In the UK there are around 40 million gamers contributing to an industry that accounts for over half of the UK’s entire entertainment market. This makes gaming more profitable than the video and music industries combined.
The audience is huge, and the scope to reach potential supporters enormous – not to mention that with most gamers aged between 16 and 30, it’s an opportunity to connect with a new and younger audience. A survey of gamers undertaken by the Charities Aid Foundation found that 58% of gamers are interested in donating while playing, and 63% would use funds from online wallets to donate.
Over the past decade there has been a growing movement of both gamers and developers using video games to raise money and awareness for charitable causes. A substantial amount of money has been raised through Twitch, a popular live streaming platform. Since 2012, over £75 million has been raised through the program, which has 15 million active users every day. Much of this money has been raised by gamers who broadcast themselves playing video games and ask viewers to donate to a designated charity. Many charities have taken note of this trend and are recognising the huge fundraising potential in this area.
Despite how fruitful gaming has proven it can be in terms of fundraising, a 2019 survey from Blackbaud showed 54% of UK charities felt they were unprepared to take advantage of gaming-related donations.
So, how are charities taking advantage of this golden opportunity?
War Child recognised the potential of the gaming market 10 years ago and have since raised over £4 million. A significant chunk of that money has come through their partnership with game developer, Sports Interactive, whose best-selling game, Football Manager, has so far raised over £1 million to support children affected by conflict. This partnership includes ten pence of every copy sold going directly to War Child, as well as banners being placed throughout the game to increase the charity’s profile.
Some charities have taken to organising their own gaming events. Shelter, for example, have done this with their ‘Level Up for Shelter’ campaign and MacMillan Cancer Support are running a similar campaign, ‘Game Heroes’. Both encourage participants to gain sponsorship to take part in gaming marathons while they live stream their gameplay online. Gaming marathons involve participants broadcasting themselves playing a game for extended periods without stopping, all the while encouraging viewers to donate to their chosen charity. This can be a great way to start fundraising in the gaming sector, as it’s a very similar model to a standard events campaign.
Video games also provide opportunities for charities beyond fundraising – namely for being a great way to build brand awareness. Some charities have done this through creating in-game cosmetic items that gamers can use to promote different causes. FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), for example, is an online game for users to create their own football team and play against others online. Gamers can unlock different kits for their virtual teams to play in. In 2018, gaming charity Special Effect, who help those with disabilities play video games, launched their own FIFA 18 Ultimate Team kit. War Child did a similar thing in 2019, by launching their own FUT kit that promotes their cause to those playing the game. This can be a great way to expose a new audience to your cause, who may not have been aware of your charity before.
In the charity sector, organisations are having to re-evaluate their fundraising strategies in order to maintain relevance and support moving into the future. With there being a general downward trend in terms of individual giving and donations, it is more important than ever to find new revenue streams that your charity can rely on. The gaming industry might well be one of those new revenue streams, and with the industry not showing signs of slowing down, it looks as though it could provide a fantastic opportunity for charities bold enough to give it a go.