The Illustrious History of Charity Bingo
As a game, bingo has been around since the 16th century. During this time, it has enjoyed many different guises and benefited from its malleability as a game, providing players with the option to transform its substance while maintaining its overall form. While today it is readily available online on the form of both prize-winning and free bingo, it is still one of the most popular games within community groups - particularly when it comes to raising money for good causes. Yet charity bingo has a long tradition.
They key to the continued success of bingo over the years is the role it plays within the community. Bringing people together from all walks of life to meet over a common interest, the game has already played its part in uniting disparate communities. It is this community spirit that saw the emergence of bingo as a popular source of fundraising for charitable works. Since the 1950s, church groups would regularly organise bingo meetings to raise money for good causes championed by the church, and because these causes were at the heart of the game it allowed bingo to flourish.
Separated from regular gambling through the endorsement of religious groups, bingo could enjoy its status practically unchallenged. This mutually beneficial coexistence between bingo and charities saw bingo halls begin to name charities with which they would become affiliated, engineering a relationship that would see a regular commission from the bingo revenue aid the charity in question. Naturally (although not exclusively the catalyst for this move) such an affiliation could only be beneficial to the bingo hall as good public relations. Players themselves were happier to pay for games knowing that a portion of the card money was being donated to a cause that could benefit the whole community.
Needless to say, it was not only big bingo halls that continued their charity ethos. Small scale bingo nights have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years for good causes varying from Leukaemia funds to bespoke wheelchairs, and have been as geographically disparate as Exeter and Inverness. The ease with which both young and old can grasp the game has ensured in true community spirit that nobody gets left behind, and all can join together and enjoy each the company of each other knowing that they will make a difference, no matter how small.
Margaret Mead, renowned American anthropologist of the 20th century, said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” The people of the United Kingdom in general and the charity of the bingo community in particular have certainly and consistently proven this idiom to be true.