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Playing for Good: New Social Games to Benefit Nonprofits

By Geri Stengel

Imagine if some of the $260 -- the average amount spent on social games per year among those who pay-- went to nonprofits. With more than one quarter of the 600 million social gamers paying to play,  that’s a lot of  ka-ching for social good.

That’s the concept behind Beekin, which is coming to your computer screens sometime next year. “They’re the Farmville of philanthropy,” said its founder Micheal Fox. No, not that Michael Fox; another Michael Fox, the one who is a former lawyer, founder of The New Life Project, an organization that raised money for the homeless and Humanitainment, a company that produced viral videos for the Obama campaign.

And I think this Michael Fox may be on to something.

Instead of buying virtual tractors to build virtual barns, consumers will build a schoolhouse in Haiti, protect polar bears in the Arctic or provide meals to needy children in America.

Fox is ambitious: Within a year of launch, he wants to raise $1 million “by the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time.”

His goal is not unreasonable: 600 million people are gamers, generating $1.3 billion in 2010, an amount projected to increase dramatically. Why not tap some of that revenue for nonprofits?

Fox is operating at the intersection of social gaming, cause marketing and crowdsourcing. This is win-win for everyone. What surprised me is how the much the audiences who care most about cause-marketing -- moms and Gen Y -- are the same audiences who like social gaming.

Each project will have four partners: players, businesses, celebrities, and a nonprofit. Here’s how it will work:

  • Brands sponsor Beekin and benefit from consumer engagement with their brand. Consumers want to purchase and promote brands that supports a good causes, according to Edelman goodpurpose Study 2010. Social purpose is a key motivator of purchases. The results of being associated with a good cause are: increased sales and customer loyalty, greater differentiation  from the competition, and a better reputation.

  • To maximize reach, celebrities with social media juice help get the word out about the campaign.

  • Nonprofits gain a new revenue source and additional awareness about their cause.

  • Consumers have fun testing their knowledge by while gaming and they feel good that they’re doing good while having fund. And, while they may not realize it, they are becoming aware of social problems and their ability to help solve them.

I’m looking forward to watching this company.


Geri Stengel is founder of Ventureneer, which connects values-driven small business owners with the knowledge they need to make the world a better place and to thrive as businesses.

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