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Donor Participation Project Resources

Connecting Through Gaming: How the USO Leverages Video Games to Support Military Members

The USO, a nonprofit that supports active military members and their families, has discovered an innovative way to connect with younger service members: through video games.

Over the last few years, the USO has developed a gaming program that leverages streaming platforms like Twitch to raise funds, build community, and bridge the civilian-military divide.

According to Diego Scharifker, the USO’s gaming partnerships manager, the key to their gaming success has been connecting it directly to their mission.

“Gaming can’t just be a fundraising tool. There has to be a connection to our mission.”.

Diego Scharifker, USO

For the USO, that means using gaming to connect deployed service members with their families and friends back home. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USO noticed how gaming provided opportunities for people to connect when they couldn’t be together in person. They wanted to provide that same benefit to active military members, who are often separated from loved ones.

The USO’s gaming program includes livestreaming events where military gamers in different locations can compete against each other, as well as building gaming centers at military bases.

They’ve also had success fundraising through popular streaming platform Twitch, raising over $160,000 so far through peer-to-peer campaigns and matching gifts.

According to Scharifker, while the number of followers a streamer has can matter, the most important thing is that the streamer has an authentic connection to the charity’s mission. With the right stewarding, these streamers can become effective fundraisers and ambassadors.

For nonprofits looking to start their own gaming fundraising initiatives, the USO provides a model of how to do it well.

  • Connecting gaming directly to your mission
  • Focusing on relationships over numbers
  • Ensuring gaming is not just a passing fad but an integral part of how you achieve your goals

While getting leadership buy-in may take time, the USO’s example shows that gaming can be a worthwhile investment!