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Pillars for an effective charity stream

Mega Cat Studios' Monica Figueroa looks at how the right guiding principles can amplify the success of a charity campaign

As of 2020, charity streaming has become a major cornerstone for most non-profit fundraising efforts, and for good reason -- they work. These broadcasts feature streamers raising support and money for charitable causes they believe in.

It's not just limited to Twitch, either. There are fundraising tools and tech to cover all of the major platforms your streamers want to play and support these great causes on. TikTok's Donation Stickers bring fundraising to the short-form video masses. Tiltify has seamless compatibility with Youtube, Facebook, and of course, Twitch.

Video game studios, from one-person indie teams to AAA companies, can participate in charity streams by incorporating their games into fundraising campaigns. Charity streams keep your brand active and solidify relationships that support causes that you care about.

Charity streams keep your brand active and solidify relationships that support causes that you care about

Partnering with a cause and building a successful charity stream requires making a plan and getting organized. Measuring the success of your charity stream efforts is easy: supporting a great cause that your company and community share brings all of the warm and fuzzies an authentic corporate social responsibility initiative should bring.

Second, the funds raised are measurable, and in many cases relatable. Extra Life, Feeding America, The National Video Game Museum, and almost all major charity initiatives show you exactly how far your dollars go towards having a positive impact on their cause.

You can amplify the success of your campaign with the right guiding principles. These pillars are brand alignment, utilizing technology effectively, recruiting the right streamers, and raising awareness.

Pillar 1: Brand alignment

Supporting a great cause while exercising your marketing machine with the most enthusiastic fans and followers in your community is a no-brainer.

When properly performed, charity streaming provides companies with many benefits, including goodwill, amplified brand awareness, and quantifiable ROI. For example, a charity stream can create engagement on social media, new followers, new streamers, and also build rapport with existing streamers that share your enthusiasm for the cause.

Brand alignment is a crucial element to a successful charity stream campaign, as authenticity is paramount. Having shared values between the brand, streaming community and the non-profit makes all the difference.

Bite the Bullet is a game that takes place in an eating-based universe, which led to Mega Cat Studio's partnership with Feeding America for a charity stream

Bite the Bullet is a game that takes place in an eating-based universe, which led to Mega Cat Studio's partnership with Feeding America for a charity stream

Additionally, choosing a cause you genuinely believe in fosters deeper relationships between a brand and its fans. It is well documented that people are more likely to act in relation to brands they have a connection with and will give them more of their wallet share versus brands they are not familiar with. A charity stream provides an access point for consumers to engage with the brand, and encourages them to become an integral part of its larger unifying narrative.

It's worth noting that a single cause can have multiple dimensions that a brand can align with or support in some way. For example, millions of families are facing hunger -- many for the first time -- due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the Tiltify home page, you can select from national and global events that support your mission. Helping those affected by COVID-19 introduced dozens of nonprofits serving the world through food banks, shelters and more.

A single cause can have multiple dimensions that a brand can align with or support

That alignment can go beyond shared values. In the final leg of Mega Cat Studio's Early Access launch of Bite the Bullet, a game that takes place in an eating-based universe, partnering with Feeding America to support hunger relief initiatives was a perfect marriage. By drawing a parallel between the game's story and Feeding America's cause, it ignited better pick up and interest with streamers and our community alike. It's the streamers and taste makers who ultimately drive the campaign, and also entice donors to make real world impact.

Bake 'N Switch recently championed the same strategy, encouraging their community to think about more than playful cupcakes, and help No Kid Hungry move their charity stream forward.

Pillar 2: Tech

Without a doubt, tech plays an integral role in the launch and support of any effective charity stream campaign. While preferences and options abound for crowdfunding, there are two heavy hitters that have endeared themselves to individuals and groups in the philanthropic world: Tiltify and Warp World's Crowd Control.

