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Summary of results for a speed giving game given by the local group EA Uppsala, at a students fair (Sting-festivalen) with mainly new students in STEM and computer science. Uppsala university 2023-08-26.

For a description of what a Giving Game is, see here. The original version is a 1h workshop, where groups discuss pros and cons of the different options before voting where a pool of money should go. The speed variant is made to take ~3 minutes, and each individual vote is worth $1.

I wrote this two days after the event itself, and so I don't know if the interest generated translates into further engagement with EA, our group events, or e.g. increased donations to charities.

 

Key points:

  1. Around 75 people stopped by the table and 62 participated in the 3-minute game voting where $1 donations would go.
  2. 23 people signed up for newsletters/events (37% rate), showing interest in learning more about EA.
  3. Having real money, only 2 charities, and a better game design could have left a stronger impression.
  4. The "help us give away other's money" hook was effective to draw people in.
  5. Being alone at the table was manageable but having 2 people could have engaged 15-25% more.
  6. The game highlighted difficulty judging effectiveness, but could have conveyed the core message better via structured thinking.
  7. It may be beneficial to choose a charity other than AMF since many have heard of malaria prevention.
  8. Use a laptop or tablet to gather email addresses — don't use pen and paper.

 

Event description and game setup

The festival was spread out over a campus and the organisers predicted "a maximum of 1800 students", but on the day I think it was less than this. It lasted five hours. A large number of organisations did tabling, forming long corridors of tables.

I did the tabling alone. I had two banners behind, a third of the table was taken up by books that anyone could write down their email address to borrow, and the rest of the table mainly had papers with images and info about the three charities featured in the game (and some on other charities to show a breadth of cause areas). Papers at the front of the table said "give away other's money".

My setup for the game:
I presented three charities and asked participants to guess which was the most cost-effective.

  • Against Malaria Foundation.
  • Helen Keller International, vitamin A supplement programme.
  • PlayPumps. (trap option)

I gave a short description of each charity, and after they made an initial guess I explained that there can be large differences between interventions. I then presented a few points of statistics and evaluations for each charity, and asked if they wanted to change their vote based on that. A plastic bead representing 10 SEK  (=  $0.91) was then put in a glass jar for the charity of their choice.

Afterwards I spent a minute explaining that while donations to effective charities can do a lot of good, they can use their future career to do much more than that, and that a single individual has incredible opportunities to do a lot of good in the world. I ended with asking if they wanted to sign up for the newsletter of Giving What We Can (who sponsored us), our club's newsletter, or interest for our upcoming intro lecture.

 

Results

The call "help us give away other peoples' money" worked quite well in drawing in people passing by.

80-85% of all who stopped at my table participated in the game.
62 votes in total (so ~75 people stopped by and at least listened for a short while).

  • AMF: 39 votes.
  • HKI: 23 votes.
  • PlayPumps: 0 votes.

23 sign-ups, 22 on paper and one from the 20 people who took a flyer with a compilation of QR-codes.
= 37% sign-up rate.
(2-3 will likely be discarded due to illegible handwriting.)

  • 13 GWWC newsletter.
  • 21 EA Uppsala newsletter.
  • 15 interested in the lunch lecture.
  • 9 signed up for all three.

1 book lent out (The Precipice).
2 took pictures of the books as a reference.

3-4 people seemed to show significant interest, one of whom mentioned that they had already been considering using their career to help others.

I can't recall that any of those I talked to said they had heard of EA before. (The one person I recall doing so was an organiser at another table.)

I bought a lot of candy in the form of plastic-wrapped chocolates (~10 grams each), but very few took any.

 

