The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign is ringing this year, but support isn't what it used to be.
While relief efforts from the federal government have stagnated and the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many Americans’ financial struggles, the Salvation Army said its fundraising numbers have dropped significantly during one of the most crucial times of the year.
The Christian-centered charity kickstarted its Red Kettles far earlier than it has in its more than 130-year history – beginning in September.
The organization anticipated at that time that its fundraising numbers would decline by up to 50%, even as the number of people it serves has skyrocketed.
The early start may not have been enough.
More people, facing layoffs and other employment instabilities, are unable to donate – even if they would like to send funds.
"In the midst of a tsunami of need, we may have a drought of resources," Salvation Army National Commander Kenneth Hodder told San Francisco news station KGO-TV on Friday, "not because people don't want to support us but because they themselves are going through a difficult time."
Complicating matters is the decline of in-person retail shopping, especially during Black Friday weekend.
Preliminary data from Black Friday found that in-store traffic dropped by more than 52%, while online shopping increased to $9 billion.
"We won't know the impact on the kettles until several weeks into the holiday season, but we expect dollars raised in each of those kettles will be fewer than years past," Hodder told USA TODAY.
Though the familiar tinkle of the Red Kettle bells can still be heard throughout the next few weeks, there are fewer of them because of the pandemic.
The Salvation Army has newfangled ways for people to donate, which were launched last year but have become more vital during the pandemic. It rolled out digital modes of donating through its website and on Google and Apple Pay. There’s even an option to “Ask Alexa” to donate to the organization.
That may help the Salvation Army endure this year, but will the group match or surpass last year’s numbers – $126 million through 30,000 Red Kettles? That remains uncertain.
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Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Salvation Army Red Kettle bells ring amid COVID-19; donations down