30 Best Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas that Actually Work

30 Best Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas that Actually Work

Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas

One in three people is diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

The reach of this disease is far. Because of this, the American Cancer Society is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States. Their Relay for Life fundraiser brings in more than $400 million every year. This money goes towards cancer research, prevention, and patient care for those who need it most.

Relay for Life fundraising events takes place all over the world. Teams are formed, and each member is encouraged to raise $100 before the event. Most groups raise more.

Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas


30 Best Relay for Life Fundraising Ideas

The rules for Relay for Life fundraisers can limit a team’s choices. Fundraisers must be family-friendly, so no alcohol!

With this in mind, we created a list of thirty fundraising ideas that follow the rules and still raise plenty of dough.

  1. Team Shirts
  2. Cookbooks
  3. Lemonade Stands
  4. Yardwork or Babysitting
  5. Products
  6. Carols for a Cure
  7. Sell Gift Wrapping Services
  8. Skating Party
  9. Dinner and a movie night
  10. Trivia night
  11. Bake Sale
  12. Bake of Cook-Off
  13. Pancake Breakfast
  14. Exotic Foods Fair
  15. Car Wash
  16. Garage or Yard Sale
  17. Quilting Event
  18. Fishing tournaments
  19. Talent Show
  20. Car Show
  21. Mini-Golf Outing
  22. Bike Ride or Swim Competition
  23. Bed Races
  24. Rocking Chair Competitions
  25. School Dance
  26. “Get out of Class” Jar
  27. Hat Day
  28. Faculty vs. Student games
  29. Birthday Fundraiser
  30. Crowdfunding


1. Team Shirts

Team shirts can be a great way to promote your Relay Team and raise money. Depending on the group you form, your t-shirt can include your school logo or troop number. Just remember, all fundraisers must be family-friendly, so no swearing.

There are many options to make these t-shirts online. The cost for a printed t-shirt online can run around $10, so selling these shirts for $20 to 10 people will help you reach your goal. You can also work with local screen printers or make them yourselves.

Once you have created and printed several t-shirts, ask your team members to sell them to friends and family.

Example: Five Points of Hope is a nonprofit providing cancer patients in Michigan with financial assistance. With Donorbox, they created a recurring donation page so their beneficiaries had consistent help from the community. All their monthly donors received a special “I’m a point of hope” t-shirt for choosing to commit to the cause. While it’s a simple donation page, we love their branded approach and the suggestive, recurring donation form. With this form, donors could also make tribute donations.

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2. Cookbooks

Research has shown that certain foods can help prevent and treat cancer. Your team can take that research to heart when creating your own cookbook. Combine family recipes along with a few health facts and create a unique cookbook that people can only get with you. Find a team member with artistic talent to take photos of the food or draw pictures.


3. Lemonade Stands

Running your own lemonade stand is a right of passage and a great way to teach children about money. If your team has young children, you can use Relay for Life to teach the lesson of charity this year too. Ask your team to hold lemonade stands or run a large one together and include signs that say all revenue goes to the American Cancer Society. People cannot pass up a good lemonade stand, especially one for a cause.


4. Yardwork or Babysitting

Older children often start their own businesses with yardwork or babysitting services. Ask your team members to offer their services for a donation to the American Cancer Society and see how quickly they can make their $100 goal.


5. Products

Many companies selling beef jerky, pretzel rods, candy and lollipops, and coffee offer fundraising options. The Boy Scouts have been successfully selling products for years. Follow their lead and learn how to find companies that help these groups fundraise.

Once you decide on a product, ask your team to sell to family and friends, bring the products to work meetings, and even set up a table outside your local grocery store if you can get permission.


Holiday Ideas

The Christmas Season brings out people’s generosity, and fundraising is very popular during this time. Your team can take advantage of this trend of giving and hold your own events and fundraising campaigns to raise money for the next year’s Relay for Life.


6. Carols for a Cure

Singing carols is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Is your relay team part of a school or community choir? Does your family have some talent? Why not ask people to donate in exchange for their own personal Christmas concert?  


7. Sell Gift Wrapping Services

People love to shop for presents but hate to wrap them. Your team can offer to wrap Christmas presents in exchange for a donation. Post this offer on each team member’s Social Media pages and let your friends and family know about the offer.


Throw a Party!

A party may be one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to fundraise for your Relay for Life team. You can throw one of the events at an outside location, in someone’s home, or even online.


8. Skating Party

Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas

If you are old enough, you may remember roller skating parties with disco music being the height of popularity. Well, roller rinks are still here, and more and more people have started enjoying them again. If you have a local roller rink, your team can set up a time for a private party and ask for a discount from the owner. Promote the party online and let your friends and family know they can skate for a cure!


9. Dinner and a movie night

Dinner and a movie are something everyone can enjoy. Find a location to watch your favorite film and eat a delicious meal. You can sell tickets or simply ask for a donation. This party does not have to cost much either. Invite people to your home and make the meal yourself. You can even hold this event online.

