With charities being set to lose more than £4bn in just three months as a result of COVID-19, the fundraising landscape has changed drastically for the third sector. And it feels like it happened overnight. With digital fundraising hastily climbing its way to the top of the priority list as events are cancelled all over the world, there are platforms out there which charities may have never interacted with before, that are now becoming an essential part of fundraising strategies. One of these platforms is Twitch.
The government’s instructions of a countrywide lockdown means that most of us are at home, all the time. That might be why many of us are spending even more hours visiting other worlds by playing video games. In fact, the great British public are playing more video games than ever before. This, in turn, means that there has never been a better opportunity for charities to raise funds and awareness through gaming. Streaming platforms – which let people share their adventures by streaming them online live – such as Twitch, are the main way charities can turn gaming into fundraising.
What is Twitch?
It’s a pretty big deal
Twitch is a platform set up in 2011 by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear. Just three years later in August of 2014 Twitch was sold for a staggering $970m to Amazon. But what does this almost billion dollar platform actually do?
Twitch is a web-based platform that is focused on watching or streaming live or sometimes pre-recorded game play. Although gaming is the main focus by far, you can find an abundance of streams and videos on different topics, from cooking to music. It’s used by 15 million people on a daily basis, to stream, watch, and subscribe to their favourite streamers and friends, and to financially support their favourite streamers via subscriptions and donations.
Gaming and charities
What does live stream gameplay look like on Twitch and why are millions of people so into it?
Twitch is set up to be a social experience, and having the feeling of hanging out with friends playing video games. A Twitch broadcast – or stream – is a live video of what’s on a computer gamer’s screen. You can hear the sound from the game, but the streamer will be speaking over the top, reacting to what’s on screen and chatting with viewers (more on this in a second). A video of the player might also appear on the edge of the screen via their webcam.
Viewers of the stream can chat in a chat room that appears alongside the stream. On the most popular streams this is a torrent of comments and emojis. Those that subscribe to the channel have their comments highlighted, and sometimes have a private chat room for subscribers only. Fans of streamers love it when their comments are read out or responded to by the streamer.
To capitalise on this Twitch introduced a paid subscription feature. This isn’t like subscribing on YouTube, which is free, instead fans pay a monthly subscription fee to the channel to support the creator to produce content. Twitch takes around half of this before passing it on to streamers.
Twitch does have a free subscription system, like YouTube, but calls this Following rather than Subscribing. Subscribers or subscriptions are referred to by the twitch community as “subs”.
Rather than commit to creating the constant stream of content needed to entice people to stay subscribed to their channels, we recommend charities avoid pushing for subs and instead include a donation promo and link under their stream, and regularly call out for donations on streams.
Better yet, you don’t even have to stream at all, and can instead find people in your charity’s supporter base who already game or stream and ask them to fundraise on their behalf – just like with challenge fundraising events, except from the couch rather than Kilimanjaro.
Let’s take a look at some of the charities and events using these strategies to hit the sweet spot with Twitch.
Charities leading the ‘Streaming for Good’ movement
Livestreams on Twitch and other platforms such as YouTube have become the most common way for charities to harness the fundraising power of streaming, with Twitch estimating that more than £79m has been raised through the platform since its launch. Let’s take a look at some of the charities that are winning with Twitch.
Macmillan Cancer Support
Macmillan has run an initiative called ‘Game Heroes’ for the last four years; A well designed section on their website that explains how you can take part in a sponsored gaming marathon to support people living with cancer.
Having raised over £135,000 so far this year, Macmillan is clearly speaking a gamer’s language; with a leaderboard displaying their top ten gaming fundraisers – the competition isn’t just in gaming. Imagine the pride you’d feel seeing your name as first-place fundraiser for a cause you’re passionate about. From 24 hour gaming marathons to live fundraising streams, Macmillan encourages anyone to take to Twitch to do their part.
