Floating Community Fundraisers: Rubber Ducks and Turtles Raise Money and Awareness for Community Causes

May 22, 2013 at 7:00 am CDT
Turns out that for many cities, it seems thTurns out that for many cities, it seems there's a bit more to rubber ducks – and turtles – than just being cute bath toys. Both play a big role in community fundraisers for many cities.ere's a bit more to rubber ducks – and turtles – than just being cute bath toys. Turns out that for many cities, it seems there's a bit more to rubber ducks – and turtles – than just being cute bath toys. Both play a big role in novel community fundraisers.

Ever heard of a duck derby? It's a type of community fundraiser in which people "adopt" or sponsor numbered, yellow rubber ducks that then “race” along a local creek or other waterway. The sponsor of the first duck(s) to cross the finish line wins a prize, and the proceeds from sponsorships benefit a cause or organization.

This rubber toy race concept seems to have been around more than 20 years, and a different take on it caught my eye last week while visiting Wilkesboro, N.C., where we work with the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce on its community promotion program. In Wilkes, the instead of ducks, the Yadkin River Greenway Council uses rubber turtles to raise money for and awareness about the greenway, and hosted its 10th annual Yadkin River Greenway Day & Turtle Regatta on May 18th, which coincided with World Turtle Day.

Learning about their race led me to look into these novel community fundraisers just to see what their impact has been and what other ideas civic groups are floating with them:

  • In Cincinnati, Ohio, the Rubber Duck Regatta involves approximately 150,000 rubber duckies and raises more than half a million dollars each year for the Freestore Foodbank.
  • In Aspen, Colo., the annual Aspen Rotary Ducky Derby began in 1992 and the organization says it has raised more than $2.3 million for nonprofit groups in the Roaring Fork Valley and around the world since then.
  • In Redding, Calif., the Redding East Rotary Ducky Derby marks 24 years and more than $3 million raised for youth development and drug- and alcohol-free programs.
  • In Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Boro Duck Derby raises money and awareness for the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford and Cannon counties.
  • In Spanish Fort, Ala., the Turtle Derby on the Delta each September raises money and awareness for Covenant Hospice.

Besides raising money for community groups and amenities that improve residents' quality of life, most of these events also include festival-like activities beyond just the race, which bring people together and build community pride. Turns out that for many cities, it seems there's a bit more to rubber ducks – and turtles – than just being cute bath toys.

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