a lot of emphasis was placed on how this would help ACS and all those affected by it later on. We had a competition for a while with a neighbor campus and who could raise the most amount of subscribers to ACS CAN and that really motivated our population of students to take part as well. When we had our gala to crown new campus ambassadors, we offered it to contestants taking part in the competition as a way to get extra points and that helped as well. We designated one eboard member to be the one in charge of the ACS CAN efforts and it helped also because she was able to keep others accountable and she made everyone start with their friends and then that way talking to random students was easier as time went on. We also had some forms the day of the event.

3. Do you have any other thoughts or suggestions you'd like to share?

Overall, I think that getting a speaker really helped and it started within our own committee having them sign up too then our friends and relative and then starting moving to the general population. It was getting used to advocating for a program instead of just going up to people and saying to donate to ACS/Cancer Efforts but more so what the program could do to be able to get the $10 donation. The big help too was finding ways to incorporate it into pre events because it was taking advantage of people that come to our events and care for the cause to learn about something new that they could contribute to. 

RFL Training Plan: Love Letters to Graduating Seniors

*sentimental music*

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Dear Seniors,

Please don’t leave us. We don’t know what the Relay movement on our campus is like without you. You’ve been with us every step up of the way, encouraging us, guiding us, answering our ten million questions, and trying to pass down your four years of wisdom at the same time. Please don’t leave us!

Love, Everyone Else


Graduation season got you feeling a little sentimental? And not because your beloved seniors are graduating but because they’re leaving you behind? Yeah, we all know the feeling. But wanna know a secret? The best way to keep your seniors coming back and retain their support as alumni is to send them off with a bang! Celebrate them, their work, their achievements and let them clearly know how significant they’ve been towards the Relay For Life movement on your campus!


If Greek Life is big on your campus, I imagine Senior Send-offs are too. But why should we get left out of the fun?  Host your own Senior Send-Off party for your graduating seniors. Cater some food or have a potluck, collect some old (maybe embarrassing) photos and videos of the people you’re celebrating, and ask the rest of your committee to come with hand written thank you letters for each senior or ready to share their favorite memory of each senior! It’s a sweet and sentimental way to let your seniors know exactly how important they are and how much their continued support will mean to you!

If your campus loves to show off graduation cords and stoles consider purchasing purple American Cancer Society graduation cords for graduating seniors. With this small gesture your seniors will be able to show off their ACS pride during a life-changing moment and they’ll be sure to thank you! It can become a time-honored tradition within your committee - something for each member to look forward to as they graduate. Your staff partner can place an order for the cords here.

Finally consider making your own, brand new tradition to recognize seniors - something that is unique and relevant to your campus! Maybe a certain type of cuisine that’s eaten at a get together every year or a specific activity that’s played together every year? No matter what you do, don’t forget to thank your seniors. They’ve spent many hours working their butts off to make your event successful and their continued support as alumni can help your event continue to grow! A heartfelt thank you and small celebration goes a long way towards ensuring their continued dedication - and they won’t reaaaaalllly leave you if they’re still supporting your Relay, right? Problem solved!

RFL Training Plan: Transition

There are a couple life changes where large numbers of amazing Relay For Life participants stop volunteering for the American Cancer Society. 

One, is the transition from high school to college. Some people think that there won’t be enough time to continue volunteering for the American Cancer Society, while some say that they want to explore other volunteering opportunities in college.

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RFL Training Plan: Succession Planning

How did we get from this man there to this cute grandma here? A SUCCESSION PLAN!!!

A solid succession plan works to make sure that the work you’re doing this year lasts for hundreds of years (okay, maybe a little less than that) after this one event. One problem a lot of campuses face is tied to the nature of being a campus event: graduation.

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RFL Training Plan: Recognition

It’s easy to wrap up your fundraising season after your event, calculating final fundraising numbers and updating leaderboards. Forgetting to plan for the next fundraising season immediately is a common oversight. However, by thanking all of your donors, like big corporate sponsors, or recognizing smaller donations from friends and family, we can ensure future support and donations.

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RFL Training Plan: Leadership Under Pressure

RFL Training Plan: Leadership Under Pressure

Just a few short months ago I was in your shoes - managing a Relay For Life to-do list of about 34 million tasks, struggling to maintain my other commitments like school and work, and steadily losing the interest of my ELT. There’s a lot of pressure on you as a leader - get everything done, do it well, and do it on time. It’s nearly impossible to be successful - key word nearly. It can all be done, done well, and done on time - you just have to ask your team to give 10000%. Consider these tips for your own stress relief and then share with your ELTs!

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RFL Training Plan: Team Fundraising

RFL Training Plan: Team Fundraising

This blog is going to dive into the benefits of team fundraising from a few different perspectives. 

From a ELT member's perspective:
Team fundraisers benefit ELT members in many ways. First and foremost, it's an extra boost in fundraising with minimal work from your leadership team. A win win in my eyes, less work but more money! Additionally, team fundraisers will create greater awareness around your campus. The reach of a team is going to be different than you general fundraiser. A team will promote it on their social media pages and to their group of friends which can potentially generate their interest in joining the fight. 

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RFL Training Plan: Finding $0 Participants

Each year on your campus before Relay season, a group of heroes gets together and talks about the plan for the coming year. What do we change this year? How do we fundraise more for the American Cancer Society?
Every year, a group of zeroes shows up sometime around the event, pays the registration fee and enjoys the awesome event experience you’ve spent so much time creating. I call them zeroes, because that is exactly what their impact on your event is - $0. With many campuses having over half of their participants (and some above 80%) not fundraising, the impact on our Relay For Life movement is huge. 

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RFL Training Plan: Accessible Fundraising

Does your general participant have everything they need to fundraise? Let’s check!
Do they have a set personal fundraising goal for the year?
Do they know how to use their dashboard correctly?
Do they know how to ask for donations through social media and email?
Do they have personal fundraising tactics (i.e. selling t-shirts)? 

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RFL Training Plan: Make it Meaningful

Have you noticed a lack of diversity within your campus Relay? 

While unintentional, if you look through your lists of past and present participants, you might notice that certain populations are very well represented while others are not at all. Notice who comes to Relay and more importantly, who does not. 

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RFL Training Plan: Make it New

RFL Training Plan: Make it New

Change is inevitable. But change can also be really, really good. After a conclusion of a Relay season, you should debrief and find things to change. Maybe this was your best event in recent years (congrats!), but there is always something to improve. This change may be something behind the scenes like your committee structure or more external like your entertainment. 

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RFL Training Plan: Northwestern University Event Launch

Guest Blog: Northwestern University

In November, our training plan focus is all about "Bring the People" and event launches are a big part of getting your campus excited about Relay! Recently, the Relay For Life of Northwestern University had their event launch and it was a big hit with the campus. Read about the event below and take some ideas back to your event!

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RFL Training Plan: USC Event Launch

In November, our training plan focus is all about "Bring the People" and event launches are a big part of getting your campus excited about Relay! Recently, the Relay For Life of USC had their event launch and it was a big hit with the campus. Read about the event below and take some ideas back to your event!

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RFL Training Plan: Diversify & Include

Have you noticed a lack of diversity within your campus Relay? 

While unintentional, if you look through your lists of past and present participants, you might notice that certain populations are very well represented while others are not at all. Notice who comes to Relay and more importantly, who does not. 

Read More