In this edition of Groundup Features: we caught up with Jonathan from Contribute SG, as he shares about the formation of his ground-up initiative, being an active community contributor and his passion for building relationships with partners and stakeholders.
1. Hi Jonathan, thanks for joining us today! Could you please share a bit about yourself, for our readers!
Hi everyone, I am Jonathan and I am currently working as a Digital Media Analyst. Outside of my work, I have been active in various social causes since my tertiary days. Being an active contributor has become part of my life, so I am always on the lookout to give back to the community.
This is how I started Contribute SG – when COVID-19 happened, I saw a problem. I then came up with an intention message and various campaigns to solve that problem. Besides Contribute SG, I also serve in Lions Club and Roses of Peace.
I also started a few personal community initiatives. I collaborated with Republic Polytechnic to purchase NTUC vouchers and distributed them to cleaners and security guards in appreciation of their work; gave tokens of appreciation to the nursing staff at Changi General Hospital, National Centre for Infectious Diseases, and Singapore General Hospital on Valentine’s Day (I also composed the lyrics for a song and arranged the purchase of flowers).
I handed out car shields with positive messages in the multi-storey carpark at my estate and lastly, I pooled financial resources with three friends to purchase lozenges for the contact tracers and helped to give them an added boost of morale during these challenging times.
I welcome vibrant exchanges and communication with Voluntary Welfare Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations, and other organisations. I believe that these interactions facilitate better understanding of gaps within the community and creates opportunities to fulfil those needs.
2. You mentioned that Contribute SG was started amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. What was the main spark of inspiration that made you start Contribute SG?
In an effort to foster a spirit of giving and generosity instead of hate and fear, my co-founder and I started Contribute SG. Back in January 2020, I saw the news about Singaporeans hogging items at supermarkets and retail outlets, some even leaving the items aside after taking them off the shelves. This action may cause staff members and senior shoppers to trip due to the narrow aisles of the outlets.
I thought about what I could do as a solution to this situation and decided on the idea of using Giving.sg as a platform to ask the public to donate their items, so that we could redistribute it to the vulnerable individuals and communities.
I posted on my Facebook wall to garner responses and sentiments from my friends on the solution. Jerry, a friend who had seen the post, proceeded to WhatsApp me saying that he was keen to take part in it. We started immediately since the opportunity to do good was already laid out in front of us. Tapping on our strengths – Jerry who has experience with IT, helped to set up a website while I tapped on my connections, engagement and partnership to help with Contribute SG.
I first shared my idea with Kim Choo Kueh Chang and Home Nursing Foundation, asking if they could let us use their locations as a drop-off point for the donations. They were supportive and said okay! Knowing that we needed more than two drop-off points, I then reached out to Singapore Kindness Movement, Marine Parade Community Centre and a few other locations. This was how Contribute SG started.
To date, Contribute SG has distributed 604,582 surgical masks, 34,753 fabric masks and 116,240 bottles of hand sanitisers.
3. Thank you for sharing about your inspiration! What are some of the projects that Contribute SG has worked on or is currently working on?
Most recently, I reached out to a representative from Yuri Distribution Company and asked if they were keen to collaborate with us, by donating liquid detergent for SG Cares Giving Week. The representative also proposed using their company welfare fund, where staff members forked out a small amount of money to buy confectionary and dry food items, to donate the items instead of having it themselves.
It was a successful collaboration and we are now looking to plan the next Corporate Social Responsibility project, which will probably be during Hari Raya.
Overseas Foreign Worker in Singapore
Contribute SG is in collaboration with Facebook group, “Overseas Foreign Worker in Singapore”. We support them by supplying surgical and reusable mask for their daily work usage. We also supported the singing competition they held, sponsoring $300 prize money for their 2nd Prize Giveaway.
In December 2020, we collaborated with LionsForge, a start-up company focused on developing manufacturing technologies. Together, we reached out to beneficiaries of Rare Disorders Society (Singapore) for their wish list items. Using the artwork they’ve drawn, LionsForge proceeded to create custom-made toys for the recipients.
