FarmVille Users Grow Virtual Goods, Raise $320,000 for Charity

farmville sweet potatoesThe dynamic of buying or earning virtual goods in games is looking like a potentially significant new way to make money for social causes. Zynga is experimenting with this. Last Friday, it introduced a new a virtual sweet potato that you can plant in its hit virtual farming game FarmVille. If you buy a license to plant the potatoes, Zynga will donate half the proceeds to two non-profits working in Haiti.

So far, users have bought 128,000 sweet potatoes. At a cost of 25 FV cash (the game’s virtual currency), and with 5 FV cash costing $1, revenue so far comes out to around $640,000 total. Zynga says $321,000 is being donated as a result.

The other half goes to Zynga, so if a lot of users end up buying this good with philanthropy in mind, then it could prompt the company — and other game developers — to introduce more charity revenue-share goods.

The sweet potatoes also offer special benefits to users. Besides the charity donation, “the Sweet Potato crop NEVER withers, harvests in 1 day and yields 3 XP and 125 coins and promises a special gift with purchase,” as the blog FarmVille Freak notes.

However, buying seems to have slowed down. On Sunday, Zynga investor Fred Wilson posted about the charity-goods model, and said that 100,000 sweet potatoes had been sold. Today, Zynga tells us the number is now 128,000. There are all sorts of reasons why this change could be the case, like FarmVille itself having accessibility problems this week (it does for me, right now). The caveat is that the license for these seeds only lasts a week, then it has to be renewed for another $5, so next Friday might see a surge of satisfied virtual sweet potato farmers.

The larger point here is that users seem to be willing to participate in something that benefits themselves, Zynga and a social cause. FarmVille itself is the largest application on Facebook, having grown from nothing in June to more than 55 million monthly active users as of today.

Zynga should also be commended for disclosing how much revenue it’s sharing with charities, as a number of other gaming applications on Facebook purport to be dedicated to social causes, yet actually keep almost all of the money for themselves.

On a related note, teen social network myYearbook has been letting users donate virtual currency to causes. That effort is run through the company’s Causes app, rather than a game, but it’s relevant because the site’s currency itself is a game-style dynamic.

Here’s more about the sweet potatoes in the game:

Salutations, y’all! Today, FarmVille is proud to release “Sweet Seeds for Haiti”. In this event, y’all will be able to purchase Sweet Potatoes that NEVER WITHER, yield XP and 125 COINS PER HARVEST! Even better than that is the fact that 50% of the proceeds will go to helpin’ children in Haiti. What could be sweeter than lending a helping hand to children in need? You’ll also get a SPECIAL GIFT with your purchase so hurry on over to FarmVille and check it out!

And here’s more about the recipient charities:

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the 7th poorest in the world. Zynga’s mission of connecting the world through games is enhanced by our opportunity to support the health and education of these children and their families. For additional information on the recipient organizations, please see and

FATEM is a non-profit organization based in Mirebalais, Haiti, and originally organized to bring information technology to the people in the region, thus helping with the economic advancement of the area. More recently, however, FATEM recognized the need for a sustainable means by which to support the general education of Haitian children and to ensure that these children have the necessary meals that will permit their young bodies and brains to learn and grow.

FONKOZE, based in Port-au-Prince, is an alternative bank for the poor. It is Haiti’s largest micro-finance institution and is committed to the economic and social improvement of the people and communities of Haiti and to the reduction of poverty in the country.

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Leave a Reply

21 Responses to “FarmVille Users Grow Virtual Goods, Raise $320,000 for Charity”

  1. Let’s ask Farmville to lend a helping hand to storm victims in the Philippines « Timi will share… says:

    [...] ask Farmville to lend a helping hand to storm victims in the Philippines via [...]

  2. LevelHack says:

    Farmville speed hack…

  3. apple says:

    the guys over at Zynga should bring out a mobile version seriously it would make billions!

