Mermaids: how one man raised £250k by playing a game.

Exhibited by
Nikki Bell
Added
June 10, 2019
Medium of Communication
Online
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Transgender rights and support
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

£250k in two days? Without leaving your home? Those facts speak for themselves - this is a simple, engaging campaign which saw one fundraiser use his knowledge and experience of both online services and gaming to support vulnerable transgender youngsters and challenge the actions of people trying to halt funds for trans charity Mermaids. It’s an example of how anyone can make a real difference on their own, without the resources available to large organisations.

Summary / objectives

Harry Brewis was driven to raise money for UK transgender charity organisation Mermaids after funding from the Lottery was removed. The money, previously designated to the charity, was halted following an online campaign led by a well-known comic and writer, Graham Linehan, who used his large following to protest the grant, affecting thousands of young lives in the process.

Harry set out to return this money by combining a life-long ambition to complete Donkey Kong 64 with a live stream of this attempt, raising awareness and money for the charity. He set himself a target of £3,000, and by the 57th hour had reached £250,000.

Background

Harry is a well-known online contributor with his own YouTube channel where he records video essays; challenging social injustices and discussing games and related topics. He is energetic, charismatic, and he has a large following of his own which he decided to use for good. Linehan had previously targeted the gaming community, and this presented a perfect opportunity to blend a personal challenge, aligning Harry’s talents with an existing personal connection to positively react to Mermaids’ situation.

Announcing the stream-a-thon on his YouTube channel Harry said, ‘So well done, Graham! You have a massive audience and the power to choose to fight for progress in all the many forms we need in the world right now and you used it to make sure some children won’t have access to helpful resources.’

On January 18th 2019 the livestream began on Twitch. Twitch is an online gaming platform that allows broadcasters to show viewers their screens and video, as well as host chat and money giving functions. At the time of Harry’s campaign, broadcasters were mostly using Twitch to fund themselves but over recent months, its popularity with charity fundraising has increased. On the same day as this year’s IWITOT, the first gaming for good website with direct charity giving functions was announced.  

As well as Harry, behind the scenes worked an online community responsible for bringing on interesting callers and promoting the stream’s existence and purpose. Because of the impactful nature of the issues supported by Mermaids and Harry’s existing following attention grew, attracting public figures who used the livestream to show their support of the transgender community and discuss their connections with the cause.

One caller, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at the time a candidate for US New York Representative (now elected!), dialled in to discuss her political stance on supporting the transgender community, actively speaking out against an opponent’s view that they should be banned in their state. This call promoted the stream even more, with thousands of viewers joining the stream and a $1,500 donation in the eighth minute of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s call.

The accessible and fun platform of gaming allowed the online community to be easily connected with people just like them, discussing and challenging difficult conversations whilst being entertained and constantly aware of the campaign’s success (thanks to totaliser and rolling chat function).

Creator / originator

Harry Brewis, aka HBomberguy.

Special characteristics

Harry used his existing talents and platforms for good. He understood how these worked, how to reach and influence people, and what they wanted to engage with.

Harry didn’t do this alone. He recruited a team of volunteer supporters, engaging the online transgender community, who helped him promote the stream and create interest.

The medium used to raise money brought donors into the activity. Twitch notifies of real-time donations to the viewers and the gamer; those who give can see their name and comments be broadcast to thousands of other viewers.

Twitch also harnesses the giving power of social proofing; gift amounts and totalisers can be seen by every viewer, letting them know they’re getting involved with something successful and subsequent gifts positively impacted by those recently seen.

The charity wasn’t involved; Harry saw an opportunity to use a life-long ambition to help a cause connected to him in some way and used his existing talents to raise money – this is exactly what good community fundraising looks like.

Influence / impact

  • £250,000 raised for Mermaids
  • Increased awareness of the charity and their mission; increased media attention made possible by the huge amount fundraised and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s appearance.

Results

£250k for Mermaids, as well as an increased consideration of gaming for good as an income generator for charities.

Merits

This isn’t charity led or product driven. It’s a fundraiser doing good with what they do well which we can all learn from. Sometimes our need to control how supporters get involved with our charity, or even KPIs, restrict the amazing opportunities that come from harnessing connections and using existing skills and networks for good.  Harry’s example is a perfect of example of how it can go right.

Hbomberguy, aka Harry Brewis, live-streamed himself playing Donkey Kong 64 to support Mermaids.
Harry streamed his gaming on Twitch, which allowed people to comment and donate in real time.
The campaign raised £250,000 in two days and drew the attention of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.