New card game brings death to the table

This week’s spotlight: all things death.


Can’t make it to a Death Cafe? Try talking about end-of-life issues in the comfort of your home with My Gift of Grace.

“We spend most of our lives avoiding thoughts of mortality, which means that when we have to talk about illness and death, we’re unprepared,” say the folks at The Action Mill, a design firm who recently produced a conversation game that encourages people to talk about end-of-life issues. Called My Gift of Grace, it’s part of the firm’s “contribution to the growing movement to unhide death.”

So how does this game ‘unhide’ death and how could doing that benefit us?

My Gift of Grace is a set of cards that come in three categories: Questions (“If you could plan three things about your own funeral, what would they be?”), Statements (“The worst part about being at the end of my life would be…”), and Activities (“Visit your local cemetery. If you see an employee, ask them what it’s like to work there.”).

Players use the cards to start short discussions with others in the group and to keep notes on; when the game is over, participants are encouraged to keep the cards handy as reminders of the conversations they had.

As for the benefits, the designers cite encouraging giving, better focus on the present, and increasing understanding, for starters:

Anyone can get the game and play it, but we’re designing My Gift of Grace to be given as a gift. Giving is good for us. Generosity makes us happier and healthier and creates social connections.

The game itself is just one part of the social support network we’re designing to help people get unstuck and have important conversations that can help us get perspective and focus on the things that are most important to us in the here and now.

Sharing how you think about the end of your life is also one of the most important gifts you can give to the people who are close to you. Letting them know how you feel about end-of-life issues can save them from a lot of guilt, trauma, and expense down the road in the event they need to make decisions for you.

Read more about the purposes behind and development of My Gift of Grace on The Action Mill’s Kickstarter page. For info about ordering the game when it becomes commercially available (hopefully this month), see

Have you opened conversations about end-of-life issues with your community? Did the experience help get you unstuck?

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Nonprofit Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger Hunt

From Harvard Law Record via Flickr

Part of my job is to review listings of new organizations that join Idealist. The other day, we welcomed Scavenger Crawl to the site! Here’s their mission:

Scavenger Crawl is a nonprofit organization that aims to build awareness and advocacy for Bay Area nonprofits through a scavenger hunt and pub crawl event…The crawl portion lands teams at different restaurants, bars, and retail shops throughout San Francisco…In addition to building awareness for our nonprofit partners, we also hope to increase support for our local businesses.

Scavenger hunts are games in which the organizers prepare a list of objects to be gathered or tasks to be completed, and the participants, as individuals or teams, compete to check items off the list. I think this sounds super fun — and, though disappointed that I’m too far away to participate, I got to thinking about why this idea is so great. Folks who work at nonprofits tend to be mission-driven, and pretty much everyone I know loves a giant, interactive game. Why not combine the two? Lightbulb: Scavenger hunts for a cause.

Scavenger hunts can foster team-building; give participants a unique way of interacting with one another and their communities; push people to explore their neighborhoods; and are a fun way to raise awareness for a cause. They can even dispatch a whole corps of participants with assignments to do good.

I started poking around and found some other groups had done scavenger hunts too:

  • The Independent Booksellers of New York City’s goal is to “keep indie bookstores thriving and raise awareness of the vital contributions that these local businesses make.” Their scavenger hunt sent teams to independent bookstores across New York City to explore what these small businesses have to offer. They gave participants a week to complete the hunt, so they’d have lots of time to check out some new reading material.
  • The Students for Free Culture believes in creativity and innovation, communication and free expression, and public access to knowledge. To contribute to everyone’s favorite public knowledge hub, they sent their teams out to take photos of landmarks across New York City that would fill in blank spaces on Wikipedia. They even had people edit the event’s Wikipedia page to RSVP!
  • The Secret Order of Do-Gooders went on a top secret mission to gather items needed by local charities.
  • One Brick organizes fundraiser scavenger hunts that take participants through local museums.

I love hearing about creative ways to get people to meet each other, collaborate, do good, and have fun. We started thinking about other ways to mix things up. A softball league for nonprofits joined our site a few weeks ago. How about a “speed dating” style meet-and-greet for local nonprofits? Or the Glasgow group that performed guerrilla acts of gardening? Or the Green Edge Collaborative who organizes “Eco-Eatery Tours?”

Can you think of fun ways to gather food for a local food bank, clean up local hiking trails, or create a collaborative work of art? Don’t forget to invite us!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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