Social Media Helps Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Founded in London in 1852, the Salvation Army came to the United States in 1879 and launched its concept of reaping donations at Christmas time by putting bell ringers out in front of stores with red kettles in San Francisco in 1891. Today, the faith-based social service charity is as modern as can be, streaming a Christmas pop concert online, collecting donations via mobile phone text messages, and developing an iPhone app with a ringing bell.

According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, the cornerstone of the electronic effort is the Online Red Kettle — linked to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. That enables donations from people who might not have a chance to put cash in the charity’s red pots outside stores.

The organization, an evangelical Christian church, is the second-largest charity in the country after the United Way and by far the largest faith-based charity. In addition to its well-known thrift stores, it runs homeless shelters, soup kitchens, addiction treatment programs, youth camps and services for the elderly, veterans, and victims of natural disasters.

By Christmas Eve, money raised through the group’s online effort was expected to surpass the $3 million goal for the year, up from $2 million last year. Its Christmas campaign kickoff occurred at the Dallas Cowboys – New Orleans Saints football game on Thanksgiving Day, when fans sent in donations of $35,000 by text messages.

Online efforts supplement, rather than replace, the Salvation Army’s human bell ringers. Some 25,000 were still out during this year’s fund drive, raising a large portion of the group’s expected $130 million intake for the year.