How was 2022 for you? Alright? Well, 2023 could be even better, especially if you stock up early on karma and universal goodwill now. Fortunately, there are more and more charities every year who can help you earn cosmic brownie points while also sharing the magic of tabletop games.
TLDR: Donating games to children and financial aid to Pandemic-impacted game stores
Right now, some of you are probably going, “Wait, the game store?” Yes, one and the same, but I promise this isn’t just a poorly-disguised shill.
While it is a private company, Tabletop Tycoon has been quietly spearheading two generous charity efforts. The first is their game donation match program. This initially began with their “Board Game Booster Box,” a $60 grab bag of 4 board and card games from a wide range of publishers. For each box sold, Tabletop Tycoon would donate games to Toys for Tots, a non-profit that gets toys in the hands of needy children. Now, though, they have expanded this program across the store. That means that every time you buy a standalone game from them, they will donate a standalone game. According to their website, they donated over 77,000 games in 2022 and have already racked up over 35,000 donations for 2023. And it’s not even January!
They also have a program aimed at getting local games stores back on their feet post-Pandemic. Their “Local Store Recovery Program” gave bundles of product worth $1,100 to struggling stores. Businesses could use the bundled product however they saw fit, allowing store owners to sell it, use it as demo copies, give it away as prize support, whatever would generate the most business. All told, over $500,000 worth of product was donated. So if you’re planning on purchasing some last-minute gifts, you might give Tabletop Tycoon’s online store a look and double your giving.
Roll vs Evil
TLDR: Accepting donations to support Ukraine, house refugees, and combat human trafficking
RollVsEvil was created by Modiphius Entertainment (Achtung! Cthulhu, Skyrim Adventure Game) founders Chris and Rita Birch. The stated goal of this UK-based non-profit is to not only fight evil on the tabletop but also in the real world. Right now, that means their efforts are focused on the war in Ukraine and helping refugees.
To that end, the organization partnered with Roll20 and game stores around the world during the months of March and April 2022 to create charitable gaming events. Live events were encouraged to find creative ways to combine a fun gaming experience with charitable giving. The website gave suggestions such as paying for re-draws and extra health during a game. Visitors to the RollVsEvil site also received a code they could use on the Roll20 site to access free content through April 26.
But that was back in the spring, why does it matter now? Because RollVsEvil hasn’t yet hit its $100,000 goal. Even though the big promotional push has ended, RollVsEvil is still taking donations and partnering with creators and organizers. For example, board game content creators The Brothers Murph are raising money for the next 2 weeks on their Youtube channel. Generous financial backers have agree to match that $100k goal, and Modiphius is covering all of the technical costs, so 200% of every donation goes towards punching evil in the face.
Already, RollVsEvil has done so much good with the funds received, buying laptops and StarLink time to help families communicate, sheltering refugees, providing medical supplies, and much more. Check out their website to see their full list of accomplishments, and then be sure to donate so we can watch that list grow.
The Spiel Foundation
TLDR: Charity providing quality games to schools, libraries, hospitals, shelters, prisons, etc.
What started out as a simple podcast, The Spiel, has grown into an impressive charitable force. Hosts Stephen Conway and David Coleson founded the organization in 2007 with the stated goal of bringing people closer together through gameplay.
They do this through their “Game Bundles”: large boxes of popular games donated by partners and publishers sent free of charge to organizations in need. Kids likely come first to mind, and schools, libraries, and boys and girls clubs are indeed recipients. But the Spiel Foundation wants to bring everyone to the table no matter their age. They also donate to prisons, hospitals, shelters, and nursing homes, making sure that everyone has a chance to just sit down and play together.
If you’d like to donate, you can do so directly by clicking the link above or by finding a Spiel-a-Thon fundraising event at a convention near you.
Game Therapy UK
TLDR: ” supporting the provision of high quality, evidence-based Therapeutic Gaming projects to the UK population across the areas of physical health, mental health and social disadvantage.”
Game Therapy UK doesn’t just believe that games can be powerful healing tools, they’ve got the research to back it up.
The charity’s goal is based on 70+ years of psychological studies pointing to the therapeutic benefits of role playing games. However, RPG therapy is largely being instituted exclusively in the USA. So, according to the Game Therapy UK site, “After a conversation between clinicians, educators, recovery workers and role playing game professionals a new charity was set up to address this need in the UK for the public benefit.” That means that all donations received by Game Therapy UK goes towards both providing RPG therapy services and researchers developing new techniques.
Not sure about the effectiveness of the technique? Then I highly suggest checking out their Facebook page which is full of interesting articles are the subject.
TLDR: Supports educators who use games as a teaching method
Tabletop Alliance is similar to The Spiel Foundation in that they want to put thought-provoking games in the hands of people that need them. But whereas The Spiel Foundation’s strategy is to get as many games to as many people as possible, Tabletop Alliance has a more specific focus.
Their main goal is to support educators looking to support students via games. They create communities of educators, called Guilds, and provide them with educational resources. This includes articles on the benefits and practices of games in the classroom as well as physical games themselves. While this approach has smaller net, so to speak, the impact is still quite large. According to their website, they currently have almost 10,000 students across 10 US states included in the Tabletop Alliance network. So if you’re a teacher or know one who might be interested, be sure to click the link above, get signed up, and let’s get some kids playing games.
