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*

harry potter graduation GIF-source.gif

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.

What is so great about the American Cancer Society is that as a college student, you are able to juggle the responsibilities of being a student and an advocate for something you’re passionate about. You are also able to cater to your skills — and maybe even your career goals — by focusing on a specific portion of the American Cancer Society. For example, if you’re interested in policy, advocacy, you can become a part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, or ACS CAN. If you’re in a sorority or fraternity, you can work on your Relay For Life’s committee to increase involvement from the Greek community. Or, if you’re passionate about cancer research, you can be involved in your school’s committee for cancer education or mission. 

Ultimately, college is a time to find out what you’re passionate about, or maybe even solidify passions you had before. We know you were passionate about the American Cancer Society in high school, so it should not stop there. To find out more about your college event, click here to look at a map of all collegiate events in the country. 

Map Pic.png

The second transition where we lose TOO many great volunteers is after college graduation, or when volunteers join the “real world”. For so many graduating seniors, priorities shift and it can be hard to find your place in the American Cancer Society. You might be moving to a new city, taking a new job, or just looking for volunteer opportunities that enhance your relevancy as a Young Professional in the workplace.
The best part is, ACS has opportunities that cater to each one of those. Let’s say that you are moving to a new city, or taking a new job. ACS Young Professionals can provide a network of dedicated volunteers that can help you to become more integrated in a new community. Your first friends, your first network connections in a brand new place. The worst and best part about cancer is that the passion for the end of the fight unites every relayer and ACS volunteer around the country.

YP Website Pic.png

The second platform helps ACS to utilize volunteers to develop their professional skills. This platform is called Catch-a-Fire. Periodically staff and volunteers around the country will post  digital engagement opportunities. This could be anything from designing a new logo and developing a new website to helping to craft a new breakout session for a regional summit. No matter where you are you can periodically check to see if ACS has posted an opportunity for you to practice and hone marketable skills for your professional career that you may not be able to do in your current job setting.
No matter what kind of connections or development opportunities you are looking for there is a place in the American Cancer Society as you or your seniors transition into the “Real World.” If you’re a transitioning high school senior, click here to see a map of all collegiate Relay For Life events. For more information on Young Professionals, you can head on over to the Young Professionals website or email the volunteer care team at ivolunteer@cancer.org talk to someone within ACS about the opportunities anywhere in the country.

We cannot wait to see you continue your involvement within ACS. With passionate people like you, we are funding a mission that will save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer! 

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.

At some point on campus, you and your primary supporters and leaders will graduate. And there are lots of super cool ways for people to stay involved in our movement after graduation (link yp website and blog if already released AND campus Relay map for HS grads), but for your event - they’re gone!

Some of these people are your top fundraisers, your best organizers, and your most well-connected people in school - and they’re great at fundraising, recruiting, innovating, talking to the administration, and hosting the event. The campus event has to keep going after losing someone like this (just like the UK has to continue with one of these guys when they likely take over after their great-grandma Queen Elizabeth one day.)

The elements of a good succession plan involve getting the plan set up, individuals identified, and mentoring those individuals so that they can continue growing your Relay and raising even more money for the American Cancer Society.

Setting the plan up can be a pretty simple conversation, just have a conversation each year with the chairs (or directors/leaders) of each committee, your faculty advisor, and your American Cancer Society Staff Partner each year. Some questions you can ask to guide your discussion might include:

  • Who’s graduating?

  • Who needs to step down/take a new position (accountability issues)?

  • What needs will your Relay have in the future?

  • How will this plan change from year-to-year? (Thinking both short-term and long-term)

  • How do we keep fundraising even if one of our top fundraisers leaves?

Depending on your needs, you could have more questions or different questions, but the important question is:

  • How do we make sure Relay keeps going at our school?

The finding the people and mentoring them is just as important (basically just finding the “next generation” - think Prince George and Princess Charlotte).


Allow these younger, new leaders genuine opportunities to lead and to gain experience doing Relay. One great way to do this is to allow the newer leader to serve as the Chair the year before they actually serve. This way, they still have the previous Chair with them to mentor them, but are gaining the opportunity to practice and to lead. 

The key word here is genuine. Give the new leaders real opportunities to plan, choose, and make decisions without “veto authority” from the previous chairs. This way they learn (in action) how the fundraising works, how to grow your event goal, and the best way to engage students in this movement on your campus.

