Sal­va­tion Army gets a tech boost

No cash handy? Donors can use Google Pay

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Kate San­tich

Af­ter 129 years of ring­ing bells for pocket change and crum­pled bills, The Sal­va­tion Army is now com­pet­ing for in­creas­ingly fickle donors in a de­cid­edly 21st cen­tury way — equip­ping its iconic red ket­tles for use with Ap­ple and Google Pay or a quick credit card swipe, no cash nec­es­sary.

“The way we ring bells now was get­ting a little an­ti­quated,” said Ken Chapman, com­man­der for The Sal­va­tion Army in Or­ange and Osce­ola coun­ties. “Peo­ple just don’t carry around cash now. So as the cul­ture changes, we have to change too.”

It’s a mes­sage many non­prof­its are tak­ing to heart, es­pe­cially dur­ing the big­gest giv­ing sea­son of the year and the big­gest sin­gle­day do­na­tion drive — Giv­ing Tues­day.

The global event, held an­nu­ally since 2012 af­ter Black Fri­day and Cy­ber Mon­day, brought in over $400 mil­lion for U.S. char­i­ties in 2018, and pro­jec­tions for this year are that the haul will to­tal $502 mil­lion.

The money is crit­i­cal. Be­tween Thanks­giv­ing and New Year’s, some char­i­ties

re­ceive as much as three­quar­ters of their an­nual in­di­vid­ual do­na­tions.

“This time is also when we get most of our me­dia at­ten­tion,” Chapman said. “And those are im­pres­sions that sus­tain us dur­ing the year.”

Be­yond the mas­sive “Help­ings from the Heart” Thanks­giv­ing meal, the Sal­va­tion Army An­gel Tree gift drive and the red ket­tle bell­ringers, the non­profit re­lies on the good will gen­er­ated dur­ing the hol­i­days to run home­less shel­ters, fund feed­ing pro­grams for fam­i­lies, pro­vide dis­as­ter aid and keep the power on for its ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices year-round.

But as gen­er­a­tional giv­ing pat­terns change — from older, re­li­able donors who write monthly or yearly checks to mil­len­ni­als moved by celebrity en­dorse­ments and so­cial me­dia — char­i­ties have to find a way to stand out in a crowded field, es­pe­cially on Giv­ing Tues­day.

“We just started putting in­di­vid­ual videos on YouTube,” said Heather Wilkie, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ze­bra Coali­tion, a Cen­tral Florida non­profit that helps LGBTQ youth. The pitch this year comes from Kris­tian, a trans­gen­der male teen pro­vided coun­sel­ing by the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“All it takes is one, two — a cou­ple dol­lars — to help other youth that may need … coun­sel­ing, hous­ing, clothes, food,” he says in the video. An­other video, by the par­ent of a client, was posted Fri­day.

“We raised about $12,000 last year on Giv­ing Tues­day, which kicks off our yearend cam­paign,” Wilkie said. “What’s un­for­tu­nate this year is that it’s a week later than usual, so it’s a shorter win­dow of time to per­suade peo­ple to give. I no­ticed that some or­ga­ni­za­tions started early, which I’ll have to keep in mind for the fu­ture.”

The char­ity also has be­gun pub­licly thank­ing donors on so­cial me­dia — a tac­tic in­creas­ingly used by other non­prof­its.

Em­brace Fam­i­lies — the child-wel­fare char­ity that man­ages adop­tion, fos­ter care and men­tor­ing for lo­cal chil­dren at risk — is us­ing Tues­day as a day­long

“Thank-a-Thon” for sup­port­ers. Once an hour, it will be post­ing thank you mes­sages via so­cial me­dia to com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als that have given in the past — in the hope of spurring con­tin­ued sup­port.

And that evening, the staff — and some of the older youth who have been helped by Em­brace Fam­i­lies — will host a live thanka-thon, call­ing donors.

Similarly, Sec­ond Har­vest Food Bank will be manning the phones of a telethon all day Tues­day, work­ing with WESH-TV dur­ing news­casts, fea­tur­ing celebrity guests and of­fer­ing oc­ca­sional match­ing-gift op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Last year, we raised about $100,000 on Giv­ing Tues­day,” said Greg Hig­ger­son, Sec­ond Har­vest’s vice pres­i­dent for de­vel­op­ment. “We hope to do bet­ter than that this year, but just cut­ting through the news go­ing on in the world is a chal­lenge. You first have to get peo­ple’s at­ten­tion.”

As al­ways, ex­perts ad­vise donors to check out a char­ity be­fore they give. Good tools in­clude the Cen­tral Florida Foun­da­tion’s non­profit search en­gine and Char­ity Nav­i­ga­tor.

And ex­pect more so­cial me­dia pushes in the days — and years — ahead. The Sal­va­tion Army, for in­stance, says the “Ket­tles for the Fu­ture,” part of a cam­paign launched Fri­day, will be vir­tual ones, op­er­at­ing on per­sonal Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram ac­counts.

“We’re go­ing to chal­lenge 1,000 peo­ple, com­pa­nies or groups to adopt a ket­tle and try to raise at least $500 each,” Chapman said. “If they can do that, it will raise $500,000. We’ll give them a link at the end of the cam­paign, and the money will be de­posited di­rectly into our bank ac­count. You don’t even have to leave your home.”

“What’s un­for­tu­nate this year is that it’s a week later than usual, so it’s a shorter win­dow of time to per­suade peo­ple to give. I no­ticed that some or­ga­ni­za­tions started early, which I’ll have to keep in mind for the fu­ture.” Heather Wilkie, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ze­bra Coali­tion

BRUCE LIP­SKY/FLORIDA TIMES-UNION

Harold Pierce sings while fundrais­ing in 2018 in Jack­sonville for the Sal­va­tion Army Red Ket­tle Christ­mas cam­paign.

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/AP

On Nov. 15, a shop­per do­nates cash to the Sal­va­tion Army’s an­nual hol­i­day red ket­tle cam­paign, though there are other op­tions. This year, cash­less shop­pers can use their smart­phone or a credit card.

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