The Salvation Army is expanding its efforts to support the needy by teaming up with the portable payment technology of Square to develop mobile donation solutions.
Now, passersby can donate not only to the traditional workers with bells and buckets, but they can also swipe their credit cards, or simply enter their card information on a volunteer’s phone.
The Army plans to put the technology into use in strategic locations in four big cities: New York, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco.
Salvationists would receive Android smartphones donated by Sprint, outfitted with the Square mobile card reader, and contributors can donate directly to the Army’s account.
By keeping up with the public’s dwindling propensity to carry cash, the Army feels they will be able to increase their charitable outcome substantially.
“A lot of people just don’t carry cash anymore,” said the Salvation Army spokesperson Maj. George Hood to The New York Times. “We’re basically trying to make sure we’re keeping up with our donors and embrace the new technologies they’re embracing.”
Jack Dorsey, the cofounder of both Square and Twitter, explained that adapting to existing norms could encourage more people to give. Smartphones are familiar gadgets to the public now, especially in larger cities like New York and Chicago.
“Instead of training people on an entirely new behavior, an entirely new way to pay, we just use what they know,” said the entrepreneur.
This is not the first time the 146-year-old church attempted a foray into different forms of donation, however.
The Salvation Army tried to boost collections with the introduction of credit card terminals in 2009, but that aspect of their effort was a spectacular failure. The organization collected $148 million in physical monies in 2010, but only a meager $60,000 from the terminals just a year before.
“The credit card terminals really haven’t been a blockbuster, I’ll be candid,” Hood said. He also cited the “winter elements” as a serious deterrent to potential donors stopping to enter their information.
Dorsey thinks using the technology already implemented by over 800,000 merchants is a smart move.
“(The Square card reader) doesn’t require (donors) to learn anything new and it doesn’t require the merchant or organization to learn anything new,” Hood added.