Immersive learning for charity fundraisers with mobile VR

Pioneering interactive 360° multi-device solution

360°, VR & AR

Street fundraising is an important source of revenue for many of our best-loved charities, but stopping people in the street can be a controversial way to raise money. Public trust in street fundraising in the UK was damaged after poor practices were highlighted nationally. Regulators are clamping down on bad behaviour and the charity sector is under pressure to improve standards.

There are a specific set of rules fundraisers must follow when choosing where to stand in the street and who to approach.  For example, they should not stand within three metres of a shop entrance or seek donations from anyone at work.  Every time a fundraiser breaches the rules, they accrue penalty points that can add up to a hefty fine for their charity.

Predominantly aged between 18 and 25, street fundraisers are often articulate and enthusiastic but can lack experience.  The old model of training was based on a written rule book. The charity sector was looking for a new, dynamic way to engage this digitally-native audience to raise compliance standards and embed best practice behaviours.

An opportunity to innovate

Working with charity regulator, the PFRA in 2015, Sponge created a game to teach the key principles of street fundraising compliance. In early 2016, Head of Innovation, Kate Pasterfield began experimenting with the possibilities of 360° video, and specifically whether it could be made interactive to open up opportunities for immersive learning experiences. The nature of the learning made it a suitable choice for creating an environmental experience. This led to a new development project that heralded desktop, tablet and mobile VR innovations.

Key challenges

  • Building the first interactive 360° video to deliver a multi-device solution
  • Creating contextual learning to give the rules meaning
  • Enabling fundraisers to practice and learn through safe failure
  • Appealing to under 25s
  • Creating an effective soundscape
"I realised we could take the game content and refactor it into 360° video, essentially using it as source material to try a new way. It made sense because it’s so situational and relies on location for the teachable messages to land."
Kate Pasterfield Circle
Kate Pasterfield Head of Innovation Sponge

The Sponge solution

It was clear from the start that fundraisers would benefit from seeing the challenges they would face in a real street environment, but regular video couldn’t give users the ability to explore fully. In a ground-breaking pilot project, the Sponge team combined the latest 360° filming techniques with a layer of digital interactions to create a new type of immersive learning experience.

We named our film experience Rule the Streets. The experience allows fundraisers to explore a street scene in all directions. They face two challenges; pinpointing an acceptable place to stand and deciding which individuals to approach. Immediate visual and audio feedback enables users to understand the things they are do correctly, and when they are breaking the rules.

Results Vr Device Mock Up B
“We had to develop an entirely new 360° environment from scratch, something that we could drop videos into and augment so users could explore and interact with the hotspots.”
Quote Andrew Hosgood
Andrew Hosgood ​​ VR Developer Sponge

In an industry first, the learning experience was developed as both an interactive 360° video - accessible via a PC without the need for goggles - and a virtual reality (VR) experience for use with a smartphone and headset.  This makes it flexible for a wide range of charities regardless of their technology limitations. 

“It’s the perfect tool for this challenge because it accurately represents the way in which fundraisers go about their job. They need to be observant of their environment and assess different people in a short space of time.” – Paddy Selman, Motion Graphics Specialist, Sponge


Based on early pilot studies, learners tested in a quiz following the VR experience scored on average 94.5%. When they learned the same information in a PDF version, average scores were lower at 87%. 

Results Royal Marsden Icon 01

100% of learners said they could apply the learning

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91% would recommend the experience to a friend

Results Vr Icon 82

82% would enjoy repeating the VR experience 

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90% would feel valued if their employer offered VR  

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Ask an expert

Kate Pasterfield, Head of Innovation, Sponge

Kate leads the innovation department at Sponge, bringing the latest learning technologies and strategies to international clients from a variety of sectors.

Awarded Learning Technologies Designer of the year, it's clear that great learning starts with bright ideas, if you want to explore an innovative learning solution with Kate, get in touch.

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