For more tips on succession planning visit the Campus Relay website at www.campus.relayforlife.org and connect with the National Campus Leadership Team on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat with the username campusrelay. Join the community of Campus Relayers on Facebook in the group Campus Relay For Life and CAC to share ideas and ask questions.

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.


The main, post-event focus should be re-recruiting past participants and fundraisers by giving them a great experience at your event and by thanking them post-event. Following up with feedback forms is one way to gauge how your “customers” felt about your event, and is an easy way to determine what changes to make to your event in the future in order to retain participants, fundraisers and donations. Once a participant is hooked, we don’t want to let them go! We want participants to feel both appreciated and useful, because they’re making a difference in the fight too. If they feel as though their money and time has been used in a productive way, they’ll continue to participate. By tying in mission-centered recognition, we can show our participants how their money has helped patients, caregivers and survivors. One way of doing this is to give participants who have raised over $25, for example, a card at event check in showing how many rides to treatment or stays in a Hope Lodge their fundraising has provided.

Recognition can start at your event by giving out awards for largest team, most money per team member fundraised, most emails sent, top 5 fundraisers etc. Schools give out poster-sized awards, social media shout-outs, top 10 lists and more to show their appreciation for the hard work their volunteers and participants do. Public recognition is a great way to thank a fundraiser, because everyone likes a shout out for their hard work! Keeping public leaderboards at the event that are updated every hour is another great way to drive fundraising at your event and to show the teams putting in the work to get their numbers to grow!

All in all, by treating participants, fundraisers and donors like customers and following up with them post-event, we can help to ensure that the same people come back next year for another great time. Simply by saying thank you, we can retain the people we need to be successful in the next fundraising season!

RFL Training Plan: Digital Fundraising

What do you do when you find out that using your online Relay For Life dashboard and the FUNdraising app on your phone are super effective ways of fundraising?

Fundraise Online.jpg

Cheesy attempts to be relatable through popular memes aside, using the Relay For Life website and the FUNdraising app are great ways to fundraise. Online fundraising gives you a ton of different ways to raise more money for the American Cancer Society and get closer to your fundraising goal. Right from the website, you can post to Facebook, send a tweet to Twitter, and send e-mails asking your friends and family to donate to support the mission of the American Cancer Society. From the app, you can post, tweet, send e-mails, and text everyone in your phone with just a couple of clicks. 

Each of us has hundreds of people in our contacts, so even if just five of those people would donate $20, you could reach the $100 mark and be a part of the Hope Club - earning your event tshirt and being a major part of the movement to defeat cancer. Texting each person and posting online is super simple - check out this video to see a step by step guide on how to send texts and post online. 

The best way to fundraise is to share why the mission of the American Cancer Society is important to you and why you’re participating in Relay For Life. Why are you passionate about defeating cancer? What is your personal story with cancer? How have the American Cancer Society’s research, programs, and services helped you or someone you love?

Post pictures of the person or people you Relay for along with your post or tweet! Check out the American Cancer Society YouTube page or the National Campus Leadership Team Facebook Page to see tons of great videos to include about our mission.

Other ways to ask your friends and family online can be specifically mission-related! Ask your family to sponsor you, $1 for each lap that you walk onsite at Relay! Ask your friends and family to donate the equivalent of one night in the Hope Lodge ($100) to help provide a place to stay for someone seeking treatment. We can use social media and technology for such awesome things and so many ways to make a huge impact on our fight against cancer. 

Download the American Cancer Society FUNdraising app and go online on your phone or computer to customize your Relay For Life participant page. That way, when your friends and family go online to donate, they see your reason for Relaying and your picture. Fundraising online can be so quick and such an efficient way of fundraising - one minute of clicking into the app and sending texts to your contacts or posting to your friends on Facebook can result in hundreds of dollars of donations. If we’re all doing all we can to make sure we are the last generation to have to hear the words “you have cancer” - online fundraising is a part of that goal. 

Make sure to connect with Campus Relay at campus.relayforlife.org/ and post any great online fundraising ideas or any questions you have  to the Campus Relay & CAC Facebook group! 

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!

Mission Possible
Think back to your first Relay For Life experience. What was the most stunning moment? Since then, what has kept you coming back year after year? Chances are your answer has something to do with the mission of the American Cancer Society. Whether it’s a great-uncle who used the National Cancer Information Center to get more details on his new diagnosis, a cousin who used Road to Recovery, or a friend who benefitted from ACS funded research we do everything we do to continue the mission and its successes. As hard as each of your tasks may get, never forget that the work you’re doing matters to cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers today and every day.

