Silver bell clankers with the Salvation Army won’t take “no coin” for an excuse this holiday season.
Starting Friday, the charity’s volunteers and staff in Summit County will glue big green arrows on signs beside their iconic red kettles.
“No cash? No problem!” read the green arrows, which point to a scannable QR code and “bump technology” chip for smartphone users embedded below the Salvation Army’s seal.
With shoppers increasingly going cashless, the Salvation Army’s red kettle fundraiser is still taking donations the old way. But for the first time this year, donors anywhere in America can use Apple Pay or Google Pay as well.
“The trend of giving has regretfully been down because people say they don’t have cash,” said Marian R. Calvin, director of development for the Salvation Army in Summit County. “So we hope this boosts the giving.”
National giving to the Salvation Army, which provides food, shelter and services to 23 million people, fell 1% to $433.7 million last year. That tracks a 1.1% decline in individual donations to all charitable organizations, according to Giving USA’s annual report on American philanthropy.
The red kettles generate about 13% of annual funding for the organization in Summit County, where Salvation Army branches collected $350,000 ringing bells last year. The goal is $400,000 this holiday season, said Maj. Steven Stoops, who coordinates the kettle operation with his wife, Katie.
It was Katie who thought to start using a green arrow instead of a camouflaged red arrow, which blended into the usual signage this past weekend. “That was genius on her part,” said Calvin, who received strips with the chip and QR code but no advertising materials from the national offices of the Salvation Army. So she’s been printing green arrows on computer paper and laminating them.
Come Friday, the couple hope to see the new payment method take off with a bit of Christmas-colored marketing.
“I’m excited about it,” Maj. Stoops said in uniform at Acme No. 1 in Akron’s Wallhaven neighborhood. “I just need shoppers to see the opportunity, especially millennials. The new sophisticated donor: they’re going to like this a lot.”
Acme Fresh Market stores let the Salvation Army get a jump start on collections this year. The rest of the red kettles will appear outside Giant Eagle, Walmart and the other usual spots on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
After 10 days of rattling bells inside Acme No. 1, two other locations in Cuyahoga Falls and a fourth in Tallmadge, Salvation Army employee Kenneth Guiler said he hasn’t seen a single person hold a smartphone up to the new “bump technology” chip or point a cellphone camera toward the QR code to donate. The bump technology works best with generation 10 or 11 iPhones. Android phones don’t seem to have an issue, Stoops said.
When it works, an online payment portal instantly opens with preset buttons to give $5, $10 or $25, or type in another amount. The whole process is almost as fast as watching a quarter disappear into a red kettle.
And if you can’t follow the bells to the nearest red kettle, visit https://bit.ly/377bh9F to support the Salvation Army of Summit County.
Reach Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3792.