Claire Waiksnoris, Director of Business Development  ●  9/24/2020

Salvation Army Leaders Weigh In on Fundraising in a Pandemic

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One of the goals of The Ringer is to not only create and share meaningful content from our in-house experts, but also to create opportunities to learn from your Salvation Army peers.

We’ve asked a few of our clients to share their experiences and learnings from fundraising through a pandemic.

Read on to learn how the development leaders of the Metropolitan, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Alabama Louisiana Mississippi, and Del Oro Divisions, and Louisville Area Command are navigating this changed landscape.



Jeff Robey
Divisional Director of Strategy and Outcomes
The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division

What has surprised you most about fundraising in a pandemic?

  • The immense generosity of Chicagoans doesn’t surprise me, but I was truly inspired by the number of unexpected places and ways donations manifested during the early months of the pandemic.  We had corporations band together to create fundraising events, organizations launch their first peer-to-peer fundraiser, and long-time supporters greatly increase their support of The Salvation Army mission.

What is your biggest concern about the upcoming holiday fundraising season?  How are you combating that concern?

  • I would wager that this question has been on the minds of everyone in The Salvation Army.  Given all the changes in our daily lives and routines brought about by COVID-19, it is hard to say exactly what impact it will have on our annual iconic Red Kettle Campaign.  We know that people are shopping online more or using curb-side pickup.  There is a coin shortage, and people are carrying less cash than ever.  However, we know that people’s generosity and desire to help their neighbors in need has not diminished.  At the Metropolitan Division, we are putting digital tactics in place to help make it easier than ever to donate.  We’ve enlisted the help of Chicagoland celebrities, media, and sports personalities to help shine a light on the growing need in our communities, and ask for vital donations to their Online Red Kettles.  We’re also putting the Kettle Pay NFC signage in more places to allow Chicagoans to donate with their phones on their commute to work.

One piece of advice for your Development Director colleagues?

  • Given the concerns around Red Kettles this year, I would encourage everyone to embrace digital donation options.  Over the past six months, our society has gotten more comfortable than ever with doing most things online.  (Thank you, Zoom meetings.)  That also extends to making online donations.  Create Online Red Kettles and P2P platforms, and promote them widely.


Beverly Peterson, EdD
Executive Director of Development
Wisconsin Upper Michigan

 What has surprised you most about fundraising in a pandemic?

  • That a global crisis of this magnitude, that has affected us all so personally, doesn’t slow down the generosity of giving.  The fact that donors want to give, have the capacity to give, and trust organizations like The Salvation Army to provide help and hope to those in need in their community, is an amazing testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.  Many give without thought to their own economic situations, but in faith, believe it’s the right thing to do.  Maybe they believe as Anne Frank, who once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”


 What is your biggest concern about the upcoming holiday fundraising season?

  • To do things normally, as we have done in the past, but not knowing what “normal” is anymore.  It’s a complete paradigm shift for us as an organization and as nonprofits collectively.  We call it “doing business as usual, but unusually” at The Salvation Army Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division.  For The Salvation Army, it’s the idea of the iconic Red Kettle being in front of a store or not.  It’s having social distancing, masks, and sanitizer replacing up-close greetings, friendly smiles, and winter gloves.  It’s the difference between local toy drives and virtual ones.  It’s that special event at the mall or business that is canceled or adapted into virtual events.  It’s the difference between sitting down at a community meal surrounded by family, friends, or strangers in the celebration of Christmas Day and the birth of our Savior, or carrying out a food box.  It’s the difference in a toy shop distribution where parents select toys for their children personally, or handing out a bag of toys based on the gender and age of the child.  It’s business as usual, but unusually.  It’s the donor who gave so generously during COVID, but who may not be able to give again during our Christmas season.  It has shifted what we have known to be our biggest fundraising season at the end of the year to the middle of the year, based on a restricted donation (COVID-related).


How are you combating that concern?

  • The Salvation Army Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division began to analyze our opportunities and threats.  How to do things differently that will provide the greatest impact of the financial gift from our donors to meet the needs of our clients.  This year, we are strategizing for more virtual events and online giving (Virtual Kettle, peer-to-peer and cause fundraising, website, social media, etc.).  We are aligning with social services to provide toy distribution as a drive-through event with online registration.  We are coordinating with the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee to provide social distance eat-in or carryout food boxes for our Family Feast (feeding 5,000+ people on Christmas Day; 31st Anniversary).  We are inviting influencers to create a Virtual Kettle and receive a Bellringer in a Box kit to raise money in competition with other influencers.  We are communicating with local units through monthly virtual Christmas roundtables (July–November) on Zoom meetings.  We set up files called “Everything Christmas” to provide best practices and idea sharing.  We have adjusted our direct mail appeal and major gift asks to tell our story.  We are partnering with local media partners for on-air telethons and virtual giving (text-to-give).  We are marketing the need through electronic billboards.  We are using every asset available to us from National and Territorial Headquarters to promote and implement in our local units, where both boots are on the ground in direct service to those in need.


