LifePack15 Mar 2023
Gaming is fast overtaking other forms of entertainment as the primary avenue for charitable fundraising. The demise of the telethon has been mirrored by countless streamers holding their own events, ranging from bedroom-produced 24-hour gaming marathons to stadium-seated week-long fundraisers. But the newest medium offers opportunities for mission-driven organizations to find new patrons of their causes – and an audience that can be unmatched in their generosity – and sprinkle in a little restorative ‘mana’ along the way.
LifePack, a campaign funded by the Eleanor Crook Foundation, took notice of those opportunities in 2020 as the pandemic worsened a global crisis at the heart of their charitable operations: hunger. According to UNICEF, there are 144 million children around the world who are malnourished, and 50 million are in immediate danger of death. Globally, malnutrition remains the leading cause of death for children under five, claiming a child’s life every 11 seconds.
For more than 25 years, the Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF) has fought against the tide of child malnutrition, but the exacerbation of the crisis by the COVID-19 pandemic sparked them to think more innovatively about how to bring refreshed attention and support to their efforts. LifePack puts that fight into the parlance of gaming, meeting a new audience on their own turf. Most recently that has taken the form of a charity Minecraft event at the start of February, with 80 streamers taking part in a team race to beat the game, and raising $14,000 for the cause.
Action Against Hunger, an international non-profit with a common focus on fighting global malnutrition, receives 100% of proceeds from fundraising efforts and uses them to acquire and distribute Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to malnourished children in Kenya. These are literal lifepacks of fortified peanut butter and evaporated milk, offering the vital nutrients and calories needed to bring a child back from the brink of starvation in just 6 weeks. Somewhat appropriately for a gaming-related charity, a specific formulation of RUTF which is manufactured by a company called Mana, making these lifepacks magic potions, too.
But getting across the simplicity of their proposal to a new gaming audience needs a little more than coincidental names. “When we were first developing the campaign, ECF conducted message testing of malnutrition terminology and issue resonance with key audiences; Gen Z, Millennials, and naysayers within these groups, who often have strong opinions on foreign policy and global development issues,” says Madeline Dickson, Senior Partnerships and Campaigns Officer at ECF and lead of the LifePack campaign. “This message testing arose from the need to best understand how audiences outside of the global malnutrition sector understand, interact with, and support the issue.”
LifePack identified that their main priorities were to achieve authentic integration with existing structures and apparatus within gaming, and use that in-road to quickly and concisely convey their message. This came in a few targeted forms, but mainly working with influencers to spread the word and host streaming events, and with gaming developers to create fundraising opportunities through microtransaction mechanisms already in their games. Both required a refinement of their messaging.
“Communicating a focused call to action, combined with the simplicity of the lifesaving solution engages the gaming audience most effectively,” said Dickson. “This was a welcome challenge for LifePack as we grappled with how to describe ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). Though it sounds complex, it’s a simple paste made of ingredients that many around the world and in the U.S. consume everyday – peanuts, milk, sugar, oil, and critical vitamins and minerals. A single packet of RUTF is equivalent to the amount of calories in 2 bagels, the same fat in 1.5 avocados, the same protein in 2 eggs, the same calcium in 3 glasses of milk, or the amount of iron as 1 bunch of spinach. Sharing these comparisons with our audience helps make this issue easier to grasp.
“ECF’s hope is that LifePack can help change the narrative that malnutrition is too complex, too long standing for the global community to solve; that solutions exist at our fingertips – and LifePack is one of them.”
With a streamlined message at the ready, LifePack prepared for entering a new industry. “We had two goals at launch: to inspire gamers to take the LifePack Challenge — playing our unique mini-game on LifePack.org to unlock 10,000 days of RUTF treatment in the first week — and to spread the word about our first partner.”
By June 2021, they had finished the in-browser game at Lifepack.org, which highlighted the core messages of their campaign: a basic, endless runner with obstacles, and every 11 seconds the threat of malnutrition spawns to try to kill you. You can collect RUTF to destroy malnutrition, and whenever you fail to jump in time and hit an obstacle, the game over screen displays a stat about the worsening danger of malnutrition amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When LifePack hit the challenge goal in just 26 hours, the team knew they were onto something.
The success of the in-browser game challenge parlayed into their first partner reveal, Tilting Point’s SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off, which was also publicized on the site alongside the endless runner. Building into the mobile game’s existing microtransaction mechanisms, special LifePack-branded bundles split a portion of the cost of gem packs to go to RUTF acquisition and distribution. It was a success in the first month of launch, but the charity wasn’t the only beneficiary of the partnership.
“LifePack increased sales of in-game bundles twofold for SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-off, and generated a 56% install lift,” says Dickson. “This initial engagement provided ECF with the proof of concept to demonstrate that the inclusion of LifePack in-game microtransactions can increase video game downloads and microtransaction profits, while raising significant funds for lifesaving treatments for children.”
This proof of concept has helped LifePack partner with larger and more diverse partners, like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds studio Krafton and Belgian developer Happy Volcano’s You Suck at Parking. It also helped catch the eye of the macro-influencers they wanted to help spread the word, including games-adjacent personalities like Jack Black and Aisha Tyler, and spurred the launch of an ambassador program for micro-influencers.
In partnership with LifePack, PUBGhosted a streaming event, raising enough money to provide over 15,000 days of RUTF in just four hours. To capitalize on this momentum, LifePack invited PUBG players to integrate fundraising for the campaign into their streams on World Food Day, October 16, 2021. The pick-up was powerful, further proving that the model and brand resonate with the gaming community. Viewership for the World Food Day event doubled Krafton’s expectations, reaching 90,000 people.
Since then, LifePack anchored to World Hunger Day in May 2022, Twitch Con and World Food Day in October 2022 as tentpole dates in the calendar to raise funds, build their ambassador community, and spread awareness of the campaign and the issue of malnutrition. All that progress led up to the Minecraft race on February 5 this year with 80 creators collaborating together and utilizing their personal audiences for another $14,000 of fundraising.
“It’s been an incredible learning experience for the LifePack and ECF team, and we have sought to remain very humble throughout the journey,” says Dickson. “We are experts in advocacy, communications, malnutrition research and program implementation but certainly not experts in gaming. So we have benefited from working closely with smart, crafty partners who can translate the behind the scenes of game development, launches, and updates, and guide us on tailoring our story to gaming audiences and effective integration with microtransaction models.”
“We’d love to discuss potential partnerships, be it co-hosted streaming events, co-brand awareness and social promotion, in-game activations, sponsorship of the LifePack challenge fund or something else we aren’t thinking of!”
To get in touch with LifePack for partnership opportunities, email email@example.com.
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