Zynga's Haiti Fundraising Efforts Tops $1.5 Million

Zynga, the developer of Farmville, has raised $1.5 million for the earth quake relief efforts in Haiti. Zynga collaborated with World Food Program for the relief efforts and the generated funds would be dispersed via WFP in the affected areas. The money was raised by selling virtual goods to gamers across Zynga’s top four games.

Zynga created limited edition items for the campaign in FarmVille, FishVille, Mafia Wars and Zynga Poker that were purchased by users from 47 countries. FarmVille users were the most generous as they opened up their wallets to generate $1 million.

This is the first ever campaign in Zynga’s history in which 100% of the proceeds from the sale of virtual goods were donated to WFP. WFP has deployed an emergency response team that is distributing food and other relief items to millions in the earthquake affected areas.

“We are extremely grateful to Zynga for this contribution,” said Nancy Roman, WFP’s director of communications. “Through their donations, Zynga players are helping us to bring urgently needed food assistance to people who have been plunged into hunger by this devastating earthquake. We started distributing food within 24 hours of the earthquake, and in the coming weeks, we aim to deliver weekly rations to 2 million people.”

The limited edition items created for this campaign across the four games had a Haitian touch and included Haiti white corn in FarmVille, a Haitian drum in Mafia Wars, a Haiti fish in FishVille, and a chip package in Zynga Poker. In addition, links for donations were promoted through Zynga’s other games, including Café World, PetVille, YoVille.com, and the Zynga.org site.

The relief campaign has provided a piece of good PR for Zynga at a much needed time. Zynga is currently facing a lawsuit from a group of Facebook users for alleged unauthorized use of their credit cards. All of Zynga’s games offered users in-game rewards in return for signing up to real-world deals, such as a subscription of Netflix. Some of the companies signed up players for recurring payments without their consent and knowledge.

In addition to being good karma for Zynga, the campaign marks the first use of social games for social and philanthropic causes. Relief organizations from Red Cross to corporate philanthropic arms like the Chase Financial Services are already using Facebook for charitable causes in different ways. However, social aid via social games is different because the users participating in the campaigns don’t lose anything and get instant rewards and souvenirs within the game. So what you spend by giving away you make up by leveling up in the game.