22 ways nonprofits can use QR codes for fundraising and awareness campaigns

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If you haven't noticed QR Codes yet, after you read this you're going to start to seeing them everywhere. In magazines, on flyers, tabletops, and conference materials. So what are they?

QR Codes are two-dimensional bar code images that, when scanned by a camera on a smartphone, will open a link to a website, send a SMS, or dial a phone number. You can easily create QR Codes for free at sites like qrcode.kaywa.com and qrstuff.com.

To scan a QR Code, smartphone owners first download a QR Code Reader (browse your App Store/Gallery for a "qr code reader") and then take a picture of the QR Code.

Once you do that, you're directed either to a mobile web browser to view the link inside the QR Code, sent a text message, or prompted to dial a phone number. QR Codes are ideal for location-based communications and fundraising campaigns.

Interestingly enough, QR Codes are turning out to be a tool that finally helps nonprofits understand why they need mobile websites (for multiple reasons). Think about it. Linking to a desktop site in a QR Code that is meant to be read on smartphone is not practical. It's very difficult to read a 12" wide website on a 2.5" wide screen. To best utilize QR Codes you will need to link to Web pages designed for mobile browsing, especially "Donate Now" and "Text-to-Give Now" pages and petition pages optimized for mobile use. It's also smart to link to the mobile versions of your social networking communities, i.e., m.facebook.com/nonprofitorgs, m.twitter.com/nonprofitorgs, m.youtube.com/nonprofitorgs, etc.

There are infinite possibilities of what your nonprofit can link to in QR Codes — just make sure the pages can easily be read on mobile devices. My guess is that over the next year we're going to see a rise in nonprofit services tailored to create mobile-friendly Web page and QR Codes. That said, QR Codes that prompt scanners to call phone numbers could also be put to very interesting use at political events protests, ushering in a new wave of QR Code activism.

The early adopters in the nonprofit sector are a creative bunch. With a mobile website and a QR Code generator and reader, there are thousands of possible QR Code campaigns. To help jumpstart your creativity, here are 22 ideas to ponder:

  1. In fundraising appeals
  2. In print newsletters
  3. At fundraising events — galas, marathons, etc
  4. On flyers and community billboards
  5. At protests
  6. At conferences
  7. At check-out lines
  8. On tabletops in restaurants
  9. In playbills
  10. In museum tour materials
  11. As scavenger hunts
  12. In city tours
  13. At concerts and sporting events
  14. For art walks
  15. At zoos, aquariums, and animal shelters
  16. In libraries
  17. At parks and outdoor recreation venues
  18. At church
  19. On college and university campuses
  20. At airports
  21. In window displays
  22. On t-shirts, mugs, pins, and business cards

This article originally appeared on the blog Nonprofit Tech 2.0 and is reprinted with permission.

Heather Mansfield is the owner of DIOSA Communications and principal blogger at Nonprofit Tech 2.0, a social media guide for nonprofits. A pioneer in utilizing social media for social good, Heather has fifteen years of experience utilizing the internet for fundraising, building communities, and education about a variety of causes.

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