While the winter makes some hide indoors, polar bear plunge fundraisers are a unique and fun way to bring supporters out for your cause. Polar plunge participants take the plunge into frigid waters to raise awareness for a charitable cause. One of the most appealing reasons to host a polar plunge is that it can attract a lot of attention from the media and the local community.
Keep reading for ten simple steps to plan a polar bear plunge fundraiser.
What We’ll Cover
- Find a Polar Plunge Location
- Determine Your Fundraising Goals
- Seek Community Sponsorships
- Create a Website for Polar Plunge Registrations and Fundraising Efforts
- Plan the Polar Plunge Marketing Collateral
- Recruit Plungers
- Find Vendors for the Service Stations
- Gather a Strong Volunteer Team for Plunge Day
- Take the Plunge!
Find a Polar Plunge Location
Your location is very important with this type of fundraiser. Ideally, find a centrally located beachside or lakeside where supporters can wade or dip into the cold water. A site will also be ideal if it has ample space to set up on-site entertainment (such as live music performances), service stations, and media coverage.
Once you find your location, contact the managing entity, whether it is managed by the city, town, or other municipality, to obtain any necessary permits for hosting a special event. Be sure to leave several months to allow the permit application to be reviewed and processed before the event. Inquire if there are any additional logistical considerations. This may include whether a lifeguard can be supplied or if a pass is required by participants to be allowed in the area during the off-season.
Decide on the Plunge Date and Time
When choosing the date and time of your event, consider associating the event with a certain holiday. The benefit of having a special holiday fundraiser is that it is easy to remember if the event is repeated annually. It also tends to draw a large, more festive crowd of event participants that like to sport holiday gear. You can even include a costume contest as part of the event festivities. The plunge could be scheduled on or around Christmas, New Year’s Day, President’s Day, or St. Patrick’s Day.
Plunges typically start mid-day (around noontime) to allow for an after-party and entertainment after the main event. Space out the schedule to allow for pre-event registration, adequate time to do the plunge, get warmed up, and the celebratory activities.
Determine Your Fundraising Goals
Determining the fundraising goal will help decide other important event factors. These include the registration type, whether it will be a flat registration fee or if participants will raise donations via a P2P crowdfunding website. Another factor is how many participants will be targeted to achieve the goal.
Include the event costs when determining the fundraising budget. These include marketing and promotional costs, preparation of participant packets, permits, staff, service station items, warm drinks, entertainment, and more.
Seek Community Sponsorships
Contact local businesses for sponsorship and support for the polar plunge fundraiser. Many companies will like being associated with this fun event and may invite employees to participate. While monetary donations are ideal, in-kind donations and services are also helpful in reducing the costs of the event. Some in-kind donations and services for a plunge fundraiser include the following:
- Warm Beverages (i.e., hot chocolate, hot tea, and coffee)
- Blankets and Towels
- Service Tents
- Custom-Printed T-Shirts, Sweaters, Knit Caps
- Gift Bag/Participant Goodie Bag Items
- Hand Warmers
- Business Vouchers/Coupons
Read more on recruiting charity event sponsors.
Create a Website for Polar Plunge Registrations and Fundraising Efforts
Using great fundraising software helps to register participants and sponsors easily and organize many aspects of the plunge. Our event management software offers the following features:
- Easy-to-Use, Mobile Responsive Interface for Mobile Giving
- Customizable Registration Fees
- Real-Time Reporting Tools
- Centralized Communication Tools for Participants, Volunteers, and Sponsors
- Sponsorship Promotion
- Helpful Event Marketing Tools
Polar bear plunges lend themselves well to peer-to-peer fundraising since they are such a fun and unique event that your participants will want to share on social media and with their social networks. Why
not add a fundraising component where your plungers raise money for your cause? You’ll need our peer-to-peer crowdfunding software if your organization wants to allow participants to create a personal fundraising page to share on social media sites. Use it for free and see your fundraising soar!
Plan the Polar Plunge Marketing Collateral
Once all the prior steps are in place, you’re ready to begin designing the marketing and promotional collateral for the event. If ever there were an easy event to brand, a polar plunge is it! So be sure to create a great brand and use it. This may include an event logo and tagline. Add this to your event flyer, social media and website banners, t-shirt and custom apparel designs, and more. Check out popular polar plunges online, such as the Special Olympics plunge, to see how they market the event.
Here are some helpful details to include on the plunge flyer:
- Event Location
- Time and Date
- Registration Details
- Registration Website
- Contact Details for More Information
- Cause or Organization Receiving Proceeds
- Major Sponsors
A polar bear plunge fundraiser is a fun event for many participants, far and wide. Contact family members, friends, and your organization’s donor and supporter base. Encourage teams for an added competitive edge. Also, don’t hesitate to contact local celebrities and well-known names (business owners, newscasters, school staff, etc.). While many may be hesitant to join, recognizable participants taking the plunge will draw a larger crowd that wants to see the action.
Another great source to recruit participants is social and traditional media. Prepare a press release and send it to local newspapers and TV stations to cover the story, help recruit event participants, or cover the event live. Local event listings serve as another channel to attract participants and spectators.
Find Vendors for the Service Stations
After seeking in-kind sponsorships for your event, you’ll likely still find outstanding items that need to be purchased. These may be first-aid items or food and drinks for the concession stand. Research local vendors to find the best quality and cost in supplying hot beverages, beverage dispensers, service tents, towels, blankets, and accessories for participants (t-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps, etc.). Also, once the registration for new participants is closed, discuss the turnaround time with the vendors to ensure that goods will be available in time for the event.
Location Layout for Stations
Determine the location and layout of your plunge stations. The following stations should be considered:
- Check-in and Registration Station: Participants should begin at this starting point to check in, turn in any cash donations, receive their participant packet, sign a waiver (this can also be completed upon online registration), and be given instructions for the polar plunge.
- Concession Station(s): After participants have taken the plunge, they can head to the concession stand for hot beverages and snacks. Even spectators will want something to warm them up – so plan on a lot of hot beverages being consumed.
- Emergency Aid Station: Always remember the sober reality of this type of event: participants are taking a plunge into frigid waters that can be lower than 40℉. A volunteer medical team should be on-site and available to aid anyone who may experience shock or other injuries. Lifeguards should also be available to aid anyone who has trouble getting out of the waters. Be prepared!
- Entertainment: A little something extra can add to the enjoyment of the event. Many plunges have bands or performers throughout the day. If you have entertainment available, have a dedicated space for them to set up and perform.
Gather a Strong Volunteer Team for Plunge Day
Now that you’ve determined the stations necessary to execute a successful polar plunge, you’ll need to find volunteers to staff each station. Registration and concession stands can use volunteers young and old and varied in skills. Volunteers in the emergency aid station should be certified, skilled, and experienced. Reaching out to EMTs, nurses, or doctors for contributions of their time and skills may be helpful.
As for the plunge waiver, if the organization does not have a legal adviser, see if you can receive pro-bono assistance to draft the waiver. The waiver is especially important as this will clarify that participants are aware of the risks of participation and do not hold your organization liable if anything should occur.
Take the Plunge!
Once the day of the event has arrived, break out your swimsuit and trunks and get ready to plunge into the waters for a good cause.
As the event wraps up, don’t forget to send your thank-yous to participants, volunteers, donors, and sponsors for
their support. Send pictures and let them know how much money was raised.
Conclusions on Polar Bear Plunges
Polar plunges are terrific fundraising events. They can raise a lot of money with peer-to-peer campaigns, as supporters will love telling their network about the event and getting support. With careful planning and execution, everyone will have fun and be back again next year.