Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Maryland’s Polar Bear Plunge is diving into data in 2020

Special Olympics Maryland partnered with SC&H Group to offer data visualization for this year's Corporate Plunge.


(Photo via Plunge Maryland/Facebook)

Teams from local businesses are gearing up for a chilly dip in the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay this weekend, as the Special Olympics Maryland is hosting its annual corporate plunge at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis on Jan. 24.

This year, the teams can also dive into the data surrounding the event as they get ready: Special Olympics Maryland partnered with SC&H Group, a national audit, tax and financial services firm based in Sparks, to create data visualization tools for participants in the event.

The “Plunge into the Data” feature has live analytics on the event’s website, offering a look at the fundraising side of the event. It provides a look at progress toward the goal of raising $400,000 for Special Olympics, as well as the top donors by team and industry. A second feature shows data for each team, and breaks out further specifics about top donors and geographic areas.

The tools offer the participants a way to track progress on a daily or weekly basis, and add more info to a little friendly competition between the teams as they raise money to support 1,600 athletes. They’re also valuable for the Baltimore-based Special Olympics Maryland team, which raises 38% of its revenue from the event, according to Chief Development and Marketing Officer Nate Garland.

“It’s a significant part of our revenue so we pay really close attention to the data,” he said.

SC&H Group’s data analytics practice built the new visualization using Tableau. The team also helped to identify key data points to emphasize, whether it’s an internally-valuable point like what days are best to send marketing emails or an external-facing metric showing how many athletes the plunge is allowing to compete for free throughout the year.

“We’re able to have some different levels of conversation internally that we weren’t having this time last year,” Garland said.

SC&H Group works on similar tools for middle market companies. The plunge offered a chance to contribute to a cause it cares about, said its VP and chief marketing officer, Mack McGee.

For Special Olympics Maryland, it also offers a chance to do analysis after the event and consider how to apply its learnings to other initiatives, for instance.

“As the team sits down to think about post-plunge, where does [Garland] go spend his time over the next 10 months this year?” McGee said.


The corporate plunge is part of a series of four Polar Bear Plunge events that take place from Jan. 23 to 25. Adding the data tools has proven to help fundraising, Garland said.

“We absolutely believe this is having a positive impact,” he said. “We’re anticipating as much as 10% growth for the overall event.”

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