Salvation Army’s red Christmas kettles and bell ringers landed here in 1928 and have withstood South Korea‘s harsh winters ever since. It seems though, it won’t be long before they disappear and are replaced with digital gadgets, as donors now tend to prefer convenient digital charity over traditional paper money donations.
In line with the trend, fund organizers are rolling out easy and creative digital methods to draw more tech-savvy donors.
They range from applications to digital gift certificates, mobile crowdfunding and e-commerce. Nowadays, almost all organizations and businesses arranging social funding turn to digital methods.
The Salvation Army Korea, for one, offers a mobile application designed to allow anyone with a smartphone to easily wire a donation and to enhance transparency by providing an up-to-date amount of total funds raised.
Although the portion of funds raised through the mobile app remains lower than the amount raised on the streets, the group believes the app will help red kettles reach out to a wider range of potential donors.
E-donations have also risen as a welcome tool for the fund organizers in Korea, as they are able to instantly approach large crowds through social media.
Happy Bean, an online charity platform operated by local search giant Naver, was the first e-donation to be introduced in the country.
Happy Bean users can collect “beans” that act as a cyber currency to be donated to a cause of their choice. Each bean is worth 100 won and can be collected through diverse activities on Naver, such as blogging. They can also be bought with a credit card or cash.
According to Naver, over the past 11 years, some 13 million users donated an accumulated total of 63.5 billion won ($53 million). With the size of its e-donations growing each year, the e-charity raised 8.3 billion won from 630,000 users this year.
Meanwhile, the latest mobile charity apps are aimed at integrating donors’ daily routine with fundraising, ultimately increasing participation.
Big Walk, for example, is a popular crowdfunding app that allows users to fund causes simply by walking.
“As an avid fan of walking, I’m part of a walkathon club. I walk at least an hour a day, and about six hours on weekends. It’s awesome to be able to help others while doing something I enjoy,” said 57-year-old Kim Mi-kyung, who recently downloaded the app along with others in her walking club.
Users are given a “snow” icon for every 10 meters they walk, which is kept track of via the smartphone GPS system.
Accumulated snow is automatically transferred to fund a cause of the user‘s choice.
For instance, currently a fundraiser with 2,453 people is trying to raise 4 million snow to donate heated tents to four low-income households
App users can also create their own fund to support causes that matter to them.
According to data from Big Walk, it ran 60 campaigns in 2015 and gathered some 680 million won, propped up by snow donors who walked a total of 3.52 million kilometers, equivalent to 87 full circles around Earth.
“In 2013 we raised 180 million won and the amount raised has grown significantly over the years. As of Dec. 19, the figure for this year stands at a high of 912 million won, with 345 million won more promised by the end of the year,” said Lee Yeon-jin of Big Walk’s management department.
Lee highlighted the app’s “easy” and “fun” functionality as its biggest success factors.
“I think most users found it intriguing that they can be part of a good cause by walking. The app has added meaning to an ordinary activity,” Lee said.