Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trick or Read: UNICEF now using QR codes for digital donations

Ah, yes! The UNICEF box. An important part of the Halloween routine. After you got your candy, you'd get a handful of pennies in that flimsy cardboard box. Then you'd bring it back to school for rolling and counting.

Via Polite Dissent
I haven't spotted as many UNICEF boxes at my door in recent years, and I was wondering what had become of the "children helping children" charity. After all, it's not like a handful of pennies buys much these days, even in the developing world.

Turns out that UNICEF Canada discontinued the program five years ago because "Coin is very labour-intensive."

Is that the end of the tradition everywhere? The Cause Marketing blog today answered my curiosity: UNICEF USA has gone high tech.

"...the United States Fund for UNICEF has embraced a slick new way for kids to Trick or Treat for UNICEF. 
Today kids can Trick or Treat for UNICEF, raise good sum of money and never touch a single nickel of it. 
This Halloween the kids can print out a canister wrapper like the one at the left which features a QR code. When people scan the code using their smartphone they can make a direct donation to UNICEF 
What if the person who answers the door doesn’t have a smartphone or the necessary QR reader? 
Well a persistent Trick or Treater also knows that people can text “TOT” to UNICEF (864233) to make a $10.00 donation to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. The $10 will be added to donor’s phone bill."
I'm a little skeptical about this approach. While QR codes have become a ubiquitous part of the print communication landscape, shortening the gap between it and the digital world, some feel they have already jumped the shark. Will the average suburban mom or dad really whip out a smart phone at the door?

The texting plan, however, is much more likely to work based on my experience with the medium.

And what about the whole healthy competitive aspect? We used to compare the weight of our UNICEF boxes when we brought them into school. It was part of the fun.

If someone is going to donate $10 per text, they are maybe going to do it once for the entire night. The donations would then no longer be a matter of how many kids came to the door with boxes. One exposure to the QR or TOT code might trigger an end to the night's donations. How will the other kids feel when they are told they're carrying the boxes for nothing? And how many dishonest but polite people will say they already gave?

I think it's great that UNICEF is embracing change. But I think they've lost their connection with the kids. The money was only part of it for us. What was really important was the reminder, during a night of gluttony and greed, of how lucky we really were. I hope that is not lost on today's Halloweenies.

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