Understanding Audience, What Will Be Streamed, & How Fans Participate
Now that we’ve decided “who” we’re benefiting and “where” people will watch, the next step is to determine “what” the content will be during the charity stream.
While gamers & creators of video game content have led the massive growth of livestream fundraisers (inspiring the creation of CLS), livestreams are simply templates where any type of content can be showcased. Successful events are determined by the audience watching, sharing, and donating to the charity event. Thus, understanding the factors of who will watch are the most important elements of determing the content of an event: number of broadcasters, personal brand of broadcasters, visible passion for cause, entertainment type, style of presentation, donation rewards, and community engagement.
Note: Although media, industry professionals,and even CLS can use the term “Community” when describing the high level group of individuals who share interest in a genre (Gaming Community, Art Community, etc) for livestreamers, the term “Community” directly references to viewing audiences and fans. The “Community” in this case revolves around an individual’s or group’s personal brand instead of the genre at large. While a broadcaster, channel, or team may brand themselves as focusing on a particular genre, when referencing their “Community” (as done below) it is in direct reference to the select group that follows that particular group and not necessarily the genre at large, though obviously there will be overlap.
Every online content creator knows their audience drives the engagement & success of a channel. Their support fuels the passion behind the community that develops over time and this is especially true during a charity stream. Although the broadcasters & organizers will sometimes make monetary donations themselves, those watching and interacting in chat are the true backbone of any fundraiser, donating hard-earned money out of their pockets to the cause.
In order to understand our audience, we first need to know who will be broadcasting and why the community engages with those individual’s personal brand. For solo streams, the broadcaster should have an understanding of what their community likes based on the content they normally release, but when multiple broadcasters team up, things become more interesting. Not only should personality types & broadcasting preferences be brought into account, but decisions for switching off on solo streams vs co-op streaming (or a mixture of the two) needs to be established early on so it can be communicated to each broadcaster’s community.
Some questions to keep in mind:
- What time zone does each broadcaster live in? When looking at the event as a whole, what times work best for each broadcaster.
- What time zones does each broadcaster’s audience live in? International audiences will have drastically different time schedules than those who are local/national.
- What games/talents are each broadcaster known for? If the community revolves around a specific element of content (commentary/education/skills), then that should be considered.
- Have multiple broadcaster’s worked together in the past and can elements of their history together be brought up during the stream for nostalgia or interesting commentary?
- Is there a way to combine talents in a creative way to create content unique to the livestream and therefore making the event more “exclusive” for those viewing live?
- Do the audiences of each broadcaster overlap in any particular area that can be focused on (specific game series, art inspiration, music genre, etc)?
- What are the technical limitations for each broadcaster? Are they limitations that will be overlooked by their audience? Will it be overlooked by the other’s audiences in the same stream?
- Will broadcasters be responsible for more than just the entertainment? If so, what tools/safeguards will they need (Ex: scheduled breaks) and how will it affect the viewing experience?
- Given the size of your community and past experiences with charity livestreams, what are reasonable donation goals?
By having a solid understanding of the personal brands of each broadcaster, and why they resonate with their audience, it becomes much easier to plan the details for the stream.
With all this in mind, we can move to the ultimate question for this step:
What will our audience enjoy watching the most, will best fit the structure of a livestream, and can inspire both them and us to give it our all in supporting the cause?
What Will Be Streamed – Selecting Content
There are several factors in the content of a successful event:
- Visible Passion for Cause
- Number of Broadcasters
- Personal Brand of Broadcasters
- Entertainment Genre
- Presentation Style
- Community Engagement
- Donation rewards
1-3 have been covered, either in Step 1 when you picked a cause you believe in or above in when we covered understanding our broadcaster’s audience, so let’s continue to the types of content you can showcase for the event.
