The Red Kettle

Every nonprofit organization dreams of a brand signature as recognizable as The Salvation Army Red Kettle. It is an American icon. Like Chevrolet or the iPhone, it is hard to imagine a world without it.

During the recent “bell ringers” Christmas campaign, The Salvation Army announced it was lagging in gifts. Fewer people were dropping less money in the kettles at retail stores. Are people less generous? Have they forgotten The Salvation Army’s mission? Is the nostalgic image of the bell ringer in a Santa suit just that, nostalgia?

You don’t have to think too hard or look too far to figure out what is going on. First, fewer people carry cash. Just as importantly, more people are choosing to shop online. Fewer cash customers. Dwindling foot traffic. Two of the very things a successful Red Kettle Campaign depend on!

Often we look for answers to why there are fewer gifts by analyzing only donor behavior. Donor habits can also be interrupted by conditions and circumstances unrelated to inclination, intent or mission awareness.

The solution to The Salvation Army’s challenge can be found in understanding the simple mechanics of giving. The answers: Provide a simple, cashless means to give and partner with online retailers to meet the customers where they are. These are not brand or mission awareness answers. They are process answers that impact giving behavior.

Pursuing Donors Where They Are

Who has not asked the question: Why isn’t our message getting through? Who has not wondered: Why is our participation dwindling?

There is intrinsic value in and intuitive recognition of The Salvation Army Red Kettle. Your mission has similar brand equity. The answers to better results can be found in pursuing donors where they are, not where you are. Donor loyalty is dependent not only on mission impact, but also the simplicity and immediacy of the gift transaction.

We live in a world where crypto-currency (bitcoin) has established a decentralized digital currency. Someone just has to figure out how to drop a bitcoin into a virtual Red Kettle. The Red Kettle will endure!