Salvation Army

An international, nonprofit religious organization, the Salvation Army is committed to providing human services and assistance to the very needy as an essential component of its evangelistic mission of fundamental Christianity.


The Salvation Army is an international non-profit religious
organization, committed to providing human services and
assistance to the very needy as an essential component
of its evangelistic mission of fundamental Christianity.

The organization's mission statement reads:

The Salvation Army, an international movement,
is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church.
Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated
by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel
of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without
discrimination. (The Salvation Army 2003)

The Salvation Army is funded by donations and voluntary
support. The national headquarters is located in Alexandria,
Virginia, while London serves as the site of its international
headquarters. Official publications of the Salvation Army
include The War Cry and All the World. The
Salvation Army is organized using a military model, following
a similar chain of command, including military titles for
personnel, local bands, and banners. Committed volunteers
are essential to the success of this extensive ministry
and its programs.

Historic Roots

In 1865, the Salvation Army was founded in London by William
Booth, an English Methodist minister. First known as the
"Christian Mission" to provide social welfare
assistance to the residents of urban slums and save them
from their sinful lifestyles of prostitution, gambling,
and drunkenness, it was renamed in 1878. Military ranks
and titles were assigned according to their responsibilities.
His wife, Catherine, was co-founder. The "soldiers"
preached openly in the streets. They promoted high ideals
of service and commitment.

Lieutenant Eliza Shirley held the first meeting in America.
In 1880, a group of seven women, led by George Scott Railton,
went to the United States and established the first international
site of the Salvation Army in New York City. Their mission
was to bring a gospel of hope and redemption to orphans,
prostitutes, alcoholics, and the working poor by meeting
their needs of food and shelter. During this time, the Salvation
Army expanded rapidly in many countries.

During World Wars I and II, the Salvation Army provided
physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort to the allied
forces' overseas soldiers. They distributed up to 900 doughnuts
per day, boosted morale, and read letters aloud to those
who could not read. The volunteers conducted concerts and
church services for the soldiers. They operated 1,000 canteens
on twenty-six battlefronts. They continue, today, to provide
services to veterans and disaster relief to those in need.


The Salvation Army is currently active in ninety-eight
countries, using 136 languages. It was the first significant
organization to recognize and act upon a Christ-like belief
that providing for the physical needs of the poor enabled
meeting their spiritual needs. Its ministry is a model of
Christian social action. It pioneered the pairing of relief
and social welfare with the opportunity for work.
Significantly, the Salvation Army never distinguishes its
programs from its evangelical ministry, nor wavers from
its doctrine.

Worldwide facilities include children's homes, maternity
homes, and hotels offering free lodging and meals. Institutions
include community centers, rehabilitation centers, hospitals,
children's camps, foster care centers, senior citizen residences,
senior centers, and homeless shelters which enroll people
in work programs. Its programs address juvenile delinquency,
alcohol and substance abuse, war and disaster relief, veteran's
assistance, unemployment and indigence, family counseling,
and daycare needs, in addition to religious services. It
operates 600 kindergartens, 950 primary and middle schools,
100 secondary schools, fifty trade schools, and twenty-five
teacher training schools, a Bible College and one university.

The Salvation Army has been historically distinctive because
its women hold leadership and preaching positions. In fact,
women led expansion of the organization and continue to
give leadership in all facets. General Eva Burrows, elected
in 1986 as international leader, held the highest ecclesiastical
leadership position of any woman in the world at the time
of her election. While many churches debate the issue of
ordination of women, the preaching and pulpit ministry of
the Salvation Army has been open to women since its beginning.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

INDEPENDENT SECTOR, a well-recognized nonprofit sector
research group, lists the Salvation Army as the number one
nonprofit fundraiser in the United States in a 1999 review.
The organization raised $1.2 billion in cash and in-kind

Author and business world guru, Peter Drucker, was quoted
in Forbes magazine, as saying that "the Salvation Army
is by far the most effective organization in the U.S. No
one even comes close to it with respect to clarity of mission,
ability to innovate, measurable results, dedication and
putting money to maximum use" (The Salvation Army Massachusetts
2002). The organization utilizes over $0.83 of each dollar
it receives to provide relief services for those in need.
It is one of only four (of the fifteen largest social welfare
and health charities charted) to meet or exceed the standard
set by the National Charities Information Bureau of sixty
percent of income spent on programs. At that time, sixty-five
percent of the Salvation Army's total budget was spent on
programs, strong evidence of its accountability and stewardship.

Key Related Ideas

  • Christianity

  • "Doughboys" was a term used for the American
    soldiers fighting in Europe in World War I.

  • Social services

  • Women's Rights in Ministry

  • World War II

Important People Related to the

Catherine Booth was the wife of William Booth and
co-founder of the Salvation Army. She was an evangelist,
a popular preacher, and a theologian.

Evangeline Booth, born Eva Cory Booth, was the seventh
child of William and Catherine Booth. She adopted four children,
though she never married. In 1904, she began her command
in the United States. She became the Army's fourth General
in 1934.

William Booth founded the Salvation Army in 1865
in London. He also served as its first general.

George Scott Railton led seven women to the United
States as a mission to share the work of the Salvation Army
in New York City. This established it as an international

Eliza Shirley, at the age of seventeen, held the
first Salvation Army meeting in the United States in 1879.

Related Nonprofit Organizations

With over 2,400 local clubs in the United States, YMCA
(Young Men's Christian Association)
is the largest nonprofit
community service organization in the country. The organization
was originally founded in London in 1844 as a response to
the unhealthy living conditions and crime-ridden streets
of post-Industrial Revolution England. The first YMCA opened
in America in 1851. Its mission is "to put Christian
principles into practice through programs that build healthy
spirit, mind, and body for all" (YMCA 2003).

Related Web Sites

The Salvation Army United States of America National
Headquarters Web site
, at
, covers services and
disaster relief assistance, historical figures, national
publications, and division office locator.

The Salvation Army Web site, at,
provides news, publications and international events, from
the London-based Christian charity.

Salvation Army Website Finder Page, at,
is a service that will quickly and easily locate Salvation
Army Web sites for local communities across the U.S. and
other countries.

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Rebecca Anne. Visions of Charity: Volunteer Workers and
Moral Community
. Berkeley: University of California
Press, 2000. ISBN 0-520-22144-3.

Patricia A. "How Women Saved the City," Library
126 (February 2001): 108-109.

Henry. Christianity in Action:The Salvation Army in the
USA Today
. Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1990. ISBN

Paul C. Making Nonprofits Work. Washington, D.C:
The Brookings Institution, 2000. ISBN 0-8157-5245-8.

Edward H. Marching to Glory: the History of the Salvation
Army in the United States
, 1880 - 1980. San Francisco:
Harper & Row, 1980. ISBN 0-06-65538-0.

Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2002. Salvation Army.
[cited 22 September 2002]. Available from

Jana. "Blood and Fire: William and Catherine Booth
and Their Salvation Army," Publishers Weekly
247 (May 2000): 110.

Jana. "Hallelujah Lads and Lasses: Remaking the Salvation
Army in America, 1880-1930," Publishers Weekly
248 (May 2001): 83.

The Salvation
Army Massachusetts Division. Why Give to the Salvation
. [cited 28 December 2002]. Available from

The Salvation
Army United States of America National Headquarters. [cited
8 January 2003]. Available from

Taiz, Lillian.
"Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation
Army," The Journal of American History 87 (June
2000): 253-254.

YMCA. History.
[cited 10 January 2003]. Available from

This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Grand Valley State University. It is offered by Learning To Give and Grand Valley State University.