Donations to the Salvation Army this holiday season through the charity’s “red kettle” program were down nearly $33,000 from last year, and mail-in donations dropped around $110,000, officials said Monday.
Maj. Rick Mikles, general secretary of the Maryland and West Virginia Salvation Army, said the drop in kettle-drive revenue can be attributed almost entirely to Giant Food’s November decision to cut in half the number of hours that the Salvation Army could solicit outside its grocery stores. But a tough economy is likely to blame for the overall hit to seasonal donations.
“In the Baltimore region, kettles [outside of Giant Food locations] were down 27 percent, by $32,805,” Mikles said. “So the entire amount of the [drop in kettle donations] can be attributed to Giant, but we were down pretty much across the board by about 5.8 percent. It just seems to make sense that it’s the economic situation in this area that has made it difficult to raise money in that area.”
It wasn’t all bad news for the charity, however. Although Mikles said he didn’t have exact figures for the Baltimore region, the Salvation Army’s online giving programs all saw strong increases in donations over last year.
“Figures are up 26.5 percent in the online game, which is really encouraging as it’s the wave of the future,” Mikles said. “And this year we were able to raise over $108,000 online just in Maryland and West Virginia, with people using the online Red Kettle app or the ‘text-to-give’ program.”
And the Online Angel Tree program, the charity’s giving partnership with JC Penney where people can choose to “adopt” a needy child in a specific ZIP code, doubled in its second year of existence.
Although online giving programs are improving, Mikles said the Salvation Army still needs to figure out how to continue serving the community while dealing with what amounts to a more than $142,000 shortfall in donations.
“We’re tightening our belts internally, trying to make it so that we can still give the same level of service,” Mikles said. “The bare bones are where we’re at, and as they say, I hope we don’t have to resort to amputation and cut off any programs. I think we’ll still be providing a high level of service to the community, and we’ll make up the $140,000 somehow and some way.”
Representatives for Giant Food could not be reached for comment Monday, but they said in November that the new policy was intended to allow all groups that wanted to raise money outside their stores to have a chance.
Giant Food said in a statement that the company is “committed to supporting the communities in which we operate,” and that they receive “hundreds” of requests from nonprofit groups that want to solicit donations outside their stores.
“Because of the increased needs in our communities, we felt it essential to create opportunities for as many community groups as possible,” the statement said.
As the charity looks forward, Mikles said, it must find a way to regain the donations lost by not being able to solicit outside Giant locations as much.
“We will be having strategy meetings to talk with our advisory board, trying to come up with solutions that will help us,” he said. “I don’t know what those solutions will be, but they will be well talked about in the months to come.”