The Salvation Army broke its record, set in 2011, for fundraising around its annual Red Kettle Campaign (RKC). The organization raised $148.7 million through its 122nd RKC this past holiday season, about $1.1 million more than the $147.6 million in 2011.
“Particularly this year we were concerned, but it came through,” said Maj. Ron Busroe, community relations and development secretary for the nonprofit headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
Funds raised by the campaign account for between 40 and 60 percent of each unit’s budget the following year. The RKC begins in earnest the day after Thanksgiving, though individual units have discretion on starting earlier. This was the 16 year that the Salvation Army has partnered with the Dallas Cowboys, and the campaign officially kicked off at the Cowboys-Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving Day. Country music star Kenny Chesney performed during the halftime show to raise awareness for the campaign.
The campaign has doubled in revenue raised since the partnership began in 1997, said Maj. George Hood, Busroe’s predecessor.
A December performance also raised awareness for RKC. Rock the Red Kettle was a free outdoor concert in Los Angeles. Several hundred people watched live and thousands more watched on social media. According to Jennifer Byrd, national public relations director, the Salvation Army Facebook page picked up 62,000 new fans the weekend of the concert. “We were trying to engage a younger demographic, get them involved as volunteers and give them an opportunity to see what the Salvation Army is doing,” said Busroe.
The campaign itself was not the only record-breaker in 2012. Three bell ringers rang their bells for 80 straight hours at the Salvation Army’s second annual World Record Bell-Ringing Contest on December 14. The 2011 record stood at 60 hours. All three laid their bells down at the 80-hour mark to show respect for the victims of the Newtown, Conn.,school shooting, which had happened earlier that day.
Online Red Kettles, a peer-to-peer fundraising program that began in 2005, missed their collective goal of $3 million for this campaign, but at $2.1 million raised, still beat last year’s total of $1.7 million by 17 percent. “Online is continuing to increase every year,” said Busroe. “It’s never going to replace the Red Kettle, but being able to get your friends involved, it’s more of a peer-to-peer activity.”
Salvation Army officials were concerned from the start that the 2012 presidential election might divert funds from the Red Kettle campaign. About three weeks before the Kettle Campaign kickoff, Hurricane Sandy plowed into the East Coast, causing billions of dollars in damage and disrupting the lives of millions. “(It) certainly impacted the Northeast specifically, but it was such a massive disaster that it impacted the entire country,” said Busroe. “People were aware of what’s going on, and money they might be inclined to put in the kettles might be diverted to other things.”
Fundraising was erratic for much of the campaign, with some territories and units above the previous campaign’s benchmarks and some down at various points. Busroe said donations usually increase the closer it gets to Christmas, and this year was no different. “People are out there doing last minute Christmas shopping, also realizing they need to make a donation,” he said.