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Summer of Inspiration Leads to New Beginnings

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Initial Inspiration

In the summer of 2016, I was invited by a friend to watch an event called Summer Games Done Quick. In this event, gamers from all over come to play and finish games in the fastest possible time. Intrigued, I tuned in to Twitch to watch and I was immediately hooked.

The format itself was fun. Gamers would swap out as soon as their game was complete, which meant 24 hours of action over 7 days. A variety of game genres were played too, which added to the event’s broad appeal. However, what really blew my mind was that I found out this event was an annual fundraiser. For someone who had worked in “traditional” fundraising models for over 15 years, the classic donor profile I was most familiar with was the 65-year old check writer. Yet, here I was, watching funds be raised online on behalf of Doctors Without Borders to the tune of over $1M.

Inspired, I wrote to my supervisor about the event, showed him some clips, and wrote down the event results. We agreed that it would be great to present at the next Development meeting to see if we could get some initial steps to explore this fundraising method. I was so excited (or hyped, as they say), to speak to my colleagues about this and bounce some ideas around.

Reality Check

A week later, I presented and the buzz I expected was instead replaced by the sounds of crickets. I felt like I was in one of Michael Scott’s many Office meetings.

At best, I saw bemused, yet bewildered looks. At worst, I had people who incredulously stated that they “didn’t get it.” They couldn’t figure out why people would give money while watching other people play games.

Disappointment is an understatement. I was also a bit embarrassed. I should have known that an organization that still held on to direct mail and email engagement as a means of raising funds wouldn’t have a clue. Perhaps I didn’t explain the concept properly. Maybe they just weren’t ready. Who knows? However, I was undaunted. I kept researching and found other organizations like Extra Life, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Prevent Cancer Foundation, and Direct Relief that had capitalized on video game livestream fundraising. I even reached out to Doctors Without Borders to learn more about Summer Games Done Quick. Needless to say, my path lay away from my current organization.


Fortunately, in January 2017, a friend reached out to let me know of an opening at Doctors Without Borders. Excitedly, I applied and soon enough I was called for an interview. I still remember them asking me about which program I was most interested in. They probably expected me to mention their work in the Congo, Nigeria or perhaps Afghanistan, but I surprised them by telling them it was Summer Games Done Quick! I greatly admired how a supposedly old-school organization was so open-minded and forward-thinking to work on an event like that. Of course, I had other qualifications, but I think that statement stuck out the most. I soon got a call informing me that I got the job! Given my initial inspiration, I felt this was the right move.

Yes! Even though the role was in fundraising operations, it meant I could work with their events team and learn all I could about their livestream fundraising program. While I was successful in leading my team, after the first few years, my manager could see my passion for livestream fundraising and actually set one of my annual performance goals as “Providing Assistance and Attending Summer Games Done Quick 2019”! My most important deliverable was to write up a comprehensive report on any fundraising operations-related tasks that could be enhanced since the events team rarely engaged my team with projects. A win-win since we were also able to establish closer relations with another fundraising unit.

Hello Twitch

It was at this time that I started my own channel. I came up with the moniker King Kong Rong because that was the name I used when I played Age of Empires 2 and Romance of the Three Kingdoms with my friends on LAN. I tended to play as Kong Rong in ROTK and since I ruled a kingdom, I was also a king, hence the name. The gorilla logo came about because everyone knew King Kong, but not everyone knew who Kong Rong was, so much of my channel art is a gorilla in Chinese accessories.

With my Twitch “persona” or brand established, I immediately started making friends and networking in charity streaming communities, which would set the foundation for much of my charity streaming activities going forward. Most importantly, I was invited to and joined the Extra Life team, Mason’s Little Warriors. Team MLW is part of the greater Good4Gaming charity streaming community, which supports multiple organizations throughout the year. This community is relatively large, very engaged, and I stood to learn a lot about charity streaming from its members. I am proud to be a member of this community and often mention them in professional conferences and articles.

I started to build a portfolio of publications and speaking appearances about livestream fundraising and became the Subject Matter Expert for the Doctors Without Borders events team.

Doctors Without Borders already had a Twitch channel, but it was sparse and there was no content to speak of. It was just there. I spoke with the Events team and suggested creating a resource toolkit for streamers to use: overlays, banners, alerts, etc. However, they didn’t know where to start. Thankfully, they had a graphic designer who understood the concepts I was trying to express and soon, they had all the graphics they needed not only for their channel, but also for prospective streamers who wanted to raise money for us. You can check it out here. I also gave them a crash course in the language of Twitch emotes so they were ready to chat with people. Good timing too, because SGDQ was right around the corner!

Full Circle

Flying out to Minnesota in the summer of 2019 for Summer Games Done Quick was surreal. Three years after I initially tuned in, I was actually going to be at the event, not just as an attendee, but as a member of the organization the event benefited! This was the culmination of several years of effort, the bitter disappointment of my last job already a distant memory. The event itself was almost exactly as I had imagined.

I got to meet many of the participating speedrunners, attendees, sponsors, and organizers. I wanted to know what drove people to give and why they wanted to be involved with Doctors Without Borders.

What I learned was certainly informative. I found that many donors gave because they were supporting their favorite streamer/speedrunner. The fact that the funds were helping Doctors Without Borders was just a happy by-product. So what’s the secret sauce?

Community building. Video games have communities built around them. Gamers and streamers also build communities around themselves. Especially if they have a particular style of game play (in this case, speedrunning). This then is the confluence of those communities, forming a greater community. Communities support themselves and often, one another.

What many organizations fail to realize is that if they want to raise funds through this vehicle, then they have to focus on community first.

Next Steps

As I was gearing up to go to TwitchCon 2020, Twitch decided to cancel the live event in favor of a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By now, my office was almost all remote, which led to me devoting more time to my charity streaming and content production. Without a 2-4 hour daily commute, this was a welcome respite from the normal workday. This renewed drive allowed me to focus on earning my first Extra Life gold medal for fundraising.

I raised over $1,000 for my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital via Twitch and Facebook Fundraiser (utilizing DonorDrive’s integration with Facebook). Not bad for a channel with only around 200 followers at the time.

Though I was proud of the achievement, I was even more proud to have been part of the Children’s Specialized Hospital’s community of Extra Life fundraisers. I was invited to the hospital to attend a special ceremony to commemorate over $1 million raised for the hospital. Together with other Extra Lifers, we were present to officially open the hospital’s new Extra Life Gaming Corner where patients could come to relax and play games during their stay at the hospital. Seeing the impact of our fundraising efforts made all those Twitch streams worthwhile!

When I posted the above images to my Instagram and Facebook, several friends asked me if I could help them and their organizations with livestream fundraising. I told them at the time that I was willing to provide advice, but I already had my hands tied with my current work and channel production. Then they encouraged me to start a consultancy given that I already had a lot experience in fundraising, was now making a name in industry circles, and by now had many charity streams under my belt over the past few years. It took several months of learning how to even start a consultancy, but here I am now. MGA Fundraising ostensibly takes after my initials, but I also gave it the secondary meaning of Make Gaming About Fundraising.

I'm still learning the ins and outs of running a business, but I am confident that when it comes to leveraging video games for your fundraising campaigns, I can provide you with the right support to get your program running. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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