One piece of advice for your Development Director colleagues.

  • Faith Over Fear.  It’s the saying on the mask I wear every day and truly believe in my heart.  As a development team, we pray before we act.  We believe before we panic.  We reassess before we are defeated.  We think before we reorganize.  We communicate before we suffer loneliness.  We work as a team instead of in silos.  We claim victory in Jesus Christ as the center of our mission and ministry.  “You see, God did not give us a cowardly spirit, but a powerful, loving, and disciplined spirit” (2 Timothy 1:7).



Amy Cline
Divisional Development Director
The Salvation Army ALM Division

What has surprised you most about fundraising in a pandemic?

  • Donors are still very generous, even during these uncertain times.  They want to help.  If they have the means, they are stepping up to the plate.

What is your biggest concern about the upcoming holiday fundraising season?  How are you combating that concern?

  • Our Red Kettles first began in 1891.  To date, this is our largest fundraiser.  To my knowledge, we’ve never been in a situation where we are so unsure if kettles will be out this year.  Because of these unknowns, we want to provide our donors with a variety of donation options.  It is important for our Shield to be extremely visible while providing the donors multiple giving options.

One piece of advice for your Development Director colleagues?

  • This could be our greatest Christmas ever!  Keep your foot on the gas, and in full force.  By providing the donors an aggressive messaging and outreach — both channel and target — you will do well.


Kelly Hutchinson
Director of Development & Community Relations
The Salvation Army Louisville Area Command

What has surprised you most about fundraising in a pandemic?

  • This is what The Salvation Army was made for, and overwhelmingly, our loyal supporters and donors trust us to do the most good.  The pandemic brought to me so many individuals who, in this time, stepped up to show the best and most generous version of themselves to help others.  In addition, it has forced me to be very intentional about how I spend my time and how I keep important community relationships involved and engaged — even when not meeting face to face.

What is your biggest concern about the upcoming holiday fundraising season?  How are you combating that concern?

  • My biggest concern is that our Red Kettle income will be down due to decreased volume of foot traffic to retail locations this year, due to social distancing and the pandemic.  Coupled with anticipation that the need this holiday season is going to be greater than even before.  We plan to continue our growth by sharing the Red Kettle Challenge to engage more individuals and companies to adopt a kettle of their own, and online, and help raise $1,000 this holiday season.

One piece of advice for your Development Director colleagues?

  • Make sure that you continue to set bold goals, and that you call and engage with your donors — both to see how they are doing, and to inform on The Salvation Army.  Do not pull back from communicating ways people can step up and help The Salvation Army meet the need now more than ever.


Kim Butters
Director of Development
Del Oro Division

What has surprised you most about fundraising in a pandemic?

  • We all know that fundraising is all about cultivating relationships.  When the pandemic hit, we realized that we needed to pivot from many of our traditional fundraising strategies.  We got creative really fast.  A visit with a donor has become a virtual visit over coffee, and our program tours and fundraising events have become a virtual experience that includes testimonies, virtual tours of program facilities, and interactive discussions.  Most importantly, we have learned that many of our donors were feeling isolated and extremely lonely; this has created an opportunity for us to provide them with emotional and spiritual support during a difficult time in their lives.  We are happy to share that our relationships with our donors are being strengthened as we face this time of worry and fear together.  

What is your biggest concern about the upcoming holiday fundraising season and how are you combating that concern?

  • We are still hopeful that many of our corporate partners will allow our traditional bell-ringing this holiday season.  However, I am sure that we all share a concern that our opportunities might be limited or non-existent in some cases.  In Del Oro, our amazing development team and officers are innovating new ideas for the upcoming holiday season.  Our digital bell-ringing presence will be more expansive this year, as every Corps in our Division will have a beautifully designed Virtual Red Kettle that can be shared with Advisory Board members, small businesses, and individuals in each community that we serve.  A Kettle Kickoff event in Santa Rosa will become a drive-thru event with live entertainment, bell-ringing, and an opportunity to learn about The Salvation Army.  We also recognize that our social media platforms will be critical as we strive to increase our reach this holiday season.




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