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Fundraising meets gaming: what to know before you begin

11 January 2022

If you’re reading this, you’ll most likely know that gaming is a huge multi-billion industry in the UK. It’s no longer just the domain of school kids and some socially awkward hermits, but of adults across almost all age ranges. It’s also a potentially huge area of opportunity for your charity – especially when it comes to fundraising.

At Help for Heroes, after months of planning and research, we launched Hero Up, our new gaming brand and fundraising product in March 2019, just two weeks before the first COVID lockdown. To quote Dickens: it was the best of times; it was the worst of times…

This article is for those looking to tap into the gaming market for the first time, providing some insights and some of the things we wish we’d known to begin with.

Why gaming?

According to JustGiving, the average gamer is older than you might think at 35. Gaming is also a popular family pastime, with 67% of parents playing video games with their children at least once a week, and 45% of people saying it helps their family spend more time together.

Most recently, 62% of adults turned to gaming to get them through the COVID lockdowns during 2020 and 2021, and those numbers are not dwindling. Mintel’s UK video games and consoles market report says that “the COVID-19 lockdown caused such growth in consumers’ gaming habits that the market is set to be significantly boosted even in the longer term.”

All this means that an element – perhaps a significant element – of your core charity audience is likely to game.

So what is Hero Up?

It’s this. In a nutshell, it is a fundraising challenge centred on gaming. Supporters can raise funds by taking part in a sponsored gaming event, live streaming the action on Twitch or YouTube and asking for donations from friends, family and followers. Just like when running a marathon, doing a skydive or the three-peak challenge.

It’s also a separate brand to the main charity, with a deliberately different, and clearly ‘gaming’, look and feel, alongside separate social channels. We did this for two reasons: so that we could go big on promoting it, but not overly dominate our main charity channels, messaging and other fundraising products; and, so that it was clearly separate in case it landed really badly with our existing audiences (spoiler: it didn’t!).

Top Tips

As with any new brand launch or fundraising product, there was a learning curve – particularly when taking COVID and the seismic impact on fundraising habits into account. Here are seven of the more important, practical, or profitable tips to hopefully help you on your way:

  • Beta test with the sector
    Before we went live, we invited a few gaming journalists and influencers to test our product. From our micro-site, fundraising platform, to the streaming integration and, crucially, our sign-up language and journey. Not only was this a great way to understand the stakeholders themselves, but their expert insight proved incredibly valuable in how we developed and tweaked our fundraiser and gamer experiences
  • Don’t be afraid to test (and learn) once live!
    We had very little insight on our target audience to begin with, beyond general YouGov data – who they were, what would land with them, how to talk to them. So, we had to experiment, be prepared to fail and have a quick internal learning process in place. We took this approach across everything – the product, advertising placements and budgets, messaging, channels, tone, look and feel. You name it, we monitored engagement and quickly reacted
  • Launch with influencers
    People buy people first and foremost and having established gaming influencers launch Hero Up was incredibly important. It meant we immediately hit an engaged gaming audience with a strong brand and a charitable cause endorsement from trusted, relevant voices. As a side note, we also found that they raised around seven times more per person per stream than our average fundraiser
  • Leader boards
    Let’s be honest, everyone has a competitive side to them. To harness that edge, we have a fundraising leader board on the micro-site which has seen a number of streamers and fundraisers hold multiple events, drives and tournaments to claim top spot
  • Set clear price points
    Setting out what low to high levels of fundraising can “buy” – i.e., £100 up to £250 or £500 – is very important for two reasons:
    1. The downside to a leader board is it can sometimes put off those fundraisers who might raise modest amounts through a stream. The price points meant there was a direct feeling of “I helped”, regardless of how much was raised
    2. A common question early on from fundraisers and influencers was “what can I say to encourage my audience to donate?” The price points were an easy and clear crib sheet for them to talk about, share on their channels and generally use to cajole more money out of their live stream audiences
  • Create downloadable assets

Over 80% of our fundraisers who sign up have downloaded our assets to use. We have screen frames, posters, social media badges and offline sponsorship forms in the Hero Up branding. Research on our fundraisers show that this leads to significant upticks in monies raised

  • Build a community beyond fundraising

The social element of gaming is key. Finding ways to build a community of likeminded supporters who game will do wonders for your ability to sustain and grow your brand presence. We use Discord – a community tool big in the gaming world – to build our community. The key, we’ve found, is to ensure it isn’t all about fundraising, but to focus on gaming as a community. The ad–hoc fundraising events and streams will naturally flow from that

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Banner Image: Sean Stone on Unsplash

Andy Johnson-Creek

Head of PR, and gaming lead, Help for Heroes

Andy leads the PR for Help for Heroes, be it press office, brand activity or public facing campaigning and, ultimately, tries to make as much noise as possible around fundraising and the needs of wounded, injured and sick veterans. He also leads the charity’s approach to gaming, working closely with the fundraising, brand and marketing teams, as well as directly with gaming publishers and partners.

Lewis McGrath

Event fundraiser, and Hero Up project manager, Help for Heroes

Lewis develops, manages, and supports a range of fundraising events and activities for the charity. From supporting DIY fundraisers, partner events such as the London Marathon, through to leading on the development of new products such as Hero Up.