Carolyn Harper made her appeal for donations to the Salvation Army with a smile on her face and a bell in her hand.
But several people apologized to Harper and said they did not have cash to drop into the large red container. Most walked past her before she could explain that the Salvation Army no longer depends only on cash donations. Now, Americans who want to give money to the aid group can just use their smartphone.
Heather Bishop was among those who did wait to hear about the non-cash payment system. She completed her electronic donation while keeping a close watch on her two young children.
“It was fast, very easy,” Bishop said. “All of my giving is online.”
Salvation Army officials hope that adding online donation options will help the group’s effort to raise money. The Salvation Army reports that the red kettle campaign is responsible for 10 percent of all donations collected each year. The money is used to provide housing, food and other support for needy Americans.
“Those red kettle campaign funds help us throughout the entire year housing the homeless, feeding the hungry and helping families overcome poverty,” said Dale Bannon. He is the assistant national community relations director for Salvation Army USA.
“I think the future is bright, but we have to…provide multiple options for people to give,” Bannon said.
Americans’ use of cash to buy things has decreased over time, notes the Pew Research Center. It found that about 46 percent of Americans “don’t really worry much” about leaving home without cash because they use credit cards or other forms of payment.
As a result, not-for-profits organizations have increased their online fundraising efforts. But campaigns that are made of mostly spur-of-the-moment donations outside stores feel the effects of an increasingly cashless society.
The Salvation Army has tested other cashless systems before, but they take up time and are not as easy as simply dropping money into the red kettles.
Donors want “an easy and quick” way, Bannon said.
So, the Salvation Army has placed a tag containing a microchip on its kettles. Donors can tap their phone on the tag and write in the amount they want to donate.
Not all phones work. Some people can use their phone’s camera need to take a picture of the QR code, which connects them with a donation form.
Any mobile donations are sent to the Salvation Army office that is nearest to the donor’s home.
This year marks the Salvation Army’s 129th red kettle fundraising campaign. The group hopes to collect $150 million in donations.
Bannon said there is a processing charge for mobile donations, which is between 2 and 2.5 percent.
Carolyn Harper said she hopes the new systems will increase donations to the Salvation Army. Her only concern is the cold weather in Chicago and other parts of the country. She said the weather could prevent people from stopping to use the mobile system.
“Right now, it’s easy,” she said. “Hopefully it works out when it’s really cold out."
I’m Anne Ball.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
bell – n. a small metallic object that makes a ringing sound
cash – n. physical money
option – n. a choice
spur-of-the-moment – adj. an urge to do something that is not planned
microchip – n. a small, thing piece of semiconducting material, usually found inside a computer
tap – v. to strike lightly; to touch