Peer-to-peer fundraising on social media (also simply known as social fundraising) is proving to be a powerful tool that can help nonprofits meet their fundraising and awareness goals. One simple reason is social networks’ vast reach. According to the most recent statistics, the average Facebook user has 338 friends, meaning a nonprofit needs just 30 supporters in order to reach approximately 10,000 new people in a highly cost-effective manner.
There are several ways to optimize social fundraising and one of these is gamification — or, the application of game mechanics such as thermometers, badges, leaderboards and more — in order to nudge people’s behavior and drive a higher level of participation. Think of the best practices from peer-to-peer events — top performer ceremonies, team recognition trophies, track or table signs — it’s the same concept personified on social media.
Gamification works so effectively because people are naturally hardwired to seek rewards, and it builds camaraderie, enthusiasm and excitement — ultimately driving more funds raised. Here are several tips to incorporate the advantages of gamification into your social fundraising strategy.
Understand the Various Forms of Gamification and What Works Best for a Given Fundraiser
Statistics show that adding gamification to a social media strategy can boost engagement by 100% to 150%, and social fundraising is no exception. While there’s no limit to the creativity that can be applied, various forms of gamification tend to work best based on the nature of the mission and the phase it’s in. Here are some examples.
Starting Out: Quests
Social fundraising tends to be most successful when event participants have a complete, highly personalized fundraising page, but the process of setting up such pages can be confusing and intimidating for participants who are not experts in fundraising tech.
Many nonprofits now offer “Welcome Quests'' to help guide participants on getting started, and may reward them with a badge once the quest is completed. Common elements in a quest include creating and updating a personalized page (with photos, personal stories and more); accepting the first donation; and recruiting additional team members.
Getting Going: Badges
Badges are digital awards that are given to event participants when they reach certain fundraising milestones. They can be displayed on a participant’s personal fundraising page to encourage other participants to reach the same milestones, for example, percentage of results achieved. Badges can be leveraged as a branding vehicle, featuring the nonprofit’s brand or even the event’s brand and participants are encouraged to share.
Keeping the Momentum Going: Leaderboards
Once you get going with badges and donations start coming in, leaderboards can then be featured prominently on an event’s homepage. Leaderboards are very visible to the public, making them a powerful motivator for keeping participants engaged. They are also very effective in inspiring ongoing engagement among event donors. For example, if a friend or family member notices that their participant has slipped on a leaderboard or lost a “top fundraising” badge, they may be inspired to donate again or share the participant’s page among their own networks. Never underestimate the power of competition.
Nearing the End: Progress Thermometers
The satisfaction of seeing a thermometer creep closer and closer to a goal can inspire both participants and donors. The closer a fundraising event gets to its target — either an individual, team or overall event target — a sense of urgency builds and encourages more people to get involved. Thermometers can be great to use as an event approaches its end, helping push a highly successful event conclusion over the finish line.
Make the Gamification Shareable and Actionable
Similar to how social fundraising is increasingly enabled in-platform, gamification in social fundraising is most effective when it is a seamless, natural part of the participant’s experience. Ideally, gamification should be integrated directly into social fundraising initiatives without any clunky third-party technology.
Additionally, things like badges and leaderboards should be accompanied with features like “share now” buttons to make the sharing process as easy as possible and virtually automatic. When these incentives are achieved and participants are notified, they should also receive suggested social post text for communicating to one’s network how quick and easy it is to take action and get involved.
Consider Tying Digital Incentives to Real-World Perks
Digital achievements can become even more desirable – and therefore effective – when they are tied to real-life rewards. Many nonprofits have great success when they combine badges and other forms of gamification with things like raffle tickets, event merchandise, gift cards or even T-shirts.
If budget is an issue for a nonprofit, consider incentives that would not cost anything, such as public recognition on social channels or an invitation to the next big in-person event. Smaller milestones can be combined with smaller incentives, and as milestones become harder to achieve, the corresponding incentive value can increase.
To date, gamification hasn’t been commonly implemented among nonprofits — either for social fundraising or other types of fundraising. But together, social fundraising and gamification make a very powerful combination, with both activating the rewards center in the brain.
Social fundraising is prime for taking advantage of gamification elements in order to boost donor engagement and motivation. Gamification can be readily incorporated into a social fundraising effort, but it’s important to know which form is apt to be most effective for a given mission and the stage it’s in. It’s also important to know how to integrate gamification seamlessly (and ideally) in-platform; and how to encourage sharing and leverage incentivization in order to maximize the benefits. This is indeed an exciting time for nonprofits to explore this new technique in their social fundraising arsenal.
Maria Clark is GoodUnited's executive vice president of partnerships, and chief evangelist. Clark is a career nonprofit executive with 30-plus years of industry experience. She is a champion of innovation in the sector and has fearlessly led technology adoption and change management efforts throughout her career. Previously, Maria spent 33 years at the American Cancer Society, a top 20 U.S. nonprofit.