The Great Orchestra of Christmas Giving (Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy)
TLDR: Well-established charity supporting Ukraine and domestic medical needs
This Polish charity has been around nearly 30 years which means it is a well-oiled machine. They have an army of volunteers every winter who collect donations for multiple causes. This year there are two main areas of emphasis: the battle against sepsis in hospitals and aid for Ukraine.
While not a game-specific fundraiser, board game publishers are definitely involved. Their website includes a “Shop” link to pages of company partners, game publishers among these. Any purchases made through the Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy site automatically earns them a donation, so you can alleviate some of that holiday consumerism guilt. Game publishers also have been known to sell promo items to suppor the Orchestra, and you can even purchase a board game version of the Orchestra’s annual Pol’and’Rock music festival. Be sure to check it out, if only for the “box-transforms-into-a-stage” component.
TLDR: Hires out RPG sessions and DMs to raise money for charity
Tabletop Knights is a group that uses Dungeons & Dragons as a means to give back to the community. They use a couple of different models to do this. The organization partners with and trains local DMs in how to run high-quality D&D experiences. These can be large-scale events like D&D tournament events, DM competitions, or open play events. The events have a donation-based entry fee, usually the suggestion from TTK is $6, and all proceeds go to local charities. Or if you want to book a private game or teambuilding event, you can contact TTK who will put you in touch with a local DM. The DM will suggest a donation based on if you want a one-off game or an entire campaign.
Tabletop Knights also recognize the empowerment and camaraderie that comes from working with a party of fellow adventurers. With this in mind, they put together curated kits of RPG materials “aimed at creating an RPG experience that is a positive force in the lives of others.” These kits are then passed on to youth organizations looking to engage kids in a positive and fun activity.
They also have ambitious goals for the future. We all know that hobby gaming isn’t cheap. And while RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons require less investment to enjoy them then, say, war gaming, the cost of those first three books can still be an insurmountable hurdle. To bring in kids from all rungs of the economic ladder, TTK is looking to create a program that sends DMs into low socioeconomic neighborhoods so children there can engage in safe, imaginative play. They are also looking to expand their care kits program to partner with counselors and mental health professionals. Roleplaying is already a widely used strategy among therapists, so this seems like a nabtural next step. But of course, all of this takes money. If you love RPGs like D&D, then please consider sending a few gold pieces their way.
Meeples for Peeples
TLDR: Providing games to educators, youth organizations, etc.
The goal of Meeples for Peeples is as simple as the name: get games in the hands of people who want them but can’t afford them. Now, don’t think that means you can call them up just because you want more games than fit in your Kickstarter budget. Specifically, this group wants to get games into the hands of organizations that use the games for good. Think schools, military, libraries, youth services, etc.
This is definitely for the many gamers with more games than shelf space. MFP will happily take your gently used games and get them to a good home where they’ll continue to bring a lot of joy. Or if you’d rather, you can donate money directly. They also do a lot of raffles, the latest being for the Terraforming Mars: Big Box Edition, so be sure to check their sites. Their main site doesn’t have any events listed at the moment, but their Facebook page is much more active.
Game to Grow
TLDR: Non-profit providing licensed RPG therapists
Game to Grow is similar to Tabletop Knights in that they largely use D&D as their catalyst activity. But where TTK primarily uses RPGs to fundraise or provide games to other organizations for use in therapy, Game to Grow is more of an in-house, one-stop-shop.
The group was founded as a way to engage young people, usually diagnosed with autism, ADHD, depression, or anxiety, in behavioral therapy. The goal of the sessions is to teach players how to deal with stimuli and social situations that they normally struggle with in a setting that doesn’t feel like therapy.
Game to Grow’s team of licensed family therapists have created their own role-playing system, Critical Core, to facilitate this. You may have heard of it. It had a successful Kickstarter campaign and was mentioned on Critical Role. The game consists of modules designed to put the players in social situations which they must role-play. And like in the real world, the outcome of their role-playing has consequences which their characters must deal with.
And they have been very successful so far. Demand for the group’s services has grown substantially, and the group is looking to expand. If ever there was a time when they could use donations, it’s now.
Universal Board Games
TLDR: UK non-profit uniting communities, especially marginalized ones, through games
As I mentioned earlier, tabletop games have the incredible power to bring even complete strangers together and have them become instantly engaged with one another. Anyone who’s ever played in any kind of tournament can attest to the fact that, once your opponent steps up on the opposite side of that table, you become instantly attuned to them.
Universal Board Games has tapped into that instant connection board games bring to try and create not just one-on-one connections, but to bring whole communities together. They host weekly outdoor gaming events where people from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can come together and play games from all around the world. There is no charge for admission, and the events have a carnival air meant to draw in passersby and engage everyone in the community.
UBG also recognizes that game design is an expressive art. As with any artform, the finished piece is an amalgamation of the artist’s lived experiences. That is why this group also hosts game design workshops with kids who might not have an outlet to otherwise express their views. Through this program, UBG has facilitated the creation of a diverse game catalog. Themes include countering extremist myths, life as a person in care, bullying, knife violence, or how to best use public spaces. In addition to the creative expression, these workshops also build critical thinking and create a safe space for children to share and hone communication skills. It’s also created a very fun way to donate. For a suggested donation of £35, you can purchase a copy of Universal Board Games original card game, Our World Too.
Giving and playing? It doesn’t get much better than that.
By Zane Messina