The rise of the livestream, combined with the growing popularity and widespread appeal of video games, has created an attractive new opportunity for charities — gaming fundraisers.
These events are an exciting new kind of fundraiser in which gamers raise money for charity by livestreaming themselves playing video games. The growing popularity of this method allows anyone with the right recording setup and a stack of video games to start collecting money for a charitable cause.
Below, we’ll break down gaming fundraisers — what they are, how organizations have used them in the past and how your charitable organization can raise money with them?
Gamers Raise Money for Charity
If you’ve never heard of gaming fundraisers before, you may not understand how or why they make money for charities.
The only necessary component of a gaming fundraiser is video games. The details of how exactly the fundraiser runs varies wildly from event to event. Some are primarily livestreamed video game events that last for several days — creating an event that viewers can tune into at any time over a short period. Some are livestreamed competitive tournaments.
Other types — like GuardianCon, which recently rebranded to the Gaming Community Expo — are weekend conventions that feature a mix of exhibitors and livestreamed video game footage. These solicit donations from attendees as well as viewers following the event via livestream.
In any case, the livestream is usually an integral component, and it ensures that an organization reaches the broadest possible audience of potential donors.
How Effective Are These Fundraisers?
Gaming fundraisers, especially the largest ones, can raise significant sums of money for charitable causes. GuardianCon raised a staggering $3.7 million for St. Jude’s last year over one weekend, beating the already impressive 2018 donation total of $2.1 million. Other gaming fundraising events have raised similar high-dollar sums for charity.
For example, there’s Games Done Quick, a gaming fundraiser hosted by the speedrunning community — a group of hobbyists who play games as quickly as possible, competing for world records for fastest completion. The first event, held in 2010, raised $10,000 for the humanitarian organization CARE. They’ve set a new donation record for every match since. The most recent one, AGDQ 2020, raised more than $3.1 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
Like GuardianCon, GDQ attracts a substantial audience by providing entertaining livestreams. They then encourage that audience to donate during the stream with donation shoutouts and on-screen trackers and goals, as well as other incentives like raffles.
Many events like GDQ start small, raising a few hundred or a few thousand dollars and attracting a small viewership at first. Over a few years, however, they can command massive followings willing to put down large sums to keep the games going and help out a good cause.
So while the idea may seem a little outlandish, it’s proven to have surprising appeal and staying power, and it’s effective at driving massive donation totals.
Should Your Nonprofit Run a Gaming Fundraiser?
There’s usually no real correlation between the charitable cause and the gaming-related nature of the event. Some gaming fundraisers focus on soliciting donations for gaming-related charities, like Child’s Play. Typically, however, these events are independently organized by individuals to support recognizable, big-name charities with medical missions, like St. Jude’s, Doctors Without Borders and Help Hope Live. These organizations don’t have any natural ties to video games or the gaming community.
Even if your charity’s mission doesn’t have anything to do with video games, the most successful fundraisers suggest this has no real impact on how productive a gaming fundraiser will be. If you want your nonprofit to run one, there are a few different ways to start.
Ways to Get Involved
Because gaming fundraisers are often highly dependent on existing social networks, your nonprofit should be especially familiar with best practices for peer-to-peer fundraising. Because you’re likely to solicit donations digitally, especially if you’re providing a livestream, be sure to have a system in place that allows you to collect donations over the internet.
Try reaching out to local gaming communities or gamers who have staged an event in the past or plan on staging one in the future. Ask if they’d consider partnering with your organization to organize or help run a charitable match. Another option is to partner with an existing philanthropic gathering that doesn’t have a regular sponsored organization. There are a few different lists of existing gaming-related charitable events online that can help with research.
You can also consider going in-house and working with your staff. If some of your organization’s team members have a passion for video games, they may happily sign on to hosting or participating in a gaming fundraiser.
Think about including a livestream component, which is one of the best ways to ensure your event reaches a broad audience. Setting this up may require some technical experience that your nonprofit doesn’t have on hand. If you need to look out of org for someone to help run your event, search for people with experience running a multi-day stream.
Prepare for your event to start small. Some deliver big total from the first try — like GuardianCon, which raised $500,000 in its first year — but this isn’t guaranteed or all that common. In any case, you will likely need to run your nonprofit’s gaming event for multiple years in a row before momentum builds. Then, it may begin to draw the kind of donations that these larger communities provide for their charities.
How Your Nonprofit Can Benefit from a Gaming Fundraiser
Gaming fundraisers, especially when they include a livestreaming component, can be an excellent way for nonprofits to raise funds — regardless of their mission. While the idea may seem a little odd at first, these fundraisers have proven to be quite effective at garnering donations. Some of them obtain several million dollars every year for major charities.
If you want your charitable organization to run or help run a gaming fundraiser, try reaching out to local gaming communities or looking for gaming events that have occurred in your area.
Also by Kayla Matthews: What are AR and VR, and how can you use these advances to help support your own organization? Read: How Nonprofits Can Use VR and AR Tech for Fundraising