The Metaverse is a broad term that encapsulates the next evolution of the internet. It is a digital reality – a cyberspace made up of multiple virtual worlds – that combines components of social media, gaming, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The metaverse is being conceptualized and developed as the merging of our physical existence with our digital lives. It sounds dystopian to some and it very well could be, but once you understand the concept and the emerging technology around it, as a nonprofit marketing and fundraising professional, you’ll also begin to understand its potential.
In this early stage, the metaverse is being envisioned and portrayed as an online reality that we humans enter and experience as avatars through a VR headset, similar to the Oasis experience in the movie Ready Player One.
Those already exploring the metaverse can attend live concerts and meet with government officials. Big Tech, banks, corporations, and governments worldwide are betting big on the metaverse and its future.
As of now, nonprofits, activism, and philanthropy are virtually non-existent in the metaverse (pun intended). Without altruism and advocacy being consistently present in these early days of its formation, racism and sexism are already revealing themselves in the metaverse. Breigha Adeyemo’s recent article, I’m a Black woman and the metaverse scares me – here’s how to make the next iteration of the internet inclusive, explains:
Ensuring that the metaverse is inclusive and works for everyone will require that people from marginalized communities take the lead in shaping it. It will also require regulation with teeth to keep Big Tech accountable to the public interest. Without these, the metaverse risks inheriting the problems of today’s social media, if not becoming something worse.
Parmy Olsen, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology, summed up her first experience as a woman exploring the metaverse as awkward and uncomfortable. Even worse, the first documented case of sexual harassment occurred in Horizon Worlds – the VR social platform created by Facebook. The user described her experience:
In between a wave of zombies and demons to shoot down, I was hanging out next to BigBro442, waiting for our next attack. Suddenly, BigBro442’s disembodied helmet faced me dead-on. His floating hand approached my body, and he started to virtually rub my chest. ‘Stop!’ I cried … This goaded him on, and even when I turned away from him, he chased me around, making grabbing and pinching motions near my chest. Emboldened, he even shoved his hand toward my virtual crotch and began rubbing. There I was, being virtually groped in a snowy fortress with my brother-in-law and husband watching.
Get the idea? Nonprofit warriors, champions, changemakers, and fundraisers are needed in the metaverse ASAP. In the coming years, nonprofits and foundations will emerge to help define and implement a code of ethics on subjects ranging from human rights in the metaverse to its environmental impact, but the good people of our community are needed now to explore and be a part of the conversation around the planning and experience of the metaverse.
The first step is to buy a VR headset and as much we sometimes hate/like Facebook/Meta, according to PCMag, the Oculus Quest 2 is the best headset on the market. Google is rumored to be working on new glasses and Apple apparently has a new mixed reality headset in the works. We are in the early days of hardware innovation and it’s important to understand that metaverse hardware will evolve rapidly over the next decade, likely into smaller, less cumbersome wearables. The most devout may even be eager to experiment with implanted hardware.
The Metaverse for Nonprofits
In the very near future, the nonprofit sector will start organizing in the metaverse. The possibilities are wide open. At the most basic level, we’ll see billboards in the metaverse that advertise good causes and actions people can take in the metaverse, such as real-time cryptocurrency donations and buying NFTs with the proceeds benefitting nonprofits. Years out we’ll start seeing large-scale events, such as protests in the metaverse and fundraising events ranging from benefit concerts to marathons. Your future workplace may also exist in the metaverse.
To begin exploring, buy your organization a headset and experience the metaverse as a team. Brainstorm and make a commitment to follow emerging trends in fundraising and advocacy in the metaverse. Nonprofit Tech for Good will provide updates through our e-newsletter and if you are an emerging expert in the metaverse for nonprofits, please contact us to share your knowledge through guests posts.
All that said, in addition to understanding the big picture of the metaverse, there are other important concepts that nonprofit professionals need to understand.
Cryptocurrency is currently the financial system of the metaverse. Mastercard is investing in startups that will further digitalize money, Visa now offers a card that earns Bitcoin Rewards, and Walmart is opening Bitcoin kiosks. Whether crypto is the future or destined for colossal failure is a story yet to unravel, but for nonprofit professionals, it is a megatrend that you need to need to be aware of. The Giving Block is the best resource for understanding cryptocurrency and its potential for fundraising and to get started with cryptocurrency, consider creating a digital wallet on Coinbase.
Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs)
According to Business Insider, a non-fungible token (NFT) can be defined as a unique identifier that can cryptographically assign and prove ownership of digital goods. Digital goods can range from digital art that you can buy, sell, and collect on OpenSea to accessories for your avatar in the metaverse. Adidas recently sold out their inaugural Into the Metaverse NFT line and as far as we know none of the $23 million raised went to support a nonprofit. Nike is next to drop virtual sneakers, so to all the enterprising fundraisers out there, RTFKT Studios is the design firm working on the project. That said, there are NFTs that are being sold to raise money for charity with many, many more to come.
Also worth a mention is Second Life (founded in 2003) – an online platform that allows people to create an avatar for themselves and have a second life in a virtual world. A visit to the Second Life Marketplace can help you better understand the concept of shopping for NFTs in the Metaverse. Susan Tenby, a pioneeress in nonprofits exploring the metaverse through Second Life, can be listened to in this 2010 webinar by TechSoup explaining the concept of the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality is defined as an interactive 3D experience that combines a view of the real world with computer-generated elements in real time. A good example is the IKEA App which allows users to see IKEA furniture virtually in their home before purchasing. In the future, AR could expand to holograms of ourselves doing everything from going on safari in Kenya to attending a conference. In the metaverse today, AR and VR are blending to become one simultaneous user experience.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality is the use of computer technology to create a three-dimensional simulated environment, such as Horizon and Hubs. The gaming community pioneered VR, but the technology is now expanding worldwide into all aspects of society.
In conclusion, the metaverse is here and Nonprofit Tech for Good is jumping in and joining the ride. Our Oculus Quest 2 is on its way and we’ll keep you updated. We paid the $299, but hey Meta, how about donating five thousand headsets to nonprofits? As all fundraisers know, it never hurts to ask, especially on Twitter.