Americans’ giving mood impacted by weather extremes

Fundraising efforts for one of the country's largest social service providers are dependent on Mother Nature’s impacts.

The familiar sounds of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle bell ringers are already being heard outside stores around the country, but the campaign’s success could depend on whether Mother Nature is in giving mood herself.

Since 1891, the Salvation Army has turned to kettles to help raise money for the millions of Americans in need of food, shelter and social services.

The campaign coincides with when North America typically sees weather patterns change from the fall to the winter.

It’s usually during the campaign when most of the U.S. sees its first flakes of the season.

With the change in weather, not only does the Salvation Army deal with the impacts to their volunteers, they also see changes on how generous shoppers are while they pass by their kettles.

"Each local Salvation Army unit will have at least a few fundraising days in the holiday season affected by rain, snow, or cold temperatures," Bishop Wash, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army, said.

Experts say it’s part of nature that humans tend to act differently during weather changes or extremes.

"With extreme temperatures and extreme swings, you’re going to see people being more focused on themselves," Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said. "This human trait generally continues until we get acclimated."

The Salvation Army says their volunteers have seen donations tail off during changes in the weather.

Wash stated, "fluctuations in temperature or precipitation can affect storefront traffic and the willingness of shoppers to stop at the Red Kettle before entering the store or running to their vehicle."

Dr. Klapow stresses that the adjustments in behavior are not because of a change in generosity, it is generally because of an altered state of mind.    

"If there’s a blizzard, we are less likely to walk outside and put a donation in the kettle than if it is a brisk, chilly day. Because if there’s a blizzard, we’re paying attention to staying alive ourselves and not necessarily our surroundings," Dr. Klapow said.

Despite the combination of the extreme weather in 2020 and the pandemic, the Salvation Army raised nearly $119 million during their campaign.

If you would like to volunteer or donate to the Salvation Army, they’ve made it easy. Visit salvationarmyusa.org for more information.

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