Ring a Bell or Make a Donation: It's Your Call
The Salvation Army rolled out its Online Red Kettle program nationwide this past holiday season, after testing the concept in Atlanta, Dallas and Washington, D.C., in 2002. The way it worked: Volunteers who signed up to be “virtual bell ringers” had their own Web pages from which they could send e-mail messages to family and friends, asking for contributions. The pilot produced $60,000 in online donations during the months of November and December, but when the program was given a national stage a year later, total donations reached only $45,000.
“When donors came to our site looking for ways to get involved, the simplest way was to just check the donation option and make a credit card donation, and not to bother in any other way,” explains Maj. George Hood, the program’s national coordinator.
But despite disappointing returns from the Online Red Kettle program, the organization generated $1.6 million in Internet donations during the 2003 holiday season — double that of 2002.
“People came to the Web site in record numbers,” Hood shares. “We gave [online visitors] four different options: You could purchase a toy for an angel tree in your community, you could sign up to become a volunteer bell ringer, you could ask your friends to contribute, or you could just make a donation. And that was the option that most people chose.”
Asked why response dipped for the Online Red Kettle program, Hood said one reason could be the complexities of the system once it got into the hands of the field. And, before 2003, The Salvation Army never aggressively promoted its Web site during the holiday season.
“We simply committed more energy,” he says, “and, in going forward, we will continue pushing the medium.”