The Salvation Army of Dane County could have more than its 80 traditional red kettles out for the next Christmas season - it could be taking contributions by phone, virtually anywhere, thanks to a mobile application developed in a recent contest in Milwaukee.
"You can stand somewhere, shake your phone and a bell rings," said Michael Litman, a member of Awesomefat, a team from Concordia University, Mequon.
The software also lets people send donations by credit card over a smartphone. Chris Ziemba, development manager for the Salvation Army of Dane County, said it's not that it's harder to get people to contribute. "But the way people carry cash is different. Sometimes they come to the kettle and think they would like to donate but they don't have the cash readily available," Ziemba said.
Litman, a professor at Concordia, says his team also created a social networking game as part of the mobile application. Those who download the app and then share it with others can earn points and unlock new bells: a cowbell, serving bells, even sleigh bells.
Ziemba said the program is still being tweaked, but the Salvation Army hopes to have it in use for the 2012 holiday season. The group raised more than $670,000 in its 2011 campaign.