Customer Story

Customer Success Story: Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s Polar Plunge

Danniele Fulmer, donor engagement coordinator at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, admits that the tide is turning at her organization. “We generally have 27% individual giving, and 73% foundation giving, but we’re shifting our focus to more individual giving,” she told CauseVox.

As a small grassroots nonprofit, it’s sometimes hard to find the resources to improve on an existing fundraising plan. However, for CCAN, it was necessary. They noticed that grants, federal funds, and even private gifts were fewer and far between, and they needed a solution.

One major step Fulmer and her co-workers made to boost their individual giving was to expand and promote their existing peer-to-peer fundraising event: The Polar Bear Plunge.

By powering their Polar Bear Plunge campaign with CauseVox, CCAN had two record-breaking fundraising years in a row: raising a total of $273,377 in 2018 and 2019, rallying 503 plungers (personal fundraisers), and securing gifts from 4,601 individuals!

CCAN & The Polar Bear Plunge: A Snapshot

CCAN is an established nonprofit located in the Chesapeake region. With the help of 15 staff members spread throughout four offices in the area, they advocate for fewer fossil fuels and clean energy solutions.

The Polar Bear Plunge, which as of 2019 was in its 14th year, is CCAN’s largest event and signature fundraiser. This annual peer-to-peer fundraising event relies on eager, selfless participants who believe in supporting CCAN’s efforts enough that they’re willing to raise enough money to jump into the icy Potomac River at National Harbor to prove it. “It’s both our biggest fundraiser and a major educational opportunity.”

Fundraisers include the organization’s activists and other supporters, each of whom uses the event as a chance to raise funds and talk to their own networks of friends and family about fighting climate change.

A lot has changed since the first plunge in 2005. “Since then, we’ve grown exponentially, and part of that is because of technology,” said Danniele.


Choosing CauseVox

Understanding that they needed a platform that supported peer-to-peer fundraising events, the team at CCAN got to work in 2017. They wanted to find a fundraising platform that fit their specific fundraising needs and didn’t take away from their bottom line.

Some of CCAN’s most pressing platform needs included:

  • Easy to use
  • Supported multiple fundraising teams
  • User-friendly backend/dashboard
  • Custom fields
  • Some automated functions
  • Quick response time/high-level of customer service

After looking at multiple platforms and comparing the features, functions, and costs of each, the organization chose to power the Polar Bear Plunge with CauseVox  “The ease of use of CauseVox and your quick response whenever we needed help was really great and it made coming over to [CauseVox] a really obvious, easy choice.”

Features for Success

With over a decade of peer-to-peer experience under their belts, CCAN was familiar with the “recipe for success.” And in 2018 and 2019, they continued to follow fundraising best practices while also working with a member of the CauseVox support team to fine tune their website and maximize their campaign’s reach.

Here are some of the essential CauseVox features that helped CCAN exceed their fundraising goals.

Less Setup (& More Time for Nurturing)

Before 2018’s plunge, CCAN employees spent the majority of their campaign-related time with technical support issues, including “helping people sign up on the site, set up their plunge page, and troubleshoot issues they had in setting up their teams.”

But by using CauseVox, which is designed to take the chaos out of the fundraising experience, employees were able to spend more time supporting the plungers’ fundraising efforts, and not just the technical aspects.

“We needed to hone in on our support efforts for fundraisers,” Danniele explained. And since they now had the time because they weren’t dealing with back-end technology issues, the organization created toolkits, social media guides, and other resources to help guide plungers in their efforts. They even call all plungers before the event to ensure they were pumped and ready for the big day!

Custom Fields

CCAN used CauseVox’s custom fields to capture valuable information such as T-shirt sizes, sign waivers, and contact information. “We learned retroactively that we had to fine-tune our custom fields,” she explained, but she was able to do so effortlessly. From there, she could easily pull donor data and even use built-in mail merge features.


Media Uploads

Compelling videos and images help tell the story about the campaign and the experience as a plunger. CCAN maximized their fundraising website with multiple videos, including updates from the nonprofit’s founder and director, Mike Tidwell.

Team Fundraising

Individual plungers were encouraged to join teams, which helps encourage camaraderie and a bit of friendly competition between the groups. In 2019, many plungers joined one of the 38 formed teams! 



“Utilizing a connected online community exploded our recruitment efforts,” noted Danniele. And CauseVox makes it easy for CCAN to share the campaign with potential participants and donors using social sharing buttons and the email share feature. “We’ve seen significant growth in the past couple years, and a big element of that is social media,” she added.


Branching Out

After such a successful campaign in 2018, CCAN also has dove into CauseVox-powered fundraising for activities outside of the polar plunge. The organization uses CauseVox donation pages to help separate streams of donations between CCAN and their sister organization, and also as a sign-up for other nonprofit-led events.

CCAN + CauseVox

In terms of peer-to-peer fundraising, CCAN’s Polar Bear Plunge is proof that a well-planned approach goes a long way. Using CauseVox and following tried-and-true best practices, such as recruiting past participants, creating and sharing toolkits, and using features to enhance the giving experience, they soared past their goal two years in a row.

CauseVox is a digital fundraising platform designed to help you grow giving and build a community of supporters activated for you cause.

CauseVox makes it easy for you to manage relationships with your supporters and create personalized fundraising sites, peer-to-peer campaigns, and donation pages, all in one place, while also providing a remarkable giving experience your supporters will love.

Plus, CauseVox’s team is behind you! Each customer, receives 1-1 support and guidance from real people determined to help you feel confident and hit your goals.

You can get started for free or chat with our team.

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