Salvation Army donations target tech savvy

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It's that time of year again! Salvation Army bell ringers are back at stores collecting money, only this time, they do accept credit cards. AP Photo/The Daily News John Althouse

Putting change, bills and checks into the Salvation Army’s red kettles has been a staple of the holiday season for decades.

This year, however, donors will have a new option for giving. Bell ringers throughout the central Wisconsin and upper Michigan areas will now accept credit cards on site at collection areas.
Faithe Colas, community relations director for the Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters, said volunteers accepting credit card donations will have a swipe strip similar to those used in retail stores. Donors will swipe their credit cards for an amount of their choosing and sign a printed receipt.
The Salvation Army tested the technology for the first time in Wisconsin three years ago at Mayfair and Southridge Malls in Milwaukee County. It found that while donating cash was still the most popular option, donors occasionally took advantage of the new technology.

Colas said the technology will continue to be used in the Green Bay and Fox Cities areas but not in Milwaukee County.

“It has depended on the region as to how well it has worked,” she said. “Some people are more comfortable using cash and some people are more comfortable using their credit card online in their own home.”

The Salvation Army has seen increased donations made via its website this season, where donations can also be made with a credit card.

Bell ringers in the Milwaukee area will be using QR codes on their red kettles this year, which will allow donors to take a picture of the code with a smartphone and make a donation online.

“Many young people and professionals have smartphones, so we think we will have great success with the QR code technology,” Colas said.

Salvation Army bell ringers in the Milwaukee area traditionally begin their season the first Friday in November. This date is early compared to some other branches in Wisconsin, which can start after Thanksgiving.

Many consumers complain that the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier every year — both in the retail world and with charitable organizations. However, Colas argued the early start makes a substantial difference in the donations the Salvation Army receives over the course of the season.

We are down $13,000 in donations from this time last year,” she said. “It really shows how the economy has affected people … The bell ringers are a reminder of how difficult times are for everyone and that we need to give back.”

Students had mixed feelings about the length of the Christmas season, both in regards to retail and holiday bell ringing.

Evan Umpir, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that while he feels retail stores start Christmas a little early, November is an appropriate time for things like bell ringers and holiday decorations.

“I feel like I’ve seen stores with Christmas stuff out in June,” Umpir said. “I like Christmas, but I think after Thanksgiving or at least November is the most appropriate time.”

Amanda Roenius, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, disagreed that the holiday season starts too early.

“I love Christmas, I definitely don’t think it’s too long (of a season),” Roenius said. “It makes people cheerier sooner.”

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