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Relay For Life Fundraising Ideas

Updated on November 16, 2014

Fight Back Against Cancer In Your Community With These Relay For Life Fundraising Ideas

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a community based fundraiser that happens in neighborhoods across the globe. If you're reading this page, you probably already have an idea about the Relay experience. You've signed up your team, gathered your friends and family to help, now comes the hard part - raising money! This lens will give you tips about how to raise money for your Relay For Life team. Remember, every dollar you raise goes directly to American Cancer Society programs, so get going early with these fundraising ideas!

Why I Relay by JenOfChicago

My family started Relaying the year after my grandmother died of cancer. We didn't know much about Relay, but we had heard there was a cancer-fighting event in our hometown, so we went to the park the night it was being held and checked it out. It was such a fun, uplifting, hopeful event, and we decided that we would form a team and participate next year. Our first year, we didn't know what to expect, but we ended up being one of the top fundraising teams for our Relay! Since then, we've participated in the Relay For Life of Norridge, IL for thirteen years, and raised nearly $100,000 as a team. If you would like to donate to my team this year, please visit

my personal fundraising page.

Let's raise some money to fight cancer! - Set a goal!

Having a goal will help motivate you in your fundraising efforts. I recommend having both an individual goal for your own fundraising as well as a team goal for your entire team. A little bit of friendly competition between team members can help spur on fundraising and donations!

What is your personal fundraising goal?

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1. Use the American Cancer Society's online fundraising resources.

Click your way to cash!

After you sign up for Relay For Life, your community Relay organizers will probably tell you about the online fundraising website for your team. You can also search for your Relay on a map at http://www.relayforlife.org/relay/relaymap

Once you locate your page, fill out your profile. You can put up a photo of yourself, your team, or the person who you are Relaying in honor of. You should also fill out the box where it asks why you are Relaying, and explain your reasons for getting involved. The more of your personal story you can tell, the more engaged the readers will be, and the more likely they are to donate.

After your profile is complete, you can write a note, and email it to your friends and family through the website. Follow the easy to understand directions, and send the link out to everyone in your email address book. Be sure to follow up in several weeks.

If you use social networking websites such as MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter, post the link there and encourage your contacts to donate!

2. Write a letter to your family and friends.

Many people find it hard to ask for money. BUT, did you know that a direct ask by someone you know is one of the most effective ways to raise money? So put aside any shyness and get started on a letter to your family and friends.

Your letter should have some basic components -

- Opening paragraph explaining that you are participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life, when and where, and a brief explanation of what Relay For Life is

-Middle paragraph about your personal motivation and reasons for Relaying. For example, you might explain that losing a relative or friend made you want to do something to help find a cure. Make this paragraph personal.

- Last paragraph that asks for a donation. Be sure to include where people should send their donation (mailing address for checks, your online profile's website for online donations).

Be sure to thank your donors after the Relay and give them a total of your fundraising!

More on how to write effective fundraising letters

3. Guess how many Jellybeans!

This fundraiser is best suited to teams associated with workplaces or schools. Find a large glass jar, and fill it with jellybeans. (May I suggest the Relay colors of Purple and White, or your team's colors?) Sell tickets for a chance to guess how many jellybeans are in the jar. The week of Relay, count the tickets and award the winner with the jar of jellybeans!

You can buy your jellybeans in every color under the sun here -

4. Sell food!

We all need to eat, so food sales are always a hit. Charge a small admission fee or cost per item, and put the money towards your fundraising goal. For extra profit, shop at warehouse clubs like Costco or get some food items donated by local restaurants.

These can take a lot of different forms, for example -

pancake breakfast a church

pizza night at the community center

dinner party at your home

bake sale in the cafeteria

BBQ in your yard

Some recipe ideas for your food fundraiser...

5. Clean cars for a cure!

The car wash is one of the oldest and most effective fundraising ideas and has been used for decades. Gather a group of people, preferably energetic pre-teens or teenagers, some water, cleaning supplies, hoses and put them in a parking lot. Be sure to put up signs advertising the car wash around the neighborhood, and don't forget to tell your family and friends!

Get started with these car wash supplies...

6. Grocery Store Days

For this fundraiser, you'll need to partner with your local grocery store. Stores will assign your group certain days where if you bring in a coupon, the store will donate a percentage of your grocery bill to the team. Jewel-Osco and Whole Foods are two chains who do this in the Midwest, so check with your local area.

7.Yard Sale / Garage Sale

Here's a way to clean out your closets and clear out your basement while raising money for the American Cancer Society at the same time! Choose a day or days and time, make sure you have enough tables to put things out on, advertise in your local newspaper, and start making sales! Tell your customers that all of your profit will be going to your Relay For Life team, and maybe they'll let you "keep the change"!

