Salvation Army Goes Mobile

You’ve probably heard and maybe even seen them around town: Salvation Army bell-ringers gathering holiday donations in their red kettles. The annual campaign, which usually signals the start of the holiday season as fast as Christmas carols playing in the drugstore, officially kicks off in Boston on Wednesday with Mayor Menino sharing bell-ringing duties with Ivan Rock, general secretary of the Massachusetts Salvation Army, in Downtown Crossing.

New this year to the campaign is a poster with a QR code that allows passerby without spare change (or with holes in their pockets) to make an electronic donation:

“The code is a great alternative for those who pass by our kettles but don’t have any change in their pockets to give,” Rock told the Herald. “At a time when we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the need for food, shelter, warm clothing and heat, we’re looking for ways to dramatically increase the donations we receive through our kettles.”

Let’s hope the QR campaign can give donations to the Salv a boost — any increase in donations to charity is a plus, right? — but QR, which stands for “quick response,” never usually winds up being all that quick. You take a pic on your smartphone, open an app/visit a website, and go through multiple steps to input payment info. A better mobile option for charities and nonprofits on the horizon is NFC (near-field communication), which only requires donors to type and swipe to complete the transaction.

At that rate, maybe the Salvation Army should accept kettle-side credit cards, too. But doesn’t that seem to take away from holiday bells ringing and the sound of change clinking in the traditional metal kettles?