The nonprofit space has changed dramatically on account of the global pandemic, which has significantly affected the attendance of live events. Many nonprofits that scheduled high-profile fundraisers such as dinners and galas were forced to pivot and figure out a way to still raise money and survive.
Since traditional fundraising methods were rendered ineffective, many nonprofits transitioned to online fundraisers to connect with supporters and donors. But it was online gaming-based fundraisers that proved most popular. In 2020, 47 percent of donors across North America gave via raffles and sweepstakes, making them twice as effective as a fundraising tactic when compared with more traditional in-person and established events like auctions (24 percent).
In this article, we will walk you through the various types of online gaming-based fundraisers, discuss their effectiveness, and outline some key parameters to consider while choosing the right online gaming-based fundraiser for your nonprofit.
What are online gaming-based fundraisers?
For the most part, online game-based fundraisers work on the principles of chance-based games/contests, allowing participants to win prizes while also raising money for your nonprofit. Examples of charitable games include raffles, sweepstakes, bingo, lotteries, etc. At its core, the concept isn’t new. It’s just that instead of organizing the games in person, you do them online.
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Why you should choose to fundraise with online gaming
Here are eight compelling reasons to implement online gaming-based fundraisers for your nonprofit or charity:
1. A huge untapped market: According to the 2019-2020 North American Gaming Almanac report, the charitable gaming market in North America is worth approximately $2 billion and is growing at a rate of 3.4% — that’s a huge opportunity to tap into.
2. An effective means for holistic fundraising: Over time, with changing situations, needs, priorities, and technologies, the ways and means of fundraising and donating have also evolved — and so have end goals. Today, for most nonprofits the goal of a fundraiser is more than just raising money — it’s also about developing relationships, building a supportive community, and fostering engagement to attract new donors and retain existing ones. Online charitable gaming-based fundraisers can help you achieve this!
3. Meet the donors where they are: The pandemic and the widespread use of the internet and technology are prime catalysts that have caused a shift in donor behavior, making it imperative for nonprofits to engage and appeal to donors where they spend most of their time — online.
4. Expand reach and attract the younger demographic: Online gaming tends to attract a younger demographic. Studies have shown that approximately 70% of 20- and 30-year olds buy at least one lottery ticket a year compared to 45% of seniors aged 70 or older. However, research also suggests that it’s mostly the older people who give. This means that while the younger population has the spending power, they aren’t necessarily donating. Charitable gaming gives you a chance to attract this segment of the population, thus expanding your reach.
5. Increase engagement and drive donor acquisition and retention: The potential to win millions makes online gaming-based fundraisers very attractive to donors. When implemented with the right technology and supported with a solid go-to-market strategy and promotional plan, it can help engage new donors and boost donor acquisition while re-engaging lapsed donors.
6. Reduce operational costs and increase return on investment (ROI): Running a fundraising event online (versus in-person) means less operational costs and administrative work, access to a highly secure virtual environment, cost savings on printing and purchase of stationery items, efficient collection and distribution of funds, and the ability to reach a wider audience geographically and demographically at a minimal cost.
7. Access to real-time reporting: The latest technology ensures a faster turnaround from sales to the actual event to choosing a winner. It also makes the process of adhering to regulatory and licensing frameworks very easy and fosters transparency with accurate data management and real-time reporting, which can also be used to inform decisions and plan future campaigns.
8. Stand out from the crowd: Today, there are tens of thousands of charities, nonprofits, and foundations vying for donor attention. And donors have become savvy — they want to be engaged and involved. This has made it harder to raise funds. This is why charitable gaming is such a game-changer.
Choosing an ideal online gaming-based fundraiser for your nonprofit
Here are six online gaming-based fundraisers for you to consider:
1. A 50/50 raffle
A 50/50 raffle is a lot like a normal raffle. The only difference is that instead of having a predetermined prize, you share 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of tickets with the winner (you keep the remaining 50 percent). Usually, nonprofits run virtual 50/50 raffles for a minimum of four to six weeks. You can organize them continuously throughout the year or selectively with other fundraisers.
Running a virtual 50/50 raffle is ideal when:
- You want a fundraiser that most donors are familiar with.
