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Salvation Army relies on mobile to encourage giving

Due to the slow economy and fears of a poor fundraising season, The Salvation Army has found a new, cost-effective way of increasing donations to its 2008 holiday fundraising campaigns.

The charitable organization is testing mobile donations in the Atlanta Metro area. The association's signature Red Kettles in Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton and Fayette Counties will be the first exposed to a program that will encourage shoppers short on change to make a $5 donation to the charitable cause via text messaging.

"For years we have depended on people to have a dollar in their pocket and not everyone carries money with them these days," said Major James Seiler, Metro Atlanta area commander of The Salvation Army, Atlanta, GA. "We want to make it easier for people who love us and want to support people in need during the holiday season."

Nationally, The Salvation Army kicks off its Red Kettle Campaign on Thanksgiving Day.

The Red Kettle Christmas Campaign enables the Army to provide food, toys and clothing to over 6 million people during the Christmas season and helps more than 34 million Americans recovering from all kinds of personal disasters nationwide.

The Red Kettle campaign, first started in San Francisco in 1891, has traditionally been The Salvation Army's most prominent fund-raiser.

In 2004, the campaign raised over $100 million in communities nationwide, with the nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars all remaining in the towns where the money was deposited into the kettles.

The funds raised help support many of the 37 million people in poverty who turn to the Army for food and toys at Christmas, utility and homeless assistance, senior and child care, drug abuse treatment and many other social service needs.

Beginning in two weeks, mobile phone users in the Metro Atlanta Area can text message" TSA" to 90999 and a $5 donation will be added to the donor's mobile phone bill.

These funds will ensure that more than 30,000 children will receive new toys and clothes at Christmas.

Additionally, the funds will also be used to provide hundreds of individuals a holiday meal Thanksgiving and Christmas, and many more homeless individuals and families will receive emergency shelter from the cold.

Red Kettle Campaign's goal is to reach $1,600,000 in fundraising, nearly $300,000 more than the funds raised by kettles in 2007.

"As early as Nov. 14, you will begin to see Salvation Army Red Kettles and Bell Ringers outside a number of Metro Atlanta Area stores and malls," Mr. Seiler said.

"The remaining Kettle locations will be up and running by Black Friday," he said. "With the late Thanksgiving holiday, we could not chance losing any valuable fundraising days."

In addition to the above-mentioned efforts, The Salvation Army has collaborated with area media outlets to increase donations of food, holiday toys, new clothing, and encourage internet giving to its On-line Red Kettle Program.

"We are not the most progressive movement in the world as you can imagine," Mr. Seiler said. "We change very slowly. People know us for who we are: A long-caring organization. But we want different results this year and different results call for different strategies."

Mobile Accord is powering the text-to-give campaign.

Mobile Accord is a mobile application service provider and a cause-marketing agency based in Denver, CO.

The company is dedicated to helping major non-profits, political organizations, universities and corporate cause-marketers understand and benefit from the power of mobile technology.

"The decision to introduce text messaging is about the donor's ease and convenience," Mr. Seiler said. "Text messaging is available to 250 million mobile phone users in the United States alone.

"With the regular use of debit and credit cards, many shoppers are short on loose change or cash in-hand," he said. "We want to afford anyone and everyone who desires to make a donation, a user friendly and convenient means to do so."