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How to Succeed at Fundraising According to Extra Lifer Wretch Plays

To a lot of people starting out on their fundraising journeys, the idea that they could ever reach the lofty goal of $5,000 USD seems far outside of their grasp. The reality is that there are many people who find ways to tap into their communities to surpass their imagined limits. Wretch Plays stands out as one of the people who pushed through the doubt and managed to break the $5,000 USD barrier. We sat down with him to talk about how he began building his community and how others can follow in his footsteps.

JG: What motivated you to create a YouTube channel and start streaming games on Twitch? How did you get started playing games for Extra Life?

WP: My mom passed away from cancer in late 2013. I had become aware of Let’s Play videos on YouTube that year, and watching Guude & VintageBeef playing Minecraft really helped provide a distraction from everything. The next year I thought, “I wonder if I could do this?” and started my own YouTube channel. It was a really effective outlet for all the emotions I was going through. I started live streaming there occasionally around 2016 and that’s when I became aware of Extra Life. I tried fundraising $100 USD that year, but due to some real-life issues, I didn’t raise a single dollar.

In 2017, I was in a better position life-wise and determined to make up for it. I ended up raising about $565 USD that year and contacted the CMN rep at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa about a SNES Classic I wanted to donate to the children’s ward. During that conversation, I found out I had raised more for Extra Life than the hospital had for their event, and they wanted to send me to Extra Life United in 2018.

That ended up being a life-changing trip for me because I met so many awesome and passionate people that were dedicated to helping sick kids. You can’t help but feed off and be inspired by that energy! Most of the people I befriended in Orlando that year used Twitch as their fundraising platform so I moved all of my streaming over there while still making videos for YouTube.  It ended up being a pretty good decision overall!

JG: With Mixer closing down and shifting over to Facebook Gaming, people looking to get into streaming could easily find themselves unsure of where to build their online presence between Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch. How did you decide to stream on Twitch and what would you recommend others do?

WP: I always saw booths dedicated to Twitch when I went to conventions such as PAX South and RTX but didn’t know much about the platform. Now that I’ve been streaming there for over two years I think it’s all about specialization.

YouTube has an effective live stream service but that isn’t the company’s primary focus. I’m not very familiar with Facebook Gaming, but I assume it would be tailored to those more inclined to social media. Although I’d bet there are some unique features, gaming videos aren’t Facebook’s focus.

Twitch is a website dedicated to streaming content, so I think they have the best tools and integration for streamers.  It’s crowded, but you know what you’re getting. My biggest advice to someone deciding on a platform is to look over each site’s accessibility, services, and just how you want your content (and fundraising) to get out to your audience!

JG: You have a focus on donation milestones for fundraising with collective incentives for your viewers like having you wear a xenomorph onesie or live streaming yourself watching bad movies. Was it hard to turn those into effective incentives? What was your process like for coming up with them?

WP: I looked for incentives that were unique and weren’t going to hurt me, at least physically! I’m normally a mellow, somewhat moody person, so I figured subjecting myself to things I normally wouldn’t do would be something that captured the curiosity of my audience and people who knew me. Some of my most effective incentives are ones that encourage audience participation.

To give you an example, the bad movies chosen for the marathon were chosen by my top three donators. People who donated during the stream could make me rewind the film 15 minutes and re-experience a horrible scene. Sometimes I think eating super spicy food would be much easier!

JG: This is your fifth year participating in Extra Life – what have you learned in that time about how to pull together a community and get them behind your charity streaming?

WP: Your audience has to believe in your passion because you are a commercial for your cause. If your audience knows you are sincere, it’s easier for them to care about what’s important to you. When someone goes into your chat or talks to you in person, they have to see and/or hear how important helping kids in need is to you.

In practice, it’s no different than gaining followers while streaming. If you refuse to engage your audience or act like you don’t want to be there the chances of them coming back can be slim. To me, it’s the same with donations to Extra Life or any charity. If I see someone talking about helping kids and I can tell that they are committed and passionate about their cause, that’s infectious and makes me want to help them. I can only hope I do the same with my audience.

JG: We find that many people get intimidated by streaming, especially if they are just starting their first year participating in Extra Life. What are the top three lessons you’ve learned that you wish you knew when you were beginning your fundraising?

WP: Lesson One: Have fun! I know that sounds cliché, but there’s nothing truer. The more you’re enjoying the game or activity on stream, the better off you’ll be in almost every way. If you’re playing a game just because it’s popular and not because you wanted to play it, your audience will usually be able to tell. If you’re not having fun, you’re working, and that can be miserable no matter what you’re doing. You can always change gears. If you suddenly want to play a different game or decide you want to do something else that day, do it! There’s no set format, it’s your channel!

Lesson Two: Don’t panic! If there’s any law in effect when it comes to streaming, it’s Murphy’s. Your internet may go out, your equipment may act up, or a multitude of other things. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just let your audience know what’s going on, try to fix it, and if you can’t [get it working] let them know you’ll see them next time. Don’t let things beyond your control discourage you. It’s just another challenge you can beat!

Lesson Three: EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS! I can’t state that enough, especially in my case fundraising for a smaller hospital. I’ve spoken with multiple people who are intimidated to fundraise for Extra Life because they can’t raise the same amount as people who have done it before. I tell them to never treat it like it’s a race. These fundraisers are #ForTheKids, not the competition. Every dollar raised can make a huge difference to a kid being treated in a CMN Hospital! Always take pride in the amount you’ve raised that year because a child’s life is going to be affected positively because of your help!

A huge thank you to the dedication of Wretch Plays for the phenomenal fundraising efforts he’s undertaken and for taking the time out of his schedule to talk with us. His insight is invaluable to the wider community and we hope that sharing the stories of Extra Lifers like Wretch Plays inspires and helps others to follow in his footsteps. Heroes like him are what make Extra Life great – and anyone can be a hero.

Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!