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To maximize your nonprofit event’s potential, you must prioritize attendee engagement and satisfaction. One of the top ways to do so is by incorporating gamification into your event. Gamification refers to integrating game elements into non-game contexts to create a more immersive and interactive experience.

This guide will help you incorporate gamification into your nonprofit’s next event by covering five event gamification ideas you can use for any nonprofit fundraising event. With the creative and flexible strategies presented in this guide, you’ll be able to organize engaging events that satisfy all your attendees.

1. Competitive Events

Many popular nonprofit events rely on game-like elements and competition to succeed—you’ve probably even hosted one such event before. Organizing your entire event around a competitive element makes for an engaging gathering that all your supporters are sure to enjoy.

A few examples of events that encourage friendly competition among attendees include:

  • A-thon style events. Walk-a-thons, fun runs, dance-a-thons, and swim-a-thons all fall under this category. These pledge fundraisers rely on event participants to complete the titled activity in exchange for donations to your nonprofit. Some nonprofits offer prizes to the top participants to encourage greater engagement and foster a competitive spirit.
  • Golf tournaments. These events bring your supporters together for a friendly competition, uniting them in an exciting event where they can show off their skills. Plus, you can use your golf tournament as a springboard for other golf fundraising ideas.
  • Trivia nights. For supporters who prefer battles of the mind, trivia nights are the perfect gamified event. You can easily turn this occasion into a fundraiser by charging teams an entry fee, or use it to deepen understanding of your nonprofit by asking trivia questions related to your organization.

If you’ve decided on a different event format, that doesn’t mean you’re locked out of competitive activities. You can always add smaller games to events, such as scavenger hunts or bingo. If you decide to take this route, EventMobi recommends using event management software with gamification capabilities so you can create corresponding challenges within the platform that encourage attendees to participate.

2. Fundraising Thermometer

A fundraising thermometer is a graphic that represents a nonprofit’s fundraising progress throughout an event or campaign. It turns fundraising into a game by encouraging attendees to contribute to help reach your organization’s goal. Here’s an example of such a graphic from Double the Donation:

An example of a fundraising thermometer.

The best thermometers update in real-time so your nonprofit’s staff members and event attendees can easily stay informed on how close you are to hitting your event’s fundraising goals. They’ll also include milestones on the way to your overall goal, such as $1,000, $2,000, $3,000, and $4,000 raised if your goal is to raise $5,000.

As your thermometer fills up, supporters will feel incentivized to donate to help you hit your next milestone. Plus, you can use your event app to notify participants when you reach a new milestone, thank contributors for their generosity, and tease sponsored prizes, further increasing engagement.

If you’ve partnered with a corporate sponsor to match donations made during your event, be sure that your fundraising thermometer reflects their contributions as well. As you make announcements throughout your event, remind attendees that their gifts will be matched, effectively doubling the impact they can make on your nonprofit’s beneficiaries.

3. Donation Leaderboards

With a donation leaderboard, you’ll publicly recognize your most generous donors and incentivize event attendees to make their gifts during your event. Like a video game leaderboard, a donation leaderboard shows attendees how they’re performing in relation to others, encouraging them to contribute more as the event goes on.

A donation leaderboard usually shows information about the largest gifts made during the event, including the following information:

  • Donor name. When an attendee makes a donation that qualifies for your leaderboard during your event, you’ll ask them if they’d like their name to be shown on your donation leaderboard. If they don’t agree, you can still include information about their gift but with “anonymous donor” as the name.
  • Donation amount. Alongside the donor’s name, include the amount of money they donated to your cause.
  • Ranking. Display donors on your leaderboard in order of donation size so donors know how much they need to give to make it onto the leaderboard. This will encourage event attendees to make larger gifts.

Donation leaderboards are particularly appealing for events where the attendees are mostly major donors, sponsors, or other individuals who are capable of making large donations. However, they can be discouraging to smaller donors. To combat this, you can also include a “most recent donation” board, featuring the attendees who have most recently donated to your nonprofit, regardless of their donation amount.

4. Rewards and Incentives

Rewards and incentives are another gamification strategy that can create a more immersive event experience. How this system works depends on what type of event you’re hosting, but in general, rewards at nonprofit events tend to be one of the following:

  • Branded merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • Gift baskets
  • Social media shoutouts

Many events have rewards built into them—for example, you can think of auction items as the prize for a winning bid. Or, if you host a scavenger hunt, you’re likely offering a prize to the winning team. Offering an incentive like this will help you attract more attendees and ensure that those who do attend are more invested and immersed in your event, as they’ll complete the actions necessary to secure the prize.

5. Mobile Fundraising Challenge

Our final event gamification idea is to host a mobile fundraising challenge. With the help of text-to-give tools, your nonprofit can leverage mobile phone usage to engage attendees and garner donations at the same time. With Americans checking their cell phones on average 144 times daily, this is a valuable strategy for your organization.

During your event, periodically make announcements or send push notifications through your event app reminding attendees that they can make a gift to your nonprofit directly from their cell phone by texting a keyword to a given phone number. Then, you can gamify your text-to-give campaign by offering a reward to the individual who makes the first mobile donation after an announcement or push notification or to a random individual who made a mobile gift during the event. You may also give rewards to those who make the largest gifts or who refer friends and family to contribute through this method.

Everybody loves games—they ignite the competitive spirit, making us more immersed in what we’re doing. That’s why adding gamification to your nonprofit’s events can be so valuable. If you’d like to brainstorm your own gamification strategies, think back to your childhood and the games you liked to play and consider what elements you can bring from those experiences to your events.

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