Kirsty Marrins: The rise of gaming for good

The gaming community offers increasingly lucrative opportunities to raise funds, writes our columnist

Kirsty Marrins
Kirsty Marrins

A compilation of 11 games by studios such as Creative Assembly (Total War) and Rovio Sweden (Angry Birds) is being launched on 26 July in aid of War Child. Help: The Game is published by Sega Europe, and all profits from its sale will be donated to the charity.

The idea behind it was a follow-up to Help, the first in a series of award-winning albums by artists such as Blur, Oasis and Paul Weller, which raised more than £1.5m to fund War Child's activities protecting children in the war-torn Balkans. Twenty years and a "studio game jam" later (a gathering of game developers who plan, design and create one or more games within a fixed time span), Help: The Game was born.

As it goes on sale only later this month, there are no figures to share, but Rob Williams, chief execuitve of War Child UK, says: "It’s fitting that the games business has taken this project to its heart – after all, every child should have the right to play, but not all get that chance. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who has agreed to get involved and we hope their efforts will not only raise much-needed funds, but also awareness of our work among a vast audience of gamers across the globe."

This compilation got me thinking about the gaming for good movement and the fundraising opportunities it presents for charities.

During my time as content and community manager at JustGiving, I was introduced to Twitch, a live streaming video platform and community for gamers where members gather to watch and talk about video games.

Although you might not have heard of it, Twitch is huge in the gaming world. It has about 1.7 million broadcasters and 100 million visitors a month, who watch, on average, 106 minutes per day.  

Jamie Parkins, senior product manager at JustGiving, believes it offers huge potential for fundraising.

"On JustGiving there are more than 3,000 fundraising pages attributed to some form of charity gaming stream, and these pages have totalled more than £650,000 in donations to date across 420 different causes," he says. "The most successful ones to date have raised more than £43,000 for Macmillan and $52,000 for Cancer Research UK."

And who can forget the Swedish gamer PewDiePie (aka Felix Kjellberg) who, having attracted 25 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, decided to turn it into a fundraising opportunity? He asked his fans to make donations to his Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for Save the Children.

If people donated and shared their donations on Twitter using the hashtag #BrosSaveTheChildren, they were entered into a competition to win the chance to play games with PewDiePie – the ultimate prize for a fan. The campaign raised $342,828, having set a target of $250,000.

Gaming is an increasingly popular way to fundraise, and charities such as Macmillan are seizing the opportunity to tap into this new supporter base. It has have a microsite dedicated to gaming, called Macmillan Game Changers, and has raised more than £152,000 so far.

But are these collaborations the preserve of large charities only? Parkins believes that "anyone with a supporter base with gamers can easily encourage them to fundraise in this way".

Here are his three top tips:

1. Do people already game for you? If your charity is on JustGiving, have a look at your fundraising page reports and see if anyone is already fundraising in such ways. Have a look at the page titles for key words, such as "stream", "gaming" "Twitch".

2. Search on social: are there groups on Facebook you can start to engage with? Are there dedicated hashtags for gamers or Twitter chats that they take part in? There are plenty of gamers who publicise their streams on Twitter well in advance. Start engaging with them and try and bring them on board.

3. Ask your supporter base how often they survey their supporters. Maybe you could ask them if it’s something they would like to do or try on behalf of your charity. Or add it as an option in you fundraising ideas pack.

There’s no doubt that the gamers for good movement is growing, so make sure it’s on your radar when planning your fundraising strategy.

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