Many charities are embracing social media as never before.
Although social media is a relatively new tool, research such as the Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index 2011
shows the growth and viability of social media. My research seeks to depict
social gaming and gaming in general as viable tools for charities.
are social games?
Social games encourage social interaction between users on
the social platforms for which they are created. Websites and social platforms
have been using them for a few years now to attract and engage their
communities. I believe that charities can utilize them to attract their
constituents and supporters to their causes in a similar fashion.
Social gaming is becoming more available to a wider variety
of people through devices such as smartphones and tablets. I could not find
previous research conducted on how social gaming is viewed or can be utilized
in the nonprofit sector. My research on social gaming was based on a few
cause-related games developed mainly for advocacy purposes for various
charitable organizations such as Free
. Another major trend in the last few years has seen game-based
corporations partnering with charities to fundraise for various causes, mostly
with children's charities.
but impressive track record
The gaming industry and their audience have been quite
active in philanthropic causes for the last few years with gaming marathons by
individuals or third parties to raise money for nonprofits. Although these
special events yield very little return compared to more traditional means,
they have built the groundwork for a strong future relationship between games
and doing good.
This trend could be seen especially during the Japanese
earthquake and tsunami. Within a few hours, leading social game designer Zynga
, developer of popular social
games like Farmville
and Mafia Wars
, introduced virtual products
for users to purchase through micro-transactions, with all net proceeds going
to Save the Children
Earthquake Fund. Zynga was able to raise more than $2.5 million USD within two
After the success of Zynga, many game publishers began
launching their own game campaigns benefiting other charities involved in
Japanese relief efforts. Their success was mainly due to their low participation
The Japanese relief was an excellent example of charities using
a new medium to raise large amounts for a specific cause. But these
opportunities are few, require massive media exposure, and are usually only
available to the biggest charities.
On the other hand, game developers and individual gamers
have been showing interest in doing more long-term philanthropic work. A world-wide
community of more than 100,000 gamers have joined together to create Child's Play
, a charity that provides
games, toys, books, and cash to sick children in hospitals in North America,
Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Egypt. Since 2003, Child's Play has raised
more than US$7 million.
Game developers have also taken up the call. Nonprofit OneBigGame
publishes games developed by
many famous developers. Net game proceeds are donated to its partnered
charities and nonprofits. Its first published game Chime
, a musical puzzle, raised $100,000 for Save the Children
, 96% by donation.
With the support of Mike
, president of HJC New Media
two surveys were developed to measure the feasibility of the donor/gamer market
for cause-related social games as well as charities' interest in long-term investing
in social gaming. As we are still in the process of collecting data for these
two surveys, this article analyses data collected by our NPO survey as well as
current trends of collaborations between gaming corporations and the nonprofit
in it for my charity?
According to donor profiles developed by CharityCan
, the average donor is a
45-year-old-woman. According to the 2010 Social Gaming Research
conducted by Information Solutions Group
in the US and UK, the average gamer is a 43- to 48-year-old woman. Gamers may
very well be your organization's donors!
We asked our participants what they hope to achieve with
social gaming. 45.6% of the respondents wanted to attract users to their
website, 43.9% said they wanted to collect user information for solicitation
and stewardship purposes, 42.1% wanted a fundraising tool, and 8.8% wanted to use
social gaming for advocacy.
We also asked participants for their view on partnering with
individuals or corporations in game-based fundraising events. 47.2% of
respondents said they would be interested in pledge-based gaming tournaments,
41.5% in charitable gift funds, 37.7% in micro-transaction sales, and 22.6% in
gaming marathons. Some participants wanted to create a social game for their
own community of donors and supporters.
When we looked at the responses, we realized that many
organizations don't understand what social gaming is or how it is supposed to
work. Our conclusion from this initial data is that many organizations cannot
make an assessment based on their organization's strategies due to the lack of
information and testing. However, comments from participants regarding social
gaming and gaming events have been largely positive and organizations do show
interest in the concept.
what does all this mean
First, it is important to understand that the data in both
the Convio survey and the Social Gaming survey are based on US numbers. Many of
the case studies referenced earlier are also based on the US market. The Canadian
charitable and gaming sectors are smaller, so the donation amounts should not
be taken out of context. In terms of donor and gamer behaviour, though, there
are similarities between Canada and the US.
Second, although there is a lot of potential in social
gaming, the cost of investing in this concept may inhibit smaller charities.
However, if you have someone in your organization with the technical skills and
imagination, free software such as Flash and Game Maker
is available to play with. Remember that social gaming is built upon a social
platform, so before deciding to invest in social gaming, make sure you have a
strong social media network and community.
Third, a few of the game developers mentioned in this
article have expressed interest in working with charities and nonprofits. So
the trend, the incentive, and the connection to the audience are all there. All
we need now is the raw data to show that social gaming and social media are the
next steps in our industry's evolution.
Lastly, social gaming is itself a growing sector within the
gaming industry. There are many possibilities, not just with social gaming but
with the entire gaming and interactive entertainment field. We need to further
educate ourselves in new technology - it can help us advance our causes and not
fall behind other industries.
Frankie Chow has a strong
volunteer record in the Toronto Chinese community and at special events for the
Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Red Cross, Royal Ontario Museum, Mon Sheong
Foundation and World Vision.
After earning his honours BA in East Asian
Studies at the University of Toronto, he completed the Fundraising and
Volunteer Management graduate program at Humber College. He's just begun a new
role as events manager at the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Contact Frankie by email.