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Livestream gaming 101: an innovative and new fundraising tactic

By Jack Little & CJ Orr
October 10, 2019

Two pairs of hands holding game controllers, aimed at a screen showing a video game in the background
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

The gaming industry is one of the fastest growing and most profitable. With 1.5 billion active gamers worldwide, it is estimated to be a $90 billion market by 2020. While gaming is thought of as a hobby by many, some nonprofits have taken notice of this industry as a new and unique opportunity for fundraising. In fact, over $22 million was raised in 2018 by gamers, live streamers, and enthusiasts alike. This is a new space in philanthropy and it is just getting started. But first, let’s dive deeper into what livestream gaming is.

What is livestream gaming?

Simply put, livestream gaming is exactly what it sounds like; a person (aka gamer or live streamer) plays a video game and livestreams the gameplay for their fans to watch. These gamers use livestreaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, or Mixer, where fans watch them play and learn gaming tips. In return for streaming their gameplay, skills, and banter, live streamers usually ask fans to donate to causes through an integrated button on their stream.

Twitch, one of the most popular streaming platforms, has 15 million active daily viewers that watch an average of 1.5 hours per day. That is more active daily viewers than ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News combined. With a forecasted increase of 50 percent in users over the next year, Twitch’s strong fan base allows some of the top live streamers to make hundreds of thousands of dollars per month. Now that we know what livestream gaming is, what does it look like when fundraising is thrown into the mix?

A typical setup

Charity streams are similar to telethons—live streamers broadcast themselves playing video games and ask viewers to donate to charity. These streams can happen in a variety of ways—some include streamers discussing the issue and urging viewers to make donations in real time; others include streamers giving viewers incentives to donate. Whatever the case may be, live streamers and charities have built and utilized this model to make fundraising engaging and fun for the viewers. While it is interesting to see how gamers have adapted their streams to raise money for charity, what is even more interesting is how nonprofits are leveraging charity steams to unlock new opportunities in fundraising.

How nonprofits are leveraging livestream gaming

Livestream gaming, when done right, can be a highly effective fundraising platform. For example, Direct Relief, a humanitarian nonprofit, believed it to be so effective that they hired a live streamer named Matthew Moffit as a “gaming production specialist.” Moffit and his team brought in $1.6 million for Direct Relief through livestream events in just two years. To put this into perspective, Moffit’s livestreams generated 73,000 online donations, just 7,000 fewer than the total generated through Direct Relief's website. Direct Relief is just one of many examples of nonprofits leveraging gamers and charity streams.

Another way nonprofits are leveraging livestream gaming is through the use of third-party organizations such as DonorDrive—an enterprise fundraising platform that empowers people to raise more for the charities they care about. For example, DonorDrive has a feature that allows nonprofits to connect to streams on Twitch, YouTube, or Mixer, and link it directly to their fundraising page.

“Live fundraising enables nonprofits to provide content creators, donors and partners with a cohesive charity streaming solution that leads to a highly engaging fundraising experience,” said Nik Stephens, DonorDrive’s chief technology officer. “Broadcasters can quickly connect their fundraising page to their stream and see donations and comments live with a real-time activity feed. When nonprofits leverage cause branded fundraising pages and Twitch Extensions that are tightly integrated to their website, donors are confident their gifts go directly to the charity.”

As one of few fundraising platforms that empowers livestream fundraising, DonorDrive helped produce one of the largest livestream fundraising events to date—Extra Life. This is a 24-hour livestream gaming fundraiser that supports Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and connects thousands of gamers around the world. Since the event’s inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised over $50 million for sick and injured kids.

Why is livestream gaming effective fundraising?

Simply put, livestream gaming allows organizations to generate revenue in different and new way vs. traditional fundraising tactics. The ability to raise large amounts of money is a short amount of time makes it an effective and innovative fundraising tool. For example, a famously generous YouTuber named Mark Fischbach made history by raising $500,000 in under 24 hours for a nonprofit called My Friend’s Place. The previous year, the organization raised $2.2 million. Mark raised a quarter of that in one day. In addition to the high returns, livestream gaming comes with a relatively lost cost to the organization.

Fan-based loyalty and trust also sets livestream gamers apart from your average fundraiser. Since gamer content is not as curated or refined as other kinds of content, its fans tend to feel more connected to it on a deeper level. As a result, fans trust gamer endorsements, whether they be products or charities.

Nonprofits can benefit from livestream gaming in a variety of ways. The consumer pool of livestream gaming is a relatively untapped fundraising market. With a viewer audience made up mostly of Millennials and Gen Zers, nonprofits have a unique opportunity to tap into a demographic of donors that have been traditionally hard to reach. The digital environment is becoming increasingly more powerful in its capacity to fundraise and nonprofits should be prepared to change and adapt to ensure they capitalize this major philanthropic force.

Tags: Fundraising