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Twitch’s Director of Strategic Partnerships On How to Build a Healthy Streaming Community

Fundraising can sometimes seem like a daunting task, especially when it involves putting yourself in the spotlight. KawaiiGuy, aka Jon Brence, Twitch’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, has been putting himself into the spotlight as an active Extra Life participant since 2013 and become an indispensable part of the community. This year he agreed to serve as both an Extra Life Ambassador and a Hackathon judge at Extra Life United. We reached out to him to talk about his experiences, building fundraising communities, and what has made him such a positive force for good.

Jack Gardner: What initially got you involved in Extra Life?

KawaiiGuy: I first began broadcasting as part of Extra Life events in 2013, to unite fellow creators I was working with in support CMN Hospitals. I was personally driven to support the cause having had two cousins who battled childhood cancer, knowing the burdens they had to undertake. Ultimately, I just believe in seeking a better future for children fighting serious illnesses. Extra Life was a great means to bring everyone together for this mutual goal.

JG: You went to Extra Life United this year and managed to raise over $2,500 USD! That’s an impressive accomplishment. What advice do you have for people who see that and feel like raising that much would be impossible for them?

KG: I was incredibly proud of my community coming together to support Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as part of Extra Life United this year. Over the course of 5 days, I had my community join me around one of my favorite games of all time (EarthBound) – telling my personal story, my association with the game and the friendships it formed. Whether or not my community had donated, having us come together to discuss the needs of supporting health systems for children was the most important aspect. Every donation (from $1 to those who donated over $100) mattered in our efforts to help those in need.

Biggest advice to those who might feel like raising that much is impossible: Don’t compare success metrics. Know that just by broadcasting, you are helping. You’ll be surprised at how fast that total donated can raise just by being present.

JG: You also served as a Hackathon judge at Extra Life United. Can you talk a bit about how you came to be a judge, your experience with the Hackathon, and the submissions you ruled in favor of? 

KG: I was honored to join the judge panel as a creative, Extra Life Ambassador, and leader in the gaming space, but even more honored to hear from young creatives looking to create new tools and services that benefit raising funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. There were great ideas across the board, but I always appreciate creators looking to find better means of communicating and creating celebratory moments with their fans. I loved the projects that leaned into team building and public displays of celebratory moments during broadcasts.

JG: What role does your gender and sexuality play in your fundraising and organizing? 

KG: For many years I have sought to create a space that is safe and inclusive for community members of all identities. As someone who came out only a year ago as pansexual, I wanted to further amplify that message this year and encourage others to feel comfortable in expressing themselves as they see best fit. I’ve found more alignment with and have actively been coaching more LGBTQIA+ creators to pursue their purpose/cause-focused initiatives – including Extra Life events.


JG: In addition to being a rad streamer, you are also the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Twitch. What insight can you give to Extra Lifers who are intimidated by streaming and putting themselves out there so publicly?

KG: Streaming can for sure be an intimidating process (whether it is setting up, finding what to play/create, and developing an audience for you). My personal livestreaming journey has been an adventure filled with ups and downs over the past 11 years, but there are a few key things to know:

  1. Take it step by step. It’s okay to take your time to discover what stream style is best for you.
  2. Don’t compare your success to others. Some creators grow incredibly overnight, others have great stable careers that last years with their niche base.
  3. If you create from a place that celebrates what you love, you will always find happiness and personal success.
  4.  Start with goals that are within reach. Allow yourself to celebrate the wins.

JG: How can people out there looking to build communities, or who have already built communities, ensure that they are safe for marginalized folks? 

KG: What you embody and showcase publicly feeds into your audience. If you showcase a positive/welcoming atmosphere and maintain that space, you will continue to grow a space that is safe. Work with your moderators and your community as it builds to continue to champion a space that is supportive and safe.

There are so many of you in our ever-expanding community that do so much for the kids. You build communities, set others up to build their own, and work collectively to ensure your local kids get the healthcare treatment that they need. It’s our hope that hearing the stories and advice of people like KawaiiGuy inspire and inform you to go out and build a better world. A huge thank you to KawaiiGuy for taking the time to talk with us – Extra Life wouldn’t be the same without you.

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!