Giving Games

Frequently Asked Questions

A typical Giving Game lasts about an hour.  Participants hear a brief introduction to effective giving, learn about 2-4 pre-selected charities, and then discuss as a group which of those charities to give to.  The money, ~$10-20 per person, is usually provided by an external party (generally The Life You Can Save).

We also run "Speed Giving Games" which take the form of a series of quick interactions, each lasting just a few minutes, with participants donating ~$1 each.

Our brief write-up, “What is a Giving Game?” discusses what each format looks like in more detail.

Giving Games spread awareness of highly effective charities and of resources donors can use to make more informed choices. They also present players with a giving decision that requires critical and intentional thinking. In order to make their choice, players need to think about what they value most, and why. This reflection can inform and improve any future donations a participant might make.

In addition, each of the key elements of the Giving Game model is structured to promote better giving. These design details harness what we know about how donors act, creating an environment where it’s easy to give well.

We’ve run over 300 of our standard Giving Game workshops so far, engaging over 6,000 people. And we've reached over 14,000 more through online and speed Giving Games.  Growth has been extremely fast: key metrics have been roughly doubling on an annual basis.

We're not just reaching a lot of people, we've also developed an extensive body of evidence supporting the idea that Giving Games can change how people make giving decisions.  This evidence base includes findings from a randomized experiment, feedback we collect from participants and facilitators, testimonials, and quantitative data on how many participants accept requests for deeper post-game engagement.  For more details on the evidence behind Giving Games, please see our Annual Report.

Going forward, we plan to continue our rapid growth by expanding into new areas, strengthening our training materials for organizers, and improving our ability to track and influence post-game outcomes.

Long-term, our aim is to spread philanthropy education at a scale that can shift the culture of how we give.  Our Vision and Strategic Plan explains in detail how we plan to reach this ambitious goal.

Most of our Giving Games have been run at universities around the world. We believe this is a “sweet spot” for philanthropy education, as students have few preconceived notions about philanthropy and a lifetime of giving ahead of them. We work with faculty members who want to include Giving Games in their classrooms across a variety of subject areas, as well as students or faculty who want to run a Giving Game as an extracurricular activity.

Lately, we’ve been rapidly expanding beyond the university space. We’re now running Giving Games at businesses, high schools, church groups, and other locations.

When selecting the charities the participants will choose between, the key consideration is picking options that will provoke an engaging discussion. We provide advice for Giving Game organizers to help them design sessions that will resonate with their particular audiences.

To highlight the differences between charities, we typically feature ones that make the world a better place in very different ways. For instance, we might ask participants to choose between a charity that makes a profound difference in the lives of relatively few people and a charity that makes a modest improvement in the lives of many people. Similarly, we could feature an organization that performs a proven health intervention and a “meta-charity” that conducts research to identify which health interventions provide positive, cost-effective outcomes.

In many Giving Games, participants choose between one of The Life You Can Save’s recommended charities and the sort of organization they might normally give to by default (e.g. their alma mater or a local food bank). These Giving Games help illustrate how much more good donors can accomplish by giving to highly effective organizations fighting extreme poverty.

As a general rule of thumb, the sponsor’s donation in a Giving Game amounts to $10-20 per participant. In a “speed Giving Game”, we typically donate $1 per participant.

Yes! We typically require that games we sponsor include at least one of our recommended charities and that all the eligible charities are tax-deductible in the US. When feasible, we also ask that a signup sheet for our email list be circulated.

The Life You Can Save is eager to find opportunities to sponsor Giving Games; you can email your idea to GivingGames@thelifeyoucansave.org to discuss how to make it a reality.

The Life You Can Save will provide all the materials and advice you need to run a Giving Game.

Our resource library provides an introductory presentation about effective giving that you can use to kick off your Giving Game ,as well as presentations about our recommended charities. Any of these resources can be customized to fit your needs.

We’ve also compiled a comprehensive Giving Game Instruction Manual based on feedback from experienced organizers. And you can always ask our team for advice via email or Skype. Just send requests to givinggames@thelifeyoucansave.org.

First, read through these FAQ and review our Instruction Manual.

If you’d like The Life You Can Save to sponsor your Giving Game, please review our brief list of requirements and then email givinggames@thelifeyoucansave.org with a brief description of your plans and any questions you might have. It typically takes just a couple of emails or a brief Skype call to resolve any open issues.

If you have another source of sponsorship, we’re still happy to offer any advice we can, so feel free to reach out.

Yes!  You can make a donation to provide Giving Game sponsorship, and support from donors like you is critical for our philanthropy education efforts.  The Life You Can Save will take care of finding the participants, handling the logistics, and everything else.

Sponsoring Giving Games offers an exciting opportunity to multiply your impact.  The vast majority of your money will end up in the hands of outstanding charities.  But by letting others donate your money, and learn in the process, you gain the chance to influence how they give in the future.  That provides a huge opportunity: we typically give people ~$15 to donate, while the average US household donates ~$3,000 each year.

Another source of leverage is the support your gift can provide to the effective giving community.  A survey of worldwide Effective Altruism groups found that access to Giving Game funding was the number one resource groups said would make them "very likely" to conduct more outreach.  By providing Giving Game sponsorship, you can empower groups and individuals who are eager to spread awareness of effective giving. 

We also encourage people to fund Giving Games that they organize on their own and to share their experiences doing so. We consider the Giving Game model to be “open source”, and hope that people will find their own creative ways to spread awareness about effective giving. And of course, we’ll share our advice and experiences with anyone who goes this route.

After running a Giving Game, the organizer lets us know which charity won, and we arrange a donation from a donor-advised fund to that charity. After the gift is processed (which usually takes a few days), we forward the confirmation to the organizer, who is free to share it with the participants.

We use a donor-advised fund for these payments to provide independent verification that the donations are made and to facilitate record keeping. This structure also allows US donors to sponsor Giving Games by making a tax-deductible donation to the fund, where funds will be held in money market securities until needed.

Some Giving Games use a winner-take-all voting system, while others distribute the money proportional to the votes. We’ve had success using both models. Similarly, voting can be public or anonymous depending on the particular setting.

While the voting structure is flexible, it should require the participants to actually vote on their preferred charity. Some people will invariably find it hard to choose and will prefer to split the money evenly. Since you want participants to reflect deeply on their priorities, we recommend not giving them this easy way out.

I have a question about Giving Games not answered here, how can I have it answered?

We’d love to hear from you! Please email your question to GivingGames@thelifeyoucansave.org.

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