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Salvation Army mobilizes Red Kettle donations via Square partnership

The Salvation Army has partnered with mobile payment company Square to increase donations via the nonprofit’s widely recognized Red Kettle holiday fundraising program.

The Salvation Army is supplying more than 800,000 of Square’s credit card readers across the country. The nonprofit is also using continuing to use SMS this year to collect donations.

“The Square partnership takes our kettle donations to the next level and makes them almost seamless,” said Jason Wood, director of digital communications services at The Salvation Army, Alexandria, VA.

“We’re also still doing our text donations this year, but we’re also trying to get higher donation levels and reach the most consumers,” he said.

Give more
The Salvation Army will begin using the Square technology Thanksgiving weekend and the effort will continue through Dec. 24.

The mobile payment solution is being tested in four markets – San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago and New York.

To use Square, Salvation Army volunteers plug the stamp-sized reader into the headphone jack of iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

The volunteers can swipe a consumer’s credit card and let the consumer choose an amount to donate.

The transaction is then processed by Square and a receipt is sent to donors either by text or email.

The Salvation Army is also using SMS to let consumers make donations, which has been used for the past two years.

Consumers can text the keyword GIVE to specific short codes on individual kettles.

Both the Square partnership and SMS programs are being promoted with calls to action on participating kettles.

Additionally, Salvation Army volunteers – or bell ringers – can track their progress with an iPhone app.

The Red Kettle app lets volunteers track their kettles and set campaign goals.

Consumers can also make donations on the company’s Web site –

Department story JCPenney is also working with The Salvation Army this holiday season by donating $25 to the nonprofit for each shopperwho checks in to a JCPenney store on Foursquare (see story).

By using mobile donations, the goal of the Red Kettle campaign is to increase the amount that consumers donate.

“Letting people take out their smartphones to make a donation gives our program a real-time thermometer that we can use to easily check our progress level,” Mr. Wood said.

Holiday cheer
By using mobile tools, the Salvation Army’s goal is to increase both overall and individual donations.

Previously, The Salvation Army expected consumers to donate change in the Red Kettles.

However, by using Square and SMS, consumers are more willing to make bigger donations.

The Salvation Army is not the only nonprofit using mobile channels to collect donations.

Most recently, the Susan G. Komen mobile site reported that it had seen 885,463 views since January with mobile donations being one of the key drivers (see story).

Even though the Salvation Army is making its services mobile, the Red Kettles and physical donations will remain as the bread and butter of the company’s donation efforts.

According to Mr. Wood, the majority of donations still come from the kettle with only 10 percent of donations coming via online and an even smaller amount from mobile.

“What we’re trying to do is give consumers another way to help the 30 million people we affect every year, but the kettles will always stay.”

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