A key function in all fundraising efforts is the ability to process donations and incentivize donors. Both of these digital services make the process of encouraging and accepting donations easier and create an automatic accountability system by tracking and categorizing any and all contributions. This creates an extra layer of security that protects all parties involved.

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Monica Figueroa

Additionally, ease of use is vital, as any added or perceived difficulty can have devastating effects on donation rates. Because of this, Tiltify has rapidly become a fundraising favorite, requested time and again because it is easy to use by donors and organizers.

Features like a streamlined and consistent sign up process, a central event page which displays individual streamers, a running tally of all funds raised, and simple but powerful creation tools make the service convenient and enticing.

Alternatively, the Tiltify Extension allows streamers to embed all of Tiltify's interactive features directly into their broadcasts across several platforms, facilitating the donation process and making it easier to mobilize and engage donors. Donors can click to donate and see their donations add up in real time, as well as receive instant on-screen recognition for their contribution. Other interactive enhancements the extension provides include the ability to add milestones, polls, and rewards, all of which serve to increase engagement and encourage participation.

Crowd Control, on the other hand, increases engagement by gamifying the donation process. It encourages participation by allowing viewers to exchange money for digital coins which can then be used to purchase in-game effects.

A key function in all fundraising efforts is the ability to process donations and incentivize donors

Earlier this year, five streamers partnered with Crowd Control and St. Jude Play Live to run a mini-marathon of games, using the service to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. After 13 hours, the combined streams raised over $50,000, largely due to the interactive nature of the campaign.

Crowd Control's functionality enabled viewers to give or take things away from the player during gameplay, such as hazards, items, or buffs. This type of interaction between streamer, charity, and audience is not possible in traditional marketing, and creates a deeper sense of immersion. Donors feel like they have done more than simply make a contribution -- they feel like part of the cause itself.

What makes Crowd Control a favorite pick? It's deeper engagement between a streamer and their community, with an additional monetization leg to support your cause.

Earlier this year, five streamers partnered with Crowd Control and St. Jude Play Live to run a charity stream

Earlier this year, five streamers partnered with Crowd Control and St. Jude Play Live to run a charity stream

Pillar 3: Recruitment

Influencers that can propel viewership are the ultimate driving force behind a successful charity stream. Having engaging personalities participate is catalytic to getting viewers to act, especially when encouraging them to make charitable donations.

If you have a community manager, or a team member with a streamer relations title, this is an easy initiative to get behind to open up new conversations, and reignite previously missed opportunities and calendar mismatch.

Many influencers identify, specifically, as charity streamers, and most participate in campaigns at least several times each year. Building their brand, and engaging their community helps introduce them to new potential partners as well. There are thousands and thousands of current charity stream channels on Twitch alone, and that number grows daily, so there is no shortage of potential participants.

But how do you go about securing an influencer for a charity stream? There is no right or wrong way, as long as you ensure that the content creator shares the same values as both the brand and the cause. Pre-recruitment research can reveal details for outreach personalization or identify potential conflicts of interest, which is valuable data when deciding which talent to work with.

Influencers that can propel viewership are the ultimate driving force behind a successful charity stream

Whether your relationships with potential partners are already established or are being initiated at the start of your campaign, recruitment efforts that highlight the benefits to the streamer in the initial email have an increased likeliness of success. The opportunity to participate in a charity campaign provides a litany of benefits, such as increased viewership, goodwill from fans, an engaging press beat, access to the charity's audience, and even national recognition and beyond. Mentioning these advantages up front will pique their interest. Having a clear window and sense of urgency can keep things dynamic, and a concise overview of the campaign details can quickly turn an unanswered email into an engaged participant.

If the grass roots and direct approach isn't your cup of tea, there are no shortage of agencies that love to boost that signal for you. When the Quest to Conquer Cancer Twitch campaign launched this year, it was Rumble Gaming connecting the dots and pushing their best streamers into the ring to support a great cause.