Some lessons

  • Previous tabling sessions on campus (not during a students fair or similar event) have resulted in talking to 20-50 people, on a few occasions close to 100. Since those were over just 2h and this event was a 5h festival with a large number of attendees, my goal was to talk to 150 people and I prepared for 300. The ~75 who stopped by the table means I came halfway to my goal. I think this was partly because:
    • There may have been a bit fewer participants than anticipated.
    • They were distributed over a large area, meaning many didn't pass where I was.
    • There was a lot of competition for the students' attention, so many might not have had the time or energy to visit that many stalls.
    • The table could have been made more appealing (though I'd say it was passable).
    • Our places were decided by the organisers, and I stood close to a PA-system with loud music that made it difficult to talk (and when that wasn't playing, there was a marching band just a few meters away).
    • I was alone, and there were occasions when I was in the middle of going through the game with one set of people when others arrived, who then left when they noticed I didn't have time for them. I'm guessing a second person could have drawn in another 15-25%.
  • It is clearly better to be at least two people, but doing it alone was more manageable than I thought it would be. I therefore don't think the lack of a second person should be an obstacle for deciding whether or not to do this kind of tabling.
  • Use a computer, tablet, or even a smartphone for gathering emails. I lent out my computer to another table and thought paper would suffice, but I underestimated how hard it is to read most peoples' handwriting (especially when it isn't words in a sentence).
  • I think it would have been better to just use two charities, e.g. HKI and PlayPumps, since not that many showed a strong preference before statistics were revealed and so the point would still come across. If using three, then it would have been good if one of them could be said to be the clear "winner" in terms of cost-effectiveness, since this was a common question asked by participants when comparing AMF and HKI.
  • ~10% of participants had heard of malaria prevention, and sometimes bednets, as being a good way to improve global health. Even though most didn't recognise AMF in particular, this made them choose AMF without thinking more carefully about the other options.
  • There was a pretty even spread of votes for the three charities before I revealed the evaluation data, and I think my setup did well in highlighting the point that it is hard to determine at a glance what will be effective. It did not do well in making them think about the question in a structured way. When traffic was low, I believe I could have extended the game a minute or two by starting with a brief description of the scale, solvability, neglectedness framework, though maybe this might have made it less fun. I think there's room for significant improvements by thinking more about the core message you want to convey and use that to better design the game and pitch.
  • Since I prepared for a lot of participants I decided to use plastic beads as tokens for the money, but if I knew there would have been less than 100 then I would have gotten real money and used that. My guess is that handling actual money would have made a bigger impression.
  • I printed lots of materials for different visualisations and statistics, but ended up only using a few of them. It would have been better to focus on a minimalistic approach and only have one set of some more detailed statistics to bring out in case someone asked about it.
  • I think the flyer with a list of QR-codes and URLs could have been better replaced by a brochure explaining what EA is (e.g. the second option here), and only one or two QR-codes to get further information.
  • Not many took candy, and my guess is that this is partly due to me not inviting them to (but it is pretty obvious that it is there for them), and partly due to almost all tables offering sweets or snacks of some form, so if I wanted to stand out I would have had to up the quality or get something more unusual.

 

Conclusion

I'm not quite satisfied with the outcome, but think there are enough improvements that could have been made in this instance that I'm optimistic about the speed giving game as a good strategy for tabling.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:43 AM

Thanks for this writeup – I imagine that it will be very helpful to some other EA groups! When I was the president of EA Stockholm University we organised something similar in several welcome fairs at Stockholm University. Some experiences from this:

  1. The most important thing that I learned was that it is very useful to have some introductory event planned in the next week or even next few days after the fair, so that one can encourage people to attend that event.
  2. For the giving game we used real money, which was laying openly on the table where we were standing. I think this attracted more people to the table than we otherwise would have gotten, so I agree with you that doing this when possible is probably a good idea. If I remember correctly, we had 3000 SEK in 100-bills. Once 30 people had participated, we counted the money in each bucket and then took it out so that the same bills could be used once again. At the end of the game we summed up everything and donated it. Usually we only had something like 50 participants, so it amounted to donating roughly 5000 SEK in total.
  3. For one fair we had charities from different cause areas (global development, animal welfare and something else that I can't remember) instead of charities within a cause area. This allows for more discussion about cause selection, but probably invites people to think less critically (i.e., just pick what feels like a good cause to them). 
  4. We tried doing speed giving games at some welcome fairs and not doing it at others. Our experience was that doing speed giving games helped attract people to the table, but made it somewhat harder to engage in depth as a lot of the focus of the conversation often revolved around explaining the rules of the giving game as opposed to explaining what EA is and how to get involved. When I was at EA SU, we eventually decided to not do speed giving games at welcome fairs for this reason, but I think we were uncertain whether this was the right decision and it probably depends a lot on the particulars of the welcome fair in question etc.

Again, thanks for writing this up!

I think you are correct about the first point; tabling seems the most useful when you have something you can direct people to that is only a few days away. It was not something I deliberated on for this occasion due to a lack of time and resources.

Your fourth point seems worth exploring. I think I could have shortened the game to 1-2 minutes so that it mainly became a hook to draw people in, but there's still the question if it would be an obstacle in some sense for a more detailed explanation of EA afterwards. I think it depends on how you design the game and formulate your EA-explanation in relation to it. This would need to be tested.

Executive summary: A speed giving game at a student fair in Uppsala saw moderate success in engaging students and generating sign-ups, with lessons learned for improving the game design and setup in the future.

Key points:

  1. Around 75 people stopped by the table and 62 participated in the 3-minute game voting where $1 donations would go.
  2. 23 people signed up for newsletters/events (37% rate), showing interest in learning more about EA.
  3. Having real money, only 2 charities, and a better game design could have left a stronger impression.
  4. The "help us give away money" hook was effective to draw people in.
  5. Being alone at the table was manageable but having 2 people could have engaged 50% more.
  6. The game highlighted difficulty judging effectiveness, but could have conveyed the core message better via structured thinking.

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