How to gamify volunteering

One of the biggest challenges volunteer coordinators often face is keeping their supporters and volunteers engaged. Missed deadlines, lack of initiative, and decreasing project interest are some symptoms of low engagement. Does this sound familiar to you?

Gamification is the use of game elements such as point scoring, competition among peers, and awards in any area of activity (such as volunteering!). Gamification can help coordinators (like you) to combat this, by promoting participation, rewarding effort, and motivating people to give their best.

Gamification for volunteers

Gamification of volunteer work

As weird as it may sound, games go beyond playing. Even simple game-like elements can inform everyone about what has been done and what needs to be completed. Abby Jarvis, nonprofit education manager for fundraising platform Qgiv, suggests tracking donation campaigns via visual thermometers that display the progress of both individuals and fundraising teams, as well as the overall funds raised. 

“A donor who is not especially invested in seeing your organization reach your overall goal may be more invested in helping their favorite participant reach their personal goal,” explains Jarvis.

You can use gamification to shape how volunteers feel about your overall mission, completion of projects, and accepting “dull” tasks (such as keeping the copy machine stocked and making welcome kits). 

Keep it visual and easy to understand, so the message is clear and inspires every volunteer. ClassCraft, a schooling gamification tool, explains how game elements work in the neurological level:

“Since our brains have a natural desire to feel progress and see growth, visual representations of advancement, like a progress bar or leaderboard, are incredibly motivating,” states its blog.

Gamification can make more impact

Use custom games to empower volunteers as leaders and help them to work directly with the community. In other words, turn your volunteers into game masters!

By doing so, they can occupy an active role from the start, help them figure out their duties as they go, and connect faster with the people they interact with.

This is what Jason Tilley, founder of Ministry Accelerator, learned when he asked volunteers to play a game  with the children that attended a Sunday service. “With the ability to give or take away points as they choose, the volunteers had no need for help or lectures. They connected and taught. It was great to see,” he writes.

Gamification can also improve results by scaling the efforts of the volunteer team.

Jim Pugh, former web development director of the Democratic National Committee, launched a game through which supporters were encouraged to convince their friends to commit their votes before the 2010 American midterm elections. Users could track their score, earn points by asking others to participate, get virtual trophies, and see their ranking against their peers.

“The results were impressive; over 600,000 people committed to vote in the election, with more than 500,000 of them having been recruited by friends.” concludes Pugh.

Reward and recognition

Creative games are helpful when your funds towards rewarding volunteers are limited. They can also tap into people’s intrinsic motivations and create a positive and enjoyable atmosphere.

  • Make sure all rewards are visible to other volunteers.
  • Every award should require some kind of effort to earn.
  • All gifts should be appropriate. 
  • They should encourage the community to participate.
  • Knowledge and time served should be specially recognized.

Use gamification to educate

Also volunteer onboarding and community training can be eased through gamified tools.

Interactive quizzes, challenges, and progress tracking, capture volunteers’ attention and make the onboarding and training process more enjoyable. When people are engaged, they are more likely to retain information. This helps them actively participate in the learning process.

Games often have clear objectives and a sense of progression. By structuring the onboarding and training as a series of levels or missions, volunteers can see their progress. This gives them a sense of accomplishment as they complete each stage.

Most gamified tools can be accessed online. This allows volunteers to learn at their own pace and convenience. This flexibility accommodates those with busy schedules and different learning preferences.

Gamified tools can also track volunteer progress and performance. This is valuable data for the organization to assess the effectiveness of the onboarding and training process. Analytics can help identify areas for improvement and tailor future training content accordingly.

How we can help

Zelos is a very simple volunteer management app with flexible built-in gamification. You can sign up right away to set up your gamified volunteer experience and get your team going.

Create a free project in our app or get in touch with our team for a free demo about best gamification practices!