Charities jazz up donation boxes to perk up donor appeal

The SPCA introduced its new house-shaped donation box two years ago, to suit counter-tops at supermarket chains. -- PHOTOS: CEREBRAL PALSY ALLIANCE SINGAPORE, ST FILE, SPCA
The SPCA introduced its new house-shaped donation box two years ago, to suit counter-tops at supermarket chains. -- PHOTOS: CEREBRAL PALSY ALLIANCE SINGAPORE, ST FILE, SPCA
(From left) The Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore's new Suzy Doll sports a more cheery face than the old one, dressed in blue. The SPCA introduced its new house-shaped donation box two years ago, to suit counter-tops at supermarket chains.
(From left) The Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore's new Suzy Doll sports a more cheery face than the old one, dressed in blue. The SPCA introduced its new house-shaped donation box two years ago, to suit counter-tops at supermarket chains.PHOTOS: CEREBRAL PALSY ALLIANCE SINGAPORE, ST FILE, SPCA
(From left) The Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore's new Suzy Doll sports a more cheery face than the old one, dressed in blue. The SPCA introduced its new house-shaped donation box two years ago, to suit counter-tops at supermarket chains.
(From left) The Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore's new Suzy Doll sports a more cheery face than the old one, dressed in blue. The SPCA introduced its new house-shaped donation box two years ago, to suit counter-tops at supermarket chains.PHOTOS: CEREBRAL PALSY ALLIANCE SINGAPORE, ST FILE, SPCA

The sad-looking Suzy Doll in a blue dress is getting a new look after almost 30 years, in a bid to coax people to donate more to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore.

From next month, the charity's donation box, shaped like a house, will feature a cheerful-looking girl with balloons. And it will stand at 18 cm instead of one metre.

About 55 of these boxes will be placed at public places such as Subway and Cold Storage outlets.

It is part of the charity's re-branding effort that began eight months ago with a change of name from Spastic Children's Association of Singapore.

This traditional form of fundraising, however, seems to have lost some of its lustre, say some charities.

Strategically placed near the cashier at checkout points, the idea is for shoppers to drop loose change into the donation boxes after making their purchases.

But the Singapore Children's Society said donations from about 200 boxes at retail and food outlets islandwide came to less than 0.5 per cent of its total fundraising amount this year. A decade ago, it was 1 to 1.5 per cent.

Its waning popularity is partly due to retailers and customers going cashless, said the charity's executive director Alfred Tan.

Similarly, the Singapore Red Cross said the money from its donation boxes, which goes to local humanitarian causes, does not match the sums from donation tins placed at checkout points following a major disaster.

However, said its secretary- general Benjamin William, "while the proceeds do not match that for disaster relief, these boxes are good avenues for visibility and branding".

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), for one, believes brand awareness helps propel donations.

Its donation box, with its iconic cocker spaniel or shaped like a house, is an unmistakable fixture at some retailers and supermarket chains.

"Donations have not lessened because it's so recognisable and people relate to the animal," said its executive director Corinne Fong.

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore hopes its new Suzy Dolls will have the same effect.

Founded in 1957, the charity benefits about 700 children and adults who suffer from impaired muscle control and movement as a result of brain damage.

The idea of using the Suzy Doll, with one hand holding a teddy bear and the other carrying a box that reads "Thank you for your support", came from a British volunteer.

About 30 were brought in from Britain in 1984.

There are about 60 of them islandwide, about half of which are at Subway food outlets.

The collection from these dolls came to around 7 per cent of the total funds raised last year.

It is an important source of income, said the charity's executive director Jessie Holmberg, adding that hopefully, the Dolls will "remind shoppers that there are people out there who need help".

Charities generally remain confident this traditional mode of fundraising will hold sway.

"I think donation boxes will be around for a long time because a lot of Singaporeans still prefer a simpler way of giving," said Mr Tan of Singapore Children's Society.

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg

jantai@sph.com.sg