Among the vast number of charities and fundraising foundations that exist, there are few that gain more attention than Extra Life in the gaming world; after all, what better way to advertise your cause than by recruiting some of the most popular online personalities to participate in what is basically a 24 hour gaming marathon? Naturally, Extra Life started off as a relatively small event, raising “only” $450,000 in 2010, but it ballooned over the years to raise over $8 million in 2015, with over 55,000 participants raising money from countless numbers of donors. With such an incredible growth rate, Extra Life may very well be a model for what charities are capable of accomplishing in the future, given that they harness the power of the Internet (or more specifically, social media).
“Online fundraising is the absolute best way to spread information about charity,” said Jack Pattillo of Rooster Teeth, a web-based production company that raised over half a million dollars in direct donations for Extra Life in 2015. “Social media is in the hands of nearly everyone on the planet now, and sharing details about your mission and how people can best help has never been easier.” While you could certainly make the argument that this kind of thinking really only helps promote “slacktivism,” one could also point out that this is a side-effect of the digital world that we live in. After all, even though online fundraising is unquestionably less active than actually going out there and volunteering for something, it certainly gives people who otherwise don’t have the time or motivation a chance to contribute to a cause. And let’s be honest, most people are barely willing to stop and sign a petition, much less volunteer for something.
For all the advantages that come with harnessing social media, however, there’s still a long way to go before online charities like Extra Life begin to reach the sheer amount of donations that is raised by some of the more prominent foundations. Compared to Doctors Without Borders, for example, which (according to their 2015 financial statements) raised almost $300 million in 2015 (less than half of which came from individual donors), Extra Life raised a rather small amount of money.
Given that Extra Life’s donations go to local hospitals and such, though, the results are a bit easier to comprehend, and Rooster Teeth is well-aware of that and the kind of potential it has. “I think being able to see a tangible outcome from a donation is hugely important. It also shows how closely we work with our local Children’s Miracle Network hospital and how they make an impact on a local level,” said Pattillo. As such, prior to every Extra Life event, Rooster Teeth goes out to Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and records a short video to show potential donors exactly what kind of impact their money can have. “We’ll make one every single year as long as they are okay with us visiting them!”
Of course, it is rather hard to predict what kind of impact Extra Life will have in the future, but its formula for success isn’t exactly rocket science. “I don’t think there is a ‘secret’ behind what we do at Rooster Teeth. Our community is the key to our success and we wouldn’t be here without them,” Pattillo said. “[The Extra Life] stream and this event is an opportunity for our audience to give back. We focus as much love as we can towards our audience, and they give back in spades.” Needless to say, this is rather representative of Extra Life as a whole, and the driving force behind a charity that people would not have take seriously a decade ago: treat your intended audience well, make them feel like they belong to something greater than themselves, and they’ll spring to action when called upon.
What do you think of Extra Life? What Extra Life streams do you take a look at? Do you host any of your own? Let us know!