Games for Charity: Hosting Arcade Events With Social Impact


charity gaming

Charity is helping people with no expectation of reciprocation. Acts of charity and generosity make our world a better place. Charities have existed for generations. But, today, globe-spanning non-profits have an unprecedented impact. 

Despite the positive impact, charity fundraisers can feel stuffy. Spaghetti dinners and fun runs were once innovative, but now they’re cliche. Most people want to do the right thing! But, people also don’t want to be bored. 

Life is stressful. Why not make your next charity event…more fun?

To reinvigorate nonprofit support, organizations are jumping on a hot new trend. Ready to put the “fun” back in “fundraiser”? Then leap into the intriguing world of games for charity! 

gaming fundraiser

What Is A “Games For Charity” Event?

Games for charity events are unique fundraisers. These events harness people’s passion for games! Then, they use it to fuel donation drives for nonprofits.

Often, games for charity events are organized to support a specific nonprofit. In some cases, the charity itself is throwing the event. In other cases, the event is a competition. Different competitors each raise funds for the charity of their choice. 

In the past few years, five models of games for charity events have become popular.

Sponsored Challenges

Sponsored challenges are often “marathon” fundraiser events. Anyone who wants to participate in the challenge gathers donation pledges from their friends or network. 

Typically, people pledge $X per unit of participation. So, in a dance-a-thon game event, a player might earn $5 for every round of Dance Dance Revolution they play. Or, they could earn $20 for every hour spent on active games.

In some cases, people pledge a flat rate. This lets a player participate as much or as little as they want while guaranteeing funding. Charities can also charge challengers a registration fee. This can help offset the upfront cost of the event. 


Tournaments are competitive gaming events. Bracket-style tournaments pit two players or teams against each other. The winner then moves forward to face the winner of another bracket. The ultimate champion wins an exciting prize.

To raise funds, tournaments usually seek corporate sponsors. Sponsors might foot upfront costs, donate prizes, and encourage participation. In exchange, they get to advertise their logo and get positive press.

Registration fees are another source of funds for charity tournaments.

Telethon-Style Live-Stream Events

Telethon-style events update the old-school telethon model for the internet age. These events typically feature popular professional gamers. 

For the duration of the event, the gamers entertain a crowd, playing a game with art and skill. Less frequently, non-gamer entertainers perform.

As with telethons, live-streams are broadcast to an audience viewing at home. Periodically, performers make positive remarks about the charity’s impact. Then, they request donations. 

Audience members can make donations through featured buttons on live-stream channels. In some cases, they can also call and donate. As donations roll in, a ticker with the total funds moves up. 

Some live-streams highlight large donations, and the performer gives the donor a shout-out. It’s crucial to work with an experienced event venue, with a detail-oriented team. Otherwise, technical issues or awkward pauses can hamper the fun. 

Ticketed Events & VIP Charity Parties

Certain gaming parties raise funds by charging a premium for tickets to an exclusive or VIP event. These parties pull out all the stops to get the buzz going, cultivating allure

Arcade games, DJs, musicians, costume contests, and celebrity guests amp up the excitement.

Live-streams and challenges rely on drawing a large audience. In contrast, exclusive parties only need a smaller number of attendees who’re down to pay a premium. The key is to build a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your crowd. 

Raffles, Auctions & Merch

The fifth most popular types of charity gaming events are raffles and auctions. These can be integrated into broader charity parties. A game arcade provides a draw, and the raffle prizes are themed to appeal to fans. 

Certain vintage arcade pieces go for quite a bit! In 2021, a well-maintained Atari Hercules pinball machine was auctioned for $10,000. Charities that score high-value donations can generate a lot of funds. 

Even if a charity doesn’t pull any big-ticket items, a raffle can boost earnings at an event. People donate a lot more when each $5 donation gets them another shot at a prize. 

games for charity

Why Charity Gaming Fundraisers Get Donors Excited

Iconic games hold a unique allure. On the one hand, they tap into our memories of the best parts of our childhood: play. On the other, they offer an opportunity to be the most heroic versions of ourselves – if only in a fictional world.

At their best, games raise the bar for what we expect of ourselves. The interactive nature of gaming pushes us to consider what heroism means in practice. This is the heart of a great gaming fundraiser’s impact. Playing arcade games for charity lets you be that hero in real life. 

A Gaming Fundraiser Offers Something Fun For Everyone

Unlike a 5k race, there’s no minimum bar of skill necessary to join in a game. True, not everyone will win. But a great arcade balances games of focus and skill with games of luck. 

Team-oriented games sit right next to solitary ventures. Dance games and Pac-Man require different traits from players.

A night at the arcade can be a whole family affair. As a result, charity gaming events engage diverse participants. More inclusion means more funds raised!

Get Inspired! How One Gaming Fundraiser Raised $3.7 Million In One Weekend

When you’re throwing a fundraiser, dream big! In the past five years, gaming fundraisers have had astronomical successes. GuardianCon raised over $3.7M for St. Judes’ Children’s Hospital throughout a single weekend in June 2019. 

And they’re not the only ones. Games Done Quick is a fundraising group specializing in gaming speed run events. Popular gamers and entertainers perform classic games as fast as possible. 

Most Games Done Quick events are telethon-style live-streams. By the summer of 2023, they’d raised over $49M for different charities. 

charity gaming

Level Up Your Charity Parties 

The next time you want to raise funds for your favorite non-profit, try a charity gaming event. Not sure how to do it?

Why not ask the experts? At Wintrust, we have experience hosting events in our sports complex, meeting rooms, and our 4000-square-foot arcade. Drop by our Bedford Park location! Or, give us a call at (708) 295-9500. 

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