How to engage your fundraisers with gamification & rewards

By Truman Tang

Bringing some fun into your charitable campaigns via gamification and rewards is a great way to raise awareness for your cause, create an engaging experience for your fundraisers, and turn them into lifelong advocates for your cause.

What is gamification?
To me, gamification isn’t about buying a system and using it to get fundraisers to do things for you. Instead, it’s thinking holistically about your goals and designing a gamified system to support them.

What this means is having a mix of the following elements in your fundraising programs or campaigns:

  • Rewards and recognition. Tangible or intangible outputs that recognise and reward those who are participating. This is used for motivation and to psychologically evoke repeated behaviour.
  • Game mechanics. This includes the elements you find in games. These come in the form of tasks, points, badges and levels.
  • Behavioural economics. This is about persuading fundraisers to set aside their time to do something for you. For example, are they motivated by competition? Will they do anything to win, or do they play so they can socialise with their friends?

What rewards will motivate your fundraisers?

In addition to the gamification elements discussed above, you will have to consider rewards as a criteria for motivating each person who raises funds for your organization. Selecting rewards that will drive them to take action—or offering a number of rewards that appeal to all of your donor types—is important for creating an effective game environment.

With my advocates, I like to use Gabe Zichermann’s SAPS framework to create rewards. SAPS stands for Status, Access, Power and Stuff.

1. Stuff
Stuff is tangible rewards such as gadgets, swag and free lunches. Giving away Stuff can be an easy way to express gratitude and engage fundraisers—especially your new fundraisers. These tokens of appreciation will motivate them to increase their involvement and learn more about your organisation.

How does stuff relate to gamification?
They’ll love to engage with you for points they can redeem for small prizes of their choosing.

2. Access
People who want Access like the VIP treatment. They may be your long-term or top-performing fundraisers who don’t want to be treated like just another donation check. If you go the extra mile and give them exclusive experiences, they can become your biggest advocates. Invite them to a private customer event, or give them a chance to speak with your executives so they feel truly valued.

How does access relate to gamification?
A level system that gives fundraisers access to more perks and bonuses as they advance will keep them engaged.

3. Power
Power is the ability to influence others. You can appeal to people who want Power by:

  • Asking them for feedback on how you can improve your organisation
  • Nominating them as a team lead, so they can motivate other fundraisers
  • Giving them moderator status in a forum

How does power relate to gamification?
Give these fundraisers special badges to highlight their knowledge, achievements or participation in certain campaigns.

4. Status
Power and Status have some overlap. People who are motivated by Power and Status like to have influence over others. However, people who want Power don’t mind being behind the scenes, while those who want Status want to be in the spotlight. Status seekers tend to have large networks and lots of influence over their community—which can make them great fundraisers. Offer them the chance to speak at events and share their experiences. This allows them to showcase the impact they are making and receive public recognition for it.

How does status relate to gamification?
Put these status seekers on a public leaderboard (based on their activity or fundraising level) and watch the competition to climb to the top ensue!

Here are three real world examples to help you with your next campaign.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a great example of a gamified charity initiative. It used game mechanics and behavioural economics (the participants’ desire to be social) to incite participation.
Participants didn’t receive a huge reward for taking part. They simply proved to their peers that they did it (via social media), which appealed to their need for status. Having the power to request a friend (or five) take the challenge was another huge (and fun) motivator.
Another reason why the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was so successful was because it was easy to do. You didn’t need special skills or equipment to complete the challenge. When it comes to gamification, the easier something is to do, the more people will do it.

The concept for this month-long November event is simple: men grow moustaches and ask for online donations from their friends and family on social media. By sharing funny photos of their mo’s growth, they continuously remind their personal networks to help them reach a fundraising goal. The ease of participation and social aspects of the campaign taps into behavioral economics to drive engagement.

The event also uses game mechanics tools to entice fundraisers. Each Mo Bro and Mo Sista are given a personalised page that shows how close they are to achieving their fundraising goals, and they receive badges when they hit certain fundraising levels.
Top fundraisers are showcased on a public leaderboard and invited to a celebratory gala, giving them the chance to gain status among their peers.

San Diego Zoo
You don’t need a massive budget or thousands of viral shares to make a great gamified fundraiser campaign.
For example, the San Diego Zoo offers top-performing fundraisers access to a behind-the-scenes tour not available to the public. This awesome experience will stay with each person much longer than a free T-shirt.
This reward has an added benefit (thanks to behavioral economics). Any supporter who takes the tour will see how the San Diego Zoo is achieving their mission of saving species from around the world. Getting a first-hand taste of how their efforts have helped the animals will inspire fundraisers to give more in the future and become stronger advocates for the zoo.

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