Three Things Every Virtual Fundraiser Can Learn From Twitch
Last year, streamers raised more than 83 million dollars for charity on Twitch. How did they do it, and what can non-profits learn from their success?
Twitch is a $15 billion dollar streaming platform that is known for its gaming content but in actuality is populated with all manner of self-made streamers. In 2020, these streamers raised millions of dollars for large well funded causes like St. Jude, and for small niche causes like Black Cat Rescue. So why have Twitch gamers and chess players, and quilters and just chatters been able to raise so much money for charity? Because Twitch streamers are practicing state of the art virtual fundraising, using techniques that are critical to ALL successful virtual fundraising, no matter the platform.
Twitch streamers are practicing state of the art virtual fundraising, using techniques that are critical to ALL successful virtual fundraising, no matter the platform.
Telethon Meets Micro-Influencer
These new charity streams are the 2021 equivalent of the famed TV centric MDA Telethon, but they are the opposite of TV. Unlike TV which expects its viewers to lean back on their couch and watch, streaming is a lean forward medium. Online viewers are watching with fingers at the ready, itching to switch to another browser window, so digital fundraising requires you to fight for every minute of your audience’s attention. As a result, successful Twitch fundraisers are anything but lean back. They are fun, colorful and relentless in their utilization of three critical digital fundraising tools:
Do all those things sound familiar? These are many of the same elements we strive to create in an IRL fundraiser.
- Community IRL — You want to inspire and welcome your guests so that they feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, so that they invite their friends, so that they develop a personal ownership of your cause and continue to donate for years to come.
- Interactivity IRL — You want your guests to interact and have fun at your event. You want them to network, to chat, to eat and raise their paddles!
- Live IRL — IRL events are by definition live, and therefor create a sense of urgency and FOMO. Urgency and FOMO inspire attention and donations.
So when it comes to a virtual fundraiser, why would you ever want your audience to just sit back and watch?
Instead, let’s discuss how Twitch streamers adopt our IRL goals and turn them into virtual versions of the cocktail party, the silent auction and the paddle raise.
The Twitch 3.
Twitch has built a $15 billion dollar business because they understand better than any other platform the stickiness of community. It is the very spine of the Twitch ecosystem and much of the Twitch platform is centered on its chat room functionality.
I discovered during my very first stream (September of 2007) that the audience doesn’t come to see YOU, the come to see you, and their friends. Just as they would at an IRL fundraiser, the audience comes to see and be seen and a great twitch streamer makes the audience an integral part of the programming . They call out their audience by name, the acknowledge individual donations both verbally and with real time graphics, they talk, from a personal perspective about why their community and their cause are so important to them and they find ways to get their community to participate in real time. By centering community Twitch streamers make their audience feel seen and a part of something special, something bigger. Their audiences stay for hours. And their audiences donate. Multiple times.
Just as they would at an IRL fundraiser, the audience comes to see and be seen and a great twitch streamer makes the audience an integral part of the programming .
A virtual audience is an audience literally itching to click away. Interactivity keeps your audience leaning in and donating. Twitch streamers use all sorts of interactive tools to keep their audience engaged… and donating! Things like graphics that acknowledge donors in real time, raffles, online chats, polls, rewards for certain donor levels and milestones. All of these are the digital versions of the paddle raise, the donation thermometer and the auction that keeps your IRL fundraiser audience engaged. Think about it. The internet is inherently interactive — chats, comments, emoji, likes and retweets are the currency of digital communication. A virtual fundraiser without interactivity is just a very low budget tv show… but more boring.
The internet is inherently interactive — chats, comments, emoji, likes and retweets are the currency of digital communication. A virtual fundraiser without interactivity is just a very low budget tv show… but more boring.
This is the biggest mistake we see virtual fundraisers make. A pre-recorded events has no FOMO and it has no urgency, making it nearly impossible to garner realtime donations. A pre-recorded event eliminates any possibility that a donor may donate multiple times (yes — with great live strategy you will find that up to 25% of your live donations come from donors who donate multiple times during the live show). A pre-recorded event provides no effective way to build community. The sum of all of this — no FOMO, no urgency, not community, no interactivity — profoundly decreases the average watch time of your show. We have found that the average watch time of a pre-recorded event vs a live event is more than 300% shorter. Shorter watch times mean fewer shares, fewer donations and a smaller audience. How’s that ROI for you?
We have found that the average watch time of a pre-recorded event vs a live event is more than 300% shorter. Shorter watch times mean fewer shares, fewer donations and a smaller audience.
Virtual Fundraisers are here to stay.
The reach and accessibility of virtual fundraisers has been groundbreaking for non-profits, and while we can’t wait to share the same room with our community again, the ability to reach a global audience and increase awareness means virtual fundraisers are finally here to stay. For some organizations we will be seeing hybrid virtual/IRL events, some organizations may alternate between IRL and virtual events, and some may just produce virtual events in the future. The stakes, and the bar are only going to get higher and higher. So let’s learn everything we can from our digital native friends who are successfully engaging their audiences and raising millions for their charities of choice. Let’s keep our fundraisers community centric, interactive, and LIVE.
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Kathryn Jones is the founder of Collective Agency. She has been producing interactive live events since 2007 and since April of 2020 has helped her clients raise millions of dollars in donations via virtual fundraisers.