Congratulations! The world is falling apart (or at least feels like it is falling apart), and you have decided to do something about it. That is a commendable urge. Here I tell you that you also decided to do something very hard. Hosting a charity stream (on Twitch, YouTube, or any other platform) is much more difficult than hosting a regular live stream, primarily because charity streams contain more moving parts – there is charity, fundraising, guests, and Of course, everything else that you do to make the experience something special for your viewers.
And it will be! Charity streams are all about sharing a moment with the people who tune in. You will be overwhelmed and it will be wonderful. The other nice thing about charity flows is that they are contagious. Players like to watch the numbers go up, but the contagious part is the feeling of collective action to create something together.
"It doesn't have to be all frills."
And everyone can do it! "It doesn't have to be very profound, it doesn't have to be all frills," says Kienna Shaw, a Canadian tabletop role-play creator and longtime charity stream producer. "Honestly, you can just set up a few chat commands, specify exactly how donation logistics will work, and then stream as usual."
After all, here are a few things to consider when planning your own charity flow.
Some things to consider
The first task should be obvious: in this case, choose a charity you want to support. This is the most important part of your charity flow as it is your personal affirmation for the work of that particular thing or organization. It is important to make it clear where you are directing people's money and what you believe. As a streamer, you should be able to talk about it convincingly in the stream.
Then you need to find out what your stream should look like. If you are new to this genre, I suggest seeing some of the people you like who have had successful charity streams to get an idea of what a finished stream looks like. Remember to set realistic goals. For example, don't make your goal $ 10,000 if you're not ready to donate $ 10,000 to your cause – no one who steps in will ever have to donate.
The more people you involve, the more complicated things get, at least from a production perspective. You should aim to make something as polished as possible while understanding that you are actually only producing live television. That said: it is difficult and it will probably go wrong if you live.
Once you've figured out the size of your stream, it's time to start working.
There are three ways to collect donations. These all depend on the charity you donated to. Many charities and nonprofits are not yet set up for peer-to-peer fundraisers for various reasons. For example, some prefer to rely on recurring donations, others just don't know that Twitch and other live streaming sites can be a reliable source of income. In any case, it is important to find out all of this in advance as this will affect the way you collect donations.
Plug and play
The easiest way to send donations from your viewers to a charity is through Tiltify, a charity portal built right into your Twitch channel. It's basically plug-and-play: you choose your charity, give out some details, and you're basically ready to go.
Services like Tiltify are easier, but with limitations – and associated with costs
You need to mess around with some settings in your streaming software for the overlays to appear in the stream. However, this is by far the easiest way to raise money for a company. You can create milestones and incentives directly from the Tiltify dashboard. Customizing the service overlays is not difficult.
However, Tiltify reduces the money raised by 5 percent, and not every charity has an account with the website. Streamlabs also has a similar feature, but it is only available in the Streamlabs software. While Streamlabs doesn't take part of the money you collect, it hasn't committed many charities yet.
The second way to donate your viewers' money is less direct, although it works with every charity and nonprofit organization: you can have your viewers donate directly to a charity and then check their earnings.
It's a bit more work for you – someone who is not the streamer needs to review the supporting documents and update the goals, etc. – but 100 percent of every donation goes directly to the organizations that support you. Viewers post screenshots of their donation to a specific location (such as a discord), and then someone else makes sure the donation looks legitimate and updates the progress bar. (Yes, there is a possibility that people are faking donations. If you are faking donations to a charity, please take a close look at your life.)
Your own bag
The third way to collect donations is to have people donate directly to you. Then you pay the money yourself to a charity. While this is doable, it's the riskiest option: you need to be accountable to both your viewers and your taxes – because for the purposes of the Internal Revenue Service, the money you collect for charity is an income. Don't be a scam.
Of course, there are other, hackier ways to run a charity stream. For example, you could set up a donation page on GiveLively (disclosure: my current partner works here) or even deal with the implementation of a GoFundMe or a GiveButter. The method doesn't matter – the stream does. For the first charity stream I did, I used GiveLively to set up a donation page for The Bail Project. it worked perfectly. We collected some money, donated some money and had a good time with it.
Every charity flow is different, but they have a lot in common. Of course, the charity section, but also the basic elements: the donation goals and the incentives to achieve these goals. These are the "bells and whistles" that Shaw – the TTRPG and charity stream producer – mentioned. They can include classic things like donated merch giveaways or something more elaborate like custom graphics that play when certain amounts of money are donated.
If you plan to make your stream a little more complex, I think the most important features to consider are length, Guests, and a Donation thermometer.
Test extensively before going live
When it comes to your fundraiser lengthYou probably want your charity stream to feel like an event where people feel like they're engaging in something special. A good way to do this is to only stream longer than normal. (Think: Telethon. Bring that energy.)
To have Guests on your stream is smart because they maintain your energy and introduce your audience to the charity you donate to. It also breaks the time you plan to stream into more manageable blocks. A six-hour marathon can be converted into three two-hour chunks with different guests.
