Charge it!

Red kettles offer new ways to donate.

No cash to drop into the kettle? No worries—at many red kettles donations can now be made electronically with credit/debit cards.

After successful tests in three cities in 2008—Dallas, Los Angeles and Colorado Springs—The Salvation Army rolled out wireless credit and debit payment options at red kettles in more than 300 locations nationwide. This means that this year more than 120 cities had kettles accepting electronic payments from most major credit cards. These kettles—branded with The Salvation Army’s red shield logo—are attached to traditional kettle stands as a separate donation option. Donation with a card is as simple as any electronic retail transaction, and donors receive a printed receipt for their tax-deductible donation. No personal information is stored on the machine.

Last year, in the test cities, average donations through the cashless option were $15, compared to $2 from spare change. In Colorado Springs, fundraising increased $64,000 from 2007, up 11 percent, with about $5,000 of the increase from people making electronic donations at the kettles. “It used to be people would spend their money at the store counter, walk out and drop their change in the kettles,” said Major Don Gilger, coordinator of The Salvation Army of El Paso County, based in Colorado Springs. “They don’t shop that way anymore,” he added. “We all realize that people are carrying less cash than they did 10 years ago.”

The Salvation Army is trying to help donors give in the way they would prefer—through the phone, mailing a check, online, with a credit card or at the traditional red kettle. No matter how the donation occurs, the funds received are used to help people with food, clothes, rent, toys and critical social services during Christmas and throughout the year.

Some locations—including Columbus, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C.—are experimenting with text message donations—donors can give directly to the local Red Kettle Campaign by sending a text message on their mobile phone. Other ways to support the work of The Salvation Army include hosting a virtual red kettle (, adopting children and seniors in need through the Angel Giving Tree online program hosted by JCPenney (, and calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

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