8. Casino Night / Bingo Night

Who doesn't love a good game of chance? You can do this fundraiser big (get your church to let you use their hall for Bingo night) or small (ask your regular poker game buddies to donate their winnings). Entertainment, fun, and money for the team!

9. Bowl for a cure!

There's a few ways you can do a "bowl for a cure" fundraiser. The first is to work with your local bowling alley on setting up a "candlelight bowling event", where you sell tickets for an evening of bowling, snacks and drinks for a set amount, and the profit goes to your team. The second is to simply invite friends and family to a bowling alley on a weekend afternoon and ask them to give you a certain amount of money for each pin you knock over in a game!

10. Raffle, raffle, raffle!

Raffles are also a tried and true fundraising method. All you need is a roll of raffle tickets and some prizes. Prizes can be anything people would want to have. Large prizes can be donated by local businesses, such as a television, hotel stay, or theatre tickets. Smaller prizes can be handmade, such as baskets of food, quilts, or gift certificates for services like manicures or car washes.

Raffle tickets, cheap!

11. Dress down for the cure!

This fundraiser works best when your school or business is involved in Relay. The principal or boss gives permission for a "denim day" to all students or employees who donate money to Relay. If your school or workplace is large, you can raise a lot of money!

Why not make it even more interesting - come up with a theme! Teachers wear jeans with crazy patches, students wear their favorite historical figure's costume, employees dress as they did in the 80s, or anything else you can think of!

12. Chili Cook Off For A Cure

Few dishes inspire such pride as chili - and chili cook-off contests are always a lot of fun! Ask contestants to donate $25 as their entry fee, and have your audience tasters donate $5 entry. Be sure to provide a prize for the ultimate chili chef! Mmmm, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Chili Recipes to make your mouth water...

13. Cigarette Vending Machine Demolition

This is a symbolic and fun way to raise funds! Search for an old cigarette vending machine - try eBay or bars in towns that recently went smoke-free. Charge people $1 to take a swing at it with a bat! (Be sure to use safety goggles and other precautions.)

14. Easter Egg Hunt

Most Relays happen in the summer, so fundraisers that tie into the springtime are a great way to kick off your team's funds. Organize an Easter Egg Hunt in a local park, or even in your own backyard. Charge a few dollars for each child who participates. For extra cash, you can sell coffee to mom and dad!

Easter Egg Hunt supplies...

15. Flower sale!

Who doesn't love getting flowers? This fundraiser can work for all the holidays (Valentine's Day, Sweetest Day, Mother's Day) or just any old day you want to show someone you care. Purchase flowers in bulk (Costco often has bargains) and divide them into small bouquets. Sell them at your school, workplace or religious institution, and put the money towards your team's goal!

16. Ice Scream For A Cure!

Those hot summer days call for a cool treat, and even better if it helps raise money for a cancer cure! Work with a local ice cream parlor to rent the shop for a day, or buy ice cream bars in bulk and sell them at the park or beach. Delicious!

17. Karaoke Against Cancer

Organize your stage-loving friends for a karaoke outing at a friendly bar, or hold a karaoke party in your home. Charge a dollar for every song that is sung, and award a prize to the winner at the end of the night!

Do It Yourself Karaoke party supplies...

18. Movie Night

Invite your friends and family over for a special movie night. Provide popcorn and candy, set up a DVD in your living room, and sell "tickets" to the show!

19. House Party

Open your home to your friends and family for a house party! Provide some snacks, explain what Relay is and why you are participating, and pass around a donation bucket. You may even be able to get a short video from your Relay organizer to show. You can have any kind of party - dinner, drinks, dancing, discussion... whatever floats your fancy!

20. Massage For A Cure

Find a massage therapist willing to donate part of his or her profit to your team, and arrange for them to come to your workplace, school, or another location and do short fifteen minute chair massages. That's a feel good fundraiser!

Share your other ideas for Relay For Life Fundraising!

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    • profile image

      Danielle 2 years ago

      Great ideas, another good one is a profitable online jewelry fundraiser! Check out hip chix fundraisers; a minimum of 40% goes to your fundraising campaign. www.hipchixfundraisers.com

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      Great and diverse fundraising ideas, JenOfChicago, for a very worthy cause. Happy Valentine's Day!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have arranged two fundraisers with my work in the last two years. A cook book -that had all our employee's favorite recipes in them - I made them on my home computer and borrowed a binder from my church - so all profit with little cost. And this last year we had a biggest loser competition. All those wishing to join paid 20 dollars. In 4 months time we lost a total of 55 pounds and raised 160 dollars for the biggest loser and 160 dollars for relay.