Make the Most of Your Time
Take a look at the below matrix: All of your tasks fall under one of these four quads. On top we have “urgent” and “non-urgent” - either a task demands attention or it can wait for a bit. On the side we have “important” and “not important” - a task either carries serious consequences for not doing it or not. Quad I is important and urgent - usually crises that are of the “in-your-face-must-be-dealt-with-at-this-instant” nature. It’s near impossible to say no to those kinds of tasks. Tasks that fall in Quad III might be considered deceptive - you think they’re urgent, but can almost always be put off till a later moment. We spend a lot of time doing Quad III things when a better way to manage our time might be in another Quad. Quad IV includes things that you do for funsies or to relax - those are really great things, but don’t let your Netflix binge get away from you when you have other things to do. Finally Quad II is where you ideally want to spend most of your time in order to facilitate positive outcomes. These are tasks that you can use to get ahead of the game - build relationships with your ELT or use the Relay calendaring tool to plan out your upcoming month. The more time you’re using to plan ahead the less time you’re worried about crises or getting caught up in unimportant tasks. Use this matrix to manage your own time, but also share it with your ELTs to encourage their continued success!


In Delegation We Trust…
Easier said than done, right? I know you think that if you do a task you know it’ll be done well and on time, and delegating means you lose control over a task and show vulnerability in being unable to do it yourself. Here’s the thing though - you can’t be everywhere at once. Something’s gotta go, so you might as well delegate. Pick a task, choose a person, and patiently see what happens. Check in from time to time, but trust that you’ve delegated the right task to the right person and trained them well enough to successfully complete the job. Your ELT will be useful and extra committed if they know their work is necessary and helpful. Best case scenario? Someone else learns how to do something new (succession planning anyone?) and you didn’t have to spend time or energy on it. 

Dialogue Not Monologue
It's super easy to fall into a rut where you're doing everything and then dumping that information on to everyone later. An event as large as Relay requires open communication among everyone - you included. CC others on emails, use weekly meetings as brainstorming sessions instead of endless updates, find relevant ways to spread the message like GroupMe or Slack, and sometimes just shut up and listen - you'd be surprised at what you hear from your ELT when you stop talking. Use that communication, information, and shared knowledge to tell your team how important they are and encourage them to do more!

Sacrifice Perfection
So the Luminaria playlist doesn't include every song that was requested by participants, accounting is running a little slower than expected because your volunteers are still learning the paperwork, and a team is unhappy that their campsite doesn’t give them a fabulous view of the stage. I promise you, it's okay. Everything isn't going to be perfect and everyone isn't going to be happy no matter what you do. Let it be. You've planned a spectacular event with your 10000% committee - no one is going to remember a few little hitches. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your newfound leadership under pressure skills! 


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. 

From a Team Captain’s perspective:
Team fundraisers can be extremely influential on your team moral. Typically Team Captains would be the ones initiating the fundraiser however that does not always have to be the case. A team fundraiser will help create a bond between team members who might not know each other well. Team fundraisers also allow for greater reach in promotion of your event. Team Captains can use team fundraisers as a way to jump start their team members fundraising efforts. Teams can host a kick off fundraiser which will mark the start of their individual fundraising. 

From a Participant’s perspective: 
A team fundraiser can make or break a participant’s experience and their attitude towards Relay in general. A participant who was unsure about being a part of a team can become a top fundraiser and motivator for the team in a blink of an eye. Team fundraisers make team members feel included and allow for bonding of teammates. Brainstorming, planning, logistics, promotion, and so much more go into a successful team fundraiser and every single participant will have a strength in one of those categories. Playing to these strengths leads to the participant to feel valued on the team. 

On Site Fundraisers vs. Off Site Fundraisers


RFL Training Plan: Finding $0 Participants

giphy (1).gif

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. 

Sure, they might pay their registration fee and contribute in that way. But when you compare them to the Hope Club members raising $100, and then multiply that across hundreds of campuses and hundreds of thousands of individuals, there’s a lot of potential missing. Those fundraising dollars is money that could be used to provide places to stay while people are going through treatment, provide information on a cancer diagnosis, or provide the money that funds the cure for cancer.

