Touchdown Boosted Red Kettle Giving To Almost Even

Giving to The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign this past holiday season dropped for the first time in three years, off 1.5 percent from 2015’s record total.

In today’s announcement, The Salvation Army described the $147.3 million tally as the fourth-highest donation total in the 126-year history of the Red Kettle Campaign. The only campaigns that raised more were 2015 ($149.6 million), 2012 ($148.7 million) and 2011 ($147.6 million).

Online donations comprised about 22 percent of the total campaign in 2015 but the total reported by The Salvation Army for 2016 is for kettles only.

“Despite fluctuating retail traffic across the country that affected the number of people getting out and donating into kettles, the Red Kettle Campaign collected an impressive $147.3 million total,” Lt. Col. Ron Busroe, community relations and development secretary for The Salvation Army’s national headquarters, said via the announcement. “We were encouraged to see that despite these circumstances, Americans generously supported the work we do and helped us raise the campaign’s fourth-highest donation total,” he said.

The campaign annually launches on Thanksgiving during halftime of the Dallas Cowboys football game and runs through Christmas. It was the 20th year The Salvation Army has partnered with the Cowboys.

The campaign was down about 16 percent overall before it got a lift in the final week from the Cowboys’ rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott’s “Red Kettle Leap” during the Dec. 18 Sunday Night Football game. The leap into a giant Red Kettle after a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on national television sparked a trending topic on Twitter and boosted donations and awareness. Online donations spiked 61 percent the next morning, up more than $182,000 compared to the previous week.

In a nod to his jersey number, Elliott and The Salvation Army teamed up to ask for $21 donations. Those donations included a $21,000 contribution from Elliott and a match of $21,000 from a Texas couple, totaling almost $250,000, according to the organization.

Giving to Red Kettles outside retail locations was about flat. More than 5,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations collected $44.25 million, down from last year’s $44.3 million. Giving at Kroger’s locations was up from $16.8 million to $16.9 million while giving at JC Penney locations dropped from $3 million to $2.7 million, and at Big Lots locations from $1.2 million to $888,900. Giving at Bass Pro Shops was reported at almost $400,000 in its first year with the campaign.

The Salvation Army last year partnered with corporations in other ways, including Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Krispy Kreme and Cricket Wireless. Counter kettles at Krispy Kreme raised more than $27,000 for the campaign in addition to donating a percentage of sales on Dec. 19. Cricket Wireless raised almost $41,000 to buy toys for children in need by donating $1 per “like” on a participating Cricket Wireless store’s Facebook page.

Retail partners help raise more than money for the organization. Walmart stores hosted the fifth annual Fill the Truck event from Nov. 25 through Dec. 11, collecting more than 80,000 coats and 4,000 toys for children. Hanes donated 200,000 pairs of socks to The Salvation Army, bringing the total during the past eight years to more than 1.8 million pairs.