UNICEF’s Trick-Or-Treat Box Gets A High-Tech Upgrade

Little has changed about UNICEF’s iconic orange boxes in the past decades — until now.

UNICEF trick or treat box


If you’re under 60 years old and living in the U.S., chances are pretty high that you once toted UNICEF’s orange Trick or Treat box from house to house on Halloween night, gathering change to give to the humanitarian organization. This coming Halloween, things will be a little different: The boxes will be outfitted with Microsoft Tags so that donors can choose to give online in addition to (or instead of) dropping change in the boxes themselves.

The idea originally stemmed from a Microsoft and PSFK-sponsored study that looked at ways to increase fundraising using mobile technology. UNICEF is still working out the details, but the new program will go something like this: Users scan the Microsoft Tag (a kind of QR code) on the side of the UNICEF boxes with their cell phones. They are brought to a special Trick or Treat website featuring activities for kids and perhaps most importantly, educational information and facts about where UNICEF’s dollars are going.

“In the original campaign, kids knew where money was going,” says Caryl Stern, UNICEF president and CEO. “The program was school based. In more recent years there have been a lot of different dispersement mechanisms. People can order from us, pick up [the boxes] up at retail outlets … without as much emphasis
on education.”

Now that kids and parents can use Microsoft Tags to quickly land on the UNICEF page, Stern hopes that there will be increased awareness about UNICEF’s good works. In mid-2009, for example, Somalia–a country rife with malnourished children–imposed a ban on foreign aid. UNICEF was able to successfully negotiate the situation, and this past month, the organization made an air drop in
the region with enough health supplies to last 100,000 people for three months.

“This definitely will increase awareness as to how our dollars are used and why the
dollars are raised,” says Stern. “Our hope is that this is the start of something
that results in more donations.”

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more