What can you do to turn these $0s into Heroes? 

giphy (3) (1).gif

It starts by connecting them with our mission – that we are a global movement of millions of people all fighting as hard as they can to make sure that this is cancer’s last century. It starts by sharing with them the programs and services that the American Cancer Society funds with money raised at Relay For Life. And it starts by giving them some easy steps on how to get to the Hope Club ($100) and beyond. 

Who these participants are looks different on every campus – maybe it’s all the members of a community service organization who don’t quite understand what the American Cancer Society does, maybe it’s a group of friends who joined late and aren’t sure if Relay For Life is a running event or a fundraiser, or maybe it’s some of the Greek teams that aren’t familiar with the expectation to fundraise and aren’t sure for what organization Relay For Life fundraises. 

giphy (5).gif

What all of these “$0s” have in common is that they don’t get it. They don’t know the American Cancer Society saves or the way Relay For Life funds that mission. One great way to do that is by using your numbers from your event report (check out this blog on how to get those numbers) to find the $0 participants. Next, you can send e-mails to your $0 participants to share with them that they’re supposed to fundraise and how their fundraising makes a difference. When one campus event did an e-mail campaign like this last year, they decreased their $0 participant numbers by over 60%. 

Whether you use an e-mail campaign or share it some other way, it all starts by sharing the mission of the American Cancer Society and the way that the American Cancer Society is saving lives from every cancer, in every community, every day. It starts by setting the expectation to fundraise unapologetically. We can’t apologize for savings lives or curing cancer. 

If we turn all these zeroes into heroes – the amount your campus raises for the American Cancer Society will grow by over 50%. Have these conversations and be honest with the participants about how they can have an impact on our movement to end cancer.  Zero to Hero, just like that. 

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)? 

If not, that’s okay! Let’s get them started correctly! Work with your participants on these steps to get their personal fundraising going!

1. Have a personal fundraising goal and plan for the year!

source (2).gif
  • Setting a personal fundraising goal is important. Try making a month by month fundraising plan of how you will reach that fundraising goal! 

2. Learn how to maneuver your dashboard on the fundraising page!

  • The dashboard feature allows for easy access to send emails asking for donations! It also has a cool feature of sending your donors ‘thank you’ emails. It is also a great tool to track your fundraising progress!

3. Utilize social media for fundraising!

source (3).gif
  • Posting to Facebook regularly is key to successful fundraising! Also, a good tip is to put the link to your fundraising page in the bio of your social media accounts. Engage yourself on social media with other Relay accounts! 

4. Be unique in your personal fundraising!

  • Think of a personal fundraising tactic you can use to increase your fundraising total! This may look like selling t-shirts in honor or in memory of a loved one with cancer. This may also be making paintings and selling them. Whatever it may be, using personal fundraising tactics are a huge success to increasing those numbers!

FUNdraising is a huge part of what the American Cancer Society does for doctors, researchers, and cancer patients around the world. Every dollar allows us to get one more step closer to the cure! 

RFL Training Plan: Make it Fun

It’s important to keep this in mind when planning your event to ensure everyone has a super fun, memorable and meaningful night. Here are 4 ideas to make your Relay event fun for all audiences:

1. Encourage Teams to have themes for their Campsite at your Relay event. You can have survivors and caregivers vote for their favorite campsites, the winning team gets a prize! Some examples include: Star Wars, Disney, Circus, Dr. Seuss, or Birthday. Team can also host fundraisers at their campsite that tie in with their theme for an added boost! Here are some example of onsite fundraisers.

2. Host activities that get all teams involved at the same time, for example: themed laps throughout the night, a Mr. Relay pageant, a volleyball tournament, or minute to win it games! By getting a representative from each team you’re able to bring together all participants as they cheer on their team. 

  • New Mexico State University: Best Practice: CAC did an onsite fundraiser at our Relay For Life similar to the Jail & Bail. We had a sports themed event so we made our Jail into the "Penalty Box". Our CAC committee was dressed as referees so a few members would walk around and either put participants in jail or get participants to buy a warrant for someone else's arrest. It was $5 to put someone in Jail, and they got to choose the person's bail. The person who was put in the penalty box then had to raise the money set for their bail to get out. We raised around $200 for this fundraiser and it was very successful.

  • La Crosse University: Human Hungry Hungry Hippos-One of our main activities we held during Relay was Human Hungry Hungry Hippos. Participants would lay on their stomach on a rolling cart that was attached to a rope. Their team would then push them to the center of the room to grab balloons that matched their teams color. This event was a ton of fun and very entertaining to watch and participate in.

