Salvation Army bell ringers to accept credit cards

November 17, 2011 2:59:24 PM PST
The Salvation Army wants to replace those red buckets with smart phones. The charity organization is testing some new technology in several cities, including Chicago.

Soon, some Chicago bell ringers will be able to make credit card transactions for your convenience. New applications allow small businesses to get paid using an Android or iPhone. So in a Chicago winter, when you're feeling generous but don't have cash, charitable giving is possible.

It is time for the bell ringers, courtesy of the Salvation Army's annual kettle bell fundraiser, familiar sounds that signal the beginning of the holiday season.

Now those funds can be hand-delivered the old-fashioned way, texted and -- in some places -- donated via credit card.

"A lot of people don't carry cash in their pocket anymore, but if they have a credit card or phone, that should be the way they do it," said Glenn Kujansuu.

"Every time I see one I throw a dollar in. That's the way I do it, but some other people may want to do it differently. The more the merrier," said Jan Kemp.

Chicago will be among three other cities to use card-swiping devices along with the kettle bells.

Sprint donated the devices that use Square to process credit card information. The Salvation Army had tried other credit card devices but they were expensive and slow. There is hope that technology will help donors.

"People don't want to take their gloves off and fish for things. We think this technology is much faster and easier," said Salvation Army's Melanie Scofield.

Salvation Army's annual holiday kettle bell fundraiser brings in 70 percent of the organization's budget.

Organizers hope the high-tech options will help raise even more this year as the organization is seeing greater need.

"We have more people coming to us for assistance for the very first time, people who have never had to ask for help before," Scofield said. "In some of our suburban areas, we're seeing a 200 percent increase in the number of people coming to our food pantries."

Chicago will get a dozen of the smart phones. They will be in some of the busy downtown locations.

The official bell-ringing fundraiser begins Friday.

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