Gamification is a buzzword we hear with increasing frequency amongst campaigns and nonprofits. We are also hearing success stories about gamification engaging donors and employees — ultimately helping raise more money. So, is gamification the next best thing in fundraising? Is it the secret to engaging the next generation of givers? We’ve put together this quick guide on what exactly is behind this buzzword and how your organization might be able to take advantage of the fun!

Why do people play games?
Games are fun! Games offer gratification, satisfaction and achievements that are accessible, quick and possible, where those same rewards in real life may be impossible or years away.

Who is a gamer?
Well, most people honestly. Though it may not be a key tenant of the average person’s identity, over 215 million Americans play at least an hour of video games per week. That’s 66% of the U.S. population.

What is gamification?
Gamification is the practice of adding the base elements of what makes playing a game fun to a non-game task or subject. This means adding in fast and tangible rewards, such as digital badges for completing certain milestones, or getting feedback in the form of a score or percentage completed, to bring the rewarding design elements of a game into the less-fun parts of our daily lives.

Harnessing people’s natural desire to achieve increases engagement, enjoyment and positive feelings about activities or tasks that would have less positive associations without these gamification elements.

It’s plain and simple, people like playing and having fun. Let’s put these enjoyable ingredients into recipes that lack them.

Gaming and nonprofits
The use of gamification in the nonprofit sector has been growing slowly over the last decade. A few examples of its successful implementation are the Freerice project from the UN World Food Programme (, Playing for the Planet Alliance and their Green Game Jam, and the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Eterna game. All these projects overtly use gamification to collect donations or enact real and positive change in the world through play:

  • Answer a vocab question – 10 grains of rice are donated to hungry communities
  • Play a game about climate change – a tree is planted
  • Play an app about folding RNA proteins – contribute to real-world medical research

A focus on even simple gamification meets your potential donor where they already spend their time. If people are already playing games on their phones, why not draw more attention to your cause through gamification? Those same people matching candies or solving word problems won’t hesitate to spend some time and money on your gamified project.

How to implement?
The ways in which you can gamify your nonprofits are only limited by your concept of what a game is. From full video game development to something as small as an animation playing after a donor hits that “give now” button, you can leverage the power of fun to enhance your fundraising efforts.

The ways in which you can gamify your nonprofits are only limited by your concept of what a game is.

Reach out to game publishers and developers to pitch a limited-time donation campaign within an existing game. Many big video game publishers already push huge campaigns throughout the year like this. For example, Overwatch, a game from Blizzard Entertainment, partnered with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 2018 and raised over $12.7 million for their cause. Now this is an unprecedented example, but it shows that the right combination of gamification and partnerships can engage with and leverage a community as large and diverse as “gamers.” This is a prime example of how gamification can connect your high-level corporate donors to the masses and capture the attention of a community that wants to feel rewarded and engaged.

Or take a more nuanced approach like Missing Maps, hosted in part by our Charity Alliance member Pan American Development Foundation, and build a network of energized volunteers looking to help first responders access the most current map data during natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

Let’s think even smaller. Imagine something as simple as providing your donors with a themed digital badge after they donate. This gamification element is so simple, yet it hits directly at the heart of what makes games fun: instant reward. A customized campaign badge or a flashy graphic themed for a cause area or year-of-giving is a fantastic way to say thank you and give the rush of instant reward to a donor. And think a bit beyond this single donor — something branded and visual is the perfect social media piece your donor base may choose to share online with friends and family. “Do you have the badge from 2019 too?!”

How does this connect to workplace giving?
Workplace campaigns are a great place to launch or test gamified fundraising because they give you an engaged group of people that are already getting challenge and reward elements associated with fundraising. Campaigns often have prizes or badges for departments that meet or exceed their goals, offer trackers on websites to see if the collective organization has met the fundraising goal and regularly use competition to encourage giving.

Charities can use this to their advantage by hosting gamified fundraising opportunities. Does your organization host a walk or run to fundraise for different programs or countries you work in? Maybe you can develop a simple game on your webpage that you can walk employees through during a workplace giving event. Or work with your corporate contacts to develop something specific to that company, like a giving competition between departments or a themed donation challenge.

A great example of this is Charity Alliance member Rise Against Hunger working with Cisco to host virtual trivia nights called Gathering for Good during the pandemic. Cisco employees got to have fun and enjoy some team building while raising $23,000 for Rise Against Hunger’s work!

Many of our Charity Alliance members take advantage of gamification in their fundraising. To amplify these opportunities and get them in front of companies and donors, we regularly post updates on the Employee Giving Hub. Check it out if you want to see more examples of charities using gamification with donors!

Key takeaways
Chances are, many people in your donor demographic are gamers. Adding even the smallest gamification element to your donation process can increase enjoyment, positive feelings and the shareability of your cause.

Reinforce the happiness and fun of using donations to help people around the globe.

Gaming makes people happy and giving makes people happy – this is a powerful matchup.

We want our Charity Alliance members to take advantage of gamification in their fundraising, especially in workplace giving. It doesn’t have to be huge or expensive to make an impact, and employers are interested in these kinds of offerings. Reach out to your Relationship Manager to schedule a brainstorm meeting. Global Impact supports gamified engagements regularly and can help you plan something exciting!

Not a member of our Charity Alliance? Reach out to learn about the benefits of membership.