3.    Use social media to your advantage! People are connected now more than ever, so follow the trends and post news about your event on their feeds. Check out the Facebook guidebook here. Twitter is another great platform for engaging since you’re able to tell your story in a sentence. A good way to up engagement on Twitter is to do a scavenger hunt, check out this information guide here.

4.   During your ceremonies tell a story. Instead of speaking at the audience it’s important to avoid throwing a bunch of information at people. Engage with the participants, survivors and caregivers as much as possible during ceremonies to keep people involved and interested! Create ceremonies that are personal to your campus you can do this by inviting the band, cheerleaders, or your mascot to opening! 

  • University at Buffalo: We pre-marked registration wristbands with x's, which represented the percentage of the population expected to get cancer. During the opening ceremony, we asked those people to stand up and explained what the x meant and how high the statistics are with cancer. It was very powerful and people got the message with this great visual representation.

  • Mount Saint Mary College: Fight Back Ceremony Activity - ACS mission themed relay race. Participants broke into teams of 5. The first two people did a three legged race to represent Road to Recovery, they then tagged in a third person who did a lincoln log tower to represent Hope Lodge, who then tagged in a fourth person to put make up to represent Look Good, Feel Better and then tagged in a last person to do a slip slap slop activity putting on sunscreen, a hat, a shirt and to go with our superhero theme, a cape.

RFL Training Plan: Make it Meaningful

acs can2.jpg

Ceremonies, Scripts, and Mics …. Oh My! 

You have planned an amazing event complete with great bands, fun games, and a surprise appearance by someone everyone on campus adores …. But, have you planned your ceremonies?
Ceremonies are often one of the last things events think about, yet they are some of the most important parts of a great Relay For Life event. Moving and motivating ceremonies should help ensure four things:

  • Participants understand why they are staying up all night

  • Recognize folks who have achieved fundraising milestones

  • Teach participants about what ACS does and how their money supports the mission

  • Move participants to want to do more

Do your event ceremonies achieve those four things? If not, it’s time to find new, creative ways to ensure that you are touching hearts, educating minds, and moving folks to action. How exactly do you do that? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Consider structuring your opening ceremony like a “pep assembly.” It’s likely everyone on your campus has school spirit, and is used to singing the school fight song. Ask the band, mascots, sports teams to come out to help open up your event.

  • Use the culture of your campus to engage participants. If your school has something that is special to all students and faculty, find a way to incorporate that in your ceremonies.

  • Try NOT to read directly from a script. Ask the people who are speaking during all ceremonies to know their parts well enough that they don’t have to read.

  • Find someone on campus to share their story. This could be a survivor, caregiver, someone who lost a parent, a faculty member, or anyone with a connection to cancer. Stories are the most effective way to move participants to want to do more.

  • Ask your drama club or a choir to perform to a moving song during your luminaria ceremony.

  • Include different groups from your campus in order to engage a diverse audience. (Native American club, Salsa dance club, etc)

Pro-tip: With everything else going on in your event planning, it can be tempting to just print of a sample script and say that ceremonies are all ready. But consider how impactful your ceremonies have the potential to be if you make them special to your event. In thinking about the future success of your event, meaningful and engaging ceremonies can be the best ways to convince participants to come back again and again to Relay For Life. Give them an experience they’ll remember. 

An extra “ceremony” to consider for campus events …. Honor your graduating seniors by inviting them to take a special lap. Ask them to provide their information so that you can help them stay connected with the American Cancer Society after they graduate! 

Check out the following links for a couple of resources:


RFL Training Plan: Make it New

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” - Leo Buscaglia


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. 

Let people know about this change. Tell them in every way. Market your event before your event instead of after. The easiest way for people to know what the big Relay For Life event on campus is about is for you to tell them. And tell them again and again. 

Plan and create events leading up to Relay that are lit and memorable to everyone. If people have a good time chances are they will come back for more. These events can be huge or random pop up events. A huge event that is creative and unique yet barely related to Relay was UGA’s Valentine’s Day Date Auction. This was purely a social fundraising event which had a great turnout and left good vibes which translated to many attendees creating a team and joining the fight. A smaller scale idea, could be a “Statue in a Fountain”, years ago a student at Oklahoma University had this idea. Simply put, he stood in a kiddie pool set up in the middle of campus, dressed in a purple morph suit, with a Relay For Life sign. As people walked by he asked them for donations and to attend Relay the next month. Students would make a wish and throw coins into his fountain. While raising a couple hundred dollars, he also promoted their event to many who would not have any idea what Relay For Life is. 

