Donate to a charity and you could win a Mercedes-Benz car in a lucky draw - this was the promise made by The Given Company (TGC), a social enterprise launched in August.
With less than a month before the draw, TGC has informed donors that it had been cancelled and they would be getting a refund of their donations.
In a notice sent to donors on Oct 9, TGC founder Charles Tan blamed media reports and the controversy surrounding the lucky draw as reasons behind the cancellation.
He said: "While we expected and were prepared for detractors, having to address their concerns undoubtedly diverted our resources, delayed our marketing efforts and impacted overall sales."
The notice added that the draw, which had been scheduled for Nov 2, was cancelled so it could plan for the next draw next year.
Mr Tan added: "We apologise for not being able to give away the Mercedes-Benz as planned and any disappointment this may cause."
An edited version was also posted on the TGC website and its Facebook page.
TGC had touted its operating model of offering prizes to incentivise donors as a new way of helping charities raise money, which Mr Tan likened to the sale of charity raffle tickets.
The New Paper reported on Aug 31 that the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee, among others, were critical of TGC's model as it did not promote the true spirit of donating.
Mr Ee told TNP on Tuesday he was glad the draw had been cancelled. He hoped TGC had done so in response to public opinion that incentivising donations undermines the value of charity and sends the wrong signal about giving.
The Office of the COC told TNP on Wednesday that it had met with TGC.
DONATING AMOUNT RAISED
"We understand that they have cancelled their inaugural lucky draw and will be offering a full refund to their supporters," the COC spokesman said.
"TGC also intends to honour the charitable intention by donating the amount raised to-date to the selected charities."
The spokesman said COC could not comment on TGC's intention to bring back the lucky draw as it does not have details of TGC's new operating model.
TGC said in August that as part of the lucky draw, 50,000 T-shirts would be sold for $20 each, with the proceeds going to the buyer's selected charity.
In the lucky draw, each buyer could win cash prizes ranging from $8 to $40, with the Mercedes-Benz as the grand prize.
Mr Tan said at the time: "It is about giving people a small little nudge to do something that they are not doing frequently enough."
He also said that TGC could offer a condominium unit as the grand prize in future draws, with TGC taking a 5 per cent to 10 per cent commission on each donation to cover costs.
A donor, Mr Jonathan Tan, a 29-year-old executive in a non-profit organisation, said he found out TGC had changed the grand prize from a Mercedes-Benz to a holiday when he checked its website on Monday.
Pointing out that TGC had not notified him of the change, he said: "I am not upset but disappointed. They are raising money for charities, so honouring the deal would have been good for their credibility."
According to the TGC notice to donors, TGC will be donating $13,000 to its partner charities.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one of TGC's partner charities, told TNP: "The company has informed us of and provided an explanation for the cancellation.
"We understand their decision. We have been informed that full refunds will be provided and we will be following up to ensure this is done."
When TNP asked Mr Tan what TGC had done with the prizes that it claimed to have already bought, he declined to comment and directed TNP to its website and social media sites.
A check on the website shows a "dream car", an "amazing holiday" and a "luxury condominium" offered as prizes for draws in 2019.
Those who click on the "I'm interested" bar are asked to provide their personal details and how many tickets at $20 each they would like to buy.
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.