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How Nonprofits are Engaging Young Audiences Through Goal Setting Leaderboards Progression Rewards Gamification.

You may have heard of gamification, but what about the recent trend that more and more nonprofits are using this approach to engage younger audiences?

Here are the main reasons why gamification by nonprofits is a rising driver of engagement:

Game elements are familiar

With Millenials and Gen Z spending up to 20% more time playing games each year (Limelight Networks), marketing campaigns with gamification elements highly resonate with this audience.


Learning and training becomes fun

83% of learners feel more motivated when gamified elements are in place (Talent LMS.) This also applies to educating your audience or training your employees.

Ease of sharing

When your audience is more deeply engaged, they are more likely to share the message behind your cause. Digital gamification experiences such as websites or mobile apps make it easy to share the experiences with others.


Time spent on gaming per week across age groups. Source:

But First

What is Gamification?

We will briefly explain what makes gamification as a driver of engagement, followed by some compelling applications of how gamification by nonprofits were successfully leveraged to support social causes.

Gamification Explained

Gamification is the process of taking the engaging design elements of games and applying them in various non-gaming contexts, such as for training, marketing, or productivity. Using elements of a game doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be a traditional video game.

You most likely have interacted with such applications before - from racking up points on the Starbucks app to competing against friends on Fitbit. Depending on the context, some elements of games may be more or less prominent.

Elements of Gamification

At a high level view, gamification involves these key elements:

Goal Setting

An individual is tasked to achieve a goal through completing a set of desired actions. In the context of a productivity setting, an employee may tackle the ‘quest’ of reaching a number of completed support tickets each month. If the goal is accomplished, then the employee is rewarded with a small gift card. This equips the individual with an achievable, often short term goal with clear expectations and rewards.


A measure of progress helps to showcase how far an individual has gotten with respect to their goal. In a digital environment such as a website or mobile app, this is easily tracked and visually reflected for the user in the form of a progress bar or levelling up.

Progression helps to breakdown the overall goal into smaller milestones, reflecting a sense of growth. In instances where tasks may be traditionally strenuous or mundane as part of a broader goal, gamification uses progression to convey greater significance and weight from completed tasks.


To further progression and rewards, there may also be leaderboards to incentivize competition and striving to achieve more, adding in a social element. In many training related gamification projects, a learner may be able to see how their colleagues scored on a quiz. Similarly, in a sales setting employees can be motivated to top each other’s achievements, resulting in higher revenue for the organization altogether.

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Rewards are central to the fun aspect of gamification, as it ties to both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. This can be in the form of badges for particular achievements unlocked, such as reaching a milestone. Badges reinforce a sense of mastery, especially when badges that are hard to unlock are obtained.

On the other hand, points are often used as a form of reward, either to rank individuals in the form of a leaderboard or as a currency that can be exchanged for tangible rewards. In some cases, points can be awarded to those who are active, such as daily rewards for signing in to an app or completing an activity daily.

Notable Use Cases for Nonprofits

The potential of gamification by nonprofits is vast, so here we have shortlisted a number of examples of how non-profits have succeeded with gamification, particularly for boosting engagement with their audience.


SafeCare BC boosts learning engagement using a gamified app

Given the intrinsic motivation that gamification has to offer, training applications are a natural fit for gamification.

An example would be SafeCare BC, who aims to promote mental health of their community of continuing care workers. SafeCare BC teamed up with us to create Bear In Mind, a scenario-based training module with gamified elements to immerse learners with interactive choices and a protected training environment.

Learners are presented with realistic day-to-day scenarios which can occur on the job, many of which are difficult situations. The goal is to choose responses that best promote mental health and resilience. By completing each dialogue, learners are awarded points, and can see how their friends and colleagues are doing on a leaderboard.

The added strength of this gamified approach to training is that continuing care workers, who often cannot access in-person workshops, can still learn the material from a hands-on approach. This medium also appeals especially to a younger audience, given the familiarity of mobile apps and light elements of games.

Raising awareness

United Way simulates what it is like to live in poverty

In recent years, United Way has made advances to use digital platforms to raise awareness, and gamification is one avenue. Gamification can be used to generate awareness for various campaigns, where for United Way, one campaign is a gamified web app that focuses on depicting poverty.

With ‘Make the Month’, users are challenged to survive with a barebones budget according to respective living costs in different cities of Canada. Users go through a journey of making tough decisions to make ends meet on accommodation, food, and relationships.

Can you make the month?

Can you make the month? 1 in 10 Canadians cant.

Along with users empathizing with what it is like to live in poverty and make ends meet, this has generated considerable online traction to the cause. Sharing this experience is easy as it is readily available online, leading to a viral effect.

Educating youth

Learning about treatment with Alpha Beat Cancer

This gamified mobile app project is a collaboration between the nonprofit Beaba and Mukutu Games. With a target audience of children between the ages of three to six, the goal is to help kids understand cancer and treatment. It makes use of a narrative to depict the process of treatment, explaining the steps and terminology alongside some minigames.

The advantage of gamifying the learning experience in this case is to keep it simple, interactive, and memorable for children. Each level unlocks newer terms and words, allowing for steady learning and gradual advancement with lessons.

Getting Started with Gamification

Gamification is an emerging and innovative way to engage your audience for your nonprofit organization. How can you get started?

Depending on your cause and campaign, you can begin by considering some of the elements involved in gamification for your audience and objectives. What message do you want to convey? What action do you want your audience to take? How should the gamification elements be designed to be fun and interactive?

In many cases, a successful gamification project will require different talents - from developers, artists, and designers. If you don’t have an in-house team already, you will benefit from hiring a team who already has the expertise and can move your idea forward.

Raccoopack Media makes gamified apps that support training for social enterprises. Have any ideas or want to ask any questions?

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