Telethons Are Back and Anyone Can Hold One


Jerry Lewis Not Required

This Sunday I joined my kids in the family room to hang out and watch TV. With this family, you never know what’s going to be on. It could be anime, YouTube videos or week-long cancer telethons.

Wait, what?! You read that right. Since last Sunday, my gamer kids have been glued to Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 (AGDQ), a week-long live streamed event that raises money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. And, as of 1:30pm CST on Tuesday, they’ve raised $332,074:

Welcome to the age of the live streamed telethon. Jerry Lewis on network TV? That’s so 20th century. These days, anyone can raise funds with a telethon and, as the number above shows, they can rake in big bucks.

Jerry Lewis on network TV? That’s so 20th century.

How AGDQ Works

According to the website, twice a year, veteran gamers from around the world gather for “charity video game marathons focused on speedrunning, or playing the games fast.”

Participants give themselves a time limit and then try to finish each game before the limit’s reached. Play occurs in front of a small live audience as well as much bigger audience on Twitch, a video platform and community for gamers. As of 1:30pm CST on Tuesday, 919,382 Twitch users are following the event.

Community participation also occurs on a Twitch chat channel as well as on a Discord (a popular chat tool for gamers) channel.

During the week-long event, supporters can donate by visiting the donation page on the organization’s website.

Incentives Drive Donations

Incentives, both tangible and not, are what really drive donations through the roof.

Intangible Incentives

When you donate to the cause you can select to have your donation attributed to one or more “bidding challenges:”

For example, if you want:

  • To choose the character name for the MarioKart speedrun, then attribute your donation to the one you like most.
  • The player to take a certain path that makes the game harder to finish fast, then attribute your donation to that option.
  • All the animals to be alive at the end of a certain game where the character can save or kill the animals, then attribute your donation to the cause.

Judging by my kids, this gamification of the donation process is a HUGE part of what makes the event work. Engaging the emotions of a fan-base, especially a passionate one like gamers, is a sure way to drive results.

Engaging the emotions of a fan-base, especially a passionate one like gamers, is a sure way to drive results.

Us? We donated $75 and attributed it all to the “Sonic Adventure 2: The Dark Story” incentive so that they’d speedrun that side of the game rather than the “hero story” side. I don’t know what that means either, but the kids were ecstatic.

Tangible Incentives

In addition to the intangible incentives above, anyone who donates $75 and above was automatically entered into a drawing for a game system.

Not as emotional, but yes, it did drive our donation amount higher, and that is a great outcome for the organization.

Fan-Fueled Community Fundraising

In addition to the incentives, watchers are continuously engaged throughout the event via:

  • Interviews with participants during which fans can ask questions using a Twitter hashtag.
  • Reading the donation comments out loud, many of which shared a cancer-related story. These comments are collected when donations occur:

  • Live, in-game commentary by participants as they execute their speedruns.

These ongoing efforts to engage the community add to the feeling of inclusion which in turn engages the audience more deeply and that leads to more donations.

This IS Reproducible

No matter what cause you’re raising money for, the AGDQ approach can work for your organization.

For example, if you’re raising money for a museum, you can hold an event where artists paint what the audience votes for, live, and then those who donated during that stretch have a chance to win the completed painting.

The opportunities are endless, affordable and with your kid’s help, technically feasible. Ready? It’s showtime!

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