Viral Marketing Spreads the Word for Soup Kitchens

A viral marketing campaign with a video game component raised $56,000 in less than two weeks for soup kitchens at San Francisco's Project 180 and DC Central., a for-profit company that helps nonprofits to find corporate and individual sponsors, created the campaign.

The sponsor in this case was zthing, a content provider specializing in video games and other forms of entertainment. Zthing donated $1.12 each time a visitor came to In addition, zthing sent e-mails with the game to nearly 500,000 people in its own database, beginning Nov. 20.

The e-mail asked people to visit the site and pass the message and the game along to friends. Zthing created the game, Fruitcake of Doom, which challenges players to catch as many Thanksgiving dinners on their plates as possible, while avoiding the fruitcake of doom, which sends their score back to zero.

Fundingpool worked with 24/7, AltaVista and DoubleClick to promote the campaign. These media partners could distribute the e-mail with or without the game, said Jeff Hawthorne, who founded Fundingpool with Mark Grimes, president of Internet advertising agency eyescream.

Fundingpool has reached its goal of $56,000 — the cost to feed 50,000 people at $1.12 a meal — but Hawthorne hopes to continue the campaign.

“We're seeing that the Fruitcake of Doom [game] is being passed along from friend to friend, and even the text message without the [game] is being cut and pasted and passed along to friends,” he said. “Although the initial goal has been met, visitors can still raise more money and help feed more people by taking additional actions on our Web site, such as registering at or downloading the dashBar from”

Once such actions are taken, Fundingpool donates 100 percent of the affiliate's payment to charitable organizations.

Hawthorne hopes to find a new sponsor now that zthing has fulfilled its commitment, and he hopes to build on this model in future campaigns.

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