More Than “Points”: How To Increase Engagement through Gamification Principles

Pointers on Gamification in Nonprofits

Gamification software applies the mechanics of gaming–such as reward, leveling, challenge, and community interaction–to contexts like employee performance and member retention. The psychology behind the movement toward gamification in business is simple: the human brain seeks reward. In this article, I muse on the topic of gamification as it applies to donor and member behaviors.

More Than Points! Gamification Principles

By providing customers and employees with a reward structure, many businesses may realize an increase in productivity and revenue. As a result, industry giants like Verizon, IBM, Target, and Ford use gaming theory. Even the U.S. Army deploys gamification software for recruitment.

It’s important to note–and this is a common misunderstanding about gaming strategy–that “reward” doesn’t just mean a tangible gain like a sales bonus for advertising sales or company branded swag. Your donors and members are more complex than that.

Rather, the brain is “rewarded” with a range of positive emotions, such as the rush of accomplishing a goal or the comfort of feeling like part of a community. Effective gaming software or gaming features found in software generates these psychological rewards.

So how can your nonprofit benefit from integrating these principles to engage your employees, donors and members? More importantly, how do you want to tap in to the psychological need for reward in a way that is sustainable and mutually beneficial?

Let’s take a quick look at this and see how you may encourage and track friendly competition amongst members.

Employee Staff Engagement

The power of a gamification program for employee management may be seen in many ways. For some, the mere fact of having a unified and consistent platform for organizing employee training, recognition, and incentives is huge.

But for others, a solid platform should make every day business practices exciting for your employees. Remember the psychology of reward. Many people find it difficult to connect their daily performance (for example, the number of donor courtesy calls made) with the long-term goals of the individual and company.

By incentivizing daily work ethic, gamification software has been shown to boost employee productivity, retention, and morale. One argument against gamification for employees is that it is not scalable, that over time the rewards must increase in order to keep people engaged.

However, this argument takes a narrow view of “reward.” For example, gamification can also engage employees through challenge. These challenges don’t necessarily need to be competitive among employees. Rather, gamification can stimulate the intrinsic motivation of employees to set and reach personal goals.

Quick example of ideas a Social Intranet:

  • Boost innovation by rewarding the best ideas.
  • On-board staff faster with motivated learning.
  • Encourage increased interaction and productivity.

Gamification for Member and Donor Engagement

For most, gaming theory for customers is often compared to credit card reward points. However, this analogy diminishes all gamification can do for your nonprofit. For example, Gamification SaaS principles infused into a software tool like a community software tool can potentially:

  • Generate important member profile data
  • Build credible and reliable authority in your member community
  • Crowdsource problem solving
  • Educate members, donors, customers on the best authority or speaker
  • Ensure continued relevance of your communities content
  • Increase participation & engagement

Gamification Promotes Participation

Participation is a significant advantage for many associations. And, the tracking of participation is the root of all engagement scoring. Further, with applications like community software you may also leverage daily digests and notifications features to keep members on track.

While on the surface, badges seem like nothing more than prizes. In some regards, many may view them just as a way to “toot” your own horn so to speak. But, it’s more valuable than that for sure. Badges “humanize” the online persona of a member or donor. Certainly, it brings to attention participation as well. But, digging a little deeper it quickly promotes trust of the person and authority.

For example, would you rather ask a CAE or Non-CAE about the CAE Exam experience? Badges are important in providing depth to the understanding of the person. And, they allow others like them to become more connected. This is a fundamental point about how this principal helps engagement.

Where Is Gamification in Software Found?

A company can only yield these benefits when they pick the best gamification system that takes a complex view of reward. People like to have their voice heard, work through problems, learn new things, feel important, and give back.

When selecting any best fitted software, consider what your strategy is for it, prioritize those, and the determine which benefits make the most sense for your nonprofit and your members.

Though some of the initial enthusiasm for gamfication as the “next big thing” has diminished, there are still an over-abundance of options depending on the type of tool you need.

If you’re interested in integrating gaming principles into your nonprofit’s business plan, you may not know where to begin to find the right fit. If so, please reach out for help, OK? Contact us to learn more.

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Let the games begin! Gamification for Engagement in Nonprofits


Gamification is awesome for Associations..

Engagement, participation, & remaining relevant is paramount for nonprofit associations today. And, many forward thinking association executives are already looking to Gamification to increase awareness and engage their constituents. We believe the discipline of Gamification will continue to be thrust very quickly into the forefront of conversation in years to come in the nonprofit community which we serve.

Let the Games Begin: Gamification in Nonprofits

What is Gamification? Gamification is not a new idea, it is a proven discipline that has been in the workforce for quite some time. Ultimately, gamification allows organizations the ability to encourage and engage their employees, members, donors, & customers in a desired behavior by creating opportunities of problem solving, learning, loyalty, and communication.

Why should Nonprofit Executives care? If you are a bit skeptical think about the following items:

Higher Engagement

Organizations found to deploy elements of  Gamification into their systems tend to have higher employee engagement numbers as recently shared in a Gallup Report

Increased Web-Site Traffic

In a study by M2 Research, vendors claim that Gamification can lead to a 100% to 150% pickup in engagement metrics including unique views, page views, community activities, and time on site.

Adoption Trends

Gartner reported more than 70% of the world’s largest 2,000 companies are expected to have deployed at least one gamified application by year-end 2014.

Software Market Demand

The overall market for gamification tools, services, and applications is projected to be $5.5 billion by 2018 (M2 Research).


Millennials are taking over. They are the future of your association and they have grown up on Gaming.

Your association may have already used the principles of Gamification at many conference you attended and didn’t even know it. At a recent association event, TSAE’s Southwest Showcase, the forward thinking staff implemented a gaming element in their conference application to engage the attendees with the exhibitors.

With sponsors taking part in the activities, not only did exhibitors get brand recognition through the app developed by Gather Digital, the attendees achieved valuable face-time with participants too. Driving foot traffic to booths has never been this easy – your sponsors will love you forever if you can increase participation.

Advanced Gaming Principles

Advanced gamification makes it easy to create custom missions, competitions, badges and rewards to maximize participation, engagement and productivity. For example, a rewards program can include implementing a badge system, leveling-up programs or a points system to reward members for reading articles, community involvement, watching videos or sharing association content with others. 

CRM Software and Gaming 

There are enterprise systems like Zurmo, an open source platform, already leading the pack in the for-profit area. This particular company is clearly looking to take this concept to the execution stage in their Customer Relationship Management solution. Badgeville, another forerunner in this area, brings together the industry’s leading enterprise gamification platform, design expertise, and a very rich customer community to help you build a world-class engagement program.


In the years to come, Gamification certainly will become a mainstream aspect of all Customer and Member Engagement Systems for nonprofits. Beyond the “Fun” aspect of Gamification, you will find a tremendous amount of tangible benefits to this trend in software applications and hopefully a concerted effort to include this methodology into the various vendors focused on Association Management Software. 

Gamification could be that game changer for your organization. In our opinion, it is certainly one of the most important trends in technology for associations to embrace in order to remain relevant for years to come.

If you would like to learn more about various software tools available today utilizing this methodology and approach to engagement, please contact us now to discuss.

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