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Salvation Army boosts holiday donations via SMS


The Western Pennsylvania Salvation Army is using SMS this holiday season to encourage more donations and appeal to a younger, savvy group of consumers.

The Western Pennsylvania Salvation Army is promoting its SMS program locally with mobile calls to action on the iconic red kettles, social media, radio, word of mouth and on printed materials. This marks the second year that the organization has used mobile donations, but it is the first year that the program has actively been pushed.

“The red kettles will never go away, but we have to meet people where they are comfortable giving and reaching younger consumers so we are able to move forward,” said Virginia Knor, divisional director of marketing and public relations at The Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division, Carnegie, PA.

Tis the season
According to Ms. Knor, last year’s mobile donations, which included an SMS program and a 1-800 number, totaled $8,500 for the organization.

By using mobile donations, The Western Pennsylvania Salvation Army is able to collect larger donations than loose change for donations.

To opt-in to the service, consumers can text GIVE PGH the short code 80888, which will charge a $10 donation to the user’s mobile phone bill.

Here is a poster that the organization is using to promote the SMS service

By donating via mobile, users will receive regular messages and updates from The Western Pennsylvania Salvation Army.

Consumers can also donate via the company’s Web site at

The organization has also dabbled in credit card donations but has found that SMS is more effective for its users.

The increased mobile efforts are part of the organization’s broader digital push.

“Basically the goal of our digital work is to create engagement and storytelling to make a community around our organization,” said Allison Wilst, online marketing specialist and graphic designer for The Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division, Carnegie, PA.

Local impact
The western Pennsylvania branch of The Salvation Army is a local example of the larger, nationwide mobile initiative that the organization has taken on this season.

Earlier this year, The Salvation Army announced that they would be adding mobile payments and increasing its SMS efforts for the annual holiday efforts (see story).

By using mobile, The Salvation Army is not only able to increase mobile donations, it is also able to build up its database.

For The Salvation Army in particular, mobile makes sense for donations to avoid consumers who are scrambling for loose cash and change at the kettles.

“People who don’t have cash now have a mobile option to donate, which opens the door to a younger audience and group of people who we want to engage with in a different way,” Ms. Wilst said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York