Entertainment Genre & Presentation Style
The question of what type of content to stream has a straightforward answer, just do what you love. If you’re a gamer, then play games. If you’re an artist, broadcast yourself creating. Play to your strengths and do something that your passionate about. That passion will show through in your commentary and the quality of the stream, and to be frank it’s the reason why our communities rally around us in the first place.
Events submitted to CLS usually fall into 5 distinct entertainment types with several presentation styles for each medium:
In the past few years, the video game community has been a driving force behind the expansion of livestreaming and using that medium for nonprofit fundraising. Video games have the unique benefit of giving continuous visual content to help push commentary.
- Commentary (Comedy/Educational/Theory)
- Speedruns / Glitched Runs
The art community has always supported charity, but with the advent of livestreaming watching the creation process has been a big draw for events. While strictly art charity streams are not as common (meaning the field is wide open for those who want to enter) hybrid streams where artists join other types of events are becoming more popular.
- Digital Drawing
- “Bob Ross” Teaching
- Cosplay/Craft Creation
Charity concerts have been around for centuries, but technology today gives musicians the ability to have a much closer interaction with their audience than ever before. Large concerts to thousands of fans that once needed huge stages can now be set up right in the comfort of one’s home, achieving the same effectiveness in a much more personal environment.
- Music Hangouts
- Livestreamed Concerts
- Jam Sessions
Live podcasts are a small but growing trend as a fun way to showcase representatives from the benefiting nonprofit and give listeners a window into the minds of their favorite entertainers. Although few events make them the core focus, several groups use them as a post-event wrap-up.
- Post-Event Wrap-ups
Fundraisers not fitting the above templates come in all shapes and sizes and can be just as effective.
- Variety Shows
- Hybrid Events
- Basically Any Other Type Of Entertainment A Community Will Enjoy
Consider this list as a starting point. You may notice that each of these entertainment types (and sub-types) are formats in and of themselves. A gaming speedrun, a “Bob Ross” art session, or a jam session can all be applied to any genre within the medium. Events are really only limited by the imagination of the organizers.
Finally, regardless of what you decide to do the goal is to provide unique entertainment by doing what you love so those watching know they’re getting something special. Gaming, art, music, commentary, and anything that lights a fire in you is fair game, what matters is translating that passion into an enjoyable event and inspiring others to participate.
There are many ways to involve viewers and donators in events. By adding that personal connection, we enable them to influence what’s going on and, to a degree, control the content. This two way interaction is one of the main draws to livestreams over other one way media like TV & video. Fans are spending their time, that could be spent doing anything in the world, watching your event, so interacting with them and designing interesting ways to engage them is highly recommended.
Based on today’s technology, community participation falls into three core categories: Social, Chat, and Donations.
Social is just as it sounds, enjoying social interaction with others and spreading news of our event to others they are social with.
Here are a few ideas for social interaction during your stream:
- Use a special hashtag for your event so locating information about your event on different platforms
- Encouraged viewers to tweet/post quotes, screenshots, & questions to be answered on stream
- If your viewers create fan-art, show it up on stream for the whole community to see
- State which social channel we plan on interacting on and actively (or more likely have one of our team) like/repost relevant posts
- If it’s a gaming stream, play games where the community can play with or against you in the same server
- Invite viewers to chat with you on stream for a few minutes
Chat interaction is based on the chat features built into the livestream and the interaction with the community through the broadcast host’s interface.
Keeping up a frequent conversation with your audience is what makes charity livestreams unique when compared to other types of fundraisers. In essence, this is what gives the “live” in a livestream meaning. These interactions are usually broken down into one of three types, depending on the situation: 1 to 1 conversations, 1 to Many Q & A Commentary, and chatbots.
1 to 1 Conversations
The simple act of using a viewers username when answering a question, starting a conversation with them, and building that personal connection with those watching is not only what makes livestreaming so unique, but it also gives small streams an advantage over large streams at times.
