How to Fill the Salvation Army's Red Kettles

The Salvation Army is struggling to raise money this year through its traditional red kettle/bell-ringing campaign, with donations down 22 percent. It might be due to a down economy. I know that my dependence on electronic transactions frequently leaves me without bills or coins to donate.

But new economic research suggests strategies to increase donations. A team of economists conducted a four day experiment at a Boston-area supermarket using two different approaches to the red kettle campaign.

The first approach was passive — just bell-ringing, no speaking, no eye contact. The second was active — bell-ringing plus a direct ask for a donation.

The result?

People avoid being asked verbally (as opposed to the implicit, passive ask that the presence of kettle suggests). About a third of the shoppers actively switched entrances to avoid the verbal ask.

But, the verbal ask increased donations by 75 percent.

So, bell ringers, it pays to ask.


Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.