Understand potential of video games, International Fundraising Congress urged

Michael Johnston of Hewitt and Johnston Consultants tells delegates there is money to be gained from links with an industry likely to be worth $68bn next year

Potential: video games
Potential: video games

Charities must gain a better understanding of how they can raise funds from video games, delegates at the International Fundraising Congress heard yesterday.

Michael Johnston, president and founder of the global fundraising consultancy Hewitt and Johnston Consultants, which is based in Canada, said global sales of games were expected to be worth $68bn (£43bn) in 2012 and that charities had to understand how this industry could help them.

"It’s absolutely essential for charities to understand gaming if they want to be relevant," he said. "We’ve got to do a better job at understanding the relevance of this industry."

But Johnston said charities should not try to make their own video or computer games because they did not understand the market well enough and they would need the "budget of a Hollywood film" to make one.

Instead, he said, charities should develop partnerships with games companies and ask that money be raised for their causes by, for example, game characters being sold to players with some proceeds going to the cause.

Johnston said the makers of the hugely popular online game World of Warcraft sold an in-game character to gamers, with half the $10 price going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the US. This raised about £700,000 for the charity.

He also said that charities could organise sponsored gaming marathons, with the money going to the cause.

Charities, he said, could look into making their own games for mobile phones, because they were easier to make. "Go to a university and find students who can make it for you," he said.

"Someone calling and saying they want to raise money for you on a game is going to happen more and more. By the end of the session I don’t want you to say no to that."

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