gamification of philanthropy

While the internet has brought dramatic change to the ways people live their daily lives, it has also opened many doors for businesses to fulfill their corporate social responsibility. Alipay’s in-app game program “Ant Farm” is an excellent example of successful gamification of philanthropy by businesses.

Alipay, China’s largest third-party online payment platform, has reshaped the landscape of payment services in China for the last decade. At present, Alipay has a user base of 520 million people, handles more than 170 million transactions per day and accounts for more than two-thirds of mobile payments in China.

Credit card use only has about 400 million patrons. Alipay rules China’s mobile payment market with absolute authority. A Forbes article claims that “cash really is becoming a thing of the past” because a “smartphone (with Alipay) will do nicely”.

Such immense popularity of the platform opened the door to the utilization of its unprecedented user-engagement for social good. Ant Farm came into being, representing the balance between marketing strategy and fulfillment of social responsibility.

Ant Farm is a pre-installed online game program inside the Alipay mobile phone application, in which users keep a virtual chicken as a pet. Through daily payments via Alipay users can feed their chicken and collect hearts to be donated to charity projects.

The parent company of Alipay and Ant Farm, Ant Financial, is working closely with governmental offices like Jiangsu Sihong Poverty Alleviation Office and more than 1,200 charity organizations. According its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, Ant Financial’s philanthropy platform has raised more than $140 million for the services provided to its partner nonprofits.

On top of the basic construct, developers have added many interactive mechanisms to boost Ant Farm’s participation. For example, playing with the pet chicken can also generate hearts and users can interact with their friends’ farms. Eventually, more and more users are engaged, funding more and more philanthropic projects.

Ant Farm is a successful model of the gamification of philanthropy, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to take part in charity projects, which is much more efficient and larger in scale than traditional models of philanthropic fundraising like donation boxes. In addition, by implementing the basic elements of an online game, Ant Farm has more charm than other heavy-hearted fundraising strategies.

Other companies have also engaged in social projects through gamification of philanthropy. Tencent, one of China’s internet and technology giants, has also cooperated with nonprofits working to provide education for left-behind children in impoverished regions by creating donation venues in its online games. In certain Tencent games, users can donate their equipment in exchange for reward or recognition.

Tencent Foundation chairman Guo Kaitian believes that with the help of online platforms like Ant Farm, “charity is now everywhere around us, and it is now the life attitude with innovation and participation”.

– Chaorong Wang
Photo: Flickr