There’s a whole new game to play out there in the nonprofit world. In fact, it’s such an important trend that it’s been given a name: Gamification. Whether it’s planting crops on Facebook or unlocking badges on FourSquare game mechanics are working their way into all different kinds of businesses. So, is there a place for Gamification in nonprofit fundraising? I’d say so.
This past week at South by Southwest (SxSW) Interactive, HelpAttack!’s CEO, Ehren Foss, gave a presentation on boosting fundraising and engagement with Gamification. (Big thanks to Frank Barry of Blackbaud for including little ol’ us!) Foss says, “It’s really just behavioral economics,” which nonprofits are already doing but via other mediums such as email marketing and matching donor contributions.
Simply, it’s all about knowing your audience and connecting to them whether it be through more traditional marketing or through gaming. Games can be great! They draw you in and can make you interact more than a static Facebook page can. It gives someone an incentive to keep coming back. The competition can heighten the commitment and encourage donations. There’s more motivation to share players’ successes (and ipso facto, to share your cause).
A great example of understanding and appealing to your audience is PlayMob’s GiverBoard, which allows players of social games to buy virtual products that are connected to a charity. For example, a Farmville player could buy a tractor that was linked to a specific charitable campaign. It then shows players how their gaming positively contributes to changing the world and does so through micro-donations, which can often be more reliable than infrequent, larger donations.
However, sometimes making a game that doesn’t align with your mission can be really bad! It has to emulate your overall gestalt. Make the game informative and help players learn about your nonprofit while they play. Give them rewards for their playtime. But don’t design a game that doesn’t reflect your goals as a nonprofit.
So, with those precautionary words alongside some encouragement to participate, let the games begin!