Giant Shadow Threatens Salvation Army Xmas Collections

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December 6, 2010; Source: New York Times | Already suffering a recession-related dip in collections at its iconic red kettles, the Salvation Army now has to contend with a giant shadow falling over its fundraising efforts in Washington, D.C. Earlier this year, Giant Food issued an edict that only allows the Salvation Army’s bell-ringers to station themselves outside the grocery chain’s stores in the nation’s capital for a week in November and again in December. Last year, the Salvation Army had the exclusive right to raise funds outside Giant’s Washington-area stores for seven weeks.

The change this year is meant to give other local nonprofits a chance to solicit donations from shoppers. Salvation Army officials are worried that the Giant restrictions will further erode this year’s already-diminished take. For period ending December 1, volunteers collected $404,894 at all locations in the Washington-area, or some 15 percent less than during the same 16-day period last year. However, kettles outside Giant stores were about 75 percent lighter this year compared to 2009.

The current economic strains that are both reducing giving to the Salvation Army and increasing demands for its services also are behind Giant’s decision to share its real estate wealth with other nonprofits similarly finding themselves in need of more cash. Jamie Miller, a Giant spokesperson, said the chain—which limits fundraising outside its stores to just one group at a time—is giving youth athletic teams, local high school groups, Boy Scouts, a women’s group, and a local food pantry, their chance to raise money from shoppers during the run-up to Christmas.

The chain also extended the period it allows solicitations to Monday through Saturday. In past years, drives could only take place over the weekend. While Giant sees itself as being more altruistic, that claim is falling on deaf ears at the Salvation Army. Maj. Steven Morris, commander for Washington area, said the Salvation Army serves a broader range of families with greater needs, unlike the narrower focus of other nonprofits.—Bruce Trachtenberg