Ahhh- September is here and that means dedicated Relay For Life team captains are registering online, hitting up Pinterest, dreaming up fundraisers, and making sure everything is in order to make 2014 the best year yet! As we start jumping into meetings and kick offs, I want to share my “business approach” to Relay For Life.
Now, if this is your first time viewing my blog, let me give you a little background. I am a successful small business owner, run a small team that raised a little over $7,000 last year, and most importantly, I am Cancer Man’s mom. If you don’t know who Cancer Man is, you are in for a treat- just check out my little guy here.
I know what you are thinking- Relay is not a business! And you are right. But, like anything worthwhile, you put in a lot of hours, you manage people, you advertise, and you are in charge of large projects. Sure, you don’t get paid- but to tell you the truth, helping people through Relay is worth more to me than any job could pay me. If you approach this year’s Relay like a small business owner approaches business, you are going to have a more profitable, successful and organized team this year. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want that!?
Recruiting your team
When looking for new team members (or captains for you committee members); think of the hiring process a small business owner would use to look for staff. Would you want someone unreliable? Would you want someone you had to beg to come to work? Or would you want someone self-motivated, passionate, and willing to contribute? If my bread and butter were on the line, I would pick the latter! We all know that there is nothing worse than having to beg team members to participate. You want someone on your team that feels the same fire YOU feel about making a difference, and ending cancer! I personally prefer a team on 10 people who are going to work hard over a team of 20 where I have to pull all of the weight.
Profits and Profitability
To run a successful business, you have to be aware of your profits at all times. Is your product or service worth the amount of time you are putting in? The same thing goes with Relay. The more profit you make during a fundraiser, the more you have going towards your goal! There is nothing better than a fundraiser that makes 100% profit. So, write letters, post on Facebook, and get as many businesses to donate to you as you can. If you are running a fundraiser that is not 100% profit, make sure you are getting the best possible deal on the item you are selling. For example, if you are getting T-shirts printed, check around to make sure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck. If Relay was your business, saving a dollar shirt would mean an extra $100 in your pocket if you sold 100 shirts in your store. An extra $100 towards you Relay goal is a HUGE deal, so be sure you are price conscious. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better price. Explain that you are fundraising for Relay for Life, and WHY Relay is so important to you. After all, it is likely that the person you are dealing with has known or knows someone with cancer, and will support your cause. This works online as well. I was pleasantly surprised last year to save $40 on a pop up tent for my team to use just by emailing the company and explaining that I was purchasing it for a Relay For Life event.
Any small business owner will tell you that social media is a life saver. Why? You can connect to thousands of people instantly for FREE. So, whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram- take advantage of those platforms, and encourage your team to use them as well. You never know where your next donation will come from. Be sure any time you post to one of these sites about Relay that you link to your fundraising page. Working on a Relay project? Snap a picture and put it on Instagram! Have an awesome fundraising idea? Post it on Pinterest! Do you have a team member performing in a Relay talent show? Take a video, and post it on YouTube (side note- YouTube is one of Wes’ favorite platforms- his Honey Boo Boo Relay impersonation has over 8,000 hits!) Did you hit a fundraising milestone? Celebrate with a Facebook post!
Connect with others that have a common goal.
Speaking of social media- take the opportunity to connect and like Facebook pages for your event, and division. Small business owners frequently support each other, and help each other with ideas. The same thing goes with Relay! Some of the best ideas I have seen (and used!) have come from reading Facebook posts from other Relayers. It is also wonderful to be able to reach out to others that can relate to you for advice and support when you hit a rough patch (hey, we have all been there.) When I hit a road block with my business, or need a fresh idea, the first thing I do is Facebook one of my friends who also owns a small business (you know who you are!). Sometimes all you need is a fresh perspective.
Another new and exciting way to connect with other Relayers is Relay Nation! If you haven’t used it yet, you are missing out. Relay Nation is essentially an online chat board that connects Relay For Lifers from all over the US. Relay Nation is my go to place when I need input on a new fundraising idea, or a new idea all together! Want to throw an adult prom, but worry about the kinks? Relay Nation, my friends. More than likely, you will be able to connect with someone who has done one before, and can offer advice.
Learn from your mistakes, and use them to grow.
Mistakes happen. Successful business owners know that mistakes are inevitable, and use them as a learning tool. One time, I had this GENIUS idea to make up a ton of baby shower gift baskets to sell. I rushed out and ordered a ton of supplies, made them all up, and eagerly posted them online. Six months later I had sold ZERO. What I learned from that process was that people wanted to custom choose sizes, colors, and products instead of buying a prepackaged deal. Sure, my pride was hurt. But learning that lesson was a valuable asset to me! The same thing goes with fundraisers. They are not all going to be smash hits. Take what you learn from those mishaps, and apply those lessons to future fundraisers or events.
Schedule and Organize
Have you ever been at a fundraising event that is a hot mess? No one knows what they are supposed to be doing, what time they are needed, what to bring, or how to help. A small business owner would never schedule the biggest sale of the year without some careful planning and scheduling! So, delegate tasks (I know this is a hard one! But, you can’t do it all on your own!), and let people know when they are needed. It seems like a no brainer, but just asking everyone to show up and winging it is like asking for a disaster. Remember, your team members want to enjoy the experience of making a difference. They are more likely to volunteer to come help at fundraisers when they know they can count on you to make everything to run smoothly.
Treat each donor like a valued customer
Have you ever noticed the difference between the customer service you get at a small business vs. a big box store? The difference is small business owners KNOW, without a doubt, that their customers are their bread and butter. If you get treated like crap at a store, are you going to go back there and shop again? Heck no! Donors who don’t feel appreciated or acknowledge won’t donate to again when the time comes around. Spend the time it takes to send thank you notes to donors, and let them know how much you appreciate them. After all, if you are reading this, you are probably what my son and I call a Relay for Lifer (someone who makes Relay a part of their life year after year). Those yearly donations and connections can make a huge difference in your success.
I hope this post has helped you look at your team in a new way! Remember- entrepreneurs and successful team captains also have another very important thing in common. They FEEL passion about what they are doing deep in their hearts. I am so glad you are in this fight with me- together, we can do more than any of us can do alone!
For the cause! <3
What are your top Relay tips? Share them in a comment below! If this post helped you, be sure to subscribe. Or hey, you can always show your appreciation with a donation at my Relay page!