Can gaming boost your fundraising?

In the heyday of the .com boom I worked in the online games industry. So it is little wonder that my attention was grabbed by the headline of an article from nonprofitcomms about how gaming can boost fundraising efforts.

[Games] can also be a way for charities to attract a younger audience and get them interested in the cause. In a report by the Charities Aid Foundation last year, it was stated that ‘there is a real need to engage with people at a young age to give them an experience of charity’ and that ‘providing greater opportunities to learn about charity… can help ensure that future generations not only grow up giving but are connected to a positive process of engagement in civil society’. Gaming seems like an ideal way to do this, presenting a fun and educational way to engage young people.

While the examples listed in the article are impressive, ranging from games for Help for Heroes to the WWF, the article fails to dig a little deeper as to why games are not being used more widely for supporter recruitment and engagement.

Which most likely comes down to charity marketeers being a bit risk averse. After all, commissioning a game can be a costly and time-consuming project which could end up as a flop, if not give a low ROI. Added to that is a fear that a game could be seen as trivialising the cause and looking like a waste of money by existing donors.

But maybe this is where a rethink is due.

Games can be a powerful tool to recruit the next generation of givers. They obviously aren’t as cash-rich as the regular givers, yet by not engaging this audience right now, their loyalties will be much harder to gain later on in life. Charity giving is evolving and life-long donor relationships are much harder to achieve or maintain with the younger generation.  Yet marketeers cling onto the higher ROI streams of maturer donors in order to achieve their fundraising targets – instead of giving much thought on how to build up a relationship with future donors.

And then there is one other unanswered question: as not many games have been trialled, how do you actually know that there wont be a reasonable ROI?  I know first-hand that in some DM packs sent out charities sometimes include a pen – which obviously increases the cost per pack. This usually is greeted by existing donors as being an extravagant waste of money. Yet, by including a pen the DM pack, recipients who open the pack are much more likely to use the pen to fill out the DD form, giving the pack a higher ROI than had the pen not been included.

I suspect that is is time games are looked at from a new perspective, with a long-term donor recruitment strategy in mind. Interestingly, Reuben Turner from the Good Agency will be delivering a session called Giving and gaming: what works and what doesn’t at the free virtual conference, Fundraising Online. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Published by


I do design and copy for people and great causes.