The new Big Top

The well known Christmas charity pantomine Uncle Jumbos and AAT were in the Sunday Tribunes SM supplement on 23 September 2012. For those of you who didn’t catch it in print, here’s that article, by Alan Cooper, reproduced with kind permission from Independent Newspapers KZN:

The Internet often gets a bad rap, thanks to web scams, spam and phishing. But it’s also a wonderful tool for good, a fact perfectly illustrated by a heart warming case I came across in the past week.

As far as institutions go, they don’t get more old fashioned than Uncle Jumbos, the much loved circus themed end-of-year charity pantomime run by the Kloof Round Table for the past 38 years. But when the marquee used for the show was destroyed by a freak storm, Kloof firm Always Active Technologies, a supplier of mobile and internet services to some of South Africa’s biggest companies, put their tech know how to work on raising the close to R200 000 still needed to buy a new “big top”.

The tent was wrecked shortly before last year’s show, forcing the organisers to hire another one at a cost of R45 000. This all but wiped out the funds the Round Table was able to raise for the many deserving charities it supports and the organisation reluctantly concluded that, unless it was able to get its own replacement tent, it would be forced to cancel this year’s Uncle Jumbos show.

Round Tabler and AAT employee Carl Paton mentioned the dilemma to the company’s CEO Loet de Swart and Business Development Manager Alan Haarhoff and they immediately agreed to help.

AAT staff set to work enthusiastically brainstorming ideas for raising the funds for a new marquee and the result, in a remarkably short space of time, was SaveUncleJumbos.co.za, a simple, but effective website encouraging businesses to donate to the tent project.

It’s based on the Million Dollar Homepage, the brainchild of English student Alex Tew, comprising a million pixels arranged in a 1000 × 1000 pixel grid which he sold off for US$1 per pixel to fund his University studies.

The version AAT came up with is a lot less complicated, but just as eye catching. Instead of pixels, the campaign is selling blocks on a virtual marquee. Each block contains the donor’s name or company logo and, if they wish, a link to their website.

“Each block costs R1 000 and will remain online indefinitely,” explains De Swart. “The donor simply needs to supply their company’s artwork, and we will take care of the rest. Sure, it’s a great way to get brand recognition, but it’s really about a charitable act which, in turn, will help leverage so much more charity fund raising in future.”

Not content with building and promoting the website, AAT has also purchased several blocks on behalf of its own businesses including Streetmaps.co.za; mStatements, a mobile statements service; and ICEplus, a voice free, cell phone panic button.

“We’ve started the ball rolling. Now we challenge other businesses, particularly in the technology sector and Highway area, to match or better our contribution,” De Swart said.

Donations are paid directly into the Round Table’s bank account. Visit SaveUncleJumbos.co.za for full details.

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