  4. Popular Social Games Inspire New Wave of Fan Blogs says:

    [...] month about addicted social gamers. We’ve cited the blog FarmVille Freak for its coverage of how a charitable virtual good works in Zynga’s virtual farming game. Here’s a list of some social gaming blogs we’ve [...]

  5. William says:

    apple Says:
    October 18th, 2009 at 2:08 am

    the guys over at Zynga should bring out a mobile version seriously it would make billions!

    —Maybe they already have billions….You see, they are doing charities now!

  6. Zynga’s Vision for the Social Web, in PowerPoint says:

    [...] item is the conclusion of a virtual goods charity drive within the game FarmVille, which we’d covered in more detail last week. A virtual good plant seed in FarmVille generated a total of $830,000 in a couple weeks, with half [...]

  7. hado ajdinoski says:


  8. trevor says:

    *OR*, we can look at this another way…

    Zynga says, if you give Haiti $5.00, we’ll only keep 1/2.

    So, Zynga is basically a Western Union middle man taking 50% of disposable income that COULD go to charity, and offering absolutely ZERO value in return.

    Hey, poor starving Haitian kid, I was gonna give you $5.00 to buy sweet potatoes for your family, but I wanted to spend 1/2 of it for the 22 seconds of exhiliration I received clicking on a sparkling image of crops on a computer screen instead. While I ate Doritos and my kid sat in front of his XBOX 360, and I told him all about making real sacrifices for others.

    Pat yourselves on the back, North America.

    We’re on a roll here.

  9. Zynga & World Food Programme Team Up to Fight Hunger says:

    [...] efforts in “transforming the world through games.” Previous efforts included donations from FarmVille farmers to help feed children in Haiti – which has earned over $700,000 – and the YoVille campaign to sell virtual pet bulldogs and [...]

  10. Social Gaming Roundup: Charities, Partnerships, and More says:

    [...] Back in October, Zynga raised money for children in Haiti through FarmVille. The program was called Sweet Seeds; since its inception, it has raised over $800,000. Now, the program is expanding to include a [...]

  11. محمود محمد says:

    nice game

  12. kingromeobillen says:

    sana maging mabuti ang lagay dyan sa HAITI

  13. kingromeobillen says:


  14. Did We Jump the Gun on Zynga? says:

    [...] says Farmville players were clearly informed during its 2009 campaign that 50% of their donations would go towards helping the children of [...]

  15. Stephen says:

    That’s just weird and icky. If people are going to donate to Haiti, the whole donation should go. Giving a virtual sweet potato is not a cool reason to take half the donation… if a massage therapist donates half their revenue that’s cool, but this is just weird.

  16. dzikrisamfourfive says:

    aku pingin chip banyak

  17. Comprando com Dinheiro Real em Farmville - says:

    [...] site especializado Inside Social Games ressalta no post sobre a ação a idéia de filantropia como sendo a principal motivadora da venda de cerca de 130 mil sementes [...]

  18. Gaming for Good | Ogilvy Earth South Africa says:

    [...] with over 62 million active users worldwide, dabbled in this last year by selling special seeds to raise money for Haiti. In three weeks, players spent $854,000 on the virtual sweet potato seeds and the company donated [...]

  19. “Show Me The Money!” 3 Social Media Apps Contributing to Both of Museums’ Bottom Lines « Know Your Own Bone says:

    [...] good money for certain virtual goods or rewards. In fact, Farmville itself has raised so much that it’s flat-out raising funds for charity. In a way, the fact that Foursquare offers these badges and check-in points could be every [...]

  20. beautiful bytes – it’s been a Google week | beautiful world says:

    [...] developers of FarmVille, Mafia Wars and other unexpectedly popular online games, rolled out a ‘Sweet Seeds’ programme last year to benefit Haiti. Players use real money to purchase virtual goods and [...]

  21. beautful bytes – Launch of JustTextGiving, Unity and Likester | beautiful world says:

    [...] I am by no means suggesting that Facebook gamers aren’t donators of time or indeed money, as Sweets Seeds for Haiti illustrated, but the system of obligatory viewing could tempt even the most obedient inner child to cast their [...]

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