Technology hurts donations to Salvation Army bell-ringers

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The sound of bells ringing for donations outside retailers has become a holiday tradition, but volunteers with the Salvation Army of Tampa said less people are stopping at their red kettles to drop in cash this year. 

"We're down 12-percent right now, which, across the Tampa Bay area, could be as much as $200,000 if we don't start making up this deficit," said Captain Andy Miller with the Salvation Army of Tampa.

Despite posting volunteers outside more than 400 stores across Tampa Bay, officials say cash donations have dropped off, in part, because many shoppers are no longer carrying money in their wallets, instead opting for debit and credit card purchases.

Officials said they do not know exactly what's causing the lack of donations, but a trend towards online shopping could also be affecting their donations, with less foot traffic at stores. The Salvation Army is slowly moving towards alternative options for donating geared towards modern technology.

"I think very soon we'll have more, [because] the technology is catching up to what we need. We'll be able to put a credit card in and have maybe an ApplePay type of thing on our kettles," said Miller.

Some branches of the Salvation Army across the country already offer a swipe option. Miller said volunteers encourage shoppers without cash to write checks or try to get cash back once they shop in order to donate on their way out of the stores.

For those who prefer a more tech-savvy approach, the Salvation Army of Tampa accepts donations online through

The organization hopes to raise just over $2 million across Tampa Bay. Last year, they helped 101,000 people in need of food and shelter.