How We Started A New Relay Fundraiser

Urban Blue band performs for Relay for Life fundraiser
Urban Blue performing for our Relay for Life fundraising event

Short answer: With great people and a whole lot of hard work! Now for the long answer.

The Idea

In March, I approached some friends at work about doing a fundraiser for Relay For Life. Having some experience doing Relay shows and fundraisers around the country (learning from some of the best – I’m talking to you Donna and Terry), and having decided to travel less this year, I felt like we could do a show here in my hometown of Atlanta for Relay. Our team, “IT CURES” – we’re Information Technology geeks – had an ambitious goal of raising $100,000, so we were looking for ways to help achieve that.

Kathy Pourmehr perusing one of the many silent auction items she helped to get donated.

Good People and Hard Work

The first person I approached was my friend and colleague Kathy Pourmehr. Kathy is tenacious and resourceful, and when she sets her mind to something, she makes it happen. We immediately broke the idea out into tasks: we knew we needed a venue, a date, marketing to our target audience, sponsors, and silent auction donations. The first task was to find a venue and a date, preferably an affordable or sponsored one. After researching numerous options and reaching out to a variety of places, the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta came through beautifully. They offered us a wonderful room for an inexpensive rate, and would provide a cash bar. Kathy also found the good folks at RCG Global Services willing to sponsor our event by paying for the room. I lined up the band on a date we could all make, and the fundraiser became real.

Next we decided on the name: The First Annual IT CURES Rocking FUN-Raiser. We liked it because not only did we want it to be fun, but we wanted to clearly state this was just the beginning. Then came the nose-to-the-grindstone flat out hard work: Pounding the pavement to get silent auction donations; marketing the event online – email lists, Facebook posts, Twitter, Artistdata to get the event posted to event sites, etc. – as well as good old face to face – posters, phone calls, walking the halls and neighborhoods selling tickets and taking donations. We assembled a team of about seven of us to get all this work done. I’d be remiss not to mention Lisa Phillips-Patterson for her outstanding efforts and uncanny knack to sell tickets and spread the word. I set up online ticket sales using Eventbrite, a terrific site I’ve used to sell tickets to events in the past. We ended up selling over 120 tickets to the event thanks to mostly plain old hard work, as well as securing close to 20 terrific items for the silent auction including Braves tickets, a cabin getaway, a wine basket, a Windows Surface Tablet, a Golf package, and more.

Silent Auction

For the silent auction, there are a lot of different suggestions online about how to do them, and where to set the minimum bid and bid increment. After researching many suggestions, and based on some experience with silent auctions in the past, we generally went with about a 30% value for the opening bid, and increments of $5 for items under $100; $10 for items near $100 to about $250; and $25 for items above $250. Basically, we had 20 lines for bidding on each sheet (you can find many templates online), so we set the minimum and increment such that there could be about 10-15 bids before you hit the retail value. This seemed to work pretty well.

Credit Cards

We also used Paypal Here or SquareUp to take donations, ticket sales, and silent auction purchases. Accepting credit cards is a great idea – though you pay some fees, you definitely get more in sales and donations.

The Event

We were all very pleased to have both the American Cancer Society CEO Dr. John Seffrin and CIO Jay Ferro attend and say a few words at the event.

American Cancer Society CIO Jay Ferro and CEO Dr. John Seffrin

The event was a blast, and it was wonderful to feel that all that hard work paid off. We ended up raising over $3,500 for the cause – Not bad for our first event like this and having only a few weeks to pull it off. I think everyone had a terrific time at the event. Here’s some proof:

Thanks to everyone who helped put this fundraiser on and all those who supported it and came out for the fun! I’m particularly pleased to announce that thanks in part to this event as well as many others, “IT CURES” officially met it’s goal and surpassed the $100,000 mark! I’m proud to be part of such a great group of people helping to put an end to cancer.

Do you have suggestions for great Relay For Life fundraisers? What has worked for you?

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