SEATTLE - Medical researchers throughout the country are hurting from federal funding cuts this year, but local organizations are getting money from an unlikely source: gamers.
Seattle Children's Hospital and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are two of six organizations that are receiving donations from the online game Quingo. The game is free for users, but advertisers make donations to charities based on how much people play.
Quingo, available on iPhones and iPads, is a combination of trivia and bingo. It is the brainchild of Brandon Bozzi, founder of Game It Forward, a company that develops games with a social impact.
"I saw the power that games had to get people to take action," Bozzi said. "Looking at games like Angry Birds and Farmville and how much time and money we spend on games each year I said, 'We can use that same power to get people to do good.'"
While there are other fundraising games available, Bozzi said Quingo is unique because of the way it raises money. Users can download and play the game for free while advertisers donate money to a charity of the user's choice. Players can also make purchases in the game, which increase their charity's proceeds.
Quingo players can donate to six different charities: Seattle Children's Hospital, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Kiva, The Martinez Foundation, PAWS and Splash.
Besides choosing a charity, users can also decide how the donation is spent. Each charity has specific small projects - ranging from $100 to $1,000 - users can choose from. For example, gamers can play to fund one day of breast cancer research or help a rescued dog find a home.
Users can share how much money they've raised on social media sites like Facebook.
"We thought the more transparent we can be with players the more compelling the game is," Bozzi said.
Bozzi said his goal is to get 10,000 people playing Quingo every day, which could earn thousands of dollars each month for charities.
While Seattle Children's has many successful fundraising campaigns, Helen Sernett, director of annual giving at the Hospital Foundation, said new funding opportunities are needed.
"When we're in the business of trying to cure kids it's hard to feel like it's ever enough," Sernett said. "It is getting more challenging to fund research through traditional channels. The national environment for research funding is changing, and we want to be ahead of that curve."
Sernett said Quingo involves a population that may not otherwise donate to a health organization.
"Quingo is getting at a different audience than we would not often have exposure to," she said. "They may not be interested in making a philanthropic contribution but want to do some social good in the world. We want to be where they are."