Charities have traditionally used physical events such as sponsored marathons to raise awareness and funds for their charitable purposes. But due to COVID-19, large-scale physical events look an unlikely prospect - at least in the short term.

This will be a challenge for every charity, but one that could provide the stimulus to implement an innovative digital strategy based around gaming - potentially using contactless donations, crowdfunding or voice assist tech (as we've explored previously).

This article explores how charities can embrace Gaming for Good and what they should consider before joining this exciting movement.

What is Gaming for Good?

Gaming for Good, an offshoot of Tech for Good, is a movement that taps into the (sometimes fragmented) multi-billion dollar video games market.

It includes:

  • Collaborations between charities and game studios - where multiple games are sold together at a discount, with a portion of the money going to charity. A good example is Humble Bundle.
  • Delivering public benefit through gaming - the charity SpecialEffect puts "fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games". SpecialEffect work directly with game developers (and the likes of Xbox) to help gamers with physical disabilities in the UK and with their R&D work across the world.
  • Streaming for Good - charities are using streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube to raise funds and awareness for their cause. This is often through collaborations with streamers and influencers, such as Athene who has raised more than $25 million for Save the Children. The sums raised through streaming can be impressive, but charity leaders should not expect their fundraising teams to generate this level of income overnight.

So the Gaming for Good movement could provide a variety of exciting avenues for charities to explore. But according to Blackbaud's report into 'The Status of UK Fundraising 2019 Benchmark Report', only 3% of charities are well prepared to take advantage of this movement.

How can charities engage with the movement?

Before charities pivot towards Gaming for Good, they should:

  • Understand the community. Despite stereotypes, people of all sexes and ages enjoy games; as Anna-Michelle Lavandier writes "gaming is an everyone thing". Charities need to be ready to immerse themselves wholeheartedly in the sector and with the community. Those that don't will fail to realise the full potential of Gaming for Good.
  • Find the right fit. Dulcie Ireland and Oli Welch from Cancer Research UK's Innovation Team have compiled a helpful list of questions to ask to find the right fit of partners within the community.
  • Engage with employees or volunteers. Your charity may already have avid gamers in its midst who are passionate about your cause, ready and willing to contribute, and knowledgeable about the space. Make use of this knowledge or work to upskill your employees or volunteers if there is a skills gap.
  • Collaborate. This can be cross-team or with other charities who are looking to embrace the movement. As Jude Owner MBE of Playmob has said, this can be more efficient for charities, game developers, and corporate sponsors. But be sure to follow Charity Commission guidance before collaborating with another charity.

Why should charities embrace Gaming for Good?

This movement could provide a variety of opportunities for charities:

  • Brand awareness. War Child's brand is promoted through in-game banners on Football Manager, the world's best-selling football management simulation game. Working with the game sector opens up a wide variety of novel ways to enhance your charity's brand and connect with a vast audience, that is perhaps less open to more traditional forms of marketing, promotion and advertising.
  • Diversifying income streams. The Institute of Fundraising's Charity Benchmarks Sector Report 2019 showed that charities are heavily reliant on legacy fundraising (accounting for £291m in 2019). Gaming for Good could enable charities to reach new audiences and diversify income streams, as people are more likely to donate doing things they like. During Mental Health Awareness Week, the developer and publisher Jagex Studios encouraged donations of in-game wealth, in addition to donating the proceeds from the in-game Solomon's General Store - raising $250,000 for its charity partners. But as Dulcie Ireland and Oli Welch rightly point out, "traditional fundraising propositions targeted at generic 'gamers' are unlikely to achieve significant income".
  • Cost. Livestreams are generally cheap to host, as players have their own consoles and can organise the events themselves. But charities could consider investing in customised overlays, which would help to promote the charity in a more immediately visible way.
  • Value-driven data. Those playing the games can generate value-driven data as they play, providing charities with an invaluable insight into the causes they are interested in. A forerunner in utilising value-driven data is Playmob, who have worked with the United Nations Development Programme on Mission 1.5°, providing a unique insight into gamers' views on climate change.
  • Furthering charitable purposes. Innovative charities such as Alzheimer's Research UK have used games to further their charitable purposes. Sea Hero Quest helps scientists understand how our brains navigate space (which often proves a real challenge for people with dementia) and Before I Forget (a collaboration with 3-Fold Games) helps players explore the impact of dementia. The data generated could pave the way for improved approaches to early disease detection.

What should charities consider before adoption?

As with any new fundraising venture, charities should be keen to explore the movement but have realistic expectations, and think about:

  • Practical considerations for collaboration. As we've explored in this blog, charities have four key things to consider when collaborating with those in the sector, from streamers to publishers.
  • Health and wellbeing of supporters. If your supporter is carrying out a mammoth livestream (as 'Hbomberguy' did for Mermaids, one of the UK's leading LGBTQ+ charities) think about their health and wellbeing, by encouraging them to take regular breaks and keep hydrated. Whilst you may not want to be overly prescriptive about how those in the sector can raise funds for your charity, it may be useful to consider some putting together helpful tips or guidance. This will help feed back into wider engagement in the sector and community.
  • Safeguarding. Charities must take reasonable steps to protect people who come into contact with the charity. NCVO, bond, and The Charity Commission have all produced guidance on this priority issue.

If you'd like to read more about Gaming for Good, we've collated some useful links on the movement below:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.