nonprofits and QR codes

You’ve seen ‘em, they look like the unattractive love-child of a bar code and a bit-mapped maze—QR Codes. The QR is “quick response” as in a something you use your smart phone to do quickly (I don’t know, doesn’t really make sense to me either, I didn’t come up with the name).

Hoots and I were sitting in a little coffee shop in Seattle a weekend or two ago and I was reading the posters in the window. You know the ones advertising bake sales and dog walkers and indie band and walkathons. About half of them had QR codes. I entertained myself by popping the codes to see how they were being used. Most took me to a website, usually not mobile-optimized but the iPhone managed it OK. One gave me their event information ready for loading into my calendar (nice). Another allowed me to “like” their FB page (I didn’t). Another prepped me to tell all my friends about the event (tempted but didn’t). Really a nice range of uses for a coffee shop window.

One thing to consider is that not many organizations are using them in the nonprofit space.

Oneicity is gently steering our clients into experimenting with QR codes. You can find as many detractors as proponents. At this point, we like ‘em.

Here’s the kind of things you can do with QR Codes:

  • Show a special mobile webpage;

  • Take people to your FB page (or just about any other social media page you want people to see);
  • Link to a blog post that they should see;
  • Give calendar info for an event;
  • Share contact information;
  • Really, there’s a long list of uses.

So why should you slip one of these funky little squares into your next newsletter or new donor brochure? I mean, really there aren’t that many people using them. It’s kind of a hassle…

I have 3 reasons based on what I’m reading and my gut-instinct about ‘em. All of these are centered in what I believe about who might use their smart phone to grab your QR code.

The people who are using QR codes are:

Technologically savvy.

Nope, don’t have a lot of research to back up my conclusions. But I think I’m right. And here’s the worst thing that can happen. No one uses their smart phone on your QR code. But your donors see it in your newsletter and think: “Hey, that’s pretty cool. They’re on top of all this high-tech stuff.”

Not a bad thing.

I had the opportunity to speak to a business group recently. Used a QR code as my closing slide. Easily half of the room hopped up and started scanning. It was fun. So I think I’m making a QR code as part of my PowerPoint deck.

Oh and QR codes can be very trackable depending on how you deploy them. If anyone does hit it, you’ll know it and know something about them.

And unlike what many do, give people who aren’t techno-savvy an explanation of what the code’s for. Something like: “Use your smartphone to like us on Facebook” (or whatever you’re doing).

Oh and one more thing, don’t go QR code wild. One QR per piece is enough. You don’t want to overwhelm people or cause them to dismiss your message if they’re not QR Code equipped.

And just to show, we’re playing, too, scan that code below! Come on, and play. The QR code will lead you to what I think is a cool and easy use for an NPO. And yes, it is a little weird to use a QR code on a blog, but we’re pretty much digital around here. It’ll work off your screen.

What do you think about QR codes—flash in the pan or a decent tool? Are you using them? Does your smart phone have a QR code reader? What’s the most interesting/effective use of a QR code you’ve seen? I love hearing what you’re thinking.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credits: Steve Thomas)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

12 thoughts on “nonprofits and QR codes”

  1. I think they can be a decent tool IF you have a mobile ready website.

    If your website isn’t a joy to use on a mobile device, then you are turning more folks off than you are attracting.

  2. @Jacob — good point, about a mobile ready website. And that’s something that many of us struggle with fully implementing. It’ easy to forget to check what our websites look like on smart phones. As always you’re the man.

    But, if you’re website isn’t mobile-ready, you can always do other things with the QR code…including video options and social media fun.

    Thanks for the reminder and thoughts. Glad you stopped by!

  3. i really enjoyed this post! qr codes are becoming more and more prevalently used. i have mixed feelings about them, but i’m not gonna lie– i can’t walk past one without scanning.

    🙂 thanks for sharing!

  4. Steve-
    Great article. I’m testing QR codes in a couple targeted ads this fall. The QR code sends the scanner to our charity’s web page with a results-oriented program video followed by a newsletter sign-up option.

    We don’t have a mobile ready site, so the video falls under the menu navigation that lays across the top of the page. I can’t wait to see the results once the ads finish.

  5. Steve,
    Thanks much for bringing up this topic and sharing! I agree with your points and with the comments-I especially think that videos are a great place to deliver people when they scan your QR Code. I’ve also seen success with exclusive content that’s not always available to others. QR Codes can also be used as a teaser-something like “scan this for a surprise” can work very well too. I encourage all of my nonprofit clients to incorporate them in their newsletters and appeals.

  6. And as an update–I found this tidbit on the demographics of people using QR Codes:
    comScore reports (9/15/11) that the people more likely to scan a QR code are:
    male (60.5% of code scanning audience),
    skew toward ages 18-