Can’t Figure Out How to Get Your Donors Involved? Try Videogames!

So if you ask people to volunteer in your cause before you ask them to give to your cause, you’ll double your donation dollars.

But what if your cause is helping the people of Argentina and you’re trying to reach people in the United States?

Solution: Try videogames.

Check out this 20 minute TED masterpiece by Jane McGonigal entitled Gaming Can Make A Better World. McGonigal’s bio summarizes her approach:

Jane McGonigal asks: Why doesn’t the real world work more like an online game? In the best-designed games, our human experience is optimized: We have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment. In her work as a game designer, she creates games that use mobile and digital technologies to turn everyday spaces into playing fields, and everyday people into teammates. Her game-world insights can explain — and improve — the way we learn, work, solve problems, and lead our real lives.

In the TED video she describes three games her team has thus far created. My personal favorite:

We did a game called Superstruct at The Institute For The Future. And the premise was, a supercomputer has calculated that humans have only 23 years left on the planet. This supercomputer was called the Global ExtinctionAwareness System, of course. We asked people to come online almost like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. You know Jerry Bruckheimer movies, you form a dream team. You’ve got the astronaut, the scientist, the ex-convict, and they all have something to do to save the world.

But in our game, instead of just having five peopleon the dream team, we said everybody is on the dream team, and it’s your job to invent the future of energy, the future of food, the future of health, the future of security and the future of the social safety net. We had 8,000 people play that game for eight weeks. They came up with 500 insanely creative solutions that you can go online, if you Google “Superstruct”, and see.

What can you do if your cause is so impoverished that <sniff> it doesn’t yet have a videogame associated with it?

Try Googling the name of your cause coupled with the word “videogame”. I Googled “North Korea videogame”, for example, and discovered a half a dozen titles that immediately began to foster ideas in me about how they could be used to promote one of Seoul USA’s core causes, supporting the underground church of North Korea. You might be equally surprised to discover that a game exists that relates to your cause.

A fair question to ask:

Does videogaming lead to real world involvement with the cause…or does it preclude such involvement by virtually “scratching the itch” to make a difference?

McGonigal contends that if it does the latter–if, in other words, the game is more immersive than reality–then that’s an indictment of the reality into which we invite donors:

Instead of providing gamers with better and more immersive alternatives to reality, I want all of us to be become responsible for providing the world with a better and more immersive reality.

Another solution is to check out Blitz Bazaar, which incentivizes real world involvement through an intriguing game structure–making us “jealous unto good works”, as it were.

Last word to Blitz Bazaar’s Lloyd Nimetz (who, by the way, not only spotted the McGonigal post in the first place but also is applying these concepts to getting people involved in helping Argentina):

What would happen if organizations put more energy and creativity into recruiting people’s time and skill instead of their money?  More concretely, what if civil society and government did a better job of tapping into the power of game-mechanics to drive civic participation?  My proposal:  social leaders should step up and set goals for ourselves.  Community leaders should set operational goals i.e. 10% increase in volunteerism & civic participation, and we should keep clear metrics.  Every university, school, organization, corporation, church, etc. in the nation could be put to the challenge.

How about you join me in making this a two-player game?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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