red-kettle-lrg.jpgHoliday donations to The Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles set a new national record of $130 million, despite the ongoing economic downturn, surpassing the previous record of $118 million set in 2007. The 10 percent growth in donations was the largest one-year jump in 11 years.

“We know that Americans always give more in time of need, so we were confident that they would again respond to the call with an outstanding show of generosity. We thank all the donors, volunteers and corporate partners for their contributions and stand resolute in our Mission to serve those who need it most,” said Commissioner Israel L. Gaither, National Commander of The Salvation Army.

The group saw large increases in donations to its kettles in the Eastern territories, by 19 percent, and in the South, by 12 percent. Donations at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores accounted for more than 26 percent of the total raised, or $34 million. Along with a $1.25 million grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation, the stores hosted early bell ringers and red kettles on November 8 for a pre-campaign “special day of giving” to give extra support to local communities facing tough economic times.

From its humble beginnings as a fundraiser started by a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco in 1891, the Red Kettle Campaign has grown into one of the most recognizable and important charitable outreach efforts in the United States. As part of the drive, more than 25,000 Salvation Army volunteers fan out across the country to ring bells and solicit spare change donations to the red kettles from holiday shoppers. The nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars (and the occasional diamond ring or gold tooth) are all used to help those in the communities where they were raised. Last year, the funds helped The Salvation Army serve nearly 29 million Americans in need, including nearly 5 million who received holiday assistance such as toys, coats, rent and utility aid, among other services.

To help spur donations, The Salvation Army offered new tech-savvy ways to give. For donors who don’t regularly carry money, the Army tested cashless red kettles in Denver, CO and Dallas, TX, that made it possible to donate via credit or debit card. Also, several locations piloted a text messaging service that allowed cell phone users to contribute via their phone bills. Internet giving, meanwhile, rose an impressive 28 percent this year for a total of $10 million during Christmas.

“This year we reached a new generation of donors we’ve never been able to reach before through the use of high-tech tools like cashless kettles, the Online Red Kettle, and the iPhone,” said Commissioner Gaither. “We also started using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which allows friends and family of our supporters to donate more easily than years past via the internet.”

Corporate promotional activities, included:

  • The Kroger Company’s well-known grocery banners hosted kettles at store locations across the country, raising $10.6 million, or 8 percent of the campaign total
  • Melodeo, a provider of digital media, developed The Salvation Army Holiday Music application for the iPhone, which played a variety of classic Christmas songs. The application sold for $2.99, with $1 going to the Army
  • The National Hockey League hosted Online Red Kettles on team websites, which saw hockey fans to donate to the Army’s Online Red Kettle Campaign
  • Shell Oil raised $100,000 for The Salvation Army through the “Change is Good, Giving is Better” promotion
  • Target made two separate $1 million donations to the Campaign and also sold Salvation Army Christmas items, including ornaments and CDs in stores with a percentage of the proceeds going to the Army.

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