- You want to minimize expenses and operational costs.
- You want a fundraiser that won’t distract donors from your other large-scale fundraisers (raffles can be organized alongside other fundraisers in a hybrid or fully-online setup).
- You want a raffle that’s easy to organize and won’t require much of your time.
2. Catch the Ace
Catch the Ace is a progressive raffle in which participants stand a chance to win in the weekly draw and the progressive jackpot. When purchasing a ticket, the participant chooses a card they believe is the Ace of Spades. If they win in the weekly draw, their card is revealed. And if it’s the Ace of Spades, they also win the progressive jackpot. But if the card picked is not the Ace of Spades, it is removed from the deck, and the progressive portion of the ticket sales is rolled over to the next scheduled draw.
Running a Catch the Ace program is ideal when:
- You want a raffle that’s cost-effective. Like a 50/50 raffle, you also don’t need to budget for a prize — you use a percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales as the prize.
- Your donor database and supporters are familiar and well-versed with the concept of a traditional raffle like a 50/50 program.
- You want to organize a raffle in a market that’s saturated with 50/50s and want to stand out from the crowd.
- You are prepared to be in the market for a longer duration than a month. A Catch the Ace program when run for its full duration, can take up to 52 weeks for the jackpot to be awarded.
- You are willing and prepared to invest the requisite time, resources, and marketing efforts for the entire duration of the program.
- When you want a raffle that will keep participants engaged for the entire duration. The weekly draws encourage more ticket sales and keep participants excited and buying tickets. This enables the progressive jackpot (along with donations) to grow extensively.
These are like raffles — the difference is that to enter a sweepstake, the participants don’t need to buy a ticket or make a donation. For this reason, sweepstakes are not considered gambling and are therefore allowed in all U.S. states. In Canada, pure-play games of chance are prohibited. So, to run them, the prize redemption has to involve a skill test. This usually means answering a question, making the sweepstakes a game of chance and skill.
Running sweepstakes is ideal when:
- You want global or national reach.
- You do not want to deal with obtaining licenses and permits (which is unusual for raffles in most states or provinces).
- You are willing to organize and arrange for prizes.
- You are prepared to spend on extensive marketing campaigns.
When playing bingo, players mark off numbers on a scorecard when the host announces them. The player who first crosses off all numbers in a row on the scorecard (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally) wins, if they call out “bingo” in time. This is a fun and social game that also helps an organization bond with the players.
Running a bingo fundraiser is ideal when:
- You want a simple, low-investment, low-commitment, quick fundraiser.
- You are looking for a one-time interactive game to be held alongside another major in-person fundraiser like a gala.
Pull-tabs offer another cheap, quick, and fun way to raise funds for your organization. Playing is easy and straightforward — players just need to purchase the pull-tabs, open them, and see if they have won.
Running a pull-tab fundraiser is ideal when:
- You want an extremely low-effort fundraiser.
- You are looking for a fundraiser that can be paired with just about any other fundraiser, from bingo to dinners.
- You want a fundraiser that will deliver quick wins for your players (unlike raffles or sweepstakes which may take weeks to draw the winner).
- You want a fundraiser that’s economical for your players to participate in.
6. Video game-based fundraisers
With video game-based fundraisers, players live-stream themselves playing a video game. Attendees are asked to donate before they join or during the live stream. The idea might seem strange, but it works. GuardianCon managed to raise $3.7 milling for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in just one weekend.
Running a video-game fundraiser is ideal when:
- Your donor database and supporters are primarily gamers.
- You already have secured or are prepared to invest in the requisite infrastructure and technology for live-streaming the players.
- You want an engaging way of soliciting donations from the younger demographic that is super fun and also allows the donors to actively participate in the event.
With the world increasingly shifting towards virtual solutions, it’s safe to bet that online gaming-based fundraisers are here to stay. If you are just getting started, you must know the right gaming-based fundraiser to choose based on your goals, the audience you want to reach, your budget, and how much time you are willing to invest in the fundraiser. Being clear on these parameters will ensure you avoid costly mistakes and are set up for success.