39 Strategic Lessons for Creating Great Nonprofit Games

After my last Nonprofits Life event on Gaming our social media team at TechSoup received many questions and requests — I am constantly speaking with leaders who are playing on this field and sorting out the new rules of whatever game we’re playing this week.

I learned so much while hosting this session with Josephine Dorado (JD), Barry Joseph (BJ), Michelle Byrd (MB) and Ben Stokes (BS) that I (EH) shared highlights and lessons learned below. To see the slidecast click Nonprofits Live! GAMES



  1. Games are a $60 billion global industry (MB)
  2. 55% of gamers are now playing on their handheld mobile devices (JD)
  3. The average gamer is 37 years old and almost half are women (JD)
  4. 97% of teenagers in America play games (MB)
  5. 60% of casual gamers are women (MB)


  1. Think about your intended audience first when creating a social impact game (MB)
  2. Games structure participation in vital civic actions like voting, budgeting, advocacy, movement-building, solving major challenges and simulations for disaster preparedness (BS)
  3. Carefully consider context, how and where people will engage with you and why (MB)
  4. Set goals with impact objectives including metrics of success (MB)
  5. Determine the technology platform after designing for audience, context and impact goals (MB)
  6. Experiences that include inspiration, incubation, play and refinement allow for creating new ways to play together in collaboration (JD)
  7. Understand your role in working with professionals, game studios, designers and development team (MB)
  8. Hard Fun = the challenge, strategy may lead to failure, learning and eventually success and innovation (JD, quoting Nicole Lazzaro)
  9. Budgets range widely on nonprofit game projects – corporate entities, educational foundations, learning networks with innovative projects (BJ)


  1. 4K2F.com keys include blissful productivity, the social fabric, urgent optimism and epic meaning (JD quoting Nicole Lazzaro and Jane McGonigal)
  2. A dynamic design team will include developers, designers, artists, strategists, community builders, researchers and studies on the success or impact created through gameplay (MB, EH)
  3. Real world games include game dynamics for civic learning, play and performance and crowdsourcing social change (BS)
  4. Games are systems of interaction and human activity – it works for some things and defining the question of what you’re trying to do is essential for success (BS)
  5. Live social actions in gameplay include scavenger hunts, games connected to events, crowdsourcing energy for new actions (EH, BS)
  6. Nonprofits are able to create new systems through gameplay and strategic design (MB)
  7. Designing games as rehearsals for the future includes a clear call to response and ask for the audience to participate (BS, EH)
  8. Games are now an integral component of communication and engagement strategy for nonprofits (MB)
  9. Nonprofits often default to games as communication strategy but this is just the beginning – we can create mass motivation to participate in civic life through gameplay (BS)


  1. Macon Money is one example of a game that creates an alternative currency for real world exchanges in the physical world, similar to economic stimulus (BS)
  2. Farmville and FoldIt (showing the architecture of the AIDS virus) are related in terms of collaboration = crowdsourcing solutions through social play (JD)
  3. Half the Sky, a game in design, is based on Nick Kristof’s bestseller based on social issues in the developing world including virtual goods that tie in with real world goods and actions (MB)
  4. Geocaching allows players to find treasure in nature and map our actions through existing tools like Foursquare, Instagram, QR code readers and AR tools like Layar (JD)
  5. ARIS is used for designing local, geolocative games at Global Kids connected to libraries and schools to talk about the history and issues in their community (BJ)
  6. Transmedia storytelling is shining through projects like Breakthrough: America 2049, an ARG in Facebook that allows for various types of gameplay
  7. Scratch and Game Salad are DIY game tools available for creating games with kids (JD)


  1. To try your hand at game design try the Grow a Game Cards (BS)
  2. Visit http://www.nonprofitgames.org to see our wiki of resources including everything featured in this blog post, Causebuilding Games extensive slidedeck and professional connecting points (JD, EH)
  3. Games for Change started emerging in 2004 with Barry Joseph, Ben Stokes and a dynamic development group now led by Michelle Byrd and Asi Burak (BS)
  4. Civic Tripod for Mobile & Games: Activism, Art & Learning by Ben Stokes is published in the International Journal of Learning and Media (BS)
  5. Go to the GamesforChange toolkit to find a full interactive guide to get started in game design (MB & G4C)
  6. Gamestar Mechanic is one game where kids can design in-game around social issues including the Playing for Peace and Media and You challenges (BJ)
  7. HungerCraft explores social inequality using MineCraft as a way to rebuild the world in a game jam event (BJ)
  8. Trackables used in geocaching games are being used to discover opinions on issues related to the 2012 elections (BJ)
  9. Visit olp.globalkids.org has full details on the Global Kids blog about youth-created projects (BJ)

Ask your questions on games and design for nonprofits today at the TechSoup Forums, or hop over to request great products like Adobe CS6 that can help you design great games from your office.

Our next live video episode of Nonprofits Live will happen the third week of July on strategic cloud service navigation and we also invite you to join our event on hosting great Nonprofit Events with Social Media for Nonprofits and Eventbrite on June 20th at 11AM PST.Image

3 thoughts on “39 Strategic Lessons for Creating Great Nonprofit Games

  1. Useful info. Fortunate me I discovered your website by
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