People want to know what is going on and what big, new thing will be a part of Relay this year… so tell them! Make it a focus of your committee- especially those focusing on entertainment- to be ahead of their deadlines. Way ahead of them- not only weeks but months. People are more likely to sign up for your event if they know what will be going on! Now don’t make your schedule set in stone, you can still be flexible and make changes and additions; also be careful about promoting entertainment events and then not following through. Cover your bases and put a disclaimer *entertainment subject to change*. 

I suggest making a easy to read graphic with your entertainment schedule to hand out as people sign up or as promotional material. This can also be used as your participants check in the day of Relay. ++ Schedule PIC++ Additionally, promoting what is unique to your event will increase interest! If you have a belly dancer perform and teach participants how to belly dance, tell your current and future participants that! If you have an entire night filled with Harry Potter food and trivia, tell people that! Promote aspects of your event that are different than everything else on campus. It will help your event stand out compared to other events on campus!

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!


Q. What did the experience look like? What entertainment was there? How did you incorporate mission and get people excited about Relay?

This year, Northwestern Relay For Life wanted to do a huge Launch Week to kick off the Relay Season. But we all know how plans like this go. We ended up only having events on a few days. When this plan was first set in motion, our intent was to have an Exercise Week, partnering with local studios and fitness centers to offer students free to reduced priced classes. We were only able to set up classes with Soul Cycle. We had 3 classes and they reserved 15 spots per class for us. We were able to charge whatever we wanted and it was purely a profit for us.  Logistically, we had to collect names and money (which reserved their spot) and then sent the names to SC a few days before. The bikes we did not reserve were then opened to their clients. 

It just so happened that the date World of Beer was able to host us fell during this week. Admittedly, we could have done A LOT more with Soul Cycle, and will look to do so in the future. We were not able to put out a donation bucket, but the manager was really willing to work with us on other things. If we do something with them again, we might encourage people to wear purple, about physical activity and prevention information or have them do some announcements before or after class about healthy living and how that fits into the mission of ACS.

We hosted the actual Launch Party at a local restaurant/bar off campus! We worked with this restaurant to reserve a party space exclusively for Relay For Life supporters and students. Throughout our 2 hour launch event, attendees were able to purchase food and drink, get to know Relay For Life Exec and Committee members, and play board games and watch sports on the bar's big screen TV's. We were also able to coordinate a profit share with the restaurant, which earned over $50 for Relay For Life of Northwestern! We handed out flyers about Relay and talked to attendees about Relay and our mission and goals for the year. Our event was mostly used to bring together past participants and get people excited about kicking off the 2017-18 Relay season!

Q. How did you market your Event Launch?

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 9.15.20 PM.png

We marketed our event launch primarily on social media and Facebook! We also personally reached out to all team captains and Relay participants from last year, inviting them to the kickoff of Relay 2018. Finally, we had all of Relay Exec and Committee bring 2+ friends to the event launch!

Q. Did you encourage people to register for Relay at your Event Launch? What did that process look like?

We provided a laptop and instructions for registering for Relay at the event launch. We encouraged people to register as they came in, but if they were not interested in registering on the spot, we provided flyers with more info and our registration link so that people could register later! Our event was primarily focused on spreading the word about Relay and encouraging past and future Relay participants to get to know each other and our Exec board for this year!

RFL Training Plan: USC Event Launch


Guest Blog: University of South Carolina

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!

Q. What will the experience look like? What entertainment will there be? How will you incorporate mission and get people excited for Relay

The experience is on Greene Street in front of our main student hub, Russell House Union. We have ten tables, four filled with food donations including: frozen yogurt, water, pizza, subs, and chicken nuggets. We have two tables for merchandise including t-shirts and buttons, two for registration, one for a banner for students to write “Why I Relay”, and a team development/fundraising information table. We will have four cocktail tables set up for students to enjoy their food. We will have a DJ to play music, and microphone capabilities for us to be able to announce our theme and general information. We included that everyone would be entered into a raffle of a $50 gift card, and we had banners from our awards last year.


