This Christmas season, Target Corporation continues it's hard stance "No Solicitation" policy in banning the Salvation Army from setting up it's kettles at local Target Stores. A ban that was first instituted in 2004.
Target Corporation is not the only corporation to ban the traditional bell ringers from seeking donations outside it's stores. Meijer Inc. began banning the red kettles over 10 years ago as it broadened it's No Solicitation policy. Across America, malls and other businesses have refused the 185 year old institution from collecting via the familiar red kettles and winter garbed bell ringers.
In defense of their policies, many of the corporations are claiming that if they allow one non-profit organization to solicit their customers, they're obligated to allow others. Yet, some of these corporations, feeling some heat from customers who are disgruntled over the policy, have gone out of their way to set up virtual donation points on their websites. Target Corporation being one.
At Target you can donate to the Angel Giving Tree. Or, you can buy a commemorative ornament (online or in stores) where 100% of the proceeds go to the Salvation Army. In addition, Target is donating $1 million dollars to the Army. (Personally, this seems to lead down the same path in why these stores banned the kettles in the first place. If you make allowances for one, then why not others?)
While these outright donations to the Salvation Army and the "virtual kettles" are a noble attempt in helping out an institution that has assisted and fed millions of families and individuals during the holiday season and throughout the year, it's a far cry from the flesh and blood bell ringers that stand outside the stores. (Or, perhaps, it's nothing more than an attempt at damage control in the public relations department, in hopes of wooing back customers that threatened boycott upon hearing of the bans.)
In 2003, when bell ringers were still allowed outside Target stores, the kettles collected about $8.8 million nationally. This was just at the Target stores. If you subtract the $1 Million this year that Target is donating outright… Will Target raise the $7.7 million to make up the difference through it's Angel Giving Tree and "limited edition angel ornament" program? Time will tell.
Beyond the loss of donations the Army is experiencing with the kettle banning across America, what are we teaching our children?
Our society has become more and more obsessed with high end holiday purchases and the "early morning", "late evening", "6 hour only", etc., sales. Taking a few moments to drop some change in a red kettle and chatting with the volunteer bell ringer seems to add a little balance to the "buy, buy, buy" and "give me, give me, give me" attitude of the season. It is an opportunity to show our children that giving up some of what we have to help others is a good thing. It is a visual lesson. Perhaps, with this generation's technological and internet savvy children, donating via the "virtual kettles" teaches the lesson equally well. However, you miss the opportunity to visit with the gentleman or lady standing out in the inclement weather, with scarf wrapped head and mitten garbed hands, ringing a bell. You miss the opportunity to learn why they are there and why they have been volunteering their time for the past "x" number of years to raise money for those in need. You miss the opportunity to watch those who quickly scamper by the volunteer muttering "bah, humbug". And, you miss the opportunity to tell your child why "bah, humbug" shouldn't be in their vocabulary. Or, in their hearts.