Frost on the windows, seasonal drinks at Starbucks and the jingle of change being dropped into iconic red Salvation Army kettles are all reminders that the holiday season is upon us.
But starting this year in select B.C. cities, the jingles may be replaced by the sound of tapping fingers on smartphone touchscreens as Sally Ann adopts text-based donations.
“As society is becoming more of a cashless culture, one thing we’ve seen is even though people don’t have cash all the time, they have cell phones so this makes it really easy for people to give,” said Lauren Chan, communications specialist with the Salvation Army B.C. divisional headquarters.
By texting a code on your cellular phone that is specific to various communities — 15 participating in the pilot project in B.C. this year including downtown Vancouver but not Richmond — a $5 charge will appear on your phone bill.
That money goes toward the community you directed the donation to and is used for various Salvation Army initiatives throughout the year such as running shelters and facilities.
Chan said the organization is not diverting any resources away from the use of physical kettles but is simply giving another option for supporters.
More communities may be added in subsequent years as the program is evaluated. The Salvation Army first saw success with a similar text-message-based initiative during the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
“It definitely caters to a younger demographic and allows them to interact with the Salvation Army,” said Chan.
Demographics may be a reason that Brad Smith, pastor at the Richmond Salvation Army, said he hasn’t had many requests for virtual giving.
Almost all of the $140,000 he hopes the city will raise this year still comes from cash and cheques collected in kettles or brought directly to the branch at 8280 Gilbert Rd.
“A lot of our donors are 50-plus,” said Smith, who added his fullest kettles are usually the ones located outside River Rock Casino, the Real Canadian Superstore, and the Richmond Seafair BC Liquor Store on No. 1 Road.
Other popular locations are Richmond Centre and Lansdowne Centre, and outside Canadian Tire and Save On Foods in Ironwood Plaza.
“Surprisingly, a lot of people still carry change in their pockets. They’ll pull out whatever they have or put in a $10 bill.”
Starting the holiday campaign on Nov. 15, Smith said this year they are a little off pace so far — about $7,000 down from the same time last year.
The kettles will be out until Dec. 24, and tax receipts will be issued for cheque donations as long as a name, address and phone number is included with the donation.
The Richmond Salvation Army also hosts its two annual, first come, first serve, Christmas turkey dinners on Dec. 14 and 15 for 150 community members each night, and are accepting toy donations. Registration for the dinner is required. Call 604-277-2424 or visit salvationarmyrichmond.org.