Thursday, February 9, 2012

Old Charity. New Technology.

According to the Associated Press, the Salvation Army set a record for donations generated by their ubiquitous "Red Kettle" fundraising efforts this past holiday season. Bell ringers attracted $147.6-million dollars eclipsing the $142-million dollar record set in 2010. More than $41-million dollars were collected outside Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores alone!

The Salvation Army has been collecting donations with their red kettles since 1891, but don't think they are stuck in the past. Recently, they have launched two "virtual kettle" programs. Now, individuals, teams, or corporations can host their own Online Red Kettles. Using Salvation Army web-tools, supporters can build a personal Online Red Kettle page, upload an address book, and send email invitations that encourage friends and family to support the cause.

Additionally, the charity introduced an option to make credit card donations on-the-spot using mobile payment technology through a Salvation Army representative's smartphone. The Salvation Army is the biggest nonprofit to adopt mobile payment technology offered by Square Inc. 

There are a couple of interesting lessons that can be learned from these initiatives:
  • A 147 year old organization can learn "new tricks", particularly if they focus on the needs of the donor.  Major George Hood, the charity's spokesman stated, “A lot of people just don’t carry cash any more. We’re basically trying to make sure we’re keeping up with our donors and embrace the new technologies they’re embracing.”  Three cheers to the Major and his associates!
  • A lot of small donations sure add up! Don't underestimate the impact of volume. Considering that the average kettle gift is less than $2.00, amassing $147.6 -million is an achievement that might understandably be considered totally unrealistic if a charity hadn't just gone out and done it
I look forward to seeing what the Salvation Army does next.

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