Q. How are you marketing your Event Launch?

We had a graphic created into multiple dimensions so our exec and committee could post it on all forms of social media whether it be their Instagram, Instagram story, Facebook header, profile photo, etc. We started changing our photos a little over a week in advance. We hung posters in our classroom buildings and dorms. We tabled and passed out flyers on the day-of the event. We also created a Facebook event to invited previous team captains and teams, friends, and people who have not been involved in Relay on our campus previously. We also created a short promo video that we launched on social media 3 days before our event. 

Q. Are you encouraging people to register for Relay at your Event Launch? What will that process look like?

Yes! We did encourage people to register at our event. If people were registered, they were able to enjoy the free food at our event. If they were not registered, they could register and get food, or pay for a $5 wristband to get food. This event happened around dinner time, so people were willing to pay $5 for an unlimited amount of food. However, if people knew they were going to register later anyways, it encouraged people to sign up now. This was at the front part of our event, and they greeted the people coming to the event! This was done through online registration. 

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. For example, many Relays host predominantly white female participants. If your Relay is lacking multiculturalism or gender diversity, think about who you're reaching out to and who may not feel included.

Well.. Let’s look at how cancer affects the minority population around you! Minority cancer cases are so common that there is a National Minority Cancer Awareness week every year! 


Cancer.org even states that “...minority groups in the United States continue to bear a greater cancer burden than whites.” Could you guess why? It all leads back to poverty and less access to good healthcare for treatments. 

So.. If it affects the minority population  clearly, then why is the minority population not involved with Relay For Life on your campus??? Instead of pondering that question, let’s act on it! What ways can you diversify your campus Relay?

  • Emerge yourself into any minority-based organization on your campus!

  • Seek out and register more minority survivors!

  • Participate in National Minority Cancer Awareness week! Spread awareness about minority cancer on your campus to Include the minority population!

  • Post minority cancer statistics on your campus Relay’s social media!

  • Include more minority leadership and engagement in your campus Relay’s ELTs, Committees, and Teams!

  • Make sure that your ELT/committee is representative of all parts of your campus. If your committee is not diverse, it is likely your event won’t be either.

  • Make your Relay events more appealing to the minority population. Have different genres of music and minority survivors come to the event! For example, consider having the Latin club teach a dance class, etc.

You have to INCLUDE the minority population in order to DIVERSIFY your campus Relay! 

WHY Diversify?

Cancer does not affect one race, one gender, or one ethnicity. Cancer is a world-wide disease that is taking lives from the human population. Include minority participation and awareness within your campus Relay to ensure that we are all fighting as one.

Cancer is not exclusive, so why should we be? Include and Diversify your campus Relay, because we are in a world-wide fight against cancer!

RFL Training Plan: No More "Cookie Cutter Relays"


It’s time to color outside the lines, folks.

Every year, your ELT plans a Relay For Life event that moves students and community members. But what if you’re losing some of those returning participants, survivors, caregivers and sponsors because you’ve done the same thing year after year?

Chances are, you’ve probably lost some of those past years’ participants. And while there may be a lot of different reasons explaining why that may be, continuing to do the same thing — the same activities, same schedule, same location, etc. —every year may be the main factor that people don’t come back.

Repetition can be boring, especially if your ELT continues to plan events that may not work anymore. But if something truly works for your event, like a specific fundraiser or event that you hold, don’t get rid of it just because you’ve always done it. Instead, make small changes every year to keep participants guessing and wanting to experience your event and organization in new ways. 

And, most importantly, are you using the same scripts for opening, fight back and luminaria ceremonies? 

If so, you should definitely consider making some changes, because that’s when you move your participants the most. If your participants are used to the same scripting, they’re going to get bored, and they may choose to not come to your event anymore. Even by making small changes in your scripts, you can make your whole event feel new to returning relayers. Ceremonies and day-of-event planning might seem far off, but keeping reinvention in mind as your begin to plan will keep you from stepping right back into your last year’s event.


Here are just some easy ways to revamp your ceremonies:

  • Don’t use the same speakers every year.

  • Incorporate mission into your ceremonies. This can be done in many ways, like getting your participants up and moving to promote healthy lifestyles.

  • Utilize social media in a way you’ve never done before to engage participants during your ceremonies. You can have them use a hashtag and tweet during your ceremony. You can even create competitions between teams!

  • If you aren’t already recognizing top participants and teams, think about incorporating recognition into your ceremonies.

  • ...but don’t be glued to just these ideas! There are TONS of ways to change the way you Relay.

