DipJars offer donors the option to give by credit card at Red Kettle locations and fundraising events

By: David Ibata

The Chattanooga Area Command, anticipating the cashless society of the 21st century, deployed five “DipJars” – portable, self-contained credit-card readers – to Angel Tree tables and during the “Twelve Days of Giving” campaign at local shopping malls during the Christmas 2016 season.

The little electronic gizmos brought in more than $4,000.

Encouraged, the command pre-set its DipJars for donations of $100, $250 and $500, and set them out at its annual fundraising banquet last August. In one evening, the devices raised in excess of $2,000.

Chattanooga has since gotten four more.

“It certainly makes donating easier, with so many of us carrying less and less cash,” said Kimberly George, director of marketing and development in Chattanooga. Also, she said, “people who give by credit card tend to give larger donations.”

A DipJar – so-called because its inventors reportedly wanted something better than a barista’s tip jar for people who pay with plastic – is a cellular-enabled card reader that automatically deducts a pre-set dollar amount, from $1 to $1,000, when someone dips a credit card into it.

Roughly the size of a 12-ounce coffee can, battery or AC-powered, it requires no signature, phone line or iPad or laptop connection. It can be set up almost anywhere one can get a cellular connection. It lights up  and makes a sound when somebody gives – instant feedback.

“Branded” with The Salvation Army red shield, DipJar is available through the Trade South store for $199 per unit plus $100 a year or $1 a day to pay for its cellular service, and 3 percent plus 17 cents per transaction. A video can be viewed on Trade South’s Facebook page.

About 250 of the devices have been deployed by 70 units across the Southern Territory, according to Jeremy Rowland, director of supplies and purchasing at Trade South. “We’re finding that the higher the dollar amount that users set for them, the better they work,” he said.

As the Army gains experience with the card readers, it’s learning where they can be successful, and where traditional means of fund-raising might be more effective. The Middlesboro, Kentucky, Corps, for example, used three DipJars in its 2017 Red Kettle Campaign. It attached the devices, pre-set for $5 donations, to the legs of its kettles. The DipJars brought in perhaps $50 to $60 total. Other corps report similar results.

“But that wasn’t the only reason for getting them,” said Lieutenant Ken Griffey Jr., corps officer in Middlesboro. “We want to use them at fund-raisers as another way of payment. I’ve got them in my safe right now. I definitely want to use them.”

Major Travis “Terry” Israel, territorial community relations and development secretary, said a Red Kettle encounter is something special, something more than the swipe of a credit card. “The nature of the kettle is not transactional; it’s more of an engagement. People engage with the Christmas season and with the bell ringer who greets them.”

“We haven’t found the answer to the ‘cashless kettle,’” Major Israel said. “I think the real future of the DipJar is as another form of giving, a little bit more deliberate and promotional on a specific project.”

Lieutenant Griffey said, “I do believe we may end up being a cashless society … and we if we can get ahead of the game and get people used to these things, it will go a lot better.”