It was 3 a.m. Sunday and I’d been up since 6 a.m. Saturday. By now, the midnight coffee was wearing off and I was punchy.
But the jokes were rolling as Aaron Wolowiec, president and founder of Event Garde, LLC, and I sat in the glare of stadium lights trying to stay awake. We’d been at East Lansing High School for the East Lansing Relay for Life since early Saturday morning. Our team, The Event Garde-ians, decided a year ago that we would do our part to help find a cure for cancer.
Wolowiec sat on the committee and chaired the luminaria event, while I served as a team captain.
So why did we do it?
Because a sleepless night is nothing compared to the battle of cancer. And because each of us on the team has been affected by cancer. I lost my dad and my father-in-law to lung cancer eight years ago. For our team, “Cancer Sucks” is more than a bumper sticker or a magnet – it’s reality.
Our team raised nearly $3,500 and placed fourth out of 20 teams. We walked hundreds of miles, sweated buckets, wore silly costumes and participated in three-legged races in the middle of the night – all in the name of cancer. During the luminaria ceremony, we cried as we remembered loved ones who lost the battle to cancer and celebrated the survivors among us.
Overall, the East Lansing Relay for Life raised more than $44,000 for the American Cancer Society. And while The Event Garde-ians were inspired by personal stories of loss and triumph, we also realized the importance of giving back.
As you may remember from previous blog posts I’ve written, giving back and community engagement are wonderful ways to say “thank you” to the community that supports your organization. And people notice: If a member is trying to decide which association to join, your organization’s commitment to social responsibility could make that decision a bit easier.
“The association community is founded upon the passion, integrity and commitment of members,” Wolowiec said. “As consultants, industry partners and association staff who understand the complexities of volunteer management, it’s incumbent upon us to use our considerable knowledge and expertise to help our local communities organize around and raise money for causes that are poised to imagine a better tomorrow – in this case, one that is cancer free.”
In addition, participating in such events is good – and easy – public relations. In our case, Event Garde was listed as a supporter and a bronze-level fundraising team on an American Cancer Society web site. Event Garde was included in promotional material and mentioned in word-of-mouth conversations. As a committee chair, Wolowiec networked with key community leaders and vendors to earn support.
That’s not all. Event Garde was tagged in social media posts and we engaged media. In fact, I did an interview with WLNS, one of Lansing’s main news outlets, talking about the importance of rallying together to some day find a cure for cancer.
So the next time an event such as Relay for Life comes to town, consider signing up. Your commitment doesn’t have to be expensive; you can easily start a social media campaign. If you choose a well-established organization like American Cancer Society, chances are, vendors will cut you a break – especially if you cross-promote their services.
Poll your members and staff to learn which causes they support and about which issues they’re passionate. If you can, donate to those organizations. Become a sponsor. Form a team and walk at midnight wearing your swag.
And get in front of the camera. Talk about your efforts to support your members’ causes. Don’t be afraid to get personal, because those are the stories your members – and potential members – will remember.
In closing, thank you to everyone who supported The Event Garde-ians’ crusade against cancer. Keep fighting, and we’ll do the same.