Other alternative methods of outreach can include contact through social platforms such as Twitter, direct messaging on Discord or Twitch Whisper, or even recruitment posts on Reddit. Twitch's charity tag allows you to browse all live streamers currently fundraising, and previous campaigns on Tiltify can be reverse engineered to gather potential streamer contacts. Never underestimate the power of referrals. In my experience, nearly 30% of recruited streamers come from word of mouth referrals and streamer introductions.

Don't forget to put the signal out, and let interested streamers come to you! With a little research and creativity you can find communities across the digital landscape to bolster your streamer roster.

Make it easy for ambassadors to take action by providing graphics for their stream, Twitch overlays, and an easily accessible press kit

Make it easy for ambassadors to take action by providing graphics for their stream, Twitch overlays, and an easily accessible press kit

Pillar 4: Awareness

Spreading the word for your campaign is just as important as the rest of the planning, launch, and deployment process. Every endpoint and digital extension of your brand can be put to work to amplify signaling. Developing a promotional strategy should go hand-in-hand with your recruitment efforts, partnership activities, and platform selection process.

Whether you're going to go big or small, you have to include the basics of a successful digital campaign:

  • Press release
  • Landing page
  • Streamer call to action emails sent from the non-profit's domain
  • Social media takeover
  • Paid digital ad management

Consider the essence of your campaign, and what groups may be interested

First, study your target audience. Think about what demographics and lookalike audience love and engage with your brand, and the type of streamers that support you. Consider the essence of your campaign, and what groups may be interested. Do Facebook Groups move the needle for your community? Is Discord where they live and breathe? Participate in the communities where your fans congregate outside of your ecosystem, and add value to what these communities offer their members. Free games, sponsorship, and co-marketing can go a long way when you're working with a more limited budget.

Get creative. Using the Feeding America campaign example, there is an entire world of foodie streamers who schedule their content calendar explicitly around charity streams. Think critically about your cause, and which non-gaming channels fit the strategy for your campaign. Streamline Media Group recently raised $50,000 for No Kid Hungry, multiplying their set goal by 2.5. Strategic partnerships with Variety, celebrity chefs and streaming groups helped drive this home with a non-profit that hasn't had a history of charity stream success stories.

Streamline Media Group recently raised $50,000 for No Kid Hungry

Streamline Media Group recently raised $50,000 for No Kid Hungry

If you are launching an annual campaign, leverage content such as photos or videos from past years to bolster the push for this year's installment. Reach out to previous supporters and donors and let them know the cause is continuing.

After identifying potential targets, be sure to craft you messaging so that it appeals to them. Everything from your press release to the hashtags you use on social media can be used to create buzz and attract supporters.

It's good for company culture, and the community abroad, to take initiative in supporting charitable causes you believe in

Finally, you should make it easy for your best ambassadors to take action. Graphics for their stream, Twitch overlays, and an easily accessible electronic press kit that includes talking points about the charity makes everything more real for the audiences that will ultimately make the difference.

Donors and audience members can bring in support from their own networks. Streamers over the globe can assist a campaign by spreading the word to their viewership. The reach of fundraising through Twitch is unparalleled, and its community is deeply engaged with spreading awareness for numerous causes.

Stream with confidence

Charity streams are powerful tools for non-profit fundraising efforts, brands, and streamers. If you've been sitting on a white board action item of partnering with a philanthropic effort in some way, launching or partnering with a charity stream is the easiest and best way to start.

It's good for company culture, and the community abroad, to take initiative in supporting charitable causes you believe in. Through aligning with brands and charities with similar values, leveraging technology, recruiting partners, and effectively raising awareness, brands can ensure that their campaign will have the meaningful impact the charitable cause deserves.

Monica Figueroa is a speaker, writer and marketer with 10+ years of geek engagement. She started her gaming career as a freelance writer before finding her place as the community manager and marketing team lead over at Mega Cat Studios, an independent game development company dedicated to both retro and modern titles. You can reach out to her at mina@megacatstudios.com

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