The future of giving: how charities can use gamification to raise money


Gamification is serious business: so much so that the industry built around it is predicted to reach $5.5 billion by 2018. Fostering loyalty, boosting awareness, promoting friendly competition, improving learning experiences… these are just a few ways in which this big tent of a concept is being put to practical use. So what does it mean and how can charities benefit from it? We take a look…

More than fun and games…

Gamification in itself isn’t about cramming your website or Facebook page with games and puzzles in the vague hope of attracting an army of PlayStation-obsessed millennials to your organisation. Fundamentally, it’s about understanding how some of the elements of game playing help us to understand what motivates behaviour – specifically in the case of charities, donor behaviour. Point scoring, unlocking the next level, leaderboards, benchmarking: any or all of these elements may be used to put together something designed to engage with donors and influence their behaviour in a way that fulfills your specific aims.

What’s more, although gamification may be something of a buzzword – (having only been added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011), elements of it have been around for much longer. Think of all of those not-for-profits that tier their sponsors into gold, silver and bronze categories for instance, as well as those that enable donors to ‘unlock’ the opportunity to have their names recorded permanently in the fabric of their buildings.

Non-profits can also take the elements of gamification to give potential donors as well as beneficiaries a better understanding of complex information. This ‘check you heart age’ tool from British Heart Foundation is a good example. On the fundraising and awareness side, let’s say that as well as raising money, part of your current campaign involves challenging misconceptions about a particular medical condition. Publishing a factsheet is one way forward. A classic ‘gamified’ alternative is to present essentially the same information in the form of a mythbusting test-your-knowledge quiz, allowing participants to share their results socially and challenge their friends to have a go.

So which charities are winning when it comes to gamification? Here are three examples to demonstrate the different sides of gamification in action…

Unlocking the potential of role play…

Rather than relying on statistics, make it personal: this approach has long been with us in the form of individual case studies, for instance. Role play takes engagement to a different level, enabling participants to step into the shoes of individuals to get a firsthand understanding of key issues. One flagship example came last year, when United for Wildlife teamed with Runescape to produce an interactive scenario designed to demonstrate the dangers faced by rhino from poachers. By getting directly involved with an existing popular gaming platform, United for Wildlife’s aim was to reach an audience that is otherwise traditionally hard to engage in conservation issues.

Allowing potential donors to ‘have a go’

What do researchers actually do? If I was to donate, where exactly will my money go? Thanks to Cancer Research UK’s cell slider app, more than 2.5 million cell slides have been ‘analysed’ by ordinary members of the public, letting them see for themselves. Registration for the app is via email, featuring an invite to receive information about news, events and the charity’s fundraising activities.

Everyone wants to be ‘Premier League’…

The satisfaction of meeting your target; the pull of building up points and being awarded badges… CrowdRise is one of several platforms that gamifies the process of fundraising and donating. There is also the ability to match up against others via a leaderboard to benchmark how much they can raise. Under this model, fundraising becomes a competition with concrete goals to aim for.

What needs to be on a charities’ radar when considering whether to introduce an element of gamification to their fundraising campaigns? Risk management should be of prime concern, both in terms of compliance and reputation. Your new app may appeal to a fresh audience – but is it in danger of trivialising your work? Will it appear crass to your existing followers? You’re recruiting a new army of ultra-competitive fundraisers, but are you staying on the right side of the regulations?

If your not-for-profit is about to take a new direction, speak to specialist charity insurance brokers such as Bluefin Group to make sure you’re protected.





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August 10, 2015 The future of giving: how charities can use gamification to raise money