Bridging the (fundraising) gap – remaking the case for a games industry charity

George Osborn and Terry Haynes, Co-Chairs of Games Aid, outline why an effective industry charity can play a crucial role in supporting small organisations across the UK

Over the past year and a half, the games industry has taken another enormous step towards mainstream cultural prominence.

Lockdown put games at the centre of people’s free times; the consumer market boomed as people sought virtual connection that felt capable of replacing the physical; with it, came an understanding from a range of audiences that there is a unique power to games as an interactive creative medium.

However, there’s one group whose burgeoning interest in games over the past year hasn’t really been tracked properly: charities. 

The pandemic demolished the traditional revenue streams of charities, cancelling the running races, office bake offs, raffles and other physical activities that formed the bread and butter of fundraising.

In difficult times, charities sought ways to raise funds through digital means. While they looked for a number of options, many surged towards games as a fundraising option because it offered a remarkably effective vehicle for raising cash for great causes.

This manifested itself in a number of different ways. To some extent, charities found that games companies could offer traditional corporate support by putting together programmes in return for cash.

Most though found that games offered unique opportunities not available elsewhere. Humble Bundles have, for a long time, been recognised as an effective source of charity fundraising. But industry has innovated well beyond that too. 

One Special Day, Special Effect’s enormous fundraising day in October, successfully tempted major companies to donate an entire day of revenue in the UK to their cause – demonstrating how in game economies can be turned into engines of remarkable good.

And more broadly, grassroots fundraising has exploded in games. Tiltify has been a prime example of this, helping streamers set up fundraising campaigns through Twitch to create both a mass of smaller fundraisers – the kind you might expect to gamely trudge the streets on marathon day – and hyper effective community events from major streamers or big game brands that raise staggering amounts of money.

Yet while these opportunities exist, and are being taken by some genuinely wonderful charities, it’s also clear that smaller charities need help negotiating into this space.

While the pursuit of funding for charities is ultimately a noble aim, it’s also unfortunately true that fundraising is easier for bigger organisations. Organisations with the time and effort to invest in a games specific advocate can generate greater funds and magnificent results for their communities. But it means growing charities or smaller community charities are at risk of missing out on the benefits of games as a fundraising route if they can’t muster that resource to expand their horizons.

This is why it’s more important than ever for the industry to renew its support in Games Aid. The industry charity has existed for over a decade, successfully raising nearly £4m for small charities supporting young and disadvantaged people across the UK.

Yet it’s been clear to many, including the trustees, that we didn’t fully recognise the power that uniting behind a clear cause like that can have. While companies across has done immeasurable good for a number of charities, demonstrating that the industry as a whole can rally around to provide those smaller charities with access to our games, our communities and the immensely generous communities around us is a powerful way to show our positivity to the world.

Furthermore, Games Aid is designed perfectly to act as the bridge into games for these charities. The charity selection process through which we select the six to eight charities we support requires both industry input for nominations and for the decision of which organisations we back. 

Though Games Aid may have been founded decades ago, its blend of democratic industry action and targeted supportive framework for smaller charities means it remains extraordinarily well placed to thrive in the future.

We believe that it’s our responsibility as co-chairs to ensure Games Aid is able to do that. The work of our outgoing chair, Des Gayle, and the tireless administrative support provided to us by Louise Fisher has helped us through the challenges of Covid. And we’ve been proud to have supported our current slate of partners Access Sport, Autistica, Everyone Can, Lifelites, MAPS, Solving Kids Cancer and The Clock Tower Sanctuary during a particularly difficult moment for the charitable sector.

But we also understand that Games Aid needs to evolve further, and quite rapidly, to truly serve the charities and the industry that we all care deeply about. To that end, we’re committing ourselves as chairs and trustees to a programme of modernisation and professionalisation that’ll ensure the charity is able to deliver good across the country for years to come.

We have already begun to modernise Games Aid’s fundraising approaches, creating new events like our Go Karting tournament and integrating with fundraising services online to diversify our revenue streams. 

We are exploring ways to establish a professional structure around the charity with funding from industry to give Games Aid the kind of support it needs to be a consistent presence in the charitable sector at large. 

And we are looking to expand the expertise in our trustee network further, bringing in expert fundraisers and experts in influencer marketing to deepen our contact network.

But we need to hear from you too about what you need from your industry charity. We will be consulting with our former trustees, our members and the sector at large to understand what we need to do to make Games Aid the most impactful it can be.

Our kind, compassionate and energetic industry is at its best when it is able to come together and act collectively. Backing and growing our industry charity is a magnificent example of how we can do that and we encourage you all, whether long in the industry or new to it, to help play a role in us doing exactly that.

Interested in becoming a Games Aid trustee? Apply here.

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