Football. Fireworks. Country music. And, now the waiting.
The Salvation Army kicked off its 122nd annual Red Kettle Campaign on Thanksgiving Day during half-time of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. There are more than 25,000 bell-ringers on the streets across the nation.
And while the initial numbers are not in, the Salvation Army is hoping for a seventh consecutive year of record results. Last year the campaign, which runs from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, raised approximately $147 million.
This is the 16th year that The Salvation Army has partnered with the Dallas Cowboys, who have been playing on Thanksgiving since 1966. Many football fans consider the game as traditional as a turkey and gravy. The Red Kettle Campaign results have doubled since partnership with the Dallas Cowboys began in 1997 when approximately $73 million was raised, said Maj. George Hood, national community relations secretary for the Alexandria, Va.-based Salvation Army. An estimated $1.5 billion has been raised during that partnership.
Country music star Kenny Chesney performed during this year’s half-time show at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas in front of a crowd of about 90,000. “It was a great kickoff with Kenny Chesney, everything was spectacular,” said Hood.
Hood said the organization’s national headquarters does not yet know how much has been donated to the campaign so far. “We’re so decentralized,” he said. “We ask the field for weekly updates, but we don’t have a count for the weekend yet.” The local Dallas Salvation Army’s bell ringers were present at the game, taking donations in their iconic red kettles, and the text-to-give (“GIVE” to shortcode 80888) was featured on the stadium’s big screens throughout the day.
The Red Kettle Campaign has never had a national fundraising goal. Each community sets its own goals. “The interesting thing is that (the campaign is) totally decentralized,” said Hood. “We create resources, tools and awareness, but the local markets set their own goals and they drive it in their communities.” The money raised by each local Salvation Army affiliate, called field units, stays within the community.
“It’s a real privilege for us and the impact is enormous,” said Hood said of the partnership with the Cowboys. “We’re privileged and blessed to have such a strong supporter in (Cowboys owner) Jerry Jones and (daughter) Charlotte Jones (Anderson).”
Hood expects this year’s campaign to once again break a national record, and believes that donors are prepared to dip back into their pockets even after recently giving in response to super storm Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast in late October. The Salvation Army had raised $7.2 million for Sandy-related response in just under three weeks after the storm.
“We’re transitioning from disaster recovery to the holiday season, and (donors) know thousands of homes are gone and there are families with nowhere to go,” said Hood. “The American public is aware of that and will want to make sure we have the financial resources we need. We know we have to deal with the impact of Sandy, and as we move into the holiday season, demand for support is going to be very intense.”
In December, TSA will have a free concert in Los Angeles to promote and raise awareness around the Red Kettle Campaign. Hood said TSA is expecting an audience of about 10,000, with another 30,000 watching live on Facebook. Hood said the campaign is increasingly utilizing technology to create awareness and take donations. Bell ringers have had the ability to take credit card donations for about five years, and online red kettles, a peer-to-peer fundraising tool now in its eighth year, raised approximately $2 million last holiday season for the campaign.