How would you save a dying ecosystem? Historically, the San Francisco Bay area was a thriving estuary with abundant wildlife. Unchecked development and pollution, however, destroyed nearly 90 percent of the area’s wetlands during the 20th century. Save the Bay was founded in 1961 to stop this devastation, and in their new game “Battle for the Bay,” users test their knowledge to see if they have what it takes to save the bay from further destruction.

Traveling through five decades, players answer a series of history trivia questions in a certain amount of time before the bay is destroyed. For each player who completes all levels, $1 is donated to Save the Bay, and one lucky winner will win an iPad2.

Successful fundraising engages people with your mission and encourages them to take a direct action. Moreover, online gaming for nonprofits transforms how individuals interact with your cause and enables your audience to engage in an educating, entertaining way.

Why online gaming for nonprofits?

Gamification provides a different experience for each user, and in turn, people stay engaged with your nonprofit’s message longer. They are exposed to a variety of viewpoints, they explore how different perspectives work with each other, and they learn why your organization advocates for its cause. Games allow people to “experience” failure in safe ways so they can further relate to individuals who experience those same difficulties in real life.

Plan ahead.

Before you begin your game concept, be sure to set clear goals about what you want to get out of creating a game. Who are your target audiences, and what types of games do they play?

Integrate your message.

A game is a system in which people interact, so ask yourself which ecosystem your cause is in and how that can be translated into a game. Think about how the people who are affected by your cause can be symbolized or integrated into the game, and focus on integrating your message in the game goals, character actions, and the challenges, rules and possible outcomes.

Your users will stay engaged while still taking away your organization’s mission. Keep in mind that game design and conception is highly specialized and takes time to master. Once you have a clear goal and development concept, and then focus on recruiting talent that has the skills to put these ideas into play.

Target your audiences.

Once you develop your game, you want to target your audiences. Find out where they are playing games and the ways in which they discover new ones, and then brainstorm ways to reach out across those channels. Evaluate what sort of partners you can work with and how they can help you market your new advocacy tool. Similarly, reach out to the people who are affected by the issues that your game aims to address – they, too, have a vested interest in making your game known.

Evaluating your game’s successes can help you determine how effective it was. The number of times your game has been played will help you grasp simple awareness. Creative before and after surveys will help you measure more qualitative shifts in audience attitude.

Want to learn more about how your organization can incorporate gamification into your cause? Game for Change offers a how-to toolkit so you can start to incorporate online gaming for nonprofits into your strategy. See more examples of nonprofits that successfully integrate their message into gaming platforms.

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