Filling the Red Kettle

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The Salvation Army is struggling to raise money this year through its traditional red kettle/bell-ringing campaign, with donations down 22%. 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%.

So, bell ringers, it pays to ask.

Crossposted at Boston Daily.