Three Lessons for Gamification from the Millennial-Driven Crowdfunding Revolution

The global crowdfunding market (including P2P lending) in 2015 is estimated at USD 34.4 billion,  an amazing acceleration from $2.7b in 2012. Meanwhile, Millennials are recognized as the key agent of change in the process referred to as the “socialization of finance”. Why is crowdfunding such a good fit for digital natives (and “digital adoptees”) and what are the key takeaways for gamification design?


The phenomenal acceleration of crowdfunding has been fuelled by the post-2008 rise of the sharing economy and social entrepreneurship, the new heights of power and influence reached by social networks, and Millennials’ entry en masse into the workforce, to mention some of the most notable factors besides the obvious advances in technology.

Millennials are often accused of being too selfish and entitled and are known to donate less to charity than older generations. But it is really a problem of the fundraising channels and organizational structure of traditional charities that millennials perceive as too impersonal and non-transparent.


Actually, the 2015 Millennial Impact Report found 84% of millennial employees made a charitable donation in 2014. Unsurprisingly, Blackbaud’s 2015 Charitable Giving Report noted a much more pronounced inclination among millennials to donate via mobile (62%) and online (47%) compared to Gen-Xers, Boomers, and Matures.

And they are far more likely than other generations to participate in crowdfunding: according to Blackbaud’s study, 47% of Millennial respondents have backed or are likely to back a crowdfunding campaign, compared to 30% of Gen-Xers, 13% of Boomers, and 4% of Matures.

Millennials are recognized as the driving force and key agent of change in what the Goldman Sachs “The Future of Finance” report refers to as “the socialization of finance” and defines as “as the impact of technology and changing behavior on the financial services markets”.

So what is it about crowdfunding that makes it such a good fit for millennials? We invite you to check out the Millennial series on (find links below) for a more in-depth look at their mindset, priorities (learning and development in particular), and aspirations (the need for purpose and meaning beyond financial success). For the purposes of the present article we’ll skip the suspense and put it in a nutshell.

The appeal of the crowdfunding model seems to lie in the following:

  1. Ease of digital use, access, and shareability
  2. Transparency and accountability
  3. Immediate impact and tangible goals and results that resonate with personal values


As noted in the
Goldman Sachs report, The Future of Finance, Part 3, “Millennials have a disproportionate desire for their investment decisions to reflect their social, political, and
environment values”.


The above highlighted factors that account for the appeal of the crowdfunding model can be translated into three important lessons for workplace gamification design not just for millennials, but for all those who are moving with the digital times and have embraced similar values and lifestyles.


1) Use a digital platform with multiple access points and enhanced sharing functionalities

Digital is obviously the way to go with “the most connected generation” and it also happens to be the medium of choice for gamification. It is important to design for access via mobile, tablets, and desktop devices for the users who like to switch from one platform to another and to allow self-paced progression at any time and location.

Make sure your gamified system provides lots of shareable content – millennials are avid users and active posters on social media, constantly curating their own social presence and building their professional reputations and social status.


2) Ensure transparency and two-way feedback

A gamified system in the workplace that hopes to engage the tech-savvy digital natives must in the first place demonstrate respect for their knowledge and vast experience with games and gamification as consumers and users. They will see through and be put off by any perfunctory attempt to draw them in with childish or mechanical transposition of game elements (aka PBL, or Points, Badges and Leaderboards). They are also likely to have valuable insights and ideas about possible improvements and would expect to be asked for feedback. That is why it is essential to integrate a two-way feedback mechanism.

Gamification is on principle a transparency-enhancing tool since it typically uses an objective point system to track performance/progress. Because this fundamental game mechanic is implemented in a real-life professional context, with implications for actual career advancement, there is no room for inconsistency or even partial scoring opacity. It is important to rigorously think through the levels and progression within the system and the relative XP value assigned to the various tasks/challenges/missions and achievements.


3) Offer purpose and meaning beyond fun and extrinsic rewards

Gamification in the workplace is faced with the fundamental problem of reconciling the element of coercion with autonomy and voluntariness, which underlie the great power of play and games. This makes it all the more important for the gamified system to have a deeper meaning for users. Their participation must have a purpose and fun will not do as an end in itself.

As research has shown time and again, millennials are not really looking to have fun at work. They want to learn, develop and advance. And gamification could not wish for a better source of intrinsic motivation to tap into.

Whether it’s performance or training gamification, it would ideally be tied in with career advancement and eligibility for leadership roles. The system’s internal progress bar should have a direct bearing on participants’ professional prospects, reflecting and symbolizing their growing value to the company.

Alternatively, when the aim is to improve employees’ perception of the company and to foster loyalty, the personal progress bar and any points collected by completing challenges and levels within the gamified system, could be tied in with real charitable donations by the employer to beneficiaries and causes chosen by the employees. This would demonstrate support and alignment with the personal values that they hold dear and would help build engagement and loyalty to the company.


Related reading:

Can Employers Afford Not to Engage Millennials?

Portrait of Millennials at Work and the Case for Gamification

The Millennial Mindset from a Gamification Perspective

When Altruistic Fun Meets Capitalistic Gain: Gamification on Crowdrise



Featured image: Eva Rinaldi on Flickr, Creative Commons


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