Plunging Into Winter Fundraising: The Polar Bear Dip

There are none more dedicated to fundraising for their chosen organization than polar bear swimmers. A dip in icy, below-freezing water is sure to heat up your fundraising efforts!

There is a dedicated batch of bears that descend on the lakes and rivers around the country every year to take the plunge. Why not use this enthusiasm to your fundraising advantage, to help your church, school, non-profit organization, or other worthy cause to make some much needed funds for the new year?

Before you invite your bears to put on their swimming trunks and plunge into icy waters below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need a few essentials. Warm blankets and hot chocolate should definitely top that list.

How do you host a polar bear plunge for charity?

Polar bear plunges raise funds for charity in the following ways:

  • Participants pay a flat entrance fee
  • Participants solicit donations through pledges. The pledges will often pay for the amount of time (in minutes or seconds) the bear lasts in the water. This method will often gather larger collections compared to the flat entry fee.

To run a polar bear plunge fundraiser, you'll need lots of volunteers!

Participants crazy enough to take the plunge!

Start enlisting participants throughout your community at least a few months prior to your event, and be ready for some to change their minds. Focus on local celebrities and well known members of the community, such as public officials, television personalities, and law enforcement officials.

Well known people will not only bring friends and family to the event, but also bring out curious spectators.

Medical Volunteers

For the safety of your participants, have a qualified medical professional on hand during and after the plunge to monitor your swimmers. Cold water can severely shock the body, leading to physical or emotional distress.

Marketing Volunteers

These people will help advertise your plunge through posters, fliers, email, local media, and soliciting donations from local businesses. Advertising your polar bear plunge is imperative because it will not only help gather your participants, it will garner interest in your event for years to come.

Here are some advertising tips:

  • Make sure your organization's contact information appears on all fliers and marketing materials so volunteers, spectators, and media from the community can contact you for more information and interviews.
  • Be sure to advertise the time and location on all marketing materials, and if you have room, include a map of the area where the event will be held.
  • Try to link your polar bear plunge to a holiday – for example Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day – so that people in the community look forward to it year after year, and associate it with the holiday.
  • Add extra entertainment. People willing to dip in freezing waters should be enough entertainment for the day, but use every excuse to extend the size of your event with local musicians, a local radio station, television celebrities willing to act as a hosts, or a bake sale to get as many people out as possible. After all, you may have to pull out all the stops to get spectators out in the cold.

Finance Volunteers

The financial volunteers will be responsible for collecting and managing the donations, as well as paying for any supplies needed like warm drinks, blankets or any other concessions.

Maintenance Volunteers

The maintenance team's responsibilities are to organize spectator space, preparation space for your bears, and cleanup, as well as have your participants sign a waiver relieving your organization of liability related to their plunge.

Food Volunteers

You can ask volunteers to supply baked goods, coffee, and hot chocolate. This amount of fearlessness always creates a hearty appetite.


  1. Mandi Dorrell says:

    Do you know if you need a site license with a beach to do a polar bear plunge?

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