Including guests in your stream is just a matter of configuring Discord (or zoom or, if you like living on the edge, Skype). It's as easy as getting someone to call you. To that end, I would recommend using software that you are familiar with and that works well with any software that you use to stream. Test extensively before going live!
Remember to call the charity that you regularly raise money for
Donation thermometer are important because they show everyone who sets exactly how far you are from your goal. The technology you can use to build a thermometer isn't off-the-shelf – unless you're using something like Tiltify or Streamlabs. For my second charity stream, I hired two programmers and a designer to make a nice one.
The main thing is that the stream is not about you. It's about the thing you want to support. "Charity streaming should end, not about people patting your back and telling you how well you've done your job," Shaw says. (You also wrote an excellent charity streaming guide, which you can find here.) Remember to call the charity you regularly raise funds for and keep your goal up to date as the stream progresses .
The other critical thing: Do not get discouraged. "You often see the numbers as newcomers or charity streamers and may feel a little discouraged because you have an idea of what you want to achieve – which you may not do," Shaw says. "But I think a lot of it remembers that it doesn't matter how much you raise, it's important that you did something."
After getting to the heart of the technology and design and choosing a charity you want to support, the last thing to do is to do so Promote your stream. That means publishing the guest list, deleting the link on your most popular social media accounts, and more. I think the best way to attract people is to post about the stream about a week before the start.
If you're curious, I did the following
It was a process. I started my first charity stream on June 1st. This was a beta test for the stream that I and a slightly different group of people ran on June 7th. For this first beta stream, I tested donation models – in the end, I set up a donation page on GiveLively – and put together a team of guests to play the spelunky-ish roguelike Vagante, who was kind enough to donate his time to the stream . I set a $ 300 goal and we left it behind. By the end of the stream, which lasted a few hours, we had raised more than $ 3,400 for The Bail Project, an organization dedicated to combating mass custody by rescuing people from prison.
My first charity stream was a beta test that showed me how difficult it is to do one
However, I had some problems, mainly due to the fact that I was both running and hosting the stream. I have learned that I have more computing power – running a game and streaming video from the same PC is not required for my computer – and more time thinking about what a stream should look like. For example, I didn't have a donation thermometer because I couldn't find a way to integrate the donation page I used into the OBS streaming software. But it was a successful test, if only because it showed me how difficult it is to run a charity flow, and reaffirmed that the really important part was getting people to take care of it.
So I decided to do it again. In the week between June 1st and 7th, I put together a team of producers – friends who are familiar with technology and are good at logistics – and we started planning. The first thing I did was a concept: I called it The 1312 Stream, and it was explicitly about raising money to get rid of cancer. Then I and my team figured out the scope. At the beginning, I wanted a few guests to play a lot of different video games like Jackbox and Vagante. After a few technical tests, I and my technical producer Rob realized that video games (yes, as a category) would be difficult to stream. Jackbox was going bad and Rob also wanted a game that he could moderate and watch but couldn't play because he was doing everything else behind the scenes.
In the meantime, I coordinated with our creative producer Olivia to find out the stream branding. Stream branding is important because you want it to stand out from the blur of social media and you don't want your event to feel special? In the end, we had muted purple on a pink background, which expanded it into a set of assets that were suitable for different screens and platforms: Instagram, Twitter, and the like.
However, my main job was to argue guests about what I was doing after Rob and I figured out exactly what the plan was for our stream. We ended up on a multi-part program with a co-host – the brilliant and fun Akilah Hughes – that would help keep things moving. The stream itself included Hey Robot, a one-shot I wrote about TTRPG Lasers & Feelings, and Vagante's return with the same guests from that first beta stream.
After all of this was largely resolved, Rob and I selected the organizations we wanted to support – Black & Pink, a nonprofit that works to end the prison and support LGBTQ and HIV positive inmates, and The National Bail Fund Network that disburses money to more than 60 local deposit funds. At the same time, Rob and Olivia, with some programmers, designed and built a nice thermometer to track donations. Since Black & Pink and The National Bail Fund Network were not on Tiltify, we used an airtable form where people could submit their receipts after the donation and my mod team could approve these screenshots live so they could be on at the same time the thermometer.
Rob created a Google Sheet that timed out for each particular block, and then planned a series of final tech and lighting tests for our guests on the day of the stream. We used Zoom to create green spaces that are then captured live. After that it was Showtime. I set our original goal at $ 400, and five and a half hours later we had $ 23,537.69. Shit yes.
I don't really know how or why it worked. I only know that it was. The guests were wonderful and gracious and my co-host was perfect. However, the viewers made the stream. They maintained our energy and frankly donated an incredible amount of money. In the end, I mostly just felt like a conductor because it had its own momentum until then. It felt alive.
And you can do all that too. Before we went live, Rob told me in one of the many conversations we had prior to the stream that we were using our "stupid superpower" – our collective ability to get people to pay attention to something for the right reasons, what things put in perspective for me. Charity streaming is about using your strength forever.