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We wanted to test whether gamifying giving might engage young men in giving for Red Nose Day 2013, by creating ‘Britain’s Biggest Fart App’, a smartphone based game which enables you to make a friend’s phone fart (whilst making an SMS donation to Comic Relief).

Downloaded 100,000 times for Red Nose Day, 60% of game players were under 30 and 53% of them men and almost half were first time fundraisers.

You might also be interested in gamifying giving or the science of farts.

How do you get 100,000 downloads?

Design it in. Great marketing is designed into a great app.

There are 4 challenges – people finding your app, getting them to download and initiate the app, getting them to come back and play or engage more than once in your app and finally to share the app with friends.

So let’s take that in reverse:

Design into your app reasons to share

With Red Nose Day we only had a few weeks to make an impact and get engagement but games take months to build audiences. We had days.

Firstly the game was built around making a friend’s phone fart – a peer to peer idea from the start.

Secondly we designed in a requirement when you initiated the app that you had to share with your facebook friends that you are playing the game. Telling users what to do always carries a risk of backlash and some were grumpy about this feature, but it meant the first 1000 downloads got shared with 20,000+ facebookers.


Make your app sticky – give me reasons to come back and play again

The game was designed to celebrate farting achievement, with special edition farts and local and national rankings and fun reasons for you to engage and come back to play more or check progress. For more on gamification click here.

We made it fun and pretty gross.

This generated considerable word of mouth, the most valuable kind of marketing.

Take a look at your app, what are the great features your users are excited about (you did test regularly with users at every stage of development right?).

The pressures of a deadline for Red Nose Day and delays in Apple approval seriously ate into our test time, so we didn’t discover until after launch that it was vital for game players to know who had sent them farts, which we corrected within days of launch, but crunching user testing meant we missed a vital trick.


Get the first user journey right: You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

If your app doesn’t download and start up smoothly first time it’s game over for that customer. In a world of 200+ mobile phone standards it’s essential to make sure your app downloads and opens up smoothly and is intuitive and easy to use.

Testing this super essential first journey is key.

Our desire to link the app to users’ facebook feed meant users had to give a double permission. Firstly to access facebook on their phone and then secondly to link it to the app, effectively they had to go through the same permissions screen twice. This horrible piece of mandatory UX (user experience) confused and annoyed over 35,000 people. We lost them. They got stuck in facebook permissions hell and gave up.

If we’d known we were going to lose one third of our audience 10 seconds in maybe we might have thought differently about the game design.

Finding your app – 50% of your project budget should be marketing.

In a world of over 1 million apps in the Apple App Store (400,000+ which have never downloaded once) the competition for users attention is fierce.

Whatever you are spending on an app you should be spending again on marketing. To find out what you should be spending it on click here.

TheGivingLab offers innovation consulting, consumer research and digital design to help charities change and grow. Contact us:


Young adult men.

Good fun to be with, but tricky recruits for traditional charity fundraising.

We wanted to test whether gamifying giving might engage young men in giving for Red Nose Day 2013, by creating ‘Britain’s Biggest Fart App’, a smartphone based game which enables you to make a friends phone fart (whilst making an SMS donation to Comic Relief ).

The simple answer is yes.

Downloaded 100,000 times for Red Nose Day, 60% of game players were under 30 and 53% of them men and almost half were first time fundraisers.

You might also be interested in the science of farts.

What is gamification?

Gamification is defined as ‘the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts’. In our experiment it was all about making something that our target audience of young men found unappealing (fundraising) into something more engaging (farts).

It’s about putting your users needs first. Engage people with something fun and they’ll be more prepared to consider and act on supporting your needs. It’s a win win.

You might be interested in how we used street magic and magicians to make street fundraising more engaging in Newcastle.

Where is it useful?

From making tax returns more interesting to building online communities to fundraising, gamification techniques, rewards and recognition are everywhere – and they are a key part of the digital landscape.

It can be used to make mildly interesting or onerous tasks more fun or it’s also great for engaging new audiences, who maybe don’t traditionally engage with your charity’s message or area of activity.

It’s not something frivolous. These days it’s a key part of digital design and essential for any charity wanting to engage with under 40’s. There are just too many competitive, engaging, involving digital experiences on offer to bother with ones that aren’t engaging.

This geek site asks people to provide advice and ‘rewards’ them based on the quality and frequency of their advice

Foursquare rewards and celebrates users who ‘check in’ regularly.

Even facebook tells me what percentage of my profile I’ve completed and congratulates me when I’ve finished (giving my life data to them!).

How do I do it?

