Ringing the Bell, Lessons Learned (replay)

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red-bellOne of the fun things I do as a member of the Monument Hill Kiwanis Club is to spend a few hours each year ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.

I spend two hours each week from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, standing with the kettle and raising a portion of the $40K+ that our club brings to the Salvation Army each year.

In addition to being a good thing to do, I learn a few lessons while standing outside Walmart, Safeway, or King Soopers that help me and my clients be better at what we do.


Here is what I have learned that works:
1) Greet and make eye contact.  Roberta lets me know when she visits a store where the bell ringer is just standing there, not engaging with the passersby.  I try to greet as many people as possible as they enter the store, with a hearty "good afternoon", a "get in there and out of the cold", or "how about those Broncos!".  While doing this I make a small move in their direction, and I make eye contact.  Each of these stores has a south-facing entrance and I have worn sunglasses for a bit, but have found that I get a much better response if they can see my eyes, so I leave them off.

2) Be noticed - color, shape, movement (and sound). In my Visual Communications class, I teach that the three things a person notices before they are even aware of what they are seeing are color, shape, and movement.  The bright blue Kiwanis vest catches peoples' eye and I always take a step in their general direction.  Combined with the ringing bell and a hearty greeting, most people will return eye contact and many will offer a greeting in return.

3) You can't predict who will give.  You may have stereotypes of who might be more generous, women vs men, older vs younger; but I have seen that giving comes from all demographic categories and economic situations.  If there is a group that gives more frequently than most it is parents with young children who give them some coins to put in the kettle.

4) Wish them a Merry Christmas. On their way out I give every person a warm "Merry Christmas", making eye contact again.   

5) Provide something special.  I suspect that many people that cross my path in life, and as a bell ringer, benefit from some warm personal engagement.  Many of my Kiwanian bell-ringer cohort have a special hook to engage with those we meet.  Jim C. brings his snow dog as something special.  When I lived in Greeley, our Kiwanis Pep Band played carols during our bell-ringing.  

My "something special" is to offer little kids a chance to ring the bell. Some do it enthusiastically, and others are too bashful to take the bell from my hand.  Hopefully I have created a special Christmas memory for a few kids who will see the red kettle and have a positive thought.

I think that these conscious actions on my part increase the giving to Salvation Army, but even if all I do is create a moment of pleasantness for the hundreds of people that I greet and wish well, it is worth doing.

I know that it never fails to lift my spirits and puts me in a healthier place for the holidays. 

Please drop something into the kettle the next time you see a Salvation Army station, and have yourselves a Merry Christmas!

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Scott is co-owner of Wave's End Services, LLC, a Colorado-based provider of Web, IT Consulting, photography, video, and training services.