| USA TODAY
Salvation Army starts holiday fundraising early to ‘rescue Christmas’The Salvation Army is facing an increased demand amid COVID-19, so it will start collecting donations in its iconic red kettles earlier than ever.The Salvation Army’s iconic Red Kettle campaign is still ringing, even during 2020.But support isn’t what it used to be.While relief efforts from the federal government have stagnated — and the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated many Americans’ financial struggles — the Salvation Army says its fundraising numbers have dropped significantly, especially during one of the most crucial times of the year.The Christian-centered charity kickstarted its Red Kettles far earlier than it has in its more than 130-year history — beginning back in September.The organization anticipated at that time that its fundraising numbers would decline by up to 50%, even as the number of people it serves has skyrocketed.But even the early start may not have been enough.No more snow days?: Campbell’s Soup has a new ‘Snowbuddy’ commercial and a crusade to ‘Save the Snow Day’ amid coronavirusHoliday shopping 2020: Black Friday slumps, but some retailers are OK with that: Earlier deals, Cyber Monday come to the rescueMore people, due to layoffs and other employment instabilities, are unable to donate — even if they would like to send funds.”In the midst of a tsunami of need, we may have a drought of resources,” Salvation Army national commander Kenneth Hodder told San Francisco news station KGO-TV on Friday, “not because people don’t want to support us, but because they themselves are going through a difficult time.”Complicating matters is the decline of in-person retail shopping, especially during Black Friday weekend — both again in part caused by layoffs, but also due to the reluctance of shoppers to shop in-person this year.Preliminary data from Black Friday found that in-store traffic dropped by more than 52%, while online shopping increased up to $9 billion.”We won’t know the impact on the kettles until several weeks into the holiday season, but we expect dollars raised in each of those kettles will be fewer than years past,” Hodder told USA TODAY.While the familiar tinkle of the Red Kettle bells can still be heard throughout the next few weeks, there are also fewer bells throughout the nation because of the pandemic.In fact, the Salvation Army has new-fangled ways for people to donate, which were launched last year but have become more vital due to the pandemic.. They’ve rolled out digital modes of donating through their website and on Google and Apple Pay. There’s even an option to “Ask Alexa” to donate to the organization.That may help the Salvation Army endure this year, but will it match or surpass last year’s numbers — $126 million through 30,000 Red Kettles? That remains uncertain.How to help on Giving Tuesday and beyond: Generosity can be an ‘antidote’ to fear, ‘division’Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote.