For the first time in its 130-year history, The Salvation Army is starting its annual holiday fundraising campaign several weeks early to meet the needs of the underserved during the pandemic. Last year, the organization served about 68,000 Hoosiers during the Christmas season; this year, it says demand has surged to more than 105,000. However, the pandemic is creating new challenges, particularly for the iconic red kettles that collect much of the money needed to provide services.
Indiana Divisional Commander Major Marc Johnson tells Business of Health Reporter Kylie Veleta with retailers closed, consumers carrying less cash, and there is less foot traffic as online shopping grows.
“There may be fewer bell ringers, but we are encouraged in that several of our major retail department stores who partner with us regularly have already approved our agreement,” said Johnson. “We are taking precautions for our volunteers and our other bell ringers to make sure they are safe from transmitting COVID or even catching it. The kettles will be out, but they may not be out as in force as in past years.”
Johnson says the red kettles will take on a more high-tech approach this year with an emphasis on benefiting the area in which they are located.
“On every red kettle stand, there’s a sign up at the top and on that sign, every one of them will have a QR code…that you can scan on your smartphone. It’ll take you straight to a donation page and is high-tech enough to know that whichever you are donating and scanning at is the location where those funds are going to go.”
Johnson adds with the advent of the new technology, businesses that normally would not have a red kettle outside their establishment can still participate in the campaign.
“You as a business owner or as a corporation can do a virtual, online red kettle. That’s a great way to raise money peer-to-peer; you can send out links to people and they can donate. You can raise directly for The Salvation Army on a virtual red kettle so it’s not so cold as standing out ringing a bell.”
Heading into the holiday season, Johnson says he is hopeful that the organization can meet the increased challenges brought on by the pandemic.