Charities Get In On Black Friday Activity

November 23, 2011       Samuel Fanburg      

Charities are branching out with technology in hopes of taking advantage of increased Internet and foot traffic on Black Friday, one the busiest shopping days of the year.

For every “check-in” on foursquare, a location-based social network for mobile devices, JC Penney will pledge $25 to The Salvation Army, up to $100,000. The Alexandria, Va.-based charity also has tailored its iconic Red Kettle campaign to allow donors to give directly through on-site smart phones in select cities rather than putting cash in bell ringers’ kettles. The annual Red Kettle Campaign, which last year raised $142 million, kicks off at halftime of tomorrow’s Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game.

The Salvation Army also has partnered with JC Penney for the Angel Giving Tree Online, an online portal where donors can be matched with items needed by those less fortunate. All gifts are received by Christmas and all adoptions must be made by Dec. 9. In addition, supporters can purchase a gift card for an angel up to Dec. 13.

JC Penney also has pledged $50 for every angel “adopted” on Thanksgiving Day, up to $400,000. Now in its third year, the online store has had 100,000 “angels” adopted.

“The Salvation Army is preparing for what is expected to be another record number of families seeking help this Christmas,” said Maj. George Hood, national community relations and development director for The Salvation Army. “With the need greater than ever, we appreciate JC Penney’s strong commitment to continually enhancing the online program so that the millions of children’s and seniors living in poverty will have the opportunity to receive a gift this year.”

The USO has taken initiative to bring a “catalog” to the online space. The “USO Wishbook,” launched in conjunction with the holiday season, takes items needed by soldiers and their families and displays them on a website for purchase.

“This is our first effort at an alternative giving catalog,” said Kelli Seely, chief development officer for USO. “Our normal campaign simply had supporters giving to our fund, but now donors can see exactly what they’re contributing to these people’s families.”

Gifts range from $25 phone calls from soldiers to a $5,000 total entertainment system. Although USO could not specify how much money had been raised so far by the catalog, the most popular items were a phone call home and a comfort food package. “Ways to connect seem to be the most important,” said Seely. “Whether through a phone call, the Internet or video recordings, the holiday season seems to instill a need to connect with one’s family.”

USO intends to keep the website active year-round, adapting gifts to different holidays. “This has been an idea that we’ve been growing for the past two years and have been testing internally,” said Seely. “We will be continuing our broad holiday appeals for constituents. Right now the catalogs are specifically an online effort.”