Customer Story

Movers & Shakers: ENGAGE Raises an Unexpected $92k By Hosting A Board Game Tournament

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When third party nonprofit fundraising turns personal.

Located at the widely renowned epicenter of the board game community, Seattle-based Lyla Ross closed her practice as a clinical social worker to start a charitable giving and community outreach program called ENGAGE for her family-owned game business. Their program includes third party fundraising for charities, most recently raising over $92,000 to help feed families in her neighborhood.

ENGAGE’s latest charitable event: hosting a board game tournament, for the second year in a row, to raise money for Hopelink, a Seattle foodbank. Lyla was motivated to choose Hopelink for the second year in a row because of their long-term contribution to the community.In true gaming fashion, they had a strategy – and they had a mission to accomplish.

Strategy: Use peer-to-peer fundraising
Mission: Raise $30,000 to feed families in the Seattle area

Read on to learn more about how Lyla and her team brought in more than triple their goal!

Can you tell me more about your store and what you do?

Sure – fifteen years ago my husband opened an online retail gaming company that has, in time, turned into Mox Boarding House, a storefront for board gamers. We’re noticing board games are kind of having a renaissance within the down economy, and our game store and café has become a community space beyond what we had even hoped!

Not too long after opening our storefront, we began receiving requests for donations to local charities, so in response, we created our in-house volunteer group and charitable giving program ENGAGE.

One event we created is a board game tournament called The Gauntlet, which is a yearly fundraiser for various charities; we had no idea it would become a mega conduit of financial resources for our local non-profit community!

What was your fundraising approach this year?

Since gamers love a challenge, we created The Gauntlet as a day-long board game tournament that you only get to be a part of if you and your team commit to raising money for the selected beneficiary.

The details of The Gauntlet

  • We had twenty teams of four, so we had eighty contestants.
  • The fundraising campaign lasted six weeks before the tournament.
  • The tournament itself was a ten-hour board game tournament.

Fundraising & Winning Incentives

  • Bragging rights
  • Carrying The Gauntlet trophy (an actual gauntlet) around for a year
  • Strategic advantages within the tournament as participants reach higher fundraising levels

1. Know your Audience
By appealing to a gamer’s passion to play games, we incentivize them with advantages to be utilized within the tournament as they reach increasing fundraising milestones.  It’s an invite-only event, and as such, it is considered to be a privilege to be invited since it has become a bit of a “Who’s Who” within the local gaming industry.

2. Motivate Your Fan Base
As the event coordinators, we left it up to the various teams to find ways to motivate their own fan base to raise funds for our beneficiaries.  Many of the teams consisted of game designers that have participated in Kickstarter campaigns and are quite successful at creating fundraising campaigns with meaningful language.

Our teams found fun ways to motivate their friends and family to donate and/or offer a thank you for their donations.  Some of those include:

  • Creating a new character within the game they design if the team hits the team fundraising goal
  • Uploading a video of a team member eating increasingly spicy food as the funds went up
  • Offering time in the game studio with other game designers and a pizza party!

Can you tell me about the success of one of your fundraising teams?

Yes! We had one team, Bungie, (a major local video game production company) that raised so much money they “broke our system.” They have an international reach through their newsletter so they let people know they were raising money for the event and offered fun thank you gifts at each level of giving. All of a sudden—money just started rolling in from around the world! We had twenty teams, but Bungie raised $53,000 of our $92,000 on their own!

One thing we are proud of is that even without Bungie’s fundraising dollars, we would have surpassed our $30,000 goal, so it felt great that they weren’t the only team that helped us raise this money- it was truly a group effort.

What tips would you offer other fundraisers?

1. Find out what motivates your fan base and target audience.
Since we were dealing with gamers, we turned fundraising into a game because we knew it would motivate them.

2. Be thoughtful about how long you want your campaign to run.
The majority of the money of our campaign came in during the last week.

3. Utilize giving metrics.
We offered giving options based on metrics. On our front page, we told people you could give “x” number of meals to a family of four for “x” dollars.

What was one of your favorite moments?

At the end of the tournament, the captain of the winning team stood up – gauntlet in hand- and told the entire room, “I wasn’t planning on saying this, but I’m so proud to be a part of this event. Growing up, there was a time my mom was dependent on food banks to feed us, and we wouldn’t have made it without organizations like Hopelink. It means a lot that we won today, but it’s even more exciting that we got to do so much good!”  There was not a dry eye in the house.

All together The Gauntlet raised enough to provide 30,629 meals for a family of four.

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