(The main part of this blog was originally written two years ago, since when, despite my best efforts, the British Legion is still using the same old collection boxes).
The Royal British Legion, like so many charities, issues its collectors with boxes on which the slit in the top is so small that it shouts out "coins", rather than "notes".
Having just returned from doing her rounds, my wife reports that the 'going rate' is a £1 coin - with three notable exceptions. There was one professional miser, who paid 65 pence (£0.65) in small coins before helping himself to three poppies. One old age pensioner donated a £5 note and another (94 year old) handed over a £10 note for one poppy.
Time to redesign the box
Given the design of the coin box, this doesn't surprise me at all - not only because the meagre slit so obviously encourages meagre donations, but also because it takes determination and a degree of manual dexterity to get a note to go in at all.
With the fiver, our smallest note (both in size and denomination), you either have to fold it long-ways before threading it through the slot, or, if you fold it sideways, you have to fold it again before it will fit into the slit. By the time you've done that, it becomes so fat that it takes yet more effort to push it down into the container.
Two new collection box design features
1. A wider and thicker slit
To urge donors to give notes rather than coins, all that's needed is a slit that's considerably wider and thicker than the present one. I've checked this out, and there's quite enough space on the top of the existing collecting boxes to make the hole long enough to accommodate a £20 note (inserted long-ways from one end).
2 A transparent lid or sides
The pressure on people to hand over a note rather than a £1 coin could be increased by issuing collectors with a float of a few £5 and £10 notes that would be clearly visible to prospective donors through the top and/or sides of the box.
The cost of such a redesign would surely be negligible, but the gains from persuading more people to give notes rather than coins could be very considerable indeed. After all, when our lowest denomination note is 5 times greater than the £1 coin, you only need to collect a few more of them to see a dramatic increase in total revenue.
P.S. 25 October 2011
I wrote to the British Legion about this last year, but received no reply. Collection boxes identical to those used last year have now arrived on our doorstep. So I'll have to try again in the hopes that they'll redesign it in time for next year's poppy appeal.
P.P.S. 24 October 2012
Last year's efforts, alas, failed again and the British Legion is still insisting on issuing these useless collection boxes. At a local meeting of the Legion a couple of weeks ago, I complained that they never replied to a suggestion that seems to have widespread support. The explanation (from a former officer) was that the organisation is run by NCOs who don't have much of a clue about things like - er - fund-raising...
P.P.P.S. 25 October 2012
Publicity via Twitter has prompted some emails that support the view that all may not be well at British Legion HQ. One said:
'Sadly the Legion is somewhere in the dark ages as to commercial acumen and sense. As always in monolithic organisations, there is strong resistance to change.
'It is clear that there is a marketing department somewhere in its bowels. but they appear to be more concerned with the glitzy bits like getting celebs to do launches and tacky goods like brollys.'
Another says that the official launch in London was a bit short on poppy sellers:
'I was at Trafalgar Square just after the launch yesterday. Hordes of folk about, quite a few wounded veterans, press, celebs, stewards, etc. but only ONE poppy seller... yet another opportunity missed.'
And one defends my position (for which thanks):'Shameful on three grounds:
- Patently obvious simple common sense.
- Appalling lack of commercial nous by British Legion management.
- Unforgivable lack of courtesy by management's failure to reply - even if they [wrongly] disagreed.'