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Charity work is a pretty big thing in my family. Once a month, we pick up a trunk’s worth of daily necessities and deliver them to homes around Singapore. Some of us also make personal donations on an annual basis. But on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself wondering if there isn’t an easier way to do good. (You would too, if you were about to deliver a package to Marsiling, and found yourself on the way to Johor without a U-turn sign in sight.)

All I wanted was to go to Marsiling. (Image Credit: TODAY)
All I wanted was to go to Marsiling. (Image Credit: TODAY)

And I think I might have just found my answer.

Big on Buying (BOB) is an online platform based in Singapore that allows visitors to purchase vouchers which can be used at various merchants around the island. These include brands like Fred Perry, Costa Coffee, Courts and Popular. And if you were wondering: no, they don’t sell anything else apart from vouchers. In fact, they’re the first online store in Singapore to exclusively sell vouchers on their site.

So where does the charitable aspect fit in all of this? Nelson Lee, co-founder of The Manhattan Project — which incubated BOB — and founder of BOB, Jason Song, were kind enough to fill us in.

How It Works

A visit to Gobob.sg reveals a tab with a list of all the brands and merchants that the team has partnered with. Simply click on a brand you would like to buy vouchers to, and you’ll be able to view the various denominations the vouchers are available in. If you can’t decide on one specific voucher, you can also purchase a BOB Card, which you will be able to trade for vouchers later on.

Shoppers have the option to customise the wrapping that their vouchers will come in for free – even if you’re going to send it to yourself, there’s no harm in making it pretty, right?

Image Credit: Big on Buying
Image Credit: Big on Buying

After you cart out — delivery is free for purchases above $100, and $5 otherwise — all you have to do is wait for the vouchers to arrive at your, or your recipient’s home.

And this is where the charity comes in: with each purchase, you accumulate credits in your account on BOB. These credits work like cash, and can either be donated, or used to offset the cost of future voucher purchases.

GOBOB retailers

Currently, users can only nominate their credit points to go to one of three listed charities on BOB: the Red Cross, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS) and Touch Community Services. Jason explains why this is so: “Our strategy first is to ensure each charity gets a decent amount. Currently, we are raising donations of up to $10,000 for some…our model can’t support another charity [and we] don’t want to spread the goodwill too thin, so to speak.”

In the future though, they plan to hold campaigns to bring attention to the charities, and also allow users to vote for the charities they want to see on BOB.

Consumerism Is Not All Bad

Jason shares his reason for starting BOB: “Consumption is here to stay. There’s no getting around that. But so much good can be done if just a little of that purchase goes to charity…What if we could give consumers a chance to give back the little savings that they accumulate? We set off to create a for-profit organisation that would never need to call for donations.”

Image Credit: thekrazycouponlady.com
Image Credit: thekrazycouponlady.com

So what BOB does, in essence, is to give shoppers the option of donating their savings to a good cause, while allowing merchants, consumers and charities to mutually benefit one another. And it seems to be working, for now: Jason reveals that more than 80% of their customers are choosing to donate their credits, helping them raise thousands for their beneficiaries so far.

Overall, BOB is a convenient way for time-starved Singaporeans to play a part for their community, though I’d like to think that my delivery efforts thus far haven’t been in vain, either. A couple more detours to Johor, however, and I might just jump on the BOB bandwagon wholeheartedly.

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