Get inspired by Macmillan:
- Create a leaderboard to generate friendly competition
- Provide simple instructions for joining in
- Get people to create their own fundraising pages to keep track of their individual target and to personalise the ask to their friends, family and subscribers/followers
- Provide FAQs so that visitors can get all the info they need in one place and don’t get derailed by something confusing along the journey
- When you’ve reached a nice fundraising milestone, share how much you’ve raised (with a scale displaying how much more you’d like to raise!)
- Create a simple and catchy hashtag, like Macmillan did with #GameHeroes, to generate conversation over on social media
- Share the latest streams in support of your cause to encourage more interaction, and to help streamers grow their audiences
The UK-based transgender advocacy group, Mermaids is another charity taking full advantage of the opportunities live streaming provides.
In early 2019, Harry Brewis (online handle – Hbomberguy), played Donkey Kong 64 for 57 hours straight to raise money for the charity. He even caught the attention of U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who briefly called in during the stream! By the end of the video game marathon, Brewis raised around $340,000.
Mermaids don’t only reap the rewards of epic gaming sessions like Harry’s, they’re also determined not to let COVID-19 rain on their parade. Literally. When their Pride events were called off, instead of turning down a ready made audience of attendees, they turned to Twitch. In lieu of these in-person events, they’ve pivoted by contacting a few people to host the events, and instead organised a big, online virtual Pride event which was streamed using none other than Twitch.
They set up a text donation line which they could promote as the stream went out and they also included a link to donate for anybody watching the stream. This was a really clever way to make lemonade when life gives you Coronavirus! Plus, this event made them a cool, refreshing £11,895.34 – exceeding their goal of £10,000.
Get inspired by Mermaids:
- You don’t have to stream game content if it doesn’t fit for your audience or event
- Don’t waste the attendee list you built up before COVID-19 took over, take your events online and use Twitch to do so
- Make the most of your networks, if your charity can’t host a live streaming event alone, ask some local influencers or super supporters to help!
- Take advantage of the chat functionality on Twitch. If someone is raising money for your charity, engage with the donors, thanking them for their support
Games Done Quick
Games Done Quick is a showcase event held twice a year from different locations in the US. Gamers who compete with each other to complete video games in the fastest time – called ‘speedrunning’ – apply to be featured as part of the event. Each event lasts for seven days and is streamed on Twitch, and to a small live audience at the convention centre or hotel where it’s held.
Funds are raised for different charities, currently for Doctors Without Borders and Prevent Cancer Foundation. So far over $26million has been raised over the 10 years the event has been running.
Funds are donated by viewers, and many are driven to donate to hear their donation get read out on the stream, to unlock different competitions which only happen if certain totals are met, or to be in with a chance of winning an incentive or prize (with higher donation levels unlocking access to better prizes).
Get inspired by Games Done Quick:
- Consider creating an event format and then invite people to participate
- Try and reach out to and involve people who already have a following, on Twitch or elsewhere, and involve them in your event concept
- Feature multiple people if you can to broaden your audience
- Offer prizes or incentives for donations if you can
- Involve your audience, not just the streamers, giving them shout outs and finding ways to make them feel included – especially if they donate
- Gamers understand games, use game mechanics like unlocks and progress bars to inspire more people to donate
- Your event concept might not do well the first one or two times you run it, persistence will be key to building momentum and tweaking the format to maximise interest
FAQs about Twitch
How do we get started on Twitch?
- If you’re going to be streaming yourself then set up an account, by heading to Twitch.tv and selecting ‘Sign up’. Make sure to apply your branding where you can (i.e. use your logo as your image)
- If you are planning on using a donation platform such as Tiltify or JustGiving, register your charity on their site to create a donation page you can link to under your stream
- Create a simple page on your website just as Mermaids and Macmillan have with straightforward instructions for how someone can fundraise for your charity with Twitch, either by hosting their own stream or donating during yours.
- Include a sign up form for any interested participants
- Include your donation platform of choice (Tiltify, Just Giving etc..)
