Cashless at the Kettle: Salvation Army goes high-tech for the holidays

By: Jacob Murphey | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 11, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign dates back to the 1890s. But for the first time, holiday shoppers won't need cash to make a donation right on the spot.

The non-profit is rolling out a nation-wide "Kettle Pay" program this year. The familiar red kettle stands will include a microchip that uses "near-field communication" technology to send payment information directly to the newest smartphones.

Older smartphone users will have access to a QR code that prompts them to pay on their phone.

Lt. Ryan Meo, who heads the Tallahassee Salvation Army operation, says the move is a long time coming.

"It's about time we came into the 21st Century," he said. "We're having to adapt and slightly change to get with the times."

Meo says he's heard from countless people who wanted to donate but didn't have any cash. In fact, he says dollar bills rarely reside in his own wallet.

Alyce Lee Stansbury works as a consultant for non-profits. She says successful charities are constantly looking for ways to stay relevant.

"They are reaching donors where donors are, and most donors are on their phones," she said.

An added benefit? Those donors tend to be younger.

"If you don't have that nostalgic awareness and knowledge of the history of the Salvation Army but you see what they're doing right now... then the digital campaign is a way for them to reach newer or younger donors," she said.

Meo agrees expanding the kettle's digital footprint could cultivate a new wave of loyal donors.

"We're hoping by making this change we can invite that next generation to come and be a part of the salvation army's mission," he said.

His chapter's goal is $180,000 this year. That's slightly less than years before. Meo says a late Thanksgiving means a shorter campaign.

The campaign kicks off on Black Friday.

If you'd like to volunteer as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, follow this link.

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