One of the most frequently stated regrets as broadcasters grow their audiences is the loss of being able to connect 1 to 1 with the people who support them. As audiences grow there become so many voices in chat that broadcasters will inevitably default to talking to their audience as a whole using group terms like “Chat” and “Everyone” or coming up with nicknames specific to that community.
This means that, while smaller streams may not have the audience numbers that mid and large streams have, they can be just as effective at fundraising depending on the community and the relationship we have with them. It’s the difference between asking a person who enjoys watching what you do to help you out and asking a friend by name if they can lend you a hand.
1 to 1 conversations help develop these relationships.
1 to Many Commentary
Despite things being made harder to communicate on a 1 to 1 basis having a large audience for a stream is never a bad thing, it just means that we need to engage in new ways to handle the larger amount of people. These interactions resemble more Q & A sessions than connected conversations where we take questions from the community either through scanning the existing chat and/or prompting our audience. Having another person, usually the same person who is helping with chat moderation, manage this aspect of searching for questions and selecting the ones that can provide interesting insight can be really helpful.
If messages in chat are scrolling too fast, or if we don’t have friends to help with this endeavor, a great way to organize the community’s questions and statements is to use a specific Discord channel, Twitter hashtag, or some other forum/form for the community to submit their questions to. Anything to cut down on the information we need to process while providing entertainment during the stream.
Additionally, games have been released that directly integrate with Twitch’s broadcasting platform to allow viewers directly affect the game based on polls and chat commands. If planning a gaming livestream, enabling the community to play along with the broadcaster via these games can make the event more personal and unique to the audience. As technology continues to advance, expect new and interesting ways for livestream interactions between users and the community directly within the stream chat.
Chatbots are automated programs that respond to what is typed in chat. Setting up bots to provide donation links, pre-made messages describing the cause, and how users can contribute are all great ways to streamline communication with the community while simultaneously empowering them to inform new viewers about the event with just a few clicks.
We cover different chatbot options in Step 6 to make things easier on supportive viewers to safely share links in chat.
Using donations and donation chat systems as a means of communication and interaction is a great way to combine community interaction with getting closer to your fundraising goal. Turning the act of donating into an engaging experience, however, is what makes charity livestreams so unique.
Over time 4 main interaction categories have become common: Rewards, Competitions & Voting, Donation Trains, and Milestones & Fundraising Goals
Just as the name implies, Donation Rewards are the unlocking of something in exchange for donations to the cause. The reward itself can be incredibly varied based on the stream, but usually is tied to a specific amount being donated. The most important thing is that we provide feedback of some sort so those who support the cause not only feel good about their decision to donate, but also feel like their personal action made an impact on the event itself.
Here are a few ideas:
- Read off the names of people who have donated and thank them
- Read the comments added to donations
- Perform an action or play a visual/sound effect every time a minimum level or specific amounts are donated
- Allow donators to play games with you online or join in on chat for a bit
- Allow donators designate how a game is played or how content is created (Effective in choice based games.)
- Allow donators to designate which games are played from a pool or what content is created
- *Have raffles for people who have donated to the event (Set minimums level donations if you’d like to try and raise more money. Remember the average donation is around $10 USD.)
- *Have raffles for people who are participating in the chat
*IMPORTANT: Raffles, games of chance, and those who can participate in raffles may be subject to legal restrictions based on where you live. Always do independent research into Country/Region/State/City laws and get verification from both officials & the nonprofit itself.
Donation trains are a series of donations made in quick succession. It’s a type of game where the goal isn’t to make large donations, but to create a string of donations, usually made within a period of 2 minutes each. Where the other types of donation engagement we cover focuses more on getting large donations, the point of a donation train is to encourage small donations of $1 or more made frequently enough to enable a continuous feed of donation notifications on the stream.
This empowers viewers to participate in a way that provides direct feedback, even if they don’t have a lot to donate. The focus on getting ANY amount donated, as long as it’s submitted before the 2 minute timer runs out, provides a low barrier that almost any viewer can contribute to and removes the hesitation that some viewers may have in a stream where the average may be in the $5, $10, or $20 range for donations.
