SINGAPORE, 23 November 2004 - What do coffee vending machines and bottle caps have to do with school pocket money?
The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund team turned them into fund-raising initiatives, which together raised $3.5 million last year to help more than 11,000 needy children, many of whom often go hungry during recess time simply because they don’t have money to buy food from their school canteen.
The Fund, launched in October 2000, has raised $10.7 million in the last four years, and aims to collect $3 million this year.
As part of its fund-raising drive, the School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) team has to constantly find creative and innovative ideas to get support from corporations.
For example, the idea to use coffee vending machines started brewing when Citibank management, which was approached by the SPMF team, said it was willing to contribute to the cause but would not be able to spare its own staff volunteers because of pressing work commitments at the time. SPMF then suggested that every Citibank staff, including visitors, who took a drink from the vending machine pay 10 cents to the Fund.
The idea paid off. Citibank raised some $56,000 and has supported the Fund since.
The SPMF team also sold the Caps for a Cause idea to Brands Essence of Chicken. For every cap collected, Brands will donate 20 cents to the Fund. The aim is to collect 100,000 caps, which a group of arts students will use to make a giant chicken for Brands Essence to usher in the Year of the Rooster in 2005.
These are among the slew of win-win ideas which helped The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund clinch the inaugural Innovative Fund Raising Initiative Award given out by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) to honour best practices in giving. The winners of five categories will receive their awards from President S.R. Nathan at the Istana this evening.
The citation for the award to SPMF says: "The Innovative Fund Raising Initiative recognises creativity and innovation in fund-raising programmes or methods with a significant impact on target beneficiaries and the community at large.
"What began as a simple idea has grown into a sustainable fund raising initiative big on heart and action, continuously surprising with its creativity and innovation."
The SPMF originated from a story published in The Straits Times on Children´s Day, on 1 October 2000. A reporter stumbled on the plight of school children from low-income homes who had no money to buy food during recess. The report catapulted ST journalists into action, and they soon formed a volunteer team to find innovative ways to raise public awareness and funds to help the needy children.
Newsroom volunteers and their editors also organised unusual fund raising “hooks” to attract the public´s attention to the Fund. Examples include volunteering to pump petrol and polish windscreens at a Caltex station off Holland Road on Children´s Day 2003.
Sustained by unflagging enthusiasm and conviction for the cause, the Fund grew from an in-house volunteer effort among journalists into a high profile initiative that has resonated throughout Singapore. Corporations, groups, schools and individuals from all levels of society, have come forward to partner The Straits Times in its fund raising efforts for the Fund. Many even organise their own creative fund raising events to add to the Fund.
On winning the NVPC award, Mr Peter Khoo, organising chairman of the SPMF, said: "With gratitude and humility, The Straits Times receives this award, which it wishes to share with its readers. Young or old, local or foreign, they have supported the School Pocket Money Fund. They have demonstrated that Singapore has tremendous will and heart for the needy.
"We are all grateful for the opportunity to serve and this award will undoubtedly motivate us to do more to help the less-fortunate children in our midst.’’
Added Straits Times Editor Han Fook Kwang, who led a busload of ST staff to Raffles Place to sell Caltex car decals and bears at the launch of this year’s fund-raising drive on 1 Oct: " We are deeply honoured and want to thank all our readers who have contributed so generously. We wanted to help the less well-off in the community and to use the influence of The Straits Times to reach out to all Singaporeans. They responded magnificently and deserve this award."
SPH staff also pitched in big ways and small to help build up the School Pocket Money Fund.
One STTV assistant producer bakes cakes and sells them to staff weekly, ST photographers collated their best pictures and made them into postcards which they sold to the public, while ST artists and cartoonists produced a calendar showcasing their best works for sale, and an in-house charity bazaar raised over $12,000.
Staff from other divisions chipped in by helping to process cheques for the Fund and also send out Thank You notes, ST journalists contributed fund-raising ideas, and Marketing’s art department helped design collaterals, posters and advertisements.
"It has been one tremendous effort by the entire SPH family," said Peter Khoo.
Besides the SPMF, other SPH newspapers also did their bit for charity. Lianhe Zaobao raised $180,000 from the ZPOP zbNOW Concert in August and The New Paper collected $140,000 from the Be Yourself Day, a fund-raising event targeting students, for this year´s President´s Challenge.
And SPH MediaWorks´ Channel U exceeded expectations when it raised a record $7 million from its second Charity Show in January this year for the Ren Ci Hospital and Medical Centre.
SPH´s corporate giving culture
The various fund-raisers are part of SPH’s on-going efforts to help the less fortunate in Singapore. As an active and involved corporate citizen, SPH believes that it has a responsibility to help improve the quality of life in the community in which it operates by providing funding, staff volunteers, and other resources of our newspapers, as well as helping to raise funds for worthy causes.
During its just-ended Financial year 2004, SPH continued to demonstrate its strong community involvement and contributed to a broad spectrum of programmes, ranging from arts and culture, education, conservation, to sports and charity, which reach out to all races.
In all, SPH contributed $4.276 million in sponsorship and donation to various community and charitable causes.
SPH´s CEO Alan Chan said: “For SPH, corporate giving is a way of giving back to the society which has supported us and our corporate culture to help the less fortunate and build a stronger community. We will continue to strongly promote this spirit of giving and compassion at all levels in SPH.”
Highlights of SPH´s sponsorship and donation events in 2004
Support for local arts and culture
Arts need the support of corporations to thrive. A staunch supporter in this area, SPH, as a talent and creative company, believes it has a role to play in promoting and nurturing home-grown talent and giving them a platform to express their works and creativity, as well as making the arts more accessible to young people.
Some of the major arts events sponsored by SPH in FY04:
Education – cornerstone of outreach effort
Supporting education is the cornerstone of our community outreach efforts, and these included the SPH Reading Room project to promote the reading culture, SPH Geography Challenge, TheatreWorks´ Writers Lab to discover and groom young playwrights, through the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition, the Singapore Young Dramatist Award and the Greenhouse Project.
Contributions by SPH´s Chinese newspapers
The Chinese Newspapers Division (CND), which groups the SPH´s flagship Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, and two Chinese evening dailies, Shin Min Daily News and Lianhe Wanbao, also stepped up efforts to engage students by sponsoring more than 20 activities, ranging from school essay, song-writing, calligraphy and current affairs competition to Chinese cultural knowledge quizzes, contributing some $500,000 to these activities.
To help promote Chinese culture and traditions, CND also continued to support the annual Singapore River Hongbao and Chinese Cultural Festival.
As part of bringing National Day cheer to the needy elderly, SPH gave out $200,000 to 20 charity and welfare organisations caring for aged sick and destitute, on 23 August 2004, in an organised group giving.
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