Central Ohioans can answer bell ringers with cellphone


Rita Price - The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)



No cash to drop into that Red Kettle? No problem.

The Salvation Army in Central Ohio welcomes your digital donation just the same. With fewer shoppers carrying bills or even coins, the charity’s iconic Christmas fundraiser now accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay.

“We’re trying to make it easier to give,” said Maj. Debra Ashcraft, area coordinator for the local Salvation Army.

Red Kettle signs across central Ohio have smart chips and QR codes this holiday season, allowing shoppers to simply “bump,” or scan, their phones to make a donation.

“If you have Google Pay or Apple Pay as an app on your phone, it will bring up the Salvation Army donation page,” Ashcraft said. “It’s really just a couple of taps.”

Funds collected via the apps are distributed to local Salvation Army units based on the donor’s billing ZIP code, and an email receipt is sent directly to the phone, she said.

Friday is the official kettle kickoff day, which means bell ringers and Red Kettles are starting to appear at 80 or so locations throughout the area.

Easton Town Center employees Kerri Ward and Domingo Banks volunteered during a pre-kickoff shift at the shopping center Thursday, and though donations trickled in, the app option hadn’t yet caught on.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Kristin Hampton-Harmon said she still felt confident. “People who have that technology are pretty faithful to it.”

Ashcraft said the Salvation Army has been trying different approaches with donors and tested Apple Pay and Google Pay in Seattle and other cities. “Out of all the things they’ve tried, they think this is the best option,” she said.

The Salvation Army, like some other longstanding charities, has seen a decline in donations through traditional fundraising methods. The local Salvation Army fell more than $20,000 short of its $600,000 goal for last year’s Red Kettle campaign, Ashcraft said.

“We had a tremendous shortage of volunteers, too,” she said. “Those are missed opportunities.”

Kettle funds are critical for the charity’s programs and services. More than 6,400 central Ohio families received toys and food at Christmas last year, Ashcraft said. The Salvation Army also provides year-round housing help for the homeless, food assistance, after-school and summer learning programs, and aid to human-trafficking victims.

The new “Kettle Pay” option, Ashcraft said, “provides an opportunity for those who don’t have cash when they see a kettle to still support their struggling neighbors.”

Donors who don’t encounter a kettle and still want to donate can text CENTRALOH to 71777. To be a Red Kettle volunteer this season, call Yelena Ashrapova at 614-358-2627 or email Yelena.Ashrapova@use.salvationarmy.org

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Rita Price

The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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