GamesThatGive.net allows you to play common video games like Solitaire, Sudoku, and Blackjack for free, while making a sliver of a donation to one of 13 nonprofit charities.
Here's how it works. Behind each of the games a static advertisement runs for sponsors like Domino's Pizza, Dial, Pepsi or others.
GamesThatGive.net donates 70 percent of ad revenue to those charities, including the United Way, UNICEF, and the Wilderness Society.
As of this writing on Sept. 22, 2009, the donations counter at the top of the home page read: "GamesThatGive has donated $2032.13 to charity."
I put a handful of questions to Brian Reich, GamesThatGive's principal evangelist, about where the idea came from, how it works, and how it's been received by charities and sponsors. His responses follow.
How did the idea come about for GamesthatGive.net?
The idea came, mostly, from the experiences of our CEO, Adam Archer. He traveled the world a few years back and upon his return to the United States, he started to inquire with people about why they weren't doing more to support the charities and causes they care about most. The answer always fell into one of three categories -- don't have the time, don't have the money, don't have the outlet. Adam is a programmer by trade, so he started to think about the ways to use existing behavior and the wide array of new technologies that were flooding society. Working with the team he pulled together, they settled on the idea of using casual games to help raise money for charities.
Tell me about the main people involved?
Here are quick bios of some of the key folks on the team:Adam Archer, CEO: Prior to co-founding GamesThatGive, Adam was a senior software engineer at Apple, working on many aspects of Mac OS X’s integration at its Cupertino headquarters. Adam is also an experienced organic farmer and has backpacked extensively around the world. He lives in San Francisco, CA.Christopher Bell, COO: Christopher brings experience in strategy and corporate finance, focusing most recently on Innovation and R&D at LeapFrog Enterprises. Christopher has a breath of general management, product marketing, and new product launch experience through roles at Intuit, AOL, and The Industry Standard.Kris Goss, Lead Software Engineer: Kris has over 10 years of software development experience with a broad range of companies including startups, retail stores, and Fortune 500 firms. Most recently, Kris worked as an independent consultant with Accenture, providing architectural and detailed engineering guidance and review for a variety of initiatives.Cie Nicholson, Principal Strategist: Cie has over 20 years of marketing experience, most recently as the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Pepsi-Cola North America (PCNA). She lives in New York City.Brian Reich, Principal Evangelist: Brian is a leading communications strategist, as well as a regular writer and speaker on the impact of the Internet and technology on politics, society, and the media. He is the author of Media Rules!: Mastering Today's Technology to Connect With and Keep Your Audience (Wiley 2007). He blogs at WeMedia.com, ThinkingAboutMedia.com, and as a Fast Company Expert. Brian previously served as Vice President Gore's Briefing Director in the White House and he lives in New York City.
I played Solitaire on GamesThatGive for 40 minutes the other night and I couldn't figure out what triggered the donation. Explain how the donations work for the various games.
Every second that a person plays a game on GamesThatGive generates a donation... its a small amount, but when you aggregate a lot of people playing you can raise a substantial amount of money. So, the more you play, and the better you do, the more money you raise. The more people who are playing, the more is raised that day, or for a particular charity.
The sponsor presence is pretty static, no doubt by intent. What are the conversion rates?
It was intentional... we made a conscious choice not to have the advertising interfere with the game playing experience. As a result, we have only one advertiser per gaming session and serve only a handful of impressions per minute.
Other than conversion rates, what do the sponsors say about advertising this way?
The sponsors are over the moon excited about the opportunity to embed their messaging into an immersive experience like a casual game site, while also demonstrating their support for charities and causes in the community. I will send you a copy of our thinking paper specifically focused on advertising when it is released later this week. I also can point you to a guest post on the GamesThatGive blog that the social media strategist at Dominos posted today:http://blog.gamesthatgive.net/2009/09/21/dominos-pizza-and-gamesthatgive-cooking-up-something-special/
How often do you pay the charities?
Advertisers are billed months. Charities receive payments quarterly. We provide near real-time updates to the charities of the performance of the site and the amount of money raised across the platform.
How do we know that the games are 'honest'? That is, what keeps you from making Solitaire easier or harder than it is in my Windows computer?
Games like solitaire have a set of rules, for example, one deck, draw three cards, place a red queen on a black king. We use the standard Klondike Solitaire rules.
I count 13 benefiting charities. What was that process of in-selling them?
GamesThatGive looked for charities that will not only benefit from the money we raise, but embrace the functionality of the platform; organizations who understand the potential of casual games. We also wanted to have a diverse group of charities represented on the site, so no matter who came to play our games, they would find an organization or an issue that they would be motivated to play for. And lastly, we wanted to welcome organizations who believed in our new concept of charitable fundraising video games, and were willing to help us grow the platform, by welcoming their audience, and by providing us feedback and guidance on how to continue improving. We sat down, we identified charities that fit these criteria, and then we hit the road -- our CEO, Adam Archer, and our Principal Evangelist, Brian Reich, traveled coast to coast meeting with the charities to invite them to be a part of the platform. Everyone they met with signed on immediately.
Of those charities, Ronald McDonald House Charities, United Way, UNICEF, and Feeding America are all umbrella charities. That is, they fundraise on behalf of other charities. Was this a strategy, or did it just happen that way?
We identified a diverse group of charities -- different types, different sizes, different areas of impact. We wanted charities that would benefit from the support, as well as groups that would help us to learn how best to expand and improve the platform over time. By including these charities, we were able to look at ways to grow out the platform to support local affiliates in the future, for example. We aren't there yet, but that is the kind of support we hope/anticipate being able to provide in the future.
At least some of the charities generally require minimum donations when it comes to sponsorship. You probably can't make any guarantees in that regard. So how did you overcome those objections?
Two answers to that question: first, we reached out to organizations that we felt would appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this exciting startup venture and be willing to experiment along with us. In some cases, that meant not approaching some terrific organizations where we knew such requirements exist. In terms of the charities we did approach, and who are on the platform... some did ask about that, and we did not make any guarantees. We simply explained the concept and the potential to raise a significant amount of money and in every case, if they had thought about making such a request, they waived that requirement.