FILE - Red Kettle

Jerry Manning rings a bell near his Salvation Army red kettle in 2007.

Bell ringers for the Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign are offering more ways to give this holiday season.

Rich Draeger, the director of development for the Tri-County Salvation Army based in Peoria, said that in addition to collecting coins and cash outside of stores, shoppers will now able to donate with their smartphone. Donations can be accepted using Apple Pay, Google Pay or by scanning a QR code.

“It’s an exciting time of year, it’s awfully busy for us,” Draeger said. “We’re hoping that the new technology that we’re adding will maybe attract a few more people that maybe didn’t give in the past.”

At the familiar Red Kettle stands, Draeger said somewhere on the kettle will be a sticker that will have a near field communication, or NFC, tag. That tag will be able to communicate with a smartphone that has either the Google Pay or Apple Pay app. There will also be a QR code to scan, which goes to a webpage for donations.

This isn’t the Salvation Army’s first attempt at bringing in new technology to the campaign. Draeger said the organization has tried credit card readers in the past. Unfortunately, the cold Midwestern weather was too much for the portable batteries of the devices. That program was discontinued.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we may have an answer to some of those who do have the desire to give, but simply don’t carry cash,” Draeger said.

The annual Christmastime Red Kettle fundraising campaign is a significant part of the Salvation Army's fundraising efforts.

“Depending on the size of the town, it could be your only Christmas fundraising, or certainly a very large percentage," Draeger said. "It’s vitally important to the programs and services that we offer, not only at Christmas, but what we offer throughout the year.”

He said the funding could be anywhere between 20 to 50 percent of the annual income for local Salvation Army organizations.

The proceeds from the fundraising can be used for a variety of different types of programs, depending on the area.

“We try to identify what each of the communities that we serve in needs,” Draeger said. “Some areas you’ll find childcare centers, other areas you’ll find shelters. So, it really just depends on what the communities need.”

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign started in 1891 in San Francisco. The organization said that in the United States, it assists more than 4.5 million people between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The group is known for helping people displaced after fires or other disasters.

Staff Reporter

A Chicago area radio news veteran, Jim Moran covers statewide issues for The Center Square. Previously, he has worked as a news reporter/anchor and traffic reporter for numerous radio stations across Illinois and the St. Louis metro area.