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Holiday Donors Use NFC for Salvation Army Kettle Pay

The organization rolled out NFC-based Apple Pay and Google Pay options for payments at shopping areas around U.S. cities for the 2019 holiday season, providing a digital option for donors who may not carry spare change in their pockets.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 10, 2020

This past holiday season, bell ringers at The Salvation Army's traditional kettle donation sites were accompanied by a technology upgrade that gave shoppers a digital option for their 2019 donations. In addition to accepting spare change dropped into the familiar red kettles, the organization allowed shoppers to make donations via their smartphones, courtesy of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology or QR codes.

The Salvation Army has deployed NFC as part of the Kettle Pay system, with GoToTags NFC 13.56 MHz RFID tags compliant with the ISO 14443 standard on signs posted with the kettles. The system was first piloted in Seattle, Dallas, Kansas City and New York City, then rolled out across the country this holiday season. "This is the first time that smart chips and QR codes are being used nationwide, and The Salvation Army is seeing donations come through via the Kettle Pay option," says David Jolley, the organization's director of communications.

The Web-based solution was provided by technology integrator Clearscale, and was pre-encoded by GoToTags to more than 50,000 of its NFC tags. The goal was to enable spontaneous payments for shoppers who are increasingly reliant on phones and digital payments, and who may be less likely to carry cash.

The Salvation Army has been collecting charitable donations in the United States for 135 years, in order to benefit social services such as food for the hungry and clothing and shelter for the homeless. Its contributions serve approximately 5,000 communities nationwide. Last year, the organization rolled out a trial of Kettle Pay, its digital payment option, in select cities using QR codes to allow shoppers to make payments even if they weren't carrying cash. People could use their smartphones to scan the QR code at the kettle's sign and were directed to the payment site, where they could then select an amount and provide payment information.

However, the organization found that NFC technology could be more intuitive to use in a tap-to-pay method, and the NFC payment option was thus added, explains Asa Redfield, GoToTags' marketing director. At the same time, The Salvation Army rolled out the Kettle Pay system to more payment sites around the country. "As America moves toward a cashless society," Jolley says, "The Salvation Army is adapting to the changing landscape" by making it simpler to contribute.

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