Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day Fundraising Strategies - Play4theCure


5 Successful Fundraising Strategies We Learned from Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Georgetown

In case you missed it, Tuesday April 10, 2018 was Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s stores across the U.S. For one magical day a year, Ben & Jerry’s decides to delight their community by handing out free scoops of ice cream to anyone willing to wait in a surprisingly quick moving line. Stores are encouraged to partner with local organizations and all tips given benefit the cause!

The Play4TheCure team was lucky enough to join the Georgetown, DC store for a second year in a row and raised over $1,800 in one day! This was a $600 increase from the previous year. We started thinking about how our teams can benefit from some of the strategies used for Free Cone Day in their own events.

Here are the top 5 fundraising strategies teams can use to match the success of Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day:

1. Partner with local businesses. If the Play4TheCure or NFCR team decided to hand out free ice cream on our own, we would most likely not have reached the same level of success with this event. There’s a few reasons this might be the case. First, we don’t have the same name recognition that well-loved Ben & Jerry’s has in the ice cream industry and second we don’t already have an established presence in the community. Additionally, the Ben & Jerry’s team would have been less likely to have raised as much if they weren’t supporting a cause such as cancer research. Whether it be an already established fundraising program or a chance to support a community charity, most businesses want to get involved. When in doubt, ask to speak with managers of businesses your team already loves and supports then come prepared with an idea of how you can work together.

2. Make it fun. During the day we had DC sports teams help scoop and a very outgoing group of volunteers spreading the word on the street. One of the more successful strategies we used included having a tip jar challenge, similar to a penny war from elementary school. The Georgetown Ben & Jerry’s is within 5 miles of three universities in the District; Georgetown, George Washington and American University. Each school had their own tip jar and we encouraged students, alumni, or supporters to help their school be recognized as the most generous. This setup alone raised over $260!

3. Use social media and connect with local media. This year, our Ben & Jerry’s team provided photo props to be used and the crowd loved it! The props paired with a great team of volunteers there to welcome and take pictures for guests eager to share a snap of their ice cream cones was a huge boost for the grassroots awareness of the event. Additionally, reaching out to the local media can be a great way to engage supporters that might not have made it to social media yet. For colleges and clubs this could mean asking your media and marketing team to include the event details in your game recaps. High school teams can reach out to the local journalists that typically cover sports in your area. Oftentimes these outlets are happy to share your story! Which leads us to our next point…

Tip Jar battle Ben and Jerry's Georgetown

4. Share your purpose and goal. Make sure people know what your raising money for and if you’re playing in honor of someone look for ways to acknowledge them either on the day of or leading up to the day. For Free Cone Day, we hung up multiple Play4TheCure banners around the store and placed several NFCR informational pieces around to increase organizational awareness. One big change from the previous year that lead to a 50% increase in donations, was the signs we put next to multiple tip jars throughout the store. The signs included cheeky words of encouragement like, “Help change the world and leave yours here.” Every tip jar highlighted that 100% of tips would benefit cancer research and featured both the Play4TheCure logo as well as the National Foundation for Cancer Research logo. Lastly, we had all our volunteers wearing our charity’s t-shirt. Even if people aren’t readily familiar with our program, they’re more likely to become interested once they see the name repeatedly. Power in numbers.

Free Cone Day

5. Make it an annual event. Part of the success and high turnout rate for Free Cone Day is because it happens around the same time every year. Meaning, loyal fans know to expect it and will help spread the awareness by sharing this information with their friends and family. In 2018, the Ben & Jerry’s in Georgetown served over 1,500 scoops in 8 hours!

Free Cone Day

Hopefully, seeing a real-life application of these fundraising strategies you can use them to boost your efforts in the future. Does your team already incorporate some of these methods? Have other great fundraising ideas for cancer research that have worked well for your sports team? We want to hear from you! Email Julia at to share your story and get your team’s efforts featured.

Play4TheCure inspires young athletes and their teams to leverage their passion for sports to “Play4” loved ones affected by cancer and encourages them to actively participate in working to fund cancer research. To learn more or dedicate your own game to Play4TheCure, click here.