Example: The Infrastructure Industry Foundation (IIF) was created with the intention of uniting infrastructure professionals to support charitable causes close to the industry. One of their colleagues was diagnosed with rare cancer called “Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma”. Due to this, they decided to raise funds for research through a dinner night. Their campaign page on Donorbox has a recurring form suggesting 6 donation amounts suitable for the cause. Donors can give one time or choose to become monthly/yearly donors. It’s the simplest way to inspire recurring donations for your cause while also throwing a dinner event within the community.

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10. Trivia night

Trivia games can be a blast for people of all ages. Your relay team can hold a trivia game in your home or even online. Ask questions about cancer research or pick a subject unique to your team. Sell tables or charge a nominal fee for participation.


Easy Fundraising Events

Throwing an event can seem overwhelming, especially to people who have no experience. There is little difference between a fundraising event and a party. Holding a successful fundraising event can be easy with planning and teamwork. Since you already have the team, why not work together to create a fun and unique way to make money this year?


11. Bake Sale

Baked goods are the perfect comfort food, and everyone can find some comfort at a Bake Sale. Bake Sales are also an easy way to fundraise for your relay team. Find a free or cheap location to hold your event. A perfect location can be an office, school, community center, or local farmers’ market. Ask your teammates to each make their favorite treat, and you may be able to find a few bakeries willing to donate. Promote the Bake Sales with posters, a press release to your local newspaper, and online. Tell everyone you know and watch the funds come in.


12. Bake of Cook-Off

If you want to take your Bake Sale to the next level, why not hold a Bake or Cook-Off? Finding a location to have this type of event will be a bit trickier. Depending on the kind of food you plan to cook, you will need the right place to hold the event. BBQ Cook-Offs are probably the easiest since you can keep the event outside if you have the right equipment.

Besides the location, you will need a date, and your team will need to follow all necessary food regulations for your community. Invite individuals or teams to sign up to compete and promote the event across all mediums. You can collect donations from teams, attendees, and sponsors for this type of event.

Relay for Life Fundraising


13. Pancake Breakfast

There are other popular food events that are easier to run than you may think. If your relay team is ready to take on an event, but a Bake Sale or Cook-Off do not appeal to you, a Pancake Breakfast may be the right event.

Once again, location is key to this type of event. Schools and community centers can be a great option. Afterward, it is time to choose the menu. Here you can get a little creative and develop a team to help your event stand out. Remember to try to get the ingredients donated. Entertainment can also help your event bring in people. Is there a locally popular band that is willing to help raise funds for cancer research? Finally, it is time to promote the event in any way you can. Include everyone in this process and sell tickets online to increase sales.


14. Exotic Foods Fair

Are you looking for an event like a Bake Sale but one with more flair? If you live in an adventurous community, an Exotic Foods Fair can be a fun and successful option to raise funds. Just like a Bake Sale, you will need to start with the location. Next, you will need to find people and companies to make exciting and delicious food options.

A theme may help your team decide on what foods to offer. You can choose to offer food from around the world or maybe a Halloween ghoulish display. Once your exotic food fair is ready to go, remember to promote, promote, promote!


15. Car Wash

A car wash can be another easy event to raise money but beware of competition. It will be tough to find a weekend without another car wash. Just be sure to hold your event as from them as possible. Car wash events are just what you would expect. As long as everyone on your relay team is willing to participate, you can have a great time and raise some money for cancer.


16. Garage or Yard Sale

Garage sales can make quite a bit of money with the right items and the right marketing. Another plus for this type of event is you can hold it at home. Your relay team is sure to have enough things to hold a garage sale. Just pick a date, share it in the local paper, online, and signs around the neighborhood. Adding a sign that says, “All funds go to the American Cancer Society,” may help you appeal to those who would not be interested otherwise.


17. Quilting Event

This idea may be perfect for your relay team if you know people with a love for quilting. Memory quilts have become a beautiful way to remember those we have loved and lost. You can create one with your whole team and sell it online, or each makes a quilt to sell at a local community center or farmers’ market.


18. Fishing tournaments

Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas

Spring brings warmer weather, picnics, and fishing! A unique way to raise funds for your relay team can be a fishing tournament. If you live in a community with a small lake or large pond, this can be a fun way to get your community involved.

Your team can charge competition fees, sell t-shirts, get sponsors, offer prizes, and have a vendor fair at this type of event.


19. Talent Show

If your relay team has any talent, a talent show might be right up your alley. As long as you have a location to hold the event or even a local bandshell, you can hold this type of event. Each team member can even be a contestant. Hold auditions to get more contestants and increase word of mouth about the upcoming event.

Once you choose the contestants, find a local name for the emcee, and promote the show far and wide to your community.


