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Salvation Army looks to possibly move to cashless kettles

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CHICAGO — The Salvation Army in Chicago could look into accepting credit or debit cards next year, as it continues to look for ways to keep up with cashless trends.

The local Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles bring in millions of dollars in donations each year during its holiday fundraising campaign, despite being reliant on cash, the Chicago Tribune reported.

However, the organization is working to find an updated version of the kettle that makes helping others more convenient.

“As we move to a cashless society, that gets harder; and we need an innovative way to make it just as seamless,” said John List, chairman of the economics department at the University of Chicago, who has studied charitable giving.

The nonprofit says it’s tested several versions of “cashless” kettles over the past decade. But transactions the old-school kettles encourage through fast and anonymous donations are tough to replicate with noncash payments.

The organization tried to use portable credit card machines several years ago but ran into issues with battery life. The machines were also slow.

“It took three minutes to connect. People just want to put their money in and be quick,” said Jeff Curnow, spokesman for the Salvation Army’s Midwest region.

The Salvation Army has also tried Square, a small smartphone attachment that accepts credit card payments. However, getting donors comfortable swiping their card on a stranger’s phone was a challenge.

“That’s the most important thing we have, the trust from the donating public,” said Scott Justvig, executive director of development of the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division in Chicago.

The red kettle donations was established in 1891 when a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco collected donations to provide free Christmas dinners to locals in need.