    • seodress profile image

      seodress 4 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image

      CristianStan 4 years ago

      I've heard of the cancer society but I have not heard of the Relay For Life one, I'm going to check and see if they have one in my are

    • pauly99 lm profile image

      pauly99 lm 4 years ago

      I like your thought about destroying a cigarette machine! If we didn't need them to get to and from work, our cars should probably be the next ones to go.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We have had a good outcome with a clothing drive fundraiser. We used a company called Goodthrift ( www.goodthrift.com ). They send you a container to fill and pay you by the pound. Ask them to send you free banners and advertising materials for your drive.

    • opatoday profile image

      opatoday 4 years ago

      Great Lens thanks for sharing

    • Jarid Brown profile image

      Jarid Brown 4 years ago

      Great lens Jen!

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      You have wonderful, creative ideas here and I hope many will find this resource. I hope a cure will soon be found to all forms of cancer. Liked!

    • HomeDecorKnight profile image

      HomeDecorKnight 4 years ago

      Great fund raising idea, I like this great lens.

    • poorwendy lm profile image

      poorwendy lm 5 years ago

      I'm always partial to karaoke nights as fundraiser. We did one for the charity I work with. And we had a lot of fun.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      We've had wonderful success assisting Relay For Life participants with our Flower Power Fundraiser. You can learn more about it at http://www.betterworldfundraising.com/fundraisingw...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Have a cupple oh guys raise money and if they make a certain amount they get made into girls get mani/pedis go out in girls clothes ect.

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Great ideas for a great cause. You never know when you might need it yourself. Just found out I had skin cancer.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      I found drop your change can be effective. You have to connect with some stores or bank and put boxes for change. With good message you are on the go!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      There are some wonderful fundraising ideas here. Thank you so much for sharing and inspiring. Easter Blessings.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Bake Sale- Bake Sales are good and a easy way to raise money. It is also very fun to do.

    • profile image

      parker805 5 years ago

      @jennabee25: Jennabee I would love to hear more about your concert! I would love to do one here in Grand Rapids but struggling with where to begin.

    • profile image

      XavierM 5 years ago

      started my new lens & its for

      helping kids with cancer .....i love this lens

    • ILoveLegosToo profile image

      Tom Fattes 5 years ago from Naperville, IL

      A truly great list of fundraising ideas. Keep up the great work.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Some great ideas here. I really like the sound of the Massage Fundraiser... Give me a call! ; - )

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You might want to check out GroupRaise.com. They help you raise money at local restaurants and setup the fundraisers online. We raise $179 with very little prep, and over a meal with friends.

    • TheGourmetCoffe profile image

      TheGourmetCoffe 6 years ago

      Very nice lens with good fundraising ideas, thank you for sharing your insights.

      I am partial to your "Ice Scream For A Cure" idea...can eat ice cream and do some good for others at the same time, sounds like a winner of a fundraising idea.

      Thank you for sharing your insights.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for a wonderful lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens.

    • miacarter profile image

      Mia Carter 6 years ago from SW Florida

      I wish I had a suggestion, but I don't. I do love all these ideas! Wonderful for RFL and other projects too.

    • miacarter profile image

      Mia Carter 6 years ago from SW Florida

      I don't have any better ideas, but I have to say I love these suggestions!

    • studyaids profile image

      Steve Jones 6 years ago from Birmingham UK

      A truly wonderful post and lens. Very good indeed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Congratulations on receiving that beauty of a purple star for your wonderful relay for life fundraising ideas!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      ~ Dropping by to leave my Angels April Fools' Day Quest Blessings ~

      It may be April Fools Day, but this lens is no joke, thank you for your lens!

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image
      Author

      JenOfChicago LM 6 years ago

      @jennabee25: Thanks Jennabee! I hope your team continues to rock this year!

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 6 years ago from PA

      This lens absolutely rocks! I will be referring this page to our team captain for Relay this year. One things we did last year was have a benefit concert. It was a huge success!

    • michelleart profile image

      Michelle Collins 7 years ago from Florida

      Great ideas on this lens!

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 7 years ago

      Great lens! Lensrolled to my raffle fundraising prize idea lenses!

    • profile image

      TiffanyCole 7 years ago

      This is a great content rich lens on topic. Sure, it will come in use to many.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Another great fundraising lens filled with some super ideas. Lensrolling to Free Advertising for Fundraising Events.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi there,

      I created a cookbook with pictures and recipes dedicated to my aunt and sold out in two hours. The site I used printed my books in 2 weeks and everyone loved them. I had to reorder. The site can be found at the following address: http://www.HeritageCookbook.com