US charities are tapping the gaming world for help in training a new generation of fundraisers, starting with the wildly successful Grand Theft Auto series. A version of the game, to be called Grand Theft Major Gifts, will be released through the League of Big Honking Charities as a training tool this month.
League CEO Mildred Snidely says the new tool is part of their cutting edge effort to better train US fundraisers and inspire young charity workers.
“Our training committee was wondering how to best educate new fundraisers about the challenges that await them – competition, regulation, the need for speed. Then one of our people showed us Grand Theft Auto where players take on the role of a gang leader in a big city who rises through the ranks of organized crime through murder, drug-dealing and illegal parking. And we said, that’s it. That’s what fundraising is all about,” said Snidely.
In Grand Theft Auto players are given various criminal missions by kingpins and major idols in the city underworld which must be completed to progress through the storyline. They use a ruthless combination of unsafe car driving, murder, flying helicopters, bank robbery and assassinations to get to the top.
In the new fundraising tool, players will take on the role of a major gifts officer at a big city hospital with a mandate to do whatever it takes to make their sales quota, including prospect research, donor calls, direct mail, pipe bombs, extortion and kidnapping.
“The tool will give them all the resources they need to make their one or two million dollar monthly sales quota for the hospital before their boss terminates them. It’s up to them to plan their time, their actions and manage their weapons and ammunition to make their goal. It’s a real test of their ingenuity and will to succeed,” said Snidely.
Players using the new tool also get to drive muscle cars at impossibly high speeds through a major urban center with hardly any street parking, which Snidely says will teach fundraisers how not to waste time on sales calls.
Like the real game, the tool will also introduce rivals from other fundraising organizations who will try to steal major donors, prospect data and eliminate opponents. In fact, says Snidely, the game opens in a running gun battle as the fundraiser player’s mentor is gunned down by the sinister University Advancement Cartel. The mentor’s grisly death and especially his dying words leads the player’s character to vow to reach the capital campaign’s goal whatever it takes.
“The tool just doesn’t teach techniques, like how to ask for a million dollars or plant a car bomb to bump off a planned giving donor, it also motivates,” says Snidely. “Players walk away with an emotional connection to the charity and to their cause. Our research shows that they leave the training with a deadly focus on their work. It’s very effective.”
Early test learners say the training was very powerful and addictive. Dibble Brewer, a new major gifts officer at Metro University, says she spent hours in the training center perfecting her fundraising pitch and polishing her plans to kidnap the children of major prospects to force them to give more.
“It was an amazing experience. I went from a chump with an economy car in the game to driving a tricked-out SUV and being the kingpin of a vast illegal enterprise bent on philanthropic work,” she said. “I had more sex, committed more crimes and raised more money in the game then I could in a lifetime in the real world.”
The League also plans to adapt other games for training tools, including Super Mario 2, Bloodlust 4 and Assassin’s Creed.