Farmville players using virtual goods for social good

Editors Note – This is a guest post by Deepa Chaudhary (@deeparocks) who is an evangelist of technology to the nonprofit sector.

Zynga the social gaming company that invented the popular Farmville and many other internet based games is focused on changing the world through virtual social goods. Players purchase social goods within Zynga games and the income from the sales goes to support social initiatives around the world. The current projects being supported are Haiti Earthquake Rehabilitation including building a school, support to and World Food Programme (WFP) to provide clean drinking water and food to poor globally and US specific initiatives through support of Save the Children, SPCA and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

How are Zynga’s gamers changing the world?

From time to time Zynga introduces certain limited edition social goods in its games which players can buy. Either 100% or a certain percentage of the proceeds from those sales are donated to Nonprofits which are working on the ground to change the world.

Zynga’s first social-good experiment was on Farmville. For over two months, players of Farmville in which players tend a virtual farm, could buy special sweet corn seeds that did not wither. Half the proceeds from these sales went to two Haitian nonprofits and were used to build a school lunchroom. Zynga hoped this pilot would raise at least $100,000 for Haiti. Instead it raised $500,000 for that impoverished country just months before a devastating earthquake struck Haiti.

Post the earthquake in Haiti, Zynga introduced limited edition social goods in FarmVille, FishVille, Mafia Wars and Zynga Poker. In five days, more than 300,000 Zynga game players purchased $1.5 million in virtual social goods to support relief efforts in Haiti. Through Zynga’s top four games, users from 47 countries donated to U.N. World Food Programme (WFP). FarmVille users alone raised over $1 million dollars.

Another interesting way through which players are doing good is through YoVille. YoVille players can adopt a dog or cat wearing an SF SPCA vest. Every virtual adoption results in a $2 donation to the SF SPCA non-profit, which protects and cares for dogs and cats in need. Since launching the initiative in the Spring of 2009, YoVille players have raised more than $90,000 for the cause.

Recently Zynga introduced the candy cane seeds for Farmville players to purchase – 100% of the proceeds from it will be donated to UCSF Beinoff Children’s Hospital.

Zynga’s model of doing social good by leveraging on its 180 million players has proved highly effective in not only raising funds but also in generating awareness among its players about social issues. And for the players, Zynga presents not only a platform to unwind and de-stress but also an opportunity to do good as they engage with the games.

To learn more about Zynga’s social initiatives, visit