Salvation Army's Red Kettles Strive to Meet Fundraising Goals

The Salvation Army's 122-year-old Red Kettle Campaign raised $147 million nationwide last year, but this year it's still not certain if the campaign ending Monday will bring in the $150 million hoped for to fund programs aiding needy families, seniors, and the homeless.

The Eastern Territory, which covers 11 states in the northeastern United States, from Maine down to Delaware and out to Ohio, was down about $1 million in the fourth week compared to last year, the region's director of strategic communications and external relations, Trish Raines, told TheNonProfitTimes.

"It might be because people gave for (Hurricane) Sandy relief, and they're not so quick to give another gift," said Maj. John Hodgson, the territory's community relations and development secretary.

The fund-raising campaign starts each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve. The Salvation Army serves about 30 million people every year, providing food, clothing and toys to poor families.

"Every year when all the dollars are counted we have had an increase, and I'm looking forward to that again this year. I believe we'll hit $150 million or more," hopes Hodgson.

The Western Territory, covering 11 states in the continental U.S. and Hawaii and Alaska, has witnessed fluctuations this season, said the territory's Executive Director of Development, Chaz Watson. After being up by as much as 8 percent and down by as much as 8 percent, the territory was up 2 percent or about $254,000, at $13.84 million as of Dec. 14.

"We're still seeing those same up and down trends," Watson said. "Weekends are the strongest time for giving because there's more pedestrian traffic at the retail locations where the kettles are. We have places that are up and places that are down, but hopefully things will pull in the right direction."

However, the Southern Territory, which consists of 15 states south of the Mason-Dixon Line and as far west as Texas, stood at more than $19 million as of Dec. 13, up more than $1 million from last year. "It's good news for us," said Chris Priest, territorial director of communications. "A small increase will allow us to provide more benefit to those seeking help."

Salvation Army's territories normally rely on Red Kettle campaign funds for about half of their yearly budgets.

The campaign also involves raising money through online red kettles or personal fundraising pages. Online kettles raised $1.7 million last year, and this year's goal is for $3 million. As of Dec. 18, online red kettles were nearing $1 million, gaining about $60,000 per day since Dec. 13.

The red kettle campaign goes back to 1891, when Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco wanted to help the city's poor. He had a desire to give Christmas supper to at least 1,000 poor people, but had no money.

McFee prayed about it. Recalling his days as a sailor in England, where he saw a large iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot" to collect coins for the needy, he put a pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing, by the foot of San Francisco's Market Street. He placed a sign next to it that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." By Christmas, the kettle had raised enough money to feed the poor.