Ring-a-ling, hear them ring. The bright red buckets are popping up outside grocery stores and shopping malls. No change? No problem! This year, there’s a new way for you to donate to the classic kettle. Try using your smartphone.
It’s the 129th year for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaigns and lively bell ringers. With the late Thanksgiving holiday, the charity has six fewer days to raise cash. Officials hope mobile options will help make up for lost time.
Heather Bishop recently used the non-cash option in Chicago. She made her electronic donation while keeping an eye on her two young children after a stop at the American Girl store. “It was fast, very easy,” Bishop says. “All of my giving is online.”
The Pew Research Center says Americans’ dependence on physical cash has declined over time. Evidently, about 46% of Americans “don’t really worry much” about leaving home without cash because of other payment options.
Salvation Army leaders hope adding e-payment options will boost giving to the campaign—which makes up 10% of its annual fundraising. Those donations help provide housing, food, and other support to people in poverty.
The Salvation Army has tested other cashless options in recent years. They’ve tried a text message-based program and credit and debit card readers that plugged into bell ringers’ phones. But both were too time-consuming compared to dropping cash into the kettle. Donors prefer “an easy and quick” option, Salvation Army community relations director Dale Bannon says.
The change appears subtle—a tag containing a microchip is affixed to the Salvation Army sign attached to each kettle stand.
The e-option is definitely easy. Donors tap their phone to the tag. That opens a donation form that suggests giving $5, $10, or $25. Donors also can type in a different amount. Then they hit “send.”
There is one financial downside to these non-cash gifts: They trigger processing fees.
Still, bell ringer Carolyn Harper says she hopes the new system will increase donations. Her only concern is that cold temperatures in Chicago and other parts of the country will discourage people from taking time to use it.
“Right now, it’s easy,” she says. “Hopefully it works out when it’s really cold out.”
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. — 2 Corinthians 9:7
(Bell ringer Carolyn Harper points to two ways to donate via mobile device to the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)