The Salvation Army Creates a Red Kettle Mobile Donation Application on AWS


The Salvation Army

Executive Summary

The Salvation Army, established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 135 years in the United States. More than 23 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through a range of social services, including food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless, opportunities for underprivileged children, and Christmas assistance to more than 3 million children and families each year. Eighty-two cents of every dollar donated to The Salvation Army are used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide.

"It’s amazing to see an app come together so quickly that resembles the simplicity of giving at the red kettle. We are so happy to offer our donors a quick and secure way to express their giving spirits, which empower us to serve more than 23 million people each year."

Lt. Colonel Ward Matthews, National Spokesperson for The Salvation Army

The Challenge

A familiar sight (and bell-ringing sound) on streets during the holiday season is The Salvation Army red kettle. Created in 1891, red kettles and their volunteers collect money to help more than 3 million American children and families in need during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Red kettles can be found throughout the United States as well as around the world, including in Korea, Japan, Chile, and many European countries.

In the past, red kettles have collected cash donations. Recently, however, The Salvation Army started looking into new forms of payment. The organization wanted to create and host a simple mobile donation application and website, using the Braintree payment processing API to transfer funds from Google and Apple Pay.

Here’s how the app would work: When users pass by a red kettle volunteer at a storefront or city sidewalk, they scan a QR code on The Salvation Army sign using their smartphone’s built-in camera app. This starts a browser and moves to a predefined URL. A web page with buttons pops up and prompts the user to enter the desired donation amount. The app then prompts the user to choose a payment method (Google or Apple Pay). Once the payment has been transferred, the app displays a confirmation page.

The Salvation Army chose ClearScale, an AWS Premier Consulting Partner, to create this donation collection app, infrastructure, and website while providing monitoring and other ongoing support.

The ClearScale Solution

The ClearScale team met with The Salvation Army to discuss the requirements for creating a lightweight JavaScript (JS) app that integrated Braintree with Amazon Web Services (AWS). The timeline was tight, as the app needed to be ready to roll out by November 5, a few weeks before the holiday season began. This gave ClearScale a little over a month to design the architecture, then develop, deploy, and document the app.

Architecture Design


The core components of the infrastructure include Amazon CloudFront, a global content delivery network (CDN) that securely delivers data and APIs. CloudFront serves the app, offering low latency and high transfer speeds. Amazon API Gateway — a managed service that simplifies publishing, maintenance, and monitoring — provides serverless setup and an integration layer to Braintree. The app runs on AWS Lambda, an event-driven, serverless computing platform.

Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) Cloud storage buckets are used to securely collect, analyze, and process payment data at massive scale. And the Amazon CloudWatch monitoring service monitors all server-side components.

The Benefits

The new infrastructure with AWS CloudFront enables The Salvation Army to deploy its new Red Kettle donation application anywhere in the world and scale to millions of donors. Thanks to BrainTree’s integration with AWS API Gateway, all transactions are secure and managed efficiently. And using a serverless architecture keeps costs low.

The app now runs in select cities in the United States, and it may be rolled out to more cities nationwide next year. In fact, The Salvation Army recently tweeted: “If you're in #Seattle, #Dallas, #KansasCity, or #NewYorkCity, we've got a digital treat for you! You can now donate at a #SalvationArmy #RedKettle using Apple Pay or Google Pay! Give it a shot and let us know how it goes! #FightForGood”

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