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.