5 Simple Ways to Include Gamification in Your Fundraising Plan

The year is 2021, and everyone is hooked on something: smartphones, food, games, social media, caffeine, shopping, music, etc.

With an abundance of distractions, it is even harder to keep people engaged.

Recently, Microsoft sponsored research to show how much the global attention span has dwindled online — findings showed that we are down to eight seconds, a staggering decline from 12 seconds in 2000.

With more and more things fighting for attention, it takes an incredible amount of work and thought to keep people engaged, especially in fundraising.

Fundraising used to be straightforward: hear the cause, make your donations, and go about your day. Now that the world of fundraising has changed, how do we even get people to listen to the cause, stay interested, get engaged, and donate?

The answer is gamification.

Gamification is the process of adding game-like elements to a process to drive and sustain long-term engagement, inspiring collaboration and interaction. For example, in fundraising, gamification can make fundraising fun and exciting by using game-playing activities. Gamification can be used for physical fundraising events and online fundraising.

Charities can successfully plan and achieve physical fundraising challenges by integrating digital platforms via text and/or web donations to support giving toward the campaign. Some examples of these challenges could be bike rides, walks, dance competitions, cooking games, and other fun challenges.

Gamification aims to change people’s behavior, and according to Fogg’s Behavior Model, by professor B.J. Fogg, three things must happen to change people’s behavior: motivation, ability, and prompt.

To make your gamification strategy work, these three needs must be met:

  1. Supporters must be motivated to participate.
  2. Supporters must think it’s easy to participate.
  3. Supporters must be triggered to complete the task when prompted.

Here are five ways how you can use gamification in your fundraising strategy:

1. Challenges

Supporters want to be more involved in their nonprofits’ cause, and challenges are a surefire way to get them more involved. To set challenges, goals, and activities must be achieved before unlocking the next fundraising phase.

Some types of challenges include:

  • Amount-based challenges. In this case, supporters have to raise or give a certain amount to win. 
  • Time-based challenges. In this case, supporters who raise the most in donations in the fastest amount of time or before the set time limit wins.
  • Social media challenges. In this case, challenges are purely designed to garner online engagement and to be shared — the more these challenges are shared, the more value is created toward the cause. These challenges should be fun and exciting, and they can be amount-based, time-based, or simply just for engagement or cause awareness. When supporters complete their challenges and engagement grows, more and more supporters want to share their results on social media or with their friends, which encourages other people to get involved. A great example of a social media challenge was the ice bucket challenge that broke the internet in 2014.

2. Leaderboards 

A little competition never hurts anyone, and people love to keep score!

A leaderboard shows supporters where they rank on the system. The highest ranking players enjoy the fame it brings while others strive to usurp them. In amount-based challenges, leaderboards will display the list of top donors; doing this helps them feel acknowledged publicly like their donation efforts are being rewarded to an extent whilst encouraging bottom-list donors to strive for the top.

Leaderboards inspire people to play as the goal of moving up the board serves as a tremendous instigator/motivator to continue. The whole idea of moving up the board with each action taken can be addictive.

Leaderboards can be a stand-alone feature, or they can be integrated with amount and time challenges to see who’s ahead.

The key to using leaderboards is designing them in such a simple way that encourages supporters to stay and complete the task.

3. Badges

Badges are subtle motivators. Once tasks are completed and supporters level up, the badges are given to recognize hard work and show off their achievements. These badges can then be displayed and shared on their social media pages or supporters can be even given even real badges (ribbons, medals, plaques, etc.) to show the world their achievement at the completion of a challenge or after a donation.

Badges encourage supporters to talk or even brag about their achievements. Again, this can be used for all challenges. 

A perfect example is when the charity Crux used gamification to start a fundraising initiative called a dryathlon where it issued badges to dryathletes who had earned it by abstaining from alcohol. They also used a frequently updated leaderboard to show the dryathletes who raised the most money either as individuals or teams to create and motivate healthy competition. Using these two strategies, they had more than 35,000 participants in their pilot year (2013) and raised £4 million. Through these strategies, the charity was able to tap into a new fundraising audience: men. Previously, around 85% of their supporters were women under the age of 55.

4. Points 

Like badges, having a point-based system would motivate donors to complete tasks to earn points. The more tasks completed, the more points earned. Points can be used as key resources to help a supporter level up or complete a stage. The point-based system works best for virtual fundraising sessions and digital fundraising campaigns via apps/platforms.

These points can then be redeemed for a reward or prize that could either be physical or digital. They can use these rewards for themselves, or it could be more given toward the cause. 

A successful use of the point-based system was achieved by the charity Depaul UK. This charity focuses on homelessness and launched the app iHobo in 2010. iHobo is an app that lets its users look after a young person who happens to be homeless for three days. By using push notifications, it lets users know when necessities, like food, a sleeping bag, or shelter, is needed.

Users earned points by helping out and lost points when they neglected the notifications — more than losing points, they risked letting the lives of the people spiral out of control.

The app’s goal was to highlight the complexities and issues around youth homelessness in a way that couldn’t be ignored. The campaign achieved free media coverage, valued at £2.3 million, and had over 600,000 downloads.

5. Rewards & Prizes

It’s been shown that people give more generously when they have the opportunity to play a game with prizes up for grabs, and of all the incentives earned for participating, rewards or prizes are the greatest motivators. 

Rewards are an effective way to increase the perceived value of the investment to be made, in this case, the donation. 

People would be more eager to participate for the chance to win a prize. Therefore, it’s crucial to offer prizes that supporters perceive as worthwhile (i.e., prizes they resonate with to motivate supporters to complete challenges). 

When developing a rewards/prize incentive program, the most crucial element is incorporating both tangible and intangible rewards. Tangible rewards could be incorporated at the end of specific levels, unlocked when supporters level up. Tangible rewards can be as simple as winning a customized t-shirt or even a gift card. The trick is the supporter being able to receive something of value for their contribution.

Intangible rewards are rewards that have no inherent monetary value; they could be as simple as handwritten thank-you notes, or exclusive information to other events. Tangible and intangible rewards do not have to be exclusive of one another, and they should be initiated at different involvement levels of the challenges.


Gamification is vital for fundraising in today’s world; donor engagement is of dire importance for nonprofits to reach their goals. It should never be about creating games just for the sake of it, but instead, it should be targeted at using game mechanics to change behavior. Gamification works best when there’s a strategic objective (the goal of the cause) and a desired action/outcome (raising awareness, signing petitions, or having people donate). Then, a game can be created and designed to help achieve the desired outcome.

Gamification works best when nonprofits understand their supporters and tailor these features to connect and resonate — this happens when games educate and inspire donors to take desired actions.

Gamification works best with creativity and genuinity. Happy exploring!

Kgabane Lengane

Passionate about brand strategy, I love making a difference through the campaigns I’m a part of. I have experience building strategies and creating content for leading brands around the world.

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