Monday, May 18, 2015

Extra Life 101: Most Frequently Asked Questions

One of the primary goals of this blog is to help me communicate critical information to people about the Extra Life charity, and one thing I have never done is post an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) style list of what I am most often asked.  That gets fixed today!  Here are the questions I most often get concerning the Extra Life annual charity and the answers to them.

Extra Life 2015

Q: What is Extra Life?
A: Extra Life is an annual charity event benefiting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.  The original event was focused on supporting Texas Children's Hospital and was inspired by a young lady named Victoria Enmon who sadly passed away in 2008 following a bout with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  Details on Tori's story and how the charity has expanded from a local event to an international event can be found here.  The bottom line is the event allows people to play games, similar to how people participate in marathons focused on dancing or running/walking, and ask people to sponsor them with donations.  The donations are submitted through the player page found on the Extra Life website and go directly to the hospital the player has elected to support. 

To sign up visit the registration page today.  Your registration this year is for 2015, and each subsequent year you will need to register again to participate in that particular year; however, with your account you can access data from the previous years you participated in as well as access tools to customize your donation page with text and pictures and contact donors who have provided their contact information to thank them.  Make sure you log in with your existing account each year you sign up.  I used a different email address one year by accident, and that data is separate from my primary account data due to the mix-up.  If you log in and manage your personal information through the same account that should not be a problem.

Q: Am I supporting a specific hospital?
A: Absolutely.  The original event started small and raised over $300,000 for Texas Children's; however, seeing an excellent opportunity to spread the reach of the program, participants can now select from over 170 different hospitals within the Children's Miracle Network.  Last year's event raised millions of dollars across those hospitals, and this year will be even bigger.

When you register to participate in Extra Life, you are asked to select a specific hospital to support.  Some people support a hospital where a family member, friend, or possibly the participant themselves has been treated, while others select their local hospital, which you can search for here if you want to look prior to registration by using your zip code or state.

If you are asking as a donor, check the page of the participant you are helping sponsor.  You will see their hospital listed on the right side of the page along with a tag that reads "Playing in support of."  It will look like the picture below from my personal page.  Your donation goes directly to that hospital that is listed.
Here is what to look for when identifying the specific hospital a player is supporting.

Q: Is my donation tax deductible?
A: Yes, it is 100% tax deductible.  Print a copy of the receipt, or if you were unable to, then reach out to the player you sponsored.  They can view donations and confirm amounts etc. if you need something for your records.  I would recommend printing the confirmation page though for tax purposes, as that is your best record available.

Q: How do I get more involved?
A: As the Extra Life program grows, the original organizers have found a creative way to enlist volunteers who are invested in their local hospital.  That is called the Guild program.  An Extra Life Guild directory and basic description can be found here.  If you're hospital does not yet have a Guild, then join the Extra Life community forums to talk to people and find ways to help.  You may find other folks local to your area who want to help as well in similar ways.  We attend events like video game, board game, and comic or pop culture conventions as well as smaller scale events that provide an opportunity to expand the reach to new supporters. 

At the most basic level, wearing Extra Life t-shirts and starting conversations with people you already know is a great way to spread the news.  You can get Extra Life gear by being a Platinum participant and raising $200 (see below for more details on "Platinum" registration) or participating in the Miracle Band program.  These are excellent conversation starters, and I get more people to participate through enthusiastic conversations than by any other means.

Q: Can you explain how teams work?
A: Sure, when you join or even after you join you can select a team of other players or even choose to create your own.  Joining a team is a good way to help foster support among people you know.  A team has a roster of individual participants, all of whom may choose a specific hospital to support, and allows for accumulating team totals and badges.  To state that another way, you can support a different hospital from other folks in your team.  My team, Super Game Boys, is supporting hospitals in Dallas, Houston, and Baton Rouge this year as an example.  It's a great way to build camaraderie with the people you recruited or were recruited by.

Q: If I join, do I really have to play a 24 hour marathon?  Does it have to be on the specific "game day" listed?
A: No, this may be the most asked question.  Not everyone is in a position to play games of any kind for 24 hours straight, and it may even be unhealthy for some people to attempt.  There are a few keys to keep in mind to help alleviate the concerns here:
  • You can play any type of game you want, from video games, smart device games, or web based browser games to board and card games to sports and outdoor games.  One year my oldest son had a soccer game on our planned event day, so we counted that as part of the marathon and played on our Nintendo 3DS handhelds and smart phones in the car when driving back and forth from our house to the field!  I would suggest at minimum playing one active or physical game during your marathon, if you choose to do a marathon, which leads me to point #2 ...
  • There is no hard record of your marathon, and it is fully understood and accepted that some folks will not play a full 24 hours straight.  Want to play two hours per weekend for a month?  Awesome.  Want to just sum up anytime spent playing games from your regular schedule?  Great.  How and when you game is up to you.  The general guideline is that everyone is asked to try their best to raise $100 dollars minimum.  However you do that is your choice.
  • Regardless of how you play, your own health and safety is paramount.  Drink lots of water (not soda or sugar filled energy drinks, water), eat healthy food, rest when you feel tired, and be sure to stretch and rest your eyes periodically.  Visit here for a similar summary of best practices.
Q: What are the different participant levels in registration?  In other words, what is a Platinum registrant?
A: This gets overlooked a lot, but it is an easy element of the program to get confused on specific to people participating.  When you register you have the option to play for free (noted as "Classic" registration) or join as a Platinum participant for $15.  Platinum membership means you are basically enlisting in the rewards program tied to the event.  You are eligible for event related gear once you hit certain tiers of fundraising (listed below).  Raised more money than expected and want to swap to Platinum?  No problem.  Visit here for details.
  • $200 raised: the Platinum t-shirt for the year (design varies year to year)
  • $500 raised: silver medal with the Extra Life logo
  • $1000 raised: gold medal with the Extra Life logo
Q: Do you recommend any resources to generate enthusiasm on social networks?
A: I do!  Twitch is a big partner with Extra Life, and anyone can setup an account and start streaming games with some basic equipment and software.  Twitch even provides the option to list your game as "Extra Life" to clearly identify the community as we undertake our game days.  Modern consoles allow direct to Twitch streaming out of the gate too. 

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals also has a great set of inspiring videos on YouTube.  I love sharing these because of how well done they are.  Alternatively, share your game day pictures and videos and requests for donations with your existing social networks whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  The easiest way to get donations is to ask people, and the easiest people to ask are typically in your existing social network of friends.
Q: I love this charity, and I think my company would be open to helping as well.  Are there corporate sponsorship opportunities?
A: Yes, but this is harder to lock down in a single FAQ post.  My recommendation would be to visit the Guild page listed above or the forums and request a specific contact.  Alternatively, there is a form on the main site that allows people to inquire about partnership and corporate sponsor opportunities.  Visit here.

Q: You type too much, is there a shorter FAQ?
A: Fine, here. 

For family, friends, and participants who are reading this, I encourage you to reach out to me directly if you want to know more.  I love talking about Extra Life, and thankfully I have access to helpful information due to my participation in the local Guild.  I'll even come talk at an event if you have one!  Just ask.

- Scott

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