Prior to this collaboration, we have also worked together to distribute face shields to Town Council Cleaners and Hawkers owners.
Project Wellness has a pool of volunteers helping to sew transparent fabric mask. However, they do not have a network of recipients to distribute these masks to. They reached out to Contribute SG to collaborate and we assisted by handing out the masks to our list of beneficiaries.
Currently, they are working on sewing pillowcase covers and we are working with them to see which hospice or home may require these items.
We are currently in contact with Nigel from GoodHood.SG and are exploring how we can streamline the food donation process. A possible solution we have come up with, is to direct the public to donate food items at Senior Activity Centres (SAC). Recipients of these SACs can head down to collect the items but will have to produce identification to ensure accountability.
4. And what’s next for Contribute SG?
We’re in talks with Hey, You Got Mail! to see how we can collaborate. Hey, You Got Mail! is a groundup which sends out hand-made cards to seniors living in homes and hospices. We hope to involve Lions Befrienders seniors in the creation of the hand-made cards. This gives it a nice touch and makes it relatable, as it is written by a senior for a senior.
5. We want to learn more about you next! What keeps you going as co-founder of Contribute SG?
I think it’s the interest and passion that I have as an active community contributor. When I see that there’s a need, I will try my best to work out a solution. If there’s an available platform for me to use, I will leverage it and spread positive messages. If we can do something, why not act on it! If you do have an idea, share it with someone and see how you can work together to make it happen.
6. And were there any challenges that you encountered?
Yes, we faced a logistic challenge! As Jerry and I do not drive, we had to tap on Grab or Lalamove to courier the items from the donation drop-off points. Thankfully, this is a challenge that can be overcome as long as we carefully manage our funding and finances.
Another challenge that I personally faced was garnering responses from organisations or individuals that I’ve emailed. Sometimes, the email may bounce or there might be no response. However, I follow up with either a phone call or tapping on my network to see if they could introduce me to the person I’ve contacted.
7. Since we’re on the topic of communication, are there any tips you have on engaging different stakeholders?
Be it work or volunteer engagement, I like to use what I call, the “C Model”.
The first C is Contact – This means finding new organisations or individuals that I have not met before.
The second C is Connect – I get to know the individual or organisation better and develop a friendship with them.
The third C is Convert – Conversion in this sense, is to have alignment in terms of our opinions or thoughts on a specific idea or solution.
The last C is Continue – How can we continue to do more events or campaigns?
These 4 “C”s makes engagement and partnership an easier process for myself.
8. It seems that relationship building is a key part of what you do! Were there any trade-offs or sacrifices you made to build the relationship?
It takes time to form a relationship with our partners. The communication does not stop immediately after an individual or organisation donates. I try my best to keep the relationship warm, in view of future collaborations that may happen.
The initial relationship building may start over WhatsApp, where ideas and stories are shared. When both parties are comfortable with each other, this may progress to in-person meetings. Despite having to take time out of my personal schedule, I don’t see it as my time and effort being wasted because I love interacting with people.
9. What’s a piece of advice you would tell your younger self?
If you come across any ideas or see any obstacles, go ahead, and make the first step to develop a concept or solution! Speak to your friends and ask them if the idea is feasible. If it is – act on it and Google for the resources that you’ll need. Widen your network and do not be afraid to contact the different stakeholders. Take the first step, initiate and act on it.
10. And any advice for those who want to start up their own groundup?
Decide on the key message you want to tell the public. From there, research the gaps that are present in the specific social cause you are interested in. Branch out even further and find out who the existing partners are for this social cause. Think about the ways you can value add, in order not to have a duplication of idea.
11. Finally, how do you hope your initiative builds a city of good?
I believe that the 3P Model (Public, Private and People) helps Contribute SG build a city of good.
Working closely with the government, organisations, and individuals allows us to support one another. This support helps us to create meaningful projects for beneficiaries and in return, we feel happy when we receive smiles from the beneficiaries.
12. Bonus cheeky question! Which superpower would you rather have: the ability to fly or be invisible?
I would choose the ability to be invisible. I would like to be behind-the-scenes, a subtle pushing force or factor that will encourage people to initiate an idea.