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Victoria firm taps into social gaming for fundraising

Donate2Play uses Facebook to help non-profits dredge new revenue streams

Times Colonist - Andrew Duffy, September 9, 2011

Victoria firm taps into social gaming for fundraising
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Kelly Pereira demonstrates Donate2Play, a new online tool designed for charities and non-profits to raise funds.
Photo by Darren Stone

Determined to remove or at least reduce the cap-in-hand approach to fundraising used by charities and notfor-profit organizations, a new Victoria company is taking the fundraising campaign to social games on Facebook.

Donate2Play Media, founded by Tomas Ernst, Adrian Pereira and Kelly Pereira, has launched a program to help not-for-profit organizations raise money by tapping into the massive online social-gaming scene.

The company launched the first of those games Thursday - Wordraiser on Facebook - customized for the Victoria-based Ancient Forest Alliance.

According to Ernst, Donate2Play is about "empowering organizations like the AFA to spend less time chasing money and more time doing what they do best."

"It's a new channel to raise funds. Online social games are a billion-dollar industry," he said, noting they hope to funnel a small fraction of that to organizations like the AFA. "Our goal is to create fresh, online social games that are fun and exciting to help them grow their revenue stream and activate their membership base."

The Wordraiser game challenges players to create words from a jumble of letters. Players graduate through levels by finding a word that uses all of the letters provided. The game also offers facts and images to raise awareness of the province's old-growth forests.

The money is raised when players are prompted to donate at certain levels.

The donations start at $1 and can go up to $20. The money donated is split 50-50 between the organization - in the case of Wordraiser that's the Ancient Forest Alliance - and Donate2Play.

"We don't want to cannibalize their other donation avenues, this is about augmenting the traditional fundraising channels," said Ernst who suggested this kind of donating is a lot like dropping spare change into a box at any retail outlet. "We want to tap into the high volume of online users and tap into micropayments, as not everyone has $1,000 to give."

"This is a great way to reach a new demographic of people, especially ones who may not be aware of the threat to our old growth," said TJ Watt, one of the co-founders of the AFA, which works to protect old growth forest in the province. "And there's a powerful ability to share the game with Facebook friends."

Neither the AFA nor Donate2Play could estimate what kind of money they expect to raise through the game.

"We hope to scale to multiple charities across many causes, we expect big things out of it," said Adrian Pereira, who noted it's not all about money. "This is also about building awareness and increasing the support base for the charity."

Ken Wu, co-founder of the AFA, said the organization is acting like a bit of a guinea pig.

"We don't know what this will mean for us, but the beauty of it is we don't have to pay anything, they put in all the risk," he said, adding the AFA raised about $60,000 last year through traditional channels and expects to raise as much as $90,000 this year. "And hopefully this helps with that, this is a new revenue stream."

Donate2Play would not divulge what it paid to create the game, other than saying it was costly.

In a 2009 article, estimated the cost of developing a Facebook game at anywhere between $30,000 and $300,000 over a six-month cycle.

"But we think it's worth it when you look at the explosive growth online, when you look at games right now," said Ernst

 Link to Times Colonist article:

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