This weekend while I was enjoying the geek heaven that is GenCon, I had a chance to learn about how gaming is not only a great way to have fun, learn skills, and connect with other people – it can also be used to raise money and spread the word about worthy causes in your community. I was lucky enough to participate in a panel with lovely, purpose-driven gamers Andrew Christopher Enriquez and JR Honeycutt of DFW Nerd Night, Oliver Wojtyna of Extra Life Indy Guild, Tiffany Ralph, Dan Patriss of Gamers for Cures, and Adrienne and Jim Jones of Great Big Table and Baby Toolkit. The whole team gave some wonderful tips for organizing charity gaming events and supporting charity through geeky pursuits. Here are some of the tips they shared and lessons I learned:
- Connect with a charity that has meaning to you. Getting in touch with a charity that is in line with your values and up to your standards is key. Once you’ve found a charity that interests you, reach out to them and let them know about what you are organizing. They may choose to send a representative to your event, or they may just give you more information that will help you explain what they do to attendees – either way, connecting with them will help you get to know how best to support the cause.
- People give back the most when you make them feel good. Instead of hounding them for donations, focus on creating a happy and memorable experience for the geeks in your life – whether you’re organizing an event or an online charity auction.
- Giving back isn’t just about the money. Don’t be disappointed if your event doesn’t raise the big bucks – especially your first time. Charities value not only monetary donations, they also appreciate people spreading the word about their work, collecting in-kind goods, or volunteering. Every little bit helps!
- Be consistent. If you’re hosting events, the more regularly you organize, the more you will be able to build a consistent brand and an audience for your work. You can make yourself seem more “official” by building a brand online (website, social media, etc) and working with nonprofits that have 501(c)3 status (in other words: legal, tax-exempt charities).
- Be persistent. Sorry for the rhyming, but you may have to reach out to many different vendors, partners, and potential donors before you find ones that will work for you. Look at a lot of different places before you commit to an event space, and don’t be shy about reaching out to gaming retailers in your area and even manufacturers about donating games to be raffled or auctioned off – this is a great way to raise money for a cause. Fun tip: BoardGameGeek.com will waive their usual fee for game auctions if it is for a registered charity.
- Build relationships. Connecting with other gamers, either through conventions like GenCon or through smaller groups (like on Meetup.com), is important to getting people to participate in your charity events or online fundraisers. Shake hands, give out business cards, but most importantly, make friends with people who share your passions.
- Tell your story. If you have a personal connection to a charity, and you’re comfortable sharing, don’t be shy. Hearing your story may inspire people to give.
- Be silly. If you’re comfortable doing something silly on the internet for a cause, it’s a great way to get people motivated and to lighten the mood when discussing the serious issues that some charities address.
GenCon’s official charity is The Julian Center – a domestic violence and crisis shelter in Indianapolis, IN. As always, thanks for reading!