Around the Industry Health

Q&A with Extra Life’s Michael Kinney

Extra LifeMichael Kinney is managing director of digital fundraising and Extra Life at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $40 million in support of sick and injured kids.

This year marks Extra Life’s 10th anniversary. How has it changed in those 10 years?

When Extra Life started in 2008, it was actually just a local fundraiser for the children’s hospital where Victoria Enmon, the inspiration behind Extra Life, fought her cancer (Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston). Since then, it has become an official fundraising program of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and now benefits 170 children’s hospitals throughout the United States and Canada. That change alone has to have had the most profound impact on Extra Life. The emergence of live streaming platforms, like Twitch, are a close second though.

How have partnerships with other organizations helped grow and shape Extra Life over the past 10 years?

From community engagement, influencer activation, the sales of in-game items, and generous grants to help fund our operations, Extra Life wouldn’t be anywhere near where it is today without the support of this amazing industry. It’s been incredible watching some of the best brands and organizations respond to the call for help and how each of those relationships continues to drive growth in nearly every aspect of the Extra Life program.

This year, Extra Life was awarded an ESA Foundation grant to upgrade some of its fundraising tools. What features or improvements can participants expect to see as a result of that grant?

Great question! Thanks to the generous grant of the ESA Foundation, we’ve been able to offer a mobile fundraising app for everyone participating in Extra Life this year! With so many nonprofits in the marketplace, being able to offer turnkey fundraising methods and a top-notch end user experience is so important to generating the support our hospitals need. The grant has allowed us to offer just that and we’re seeing some tremendous results already! We anticipate this app generating close to $500,000 in donations to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the country.

Is there a story about Extra Life’s impact you find particularly moving?

Believe it or not, this is an incredibly tough question. We are fortunate enough to hear people’s reasons for participating in Extra Life and what this community means to them daily through our social channels, Discord server, and while we’re out at conventions. I think it’s the sum of their stories that really makes everyone on the Extra Life team feel humbled. This program and community of gamers are truly changing lives and making the world a little bit brighter.

Extra Life isn’t solely a one-day marathon or even just for video games. How does participating in Extra Life work outside of Game Day and what are some other fundraising events held by Extra Life and members of its community?

Extra Life has evolved from a single, 24-hour gaming marathon to something people can be a part of 365 days a year. While we still have our annual ‘day of play’ called Game Day every year in November, we let people know they can play whatever games they want, on whatever platforms they want, whenever it works for them.

In addition to Game Day, we also host a charity gaming conference and gaming tournament called Extra Life United every March. It’s a great place to learn from other people who game for charity, all while getting to compete to win $150,000 for your local children’s hospital.

You can also catch us at a bunch of local and national gaming conventions like PAX East, Gen Con, E3, RTX, PAX West, and TwitchCon!

What are Extra Life Guilds and what kind of work do they do?

Guilds are groups of Extra Lifers in cities throughout the US and Canada who are so passionate about giving back through gaming that they volunteer year-round to help raise funds and awareness for their local children’s hospital. Many of them meet monthly to host or attend events and empower other gamers in their communities to get involved. I may be biased, but I’d say they’re made up of some of the best people gaming has to offer.

Guilds will attend conventions, host game nights at the local pub, and even put on streaming workshops for gamers to network and learn from one another.

Why do you think so many gamers are passionate supporters of Extra Life and its mission?

One in every 10 children in North America are treated at a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Many of our community members have used the services of their local children’s hospitals and know firsthand just how important they are for their community. The ability to sign up for Extra Life and choose to send the money you raise directly to the hospital who helps the kids in your community is so important.

How do you balance fun and the mission when engaging a large community that is based on both a hobby like games and philanthropy?

Everyone has a ton of fun gaming and enjoys doing it for a great cause. What’s there to balance?!

What do people need to know about the 10th annual Game Day (Saturday, November 3)?

People need to know that there is still plenty of time to sign up for Extra Life 2018 and support their local children’s hospital. There are families in your community who need you now more than ever, so head on over to extra-life.org and get your friends and/or organization involved. We promise you won’t regret it!

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