Animation creative producing ‘Nonprofitopoly’ board game

Grand Rapids entrepreneur aims to raise $60K for nonprofits while promoting local businesses.
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The board game resembles the original offering but has new rules and features local businesses and nonprofits. Courtesy Michael Lynn

The owner of a local animation studio is putting a utilitarian twist on Monopoly.

Michael Lynn is founder, owner and producer of Michael Lynn Animation Studio, which the Business Journal featured in 2018. He is now working on a board game modeled after Monopoly, called Nonprofitopoly.

Of late, Lynn has been working with the business training program SpringGR, mentoring emerging startup founders and making animated videos for young businesses, and he said he has developed a passion for helping local small businesses. Lynn also has done pro bono animation projects for nonprofit clients in the past. He said he recognizes the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on businesses and charities alike, and he wants to help.

“I woke up at 5 a.m. one morning and I thought, ‘You know what would be really cool? To make a board game that supported local nonprofits and gave all the money to charity.’ That is literally the story of how it happened,” he said.

He said as a commercial animator, he is always looking for entertaining ways to advertise, and in the past, he has worked on game design as a side hustle.

Although this is by no means the first Monopoly spinoff with a fundraising focus, nor is it the first game set in Grand Rapids, Lynn said Nonprofitopoly will be unique in its mission of benefiting Grand Rapids-based nonprofits while also promoting locally based businesses.

Game design

Nonprofitopoly is currently in production with a team of illustrators and Lynn as the project manager.

Instead of the usual Monopoly spots such Park Place and Boardwalk, local sponsoring businesses will populate the landing spaces, which will pay for the game production costs of $45,000 for a print run of 3,000 games.

Not all of the design decisions have been made, but Lynn’s vision is that the game will include QR codes for the businesses — either printed on the spaces or listed on the movement, trivia and property cards — in order to let game players know more about each advertised company.

All of the tokens will be die-cut, wood-style pieces mounted on a black stand instead of the trademark pewter pieces that come with Monopoly, “to add more of a local feel.” Buyers of the game can choose to sponsor a custom token in their image, or they can stick with the default pieces.

Michael Lynn Photo by Johnny Quirin

Lynn has made several design changes to make the game easier and shorter — noting the biggest complaint with Monopoly is typically, “I don’t have three hours to play a game.” People will be able to play Nonprofitopoly in 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Instead of rolling dice to move forward, players will draw movement cards that include the number of spaces to advance, with the name of a sponsoring business and its QR code on the lower half of the card.

Unlike Monopoly, the game’s objective is not to put competitors out of business, but to pay off a $20,000 tax bill.

 

Players will be able to do this by earning cash or by donating properties to nonprofits and getting double their value as a tax deduction.

Instead of the jail-related and free parking spaces at the corners of the Monopoly board, those spaces will be occupied by local nonprofits, which will start out the game holding all the property cards divided among them. When a player lands on a property space that’s not on a nonprofit corner, they can still buy the property, but landing on a nonprofit corner lets players buy any of the seven or so properties the nonprofit holds.

Lynn said he is intentionally not the middleman for Nonprofitopoly purchases. In order to obtain a copy of the game, people will need to select a nonprofit from a dropdown list that will be on nonprofitopoly.com, navigate to that nonprofit’s website, donate $30 to claim their code and use the code on the Nonprofitopoly website to order the game.

He said his conservative goal is to sell 2,000 games to raise $60,000 for nonprofits.

At this point, he and his team are building a list of nonprofits the game will benefit, and they hope it will be quite a long one. Later this month (April), they are going to ramp up their recruitment of sponsoring businesses.

Their goal is to send the game to the printer, Battle Creek-based Delano Games, by May.

More information about the game is at nonprofitopoly.com.

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