Most importantly, make sure you’re listening to customer feedback and taking that into consideration while making decisions for your event as well. It’s crucial that you’re keeping in mind customer satisfaction especially when deciding whether to change your event or take away certain aspects of it. 

There are many ways to obtain customer feedback, but having one-on-one conversations with participants at your event, tabling events, or other fundraisers about what they like and don’t like is incredibly essential. It establishes a personal relationship with your participants while making their input feel valued and important. You can also send out surveys to participants’ email accounts and ask questions on Facebook and Twitter eliciting responses from participants; continue to do whatever works for your event. And don’t forget: this can be done all year so as to always receive new information and feedback about your event. 

So once again, when you and your ELT are looking at ways to change your event this year, make sure to focus on making things feel new to your participants. You don’t have to create a completely new event every single year to keep participants coming back, but you should continue to make small tweaks here and there to make it feel less redundant and more entertaining for your relayers. 

RFL Training Plan: "Thank you, and"

giphy-downsized (4).gif

Treating donors like customers has proven to be a successful way to ensure that donors and volunteers come back for another great experience. By ensuring that we say “thank you,” we make sure our customers feel appreciated. Recognition is a hugely important aspect in leadership, and feeling appreciated for your work is invaluable. Special ways of saying “thank you” can include social media spotlights, handwritten notes, or even just individual emails or text messages. Taking the time out of your day to thank someone else, whether it be long enough to shoot a text, to create a unique social media graphic, or to say “thank you” in person, can mean a lot to our customers. 

Saying “thank you” is also a great way to get your foot in the door to make another request or ask. By saying “thank you,” you are reminding your customer of what they’ve done in the past to help in the fight against cancer, and by adding another request, you show that you are interested in keeping them around as a valuable member to help you and your team continue fighting. By opening the lines of communication with a simple “thank you,” it’s easy to ask for something else to be done. 

Saying thank you to outgoing team members is especially important so that their fight against cancer doesn’t end in their college years but can continue into their young professional stage. Alumni teams are growing in popularity and are a great way to maintain relationships between college campus events and young professionals, and to avoid losing their fundraising power!

giphy-downsized (5).gif

Finally, recognizing top fundraisers is a great way to spread their fundraising techniques and to publicly thank them for their hard work and passion. Giving top fundraisers a platform to explain how they raise money successfully and how they spread mission effectively is a recognition technique that serves both your team and the person being recognized. Propagating their reasons to fight against cancer (and how they do it) will boost fundraising all around. 

That being said, thank YOU for reading AND please share any interesting ways that you and your event are able to effectively recognize in the comments! 

RFL Training Plan: Use Your Numbers

One of the most important tools in your toolbox as an ELT member is your knowledge and expertise from past events. What’s even more important, though, is your accessibility to previous events’ numbers and totals.

Why is it important? 
Having numbers — including fundraising totals, participant numbers, team captain numbers, and event ELT member numbers — is a crucial tool when beginning to plan your event. This gives you the ability to track growth and see where your event is lagging. Ultimately, your numbers from previous events can serve as a guide: they can show you what to focus on, what you’re doing well and what needs to be improved upon. 

It’s also important to have a team captain and participant contact information handy so your ELT can readily reach out and give your relayers important information. This can be email addresses, phone numbers, or even addresses: it’s equally as important to continually have conversations with your relayers so they feel comfortable coming back year after year. 


How do you get them?
Ask your staff partner for numbers from previous events. It’s pretty simple! But be persistent, because numbers are a very important and useful way to begin the planning process early!

What’s my first step?
Once your staff partner gives you your stats from previous events, sit down with your ELT and look at how your event has changed over time. Look at where your event has grown and where you’ve fallen behind. From there, each chair can tailor their specific committee goals to grow their particular aspect of Relay.  

Some numbers to ask for include: number of teams, number of teams raising money, average amount raised per team, survivors, survivors on teams, and number of participants raising money. Aside from end of year event totals, you could also take a look at how many coaching emails your event sent through the website and how many participants sent emails from their dashboard.

Why does it matter? 
Setting goals and looking at year-over-year numbers, growth, and decline can be stressful. It can also make planning your event seem like this unpredictable and difficult task. However, I urge you to think about the bigger picture: each of those numbers that you look at represents patient services that you’re funding, survivors you’re supporting, caregivers you’re standing by, and the fight you’re finishing.

Stay strong, set your goals high, and work hard; but don’t forget the tools you have readily available to help you reach those goals.