The Salvation Army is stepping up its digital game for the holidays after announcing a new partnership with mobile payments processor Square that will allow the organization’s bell ringers to accept credit card payments on smartphones.

The 130-year old nonprofit organization—part of the universal Christian church—announced on Wednesday that it will begin accepting credit card donations in select markets that include San Franciso, Chicago, Dallas and New York. The smartphones used by the organization’s bell ringers will be donated by Sprint, which will also provide the wireless service powering and mobilizing Square’s credit card applications. San Francisco-based Square Inc. will provide its signature credit card readers on a voluntary basis as well.

“This partnership brings together the history of the campaign in San Francisco and a great technology from Square that makes it easier than ever for people to donate,” said the Salvation Army’s National Community Relations and Development Secretary Major George Hood in a statement. “With so many Americans continuing to struggle amidst the economic downturn, giving back to your neighbors in need has never been more important.”

Red Kettle Campaign Nets Millions for the Nation’s Destitute

The announcement was made on Wednesday as part of the 120th anniversary of the Red Kettle Campaign, which is now in its 120th year. The campaign began in 1891 by Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee in San Francisco, who at that time grappled with the challenged of providing a free Christmas dinner to the destitute in that city. To date, it uses more than 25,000 bellringers to raise money from holiday shoppers, while more than $142 million was successfully raised in 2010 through the campaign.

The Square-enabled bellringers are expected to make their debut this coming Thanksgiving during the Dallas Cowboys/Miami Dolphins game.

While the Square-Salvation Army marriage is definitely cutting edge, it’s not the first time that the organation has used mobile payments to collect donations. Late last year the organization began accepting debit and credit card payments via text message, and also began testing an “E-Kettle” with attached credit card readers with built in printers so that donors can write off their contributions come tax season.

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