By removing the expectation of large donations for a period of time, and actively encouraging donations to be submitted in small amounts to “keep the train rolling” as long as possible, it also opens up the setting rewards at certain donation train lengths instead of at monetary sums which may seem unattainable to those with enthusiasm, but not a lot of money to donate due to their personal circumstances. (Ex: 100 donations in a row gets a hot sauce challenge)
Donation Competitions & Voting
Donation competitions or using donations to vote on an upcoming element of a fundraiser is a fun and easy way to engage your audience. By giving a direct choice in how elements of the stream can turn out it enables pseudo-competitions based on audience preferences, adding an element of fun where the community can steer the event in unique ways.
Although most instances are directly tied into the type of content for the livestream, there are several common uses from naming characters or the save file for a game that will be played later in the day to determining the order of upcoming content (Games, Music Performed, etc).
A personal favorites is the way Games Done Quick implements this leading up to the Super Metroid speedrun competition where donators can designate whether to Save The Frames vs Save The Animals which affects the way the ending of that game is played.
The core thing with these to keep in mind is that the future event is guaranteed to happen, the audience is merely determining how it happens.
Donation Milestones & Fundraising Goals
Where donation trains and competitions focus on collecting funds within a specific period of time before an event takes place, milestones and fundraising goals focus on the overall total and whether certain events will happen at all. Getting enough donations to hit these benchmarks “unlocks” new content within the event, usually something extra or interesting that wouldn’t need to be done, but it’s something that others would want.
The benefit of having multiple goals within the stream is that we can tap into two simultaneous desires. Community members who get passionate about the cause get emotionally uplifting affirmation of their efforts through donating and supporting the event, while those interested in the entertainment being “unlocked” get the payout of enjoying the content. It’s a win-win situation all around.
It is important to note that we need to strike the right balance when figuring out both how many milestones to set during the event and what the reward for each will be. If there are too many than they lose what makes them special. If the rewards don’t grow or become more unique as the milestones get higher, then there won’t be an interest in reaching the next one.
Additionally, it’s paramount that milestones should always be considered something extra to the stream that enhances an already awesome experience. They’re the whipped cream on the ice cream sundae or the radio in the car. With it everything is more enjoyable, but you can still have dessert or get where you need to go without it.
The reason this is so important to keep in mind is because if an event is riding on an expectation that certain milestones are reached for core content and the milestones are missed, then not only is the fundraiser potentially thrown off the rails, but there’s a psychological effect on the audience where they feel that despite giving what they can and supporting the event with their best efforts they’ve failed at something important and are being punished for that support.
Always remember, the number of dollars raised should never be more important than the connection we build with our community and the inspiration we give to them to help us make a positive difference for those in need.
By taking just a few of these options and combining them with our personal style it becomes very easy to generate a unique experience for our events.
Maybe we play a game we love with special restrictions (Completionist, Pacifist, Extreme Difficulty, etc.) or a community favorite where donations decide how we play. Perhaps we reward donations with a quick sketch or allow donation totals to determine the playlist in an impromptu concert.
The key is not being afraid to get creative. Bonus points for finding a clever way to work in a theme between the charity and the game. Themes work well for events because it gives your promotion a memorable association of what to expect while also catching people’s interest. Want to support Doctor’s Without Borders? Play Surgeon Simulator. Charity: Water? Super Mario Sunshine. Draw animals for wildlife organizations or play classical songs for dementia awareness.
Each thing we do to add our own flavor to the fundraiser makes it more fun and the possibilities are only restricted by our imaginations.
The key is to have fun and ensure the audience is having fun too. The whole point of a charity livestream is that people are entertained while supporting causes to help others with money and time they could be spending on literally anything else. They could spend it anywhere, but they decide to spend it with us, so it’s on us to affirm they’ve made the right choice.