- Include some fundraising FAQs
- Include any assets to help the streamer, like promotional graphics or logos
- After some time, you could include a that extra layer of engagement with things like leaderboards or progress bars
- Proactively search for gamers to fundraise for you. Think about how you could communicate in a way that makes gamers want to fundraise on behalf of your charity. This could either be your existing supporters who game (the easiest to ask), or you could approach someone who already has a large audience on Twitch (a twitch influencer), and ask them to host a fundraising event for you
- Once you have gamers fundraising for you, we would recommend that you log in with your Twitch account and join as a viewer of the streams with the goal of engaging with people who are donating or who might donate.
- Depending on their donation platform of choice, once the fundraising event is over, the money will be transferred to your charity
- Be sure to shout-out to your awesome gamers who have helped to support you!
How do gamers collect donations?
There are specific platforms for streamers to collect donations that go directly to the charity like Tiltify, DonorDrive and Steamlabs. Some content creators also use traditional donation platforms such as JustGiving, Virgin Money Giving and Charity Checkout.
In some cases, charities have gone all out and built their own platform which integrates into their website but as you can imagine, this takes some upfront investment to pay back over time.
Which donation platform should we use?
As a charity, you can link to any, including your own website, donation process and you can also provide a text giving code, just like Mermaids did, so that people watching can donate that way.
There are a number of platforms out there but we’d say that Tiltify has the best features for fundraising with Twitch. Although, JustGiving is also set up to fundraise well with Twitch. Reach out to charity peers who may be in this space, and ask them about their experiences with the different donation platforms.
Remember, if you’re asking people to fundraise for you then it’s them who will be creating the fundraising page. Choosing something your particular audience finds easy to use and are comfortable with will be the key consideration.
Does our charity need an account to fundraise on Twitch?
Your charity doesn’t have to set up an account on Twitch to fundraise if you’re encouraging others to fundraise for you in a challenge event style – the fundraising is done by the gamer on behalf of your charity. But, by setting up an account, you have an opportunity to engage with the audience watching the gamer’s streams. This offers a brand new channel to engage with potential supporters and donors, especially ones you’re unlikely to be targeting through your existing methods.
You should use your charity name and logo when you create your account. You could join active streams, and thank those who are donating. Or, you could use this as an opportunity to share interesting statistics and facts about your cause. This might be a brand new channel, typically with a younger audience – a perfect opportunity to get fun and creative in your messaging and tone of voice.
You can use your Twitch channel to showcase what gamers are doing for you by showing highlights of streams, or use it to stream your own live events. Do consider if your live event would be better streamed on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube depending on your audience and the type of interaction you want with them.
If you can’t choose, or have a split audience, professional streaming software like Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) allows you to stream to multiple platforms at the same time.
How do we find gamers to fundraise for us?
You could begin to search for gamers by using existing resources such as your email newsletter list (or mailing list), you could reach out on social media, you could advertise with Google Ads (make sure you take advantage of non-profit Ad grants), or you could put advertising budget towards a targeted campaign on Facebook.
Starting with your existing supporter base is always going to be an easier way to get the ball rolling than reaching out cold to influential streamers. Cold asks are more likely to be successful if you have a track record of at least a few successful game streams.
Something we recommend is creating a dedicated page on your website which houses all the relevant information for gamers that are thinking about fundraising for your charity and then using this as a landing page to drive potentially interested people to.
It’s a good idea to have a registration form on your website to link to, should anyone wish to sign up to raise funds with a charity stream. That way you can get their details ahead of when they plan to do the stream and work with them to deepen their engagement and ensure it happens.
How we could support your Twitch journey
We’re passionate about supporting charities in finding new ways to raise money digitally, so if we can offer some friendly advice on your Twitch journey, we’re happy to do so.
We can also offer more strategic consultancy and planning around digital fundraising opportunities on Twitch. From providing support on defining your Twitch fundraising strategy or online platform creation to make sure you get the most from live streaming, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Good luck!