The first thing is to understand your audience’s viewpoint – we discovered young men liked farts more than fundraising.

We did it by ‘quick and dirty’ concept testing by putting ads targeted at this audience on facebook and seeing what they clicked on. Farts got a much higher response than conventional charity ads.

Make the behaviours you want to encourage rewarding.

We wanted to incentivise people to keep playing (and donating via SMS), so we created a reward structure – unlocking surprise special edition farts (see our ‘Science of Farting blog) and by recognising achievement with a local area ‘fart rank’ and a national league table of the ‘Top Farters in Britain’).

fart  fart2

Playing a game on your own isn’t fun, so design it social.

The core of the game was about sending an SMS (which triggered a donation) to a friend, which would make their phone fart. The fun was in the reaction between friends – and the battle to stay on top of your rank.

Once you’ve done that, you’ve created a positive playful supporter relationship.

TheGivingLab offers innovation consulting, consumer research and digital design to help charities change and grow. Contact us:


“We worked with The Giving Lab to help us look at launching a new digital product. Their experience was an enormous help, engaging internal colleagues, breaking down the customer journey and conducting consumer focus groups.”

Julie Shaw, Mencap

Mencap came to us with a challenge.

Could we help shape and test a big fundraising idea?

It was going to need significant digital investment, so they needed to understand whether it was going to make a cash return for them.

Sure, we said.

It was an ideal project for an open innovation process.

The principles are simple.

Learn as much from other organisations and experts as you can (that’s the open bit). Use that and your own knowledge to develop the consumer product or experience and the business model. Then validate your model and look for evidence in the market of similar commercial success or similar customer behaviours.

Together we talked to other charities, experts in the proposed area, fundraising, technology and potential commercial partners to help construct a full model.

We mapped each stage of how the idea might appear to users and conducted user research on the results.

We examined the potential return on investment might be over 3 years (and whether other similar projects had achieved similar financial targets) and what investment and skills might be required to deliver it.

Consumer research and other market evidence suggested it was unlikely to deliver a sufficiently strong return.

The Mencap team took the brave decision not to invest further.

This open innovation and market testing ‘cost’ 10% of the proposed budget, but ‘saved’ 90% of the budget being wasted on a project unlikely to succeed.

It was a great, evidence based smart decision.


Here’s a 5 stage process to test your idea (systematically):

Agree objectives and measures of success.

What are you trying to do and how will you know when you have succeeded?

In Mencap’s case, it was a success if it raised many thousands from a specific market on a repeating basis (that’s 3 measurable outcomes – money – target audience and repeatability).

Search for ideas, knowledge and data inside and outside your organisation

Invite external people and companies in to offer their experience and challenge your ideas.  Keep an open mind about the best way to do things. Put all the evidence on the table, good and bad. Look for hard data – how much has been raised by similar projects, how many charities are competing in that space?

Map out a complete end to end customer journey. Then cost it.

Walk through your idea like a customer or fundraiser or charity partner.

How will they find out about your idea? What are you asking them to do? How will they start a conversation and engage with you. What will they feel at each stage? Map out every step until the relationship is complete and ended. It could be the end of an event, or a lifetime relationship.

What’s the business model for this? What resources or skills will it take to deliver? What will it raise?

De-risk your model, by researching/benchmarking the critical parts of your model

Which elements will make or break your idea?

If marathon runners raise half the expected amount you expect what will happen?  This stage is about examining risk systematically. Take the critical bits of the model and look for evidence that this target or behaviour has been achieved before.

You might want to get 10,000 people to run a marathon, but has any charity ever managed that many? How much will people really raise? How do you know the target audience likes your big new idea?

This is where consumer research and external expertise can be critical.

We’re big fans of qualitative research like focus groups to tell us what people think they think about an idea and in tandem behavioural research where we test whether they will do what they say they will do.

One of the  quickest tests of this is facebook advertising, where you can create many potential propositions, target them at an audience and measure click through.


Make the decision

Does your customer experience and your business model meet the objectives you set in stage one? Is there evidence from the target audience they will like your idea and behave in the way you expect?

What’s the ROI? (that’s the return on investment). 3:1 means you’re raising £3 for every £1 you spend. 3:1 is about average in the sector but different types of fundraising have different ratios, for example a successful grants fundraising bidding for big amounts who gets lucky can achieve up to 9:1.

The final question to ask yourself is if you weren’t going ahead with this project what else could you be doing with your time, resources or passionate supporters? Is it the best use of them?

Now you’re ready to make the decision.

TheGivingLab offers innovation consulting, consumer research and digital design to help charities change and grow. Contact us: