Square & QR Codes Power Mobile Donations For Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.


The Red Kettle campaign is known for its success with spare change donations. But in a near cashless society, spare change is not as easy to come by.  Find out how Square and QR Codes are helping.

The Salvation Army’s familiar Red Kettle and crew of friendly bell ringers have long been cultural icons for helping those in need during the holidays. The tradition of collecting spare change donations from holiday shoppers goes back to 1891, when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee, troubled by an alarming poverty rate in San Francisco, set a goal of feeding 1000 of the city’s poorest individuals on Christmas day. Looking for a creative way to fund this project, he was inspired by his memory of “Simpson’s Pot” at a boat landing in Liverpool, England. People would toss coins in to the pot to help the poor. He re-created the tradition at San Francisco’s Oak Ferry Landing, with a large kettle and a sign that said “Keep the Pot Boiling.” The effort proved successful, and the idea spread from city to city, and eventually around the world. Today, approximately 30 million Americans each year receive hunger relief, disaster relief, clothing, shelter and more from the Salvation Army. The organization reaches over four-and-a-half million just during Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2010 alone, the Salvation Army collected donations of $142 million to go towards food, clothing, toys and other necessities for those in need.

Today’s society presents a new challenge for the Red Kettle Campaign. Passers-by may be willing to reach in to their pockets, but are likely to come up only with credit cards, debit cards, or a smartphone. The Salvation Army is meeting this challenge with same spirit of creativity and determination, by expanding the concept of the Red Kettle with mobile technology, and providing donors with several convenient options for giving.

Square rings up credit card donations.

This year the nonprofit has equipped bell ringers in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, and New York with smartphones and Square credit card readers. Square is comprised of a small mobile attachment for swiping credit cards and a smartphone app which processes the payment. Now when you pass a Red Kettle, it is as simple to swipe your credit card as it would be to dig in your pockets or purse for spare change.

The San Francisco-based Square, Inc. provided the readers and the mobile app for the credit card reading service. The Square devices are easy to use, and have quickly gained popularity with small businesses, contractors, and other merchants across the country. Square can work with the iPhone, iPad, or Android devices. Sprint donated smartphones for the modernized Red Kettle campaign and is also providing the wireless service.

Here is a brief video showing how quickly a Salvation Army bell ringer can take a credit payment with the Square device.

“This partnership brings together the history of the campaign in San Francisco and a great technology from Square that makes it easier than ever for people to donate,” says Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army.

QR codes, text-to-give, and social media expand giving opportunities.

In addition to the Square device for credit card donations, The Salvation Army is exploring other ways to make donating easier. The St. Petersburg, Salvation_Army_Christmas_QR_Code1Florida location is experimenting this year with QR codes, the square shaped black and white bar codes that can be read by any smartphone and an appropriate QR code scanner app. The Salvation Army has placed QR codes on all of its red kettles in South Pinellas County. If a passer-by does not have cash or change, he can simply scan the QR code with his smartphone, and be taken to an online kettle where he can make an electronic donation.

“In an attempt to keep up with technology and to provide donors with multiple ways to make contributions to The Salvation Army this year, we decided to use QR codes in association with our traditional kettle program, ” says Timothy P. Gilliam, Major Area Commander for St. Petersburg, Florida. “We’ve seen quite a bit of interest and believe this may become a very viable option for donors in the years to come.”

QR Codes, text-to-give campaigns, and social media efforts are being tried at other Salvation Army locations in order to increase awareness and make donating easier for everyone.

As Major Hood puts it, “With so many Americans continuing to struggle amidst the economic downturn, giving back to your neighbors in need has never been more important.”

Now, with Square and QR code technology, giving back has never been simpler.




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