Turning Fundraising into a Game: Groupon, Zynga and Care2 do it, Why Don't You? | npENGAGE

Turning Fundraising into a Game: Groupon, Zynga and Care2 do it, Why Don’t You?

By on Jun 2, 2011


Using Fundraising Incentives for Fundraising Events

At this year’s SXSW conference, keynote speaker Seth Priebatsch said the next 10 years will be the decade of games. He talked about the importance of motivated players, challenges, rewards, levels and incentives in our everyday activities.

If you take a bit to scan the web you’ll see that Priebatsch isn’t making this stuff up. Groupon, Care2, Zynga and the like are already using gaming elements to drive fundraising, engagement, word-of-mouth sharing and stickiness amongst other things.

Which begs the question. Are you ready to add a gaming element to your fundraising efforts?

Games, challenges, and incentives are not entirely new to fundraising. This strategy has been used by personal or peer-to-peer fundraising event programs for years. Team in Training has raised over $1 billion by rewarding the fundraising efforts of nearly half a million people.  Participants receive incentives like travel arrangements and training for a world-class event for reaching their fundraising goal.

Giving fundraisers a goal is a good start. When they reach that goal, though, what will keep them going?

If you’re not offering incentives beyond an initial default goal, you may be missing out on an opportunity to raise more for your cause.

Here are a few ways nonprofits are rewarding their fundraisers:

  • Virginia Beach Bike MS – Bike shop gift certificates, VIP parking, a 30-minute massage and an invitation to their awards dinner await participants who raise over $4,000.
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma’s Light the Night Walk – Walkers receive e-Store or Best Buy gift cards as they reach various fundraising levels.
  • Walk a Mile in Her Shoes – In Stanley Cup-style, the top walker and team receive a trophy that they keep until next year.
  • Relay for Life – Incentives like Bose speakers; iPods and sweatshirts are awarded for reaching fundraising levels ranging from $250 to $10,000. The UGA Relay for Life Chapter offered additional contests the week of the event, with prizes ranging from a Smartphone to airline tickets.

Now, we understand that not everyone has a big budget for this type of stuff. We also know that convincing your higher ups that you want to spend more money might be a challenge. So …

Budget-Friendly Incentives

Here’s a list of budget-friendly incentives that should at least get you thinking creatively about how you can start putting the gaming into your fundraising event:

  • Recognition online, in offline publications and at the event
  • Priority check-in at the event
  • Preferred parking spot
  • Sponsor-donated items like bike tune-ups, massages and gift cards
  • Free ticket to other events, like your golf tournament or gala
  • Meet-and-greets with celebrity guests
  • “Head-of-the-line” starting spot (for biking, walk and 5K events)
  • Prizes leftover from other events
  • Lunch with your CEO or President

I’d love to hear how your organization turns fundraising into a game. Please share your ideas or current incentives in the Comments section below.

Looking for information on increasing peer-t0-peer event fundraising revenue? Register for our Fundraising Events Newsletter and immediately get access to 5 whitepapers covering topics from using social media to empower participants to increasing team captain effectiveness.

  • Increase Event Fundraising with Social Media
  • Understanding the Value of Team Captains
  • Making Participants and Donors Successful with Mobile Solutions
  • Peer-to-Peer Event Fundraising Consumer Survey
  • Raising More Money Online with Independent Fundraising Events




Mike Snusz brings over 11+ years of nonprofit experience to his role as a principal strategy consultant at Blackbaud. He focuses on helping nonprofits create online fundraising, email, P2P, social media, SEO, analytics and website optimization strategies to maximize giving opportunities. Mike previously managed the turnaround of the Ride For Roswell, including the event’s growth from $330,000 to $1.2 million over a three-year period. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter at @mikesnusz. To learn how Mike can help your organization’s next fundraising campaign, contact him at mike.snusz@blackbaud.com.

Comments (8)

  • GoodTwo.com says:

    How about running your own deal fundraiser so that not only are you rewarding the walkers/runners/riders, but also the people donating to them? The fundraisers that run campaigns at http://www.goodtwo.com feature a few different Groupon type deals and every time someone buys one, they get a donation. 

    • Mike Snusz says:

      Really creative idea and, as a fundraiser, I would love it. Not only are you rewarding me, but you’re making it easier for me to raise money. 

      What other ideas are out there?

  • We offer some fun incentive prizes to our fundraising individuals and teams, which is great, yet we encourage each Event Coordinator to do public shout-outs to top fundraising individuals and teams via social media. People like to be acknowledged and the public shout-out is a great way to encourage people to ramp up their efforts so they can brag and make it competitive with other fundraisers.

    We’re also working on creating unique social media avatar badges that people are given when they fundraise above a certain amount.

  • Here is ways to help others raise funds to take care of my friends at the local Animal Shelters and Doggie Rescues.   Hmmm anybody wanna work together?

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