Can traditional fundraising survive in the digital age?
The arrival of Christmas Eve marks the close of the Salvation Army's annual Red Kettle Campaign. It started more than one hundred years ago as a way to collect donations to help the less fortunate, at Christmas. But now online shopping is taking a toll on holiday giving.
That traditional sound of the season has been fading in recent years as online shopping has grown and retailers closed stores.
"We depend upon that foot-traffic going in an out of the brick and mortar stores. And over the last decade, as internet shopping as online shopping has really taken off, and foot traffic has changed, it has affected the Red Kettle Campaign," said Major Steven Lopes. He's the Director of Operations for the Salvation Army, in Buffalo. Lopes says donations are down 5-to-10 percent across Western New York. The region-wide goal is $1 million.
"This is a year we've gotten off to a slow start. So we're praying and believing our communities will rally around," Lopes said.
The campaign relies on thousands of volunteers. All the money raised stays local. And Lopes says red kettle donations are used well beyond Christmas.
"365 days a year, the Salvation Army is trying to meet the needs of our community."
Despite the recent strength of the economy and low unemployment, Lopes says, a lot of people are still seeking help.
"They're not the unemployed poor. They're the working poor. Those who are working but they don't have a wage they don't have compensation that allows them to pay for all the necessities that they need to. And I'm not talking about going on vacations to Disney World. Just meeting the basic needs. So we see that in an economy like we have here where there's low unemployment but there's still a great need," Lopes said.
One of the hundreds of people receiving help from the Salvation Army, this Christmas, is Donna. Her granddaughter was in foster care. So the 53-year-old, who works part-time, went to court so she could raise the 9-year-old girl.
"And I don't get any help from the county or anything. And this just helps out immensely for her. She still believes in Santa Clause and so do I. Because Santa Clause might not be a real person but he's in the spirit of everyone. And I truly believe there is a Santa Clause," Donna said.
Lopes says it's not too late to give.
"If your travels don't pass a Red Kettle you could always write us a check and mail it to the local Salvation Army and just put in the memo it's for the Red Kettle Campaign. It's another way you can support the campaign if your shopping experience doesn't pass a kettle," Lopes said.