Our Customer Stories: How National Arthritis Foundation Innovated With Virtual Fundraising Events During COVID-19

Contrary to popular belief that Arthritis affects only the elderly, arthritis can actually affect children and young adults. In this article, we have Gerald, the Director of Marketing / Programmes, at the National Arthritis Foundation (NAF) to share with us their story.

NAF is the main public organisation in Singapore devoted to helping Arthritis sufferers, educating patients and the public on Arthritis. One of the key objectives of NAF is disbursing medical subsidies to arthritis patients who are financially strapped. They need access to such medication in order to cope with their condition and live normal productive lives.

1) Hi Gerald, can you start by sharing more about yourself? How did you get started with NAF?

Yes. I was previously not from the social services sector. I worked in the corporate world — from MNCs to startups — during my early career days and later went on to found a tech startup. My startup involved partnering with golf clubs regionally to allow golfers to book tee times at competitive prices while helping the golf clubs monetise their excess capacities. 3 years ago, I sold off the business to a competing company that wanted to penetrate the SEA region.

I came into the social services sector by chance when I was approached to join NAF as they were drawing up their succession plans. Having been in many different industries, I found working for a charity especially refreshing as this is where we can create real impact on lives and families.

Similar to working in a startup, NAF is a lean organisation and everyone has to wear multiple hats, from dealing with daily operations to marketing, and from human resource policies to conceptualising fundraising ideas.

I’m currently leading the charge in our organisation’s digital transformation initiatives, utilizing technology to improve our productivity as well as our service to beneficiaries.

2) Prior to circuit breaker, what were the normal daily operational activities of NAF?

NAF holds yearly flagship fundraising events such as golf tournament events and gala dinners, just to name a few.

This year we were supposed to have a golf tournament, a movie night where we had booked the whole cinema and planned to sell tickets to the public as a way of raising funds. However due to the COVID-19, we had to cancel all our events. Even our educational workshops that we typically conduct at our office premises had to be suspended. Nevertheless, we adapted and changed the way we do things.

3) When Circuit breaker kicked in, what were some challenges faced by NAF?

During the circuit breaker period, many were laid off from their jobs. As such, we received more people reaching out to us for funding.

Prior to CB, we have secured regular sponsors working with us. However, when COVID-19 came, the economic downturn made fundraising more difficult as companies were facing their own financial challenges. Thus, it was tough for us to reach out to corporates for cash sponsors for our beneficiaries.

We had to turn to engaging the public as our alternative source of fund raising. So on 1 August, we did a live virtual dinner cum entertainment charity show, where we delivered a fine dinner curated by celebrated chefs to 280 participants — mostly members of the public — and as they dined over zoom, they were entertained by celebrities like Kumar and Joanna Dong, among others.

4) What were some of the initiatives NAF came up with and how did the idea come about?

We had to pivot our fundraising ideas from being physical to virtual. It will be a virtual gala dinner event where the public can register and purchase food from FNB partners providing french or chinese cuisine and enjoy them from the comfort of their home while watching the live show that we have for them.

I had an old contact who runs event management. He made use of his logistics and gathered the entertainers to put on the show, while NAF did the operations. And jointly, we came up with the event.

5) Why did NAF choose to work with Savour! and how do you feel that Savour! will be able to benefit NAF?

I have always been supportive of startups and especially so, for tech-based startups. Savour!’s idea of aggregating merchants who are open to providing their products at a lower rate for organisations like NAF is really meaningful.

It really helps NAF to simplify the process of sourcing for products within our tight budget and sponsorship for our beneficiaries.

I am really looking forward to using Savour!’s platform soon!

Thank you for your time, Gerald! The idea of organising an online dinner with performances by our local celebrities sounds great!

If you are inspired by Gerald’s sharing and want your organisation’s events to benefit from savings via using Savour!’s platform, sign up for a free account now on our web platform at https://app.savourapp.co to start placing corporate orders available at corporate/charity/bulk discounts and getting in-kind sponsorships.