20. Car Show

Car shows are extremely popular in some communities. Your relay team can use this popularity to raise funds for cancer this year. To hold a successful car show, do not charge for tickets, instead, raise money with food and games and ask for donations to the American Cancer Society.


21. Mini-Golf Outing

Golf outings limit your attendees to real golf lovers, but a mini-golf outing can be a fun way to appeal to a larger audience. If you let your local mini-golf course know it is for the American Cancer Society, you may be able to get a discount. You can charge individuals more than the cost to take part in the event.

You can also get local businesses to sponsor a hole. Be Creative! Each hole can include a picture and story of someone diagnosed with cancer. Share this story with companies when you ask for their sponsorship.  


Pledge Events

Your team is about to join Relay for Life, and you are probably already familiar with finding sponsors for each lap you run. Many teams are taking this fundraising idea and putting their own twist on it. Are you part of a swim team or bike group? Why not hold your own pledge event? Better yet, why not get a little creative and collect pledges for other activities?


22. Bike Ride or Swim Competition

Is your relay team part of a bicycle club or school swim team? You can use these skills to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. Holda bike ride or swim race, and invite people to join. Ask all competitors to find sponsors for each mile they ride or lap they swim. Promote the event to the community and share why your team has chosen to run in Relay for Life.

Example: The Hope on the Globe Team is a group of 4 young men starting a bike ride of 300 miles across Nebraska to support their friend, Mason, and his family. Mason Ogle is fighting cancer and is in need of financial assistance from the community. As you can see in the image below, the team has kept the campaign page simple and to the point. There’s a crisp description of the event and a recurring donation form. The goal meter creates a sense of urgency among donors while the social media buttons help spread the word.

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23. Bed Races

Your team wants to hold a race but is worried it will just get lost in the crowd? Some Relay for Life teams has started raising funds by racing hospital beds down the street like bobsleds. Before you begin planning for this event, your team will have to be realistic about whether you have access to beds and a road large and safe enough for this type of event.


24. Rocking Chair Competitions

Relay for Life Fundraiser Ideas

An out-of-the-box fundraising idea that has been around since the 1920s is the Rocking Chair Competition. This event is easy and different enough to get noticed.

Find a park or small venue, invite competitors to join in and ask them to bring their own chair. No battery-operated or electric ones! Competitors must find sponsors for each hour they can rock. Your team can hold this event year after year as you get older.


School Fundraisers

It can be traumatic for kids when their friends are diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, there are almost 16,000 children diagnosed with cancer every year. As a school – principal, teacher, or parent, you may be looking for ways to help these kids deal with this trauma. Here are a few ideas on how kids can help raise funds for cancer research.


25. School Dance

A school dance is a larger event and one that will take planning and teamwork. If a student or teacher in your school has been diagnosed with cancer, it will likely affect your student body. A school dance to raise funds for the American Cancer Society may make the students and community feel like they can make a difference.

Get the kids involved in the planning process, charge for tickets, include a silent auction, and use the event as a teaching experience.


26. “Get out of Class” Jar

Everyone wants to get out of class for a little bit. As a teacher, with the right permission, you can have a “Get out of Class” jar to accept donations in exchange for a bit of free time.


27. Hat Day

Hat Days are another way you can have fun, raise money, and spread the word about cancer research. For a small donation, kids can wear a hat to school with permission from the principal. Make the students follow a theme, create their hats out of recycled material, or collect the caps at the end of the day and donate them to camps for kids with cancer.


28. Faculty vs. Student games

Sports can bring people together during the worst of times. Holding a competition event between teachers and students can be a fun diversion. Hold a baseball, soccer, volleyball, or basketball game between the two teams. Make it a pep rally and collect donations or sell tickets to the community.


Social Media Fundraisers

Social media has become an excellent fundraising tool. Your team can use this tool to raise money as a team and individuals.


29. Birthday Fundraiser

Instead of just notifying friends about your birthday, Facebook has made it easy for people to collect gifts for a cause. Your team members can create a donation page and tell their personal journey of the struggle with cancer. Do not forget to mention that every dollar will go to the American Cancer Society.


30. Crowdfunding

Everyone on your relay team may not have a Facebook page. In this case, your team can start a crowdfunding campaign to tell your team’s story and why you have decided to take part in Relay for Life. Donorbox can help your team track online donations, recognize donors, and share your story on social media.


Conclusion

The Relay for Life fundraiser is an opportunity to tell the difficult stories of battling cancer and raise funds to help those affected by cancer and support the families in their fight against the disease. Your team has already taken the first step by signing up for Relay for Life. Raising funds before the event can be a worthwhile and essential second step. We hope the ideas we have included in this article get your team thinking of new and unique ways to make a difference.

Donorbox can help you with these and other fundraisers. Visit our blog for new fundraising ideas and tips to better your fundraising success. Visit our website for online tools to help you on your way.

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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