4 Nonprofits That Gamified Their Funding (and Tips for You to Copy)

Nonprofits all have one thing in common: They need to raise money. There are some that do it better than others, and they’re usually the ones who manage to make the biggest impact. Reaching a larger audience is a key aspect of increasing donations. It doesn’t have to be huge donations, either. Even small ones that are made frequently can have a big impact.

Making donating fun encourages people to come back, and repeat donations are vital. Check out these ideas for tips on how to make donating to your organization more appealing:

Donate a Photo

This isn’t a competition or anything unless you’re looking for a way to let more people see your pictures. Johnson & Johnson’s Donate a Photo app is an easy way to browse other’s pictures and post your own, in a similar method to sharing pictures on Facebook or Instagram. This is a simple platform that only requires moderation to make sure inappropriate pictures don’t make the cut.

Those photos then become public, and others can share them on social media. Each picture donates $1 to the charity of your choice. There isn’t a game as far as being able to “win” something, but maybe the staff picks their favorite pictures. Those are then used to promote the charity, along with hashtags.

The takeaway: Letting people pick and choose which images matter to them not only encourages them to donate, but it also gives you a look at who they are and who you’re attracting.


Budge is a fun, competition-based app that allows you to play against your friends. You can challenge your friends to just about anything, and the loser pays for the donation.

The donation amounts are small, to encourage people to play more often — and you really can challenge your friends to anything, including a pizza eating contest, race or even a pie-baking contest. If you can think of it, you can make it for a good cause.

The takeaway: Combine individuals’ ingenuity with tiny donations and a competitive atmosphere, and you have a recipe for success. The more ideas you can put together to make a winning combination, the more likely you are to succeed.

Vaccines on the Go

This app, Vaccines on the Go created by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), is designed to give parents quick, accurate data regarding vaccines. With the influx of “alternative facts,” good, reliable information is becoming harder to distinguish from biased, cherry-picked, misleading data points.

This app seeks to cut though some of that noise, and it does it partially by including some vaccine-related games. Matching games and hangman are both popular options, where you can use your vaccine knowledge to win the game!

The takeaway: The idea that’s being used here is not gamification to make money, although it probably will eventually. Instead, it’s to spread awareness, along with developing and maintaining relationships with those involved in the sector. This civic outreach and external relationship management is sometimes overlooked at nonprofits, often to their own disservice.

Free Rice

Free Rice was one of the first truly free play-to-donate games. It’s not dissimilar to other time-waster games, but with an added benefit. Every correct answer you get donates 10 grains of rice. That’s not a lot, but if you get 1,000 right answers — which won’t take long — you’ll donate 10,000 grains of rice. That’s a bowl of food for someone in need.

It’s a learning-based platform, and it allows you to pick and choose the subjects you play. There are options about art, literature, math, anatomy and even SAT prep course questions. You can track your score, bring in your friends and even work in groups. They also partner with others to give out a prize to high scorers, with a matching donation to their own company.

The takeaway: Offer people who engage with your nonprofit both immediate and long-term rewards. In this case, Free Rice offers the immediate reward of knowing you helped feed someone in need, while also offering long-term rewards like prizes.


There are a huge variety of ways to work games into your nonprofit. These are just a few ideas, with leaderboard and group competitions, challenging your friends, civic outreach and even mimicking social media platforms all combining to help generate donors in different ways.

Finding what will work for your nonprofit takes work, ingenuity and tech savviness — but with a little effort, you might have even some luck crowdsourcing a brand new idea!



Kayla Matthews

March 30, 2017

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