Target shoppers will no longer see the red Salvation Army kettles or hear the telltale clanging of bells this holiday season because of a change in policy prohibiting all fund-raising outside the stores.
That change has put a crimp in the organization’s holiday fund-raising efforts, which netted about $8.9 million through kettles stationed outside the 1,088 Target stores nationwide, said Theresa Whitfield, Salvation Army spokeswoman.
Target joins a growing list of stores and retail property owners that restrict charities’ access to holiday shoppers’ pocket change.
Westcor, the operator of a host of East Valley malls, including Chandler Fashion Center, Scottsdale Fashion Square, Superstition Springs Center and The Borgata, has a long-standing policy of prohibiting all groups from seeking cash donations or selling items such as cookies.
Instead, the firm partners with organizations, including the Salvation Army and public schools, to sponsor fundraising programs and events.
Safeway groceries established guidelines and a calendar of available dates to manage requests from nonprofit groups.
Target decided to ban Salvation Army kettles earlier this year because the retailer was receiving "an increasing number of solicitation inquires from nonprofits," the company said.
And while the Salvation Army had long been an exception to the firm’s "no solicitation " policy, allowing them to continue would open "the door to other groups that wish to solicit our guests," it said.
"I can understand the challenges that Target faces with the volume of requests. We try and strike a balance," said Kerry Luginbill, Safeway spokeswoman.
At the beginning of this year, Safeway’s Phoenix division — which includes 60 Valley stores as well as 56 others in Arizona and one in Gallup, N.M. — established a fundraising policy and set up a well-defined calendar of available dates and times because of the volume of requests.
Safeway policy requires groups to be registered as a nonprofit with the Internal Revenue Service and carry $2 million in liability insurance, among other rules, Luginbill said.
October is set aside for the firm’s own breast cancer fund-raising effort while the Salvation Army, its kettles and bell-ringers have "exclusive rights" to the front of Safeway stores in all of December.
Debbie Simons, community relations manager for Westcor, said that her company can get as many as 50 requests a week from groups seeking fund-raising help and access to its properties.
If Westcor were to allow groups on the many East Valley centers it manages, "we’d have competing charities in the mall" or could appear unfair that one group was given access over another, she said.
Instead, Westcor partners with groups, including the Salvation Army and
public schools, to host and sponsor various events throughout the year.
At Christmas time, Westcor shoppers can participate in the Angel Tree program, which is done jointly by Westcor and the Salvation Army. Shoppers take a tag off a tree, learn about a needy child, purchase a gift, and leave it at the shopping center for distribution through the Salvation Army, Simons said.
Although the firm doesn’t allow the red kettles, "we do believe in the Salvation Army. We think what they do is wonderful. We just help them in that way," Simons said.
Salvation Army leaders said they understand such corporate worries and will abide by Target’s decision. But they don’t know how to make up for the significant drop in kettle collections.
"Target was, by far, one of the stores that brought in the most donations. It will be very difficult for us this year," said Sandi Gabel, Salvation Army’s development director for the Southwest, which includes Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Nevada and El Paso, Texas.
The group raised more than $300,000 last year from kettles at Target stores throughout the Valley, she said.
Although Gabel didn’t know exactly how many volunteers rang bells at Valley stores, donations at some totaled as much as $50,000, she said.
Wal-Mart will continue to allow bell-ringers outside stores across the nation, including the Valley, said Dan Fo ge lman, Wal-Mart spokesman.
Donations from Wal-Mart kettles raised $14 million nationwide, while kettles stationed outside Kmart stores resulted in about $7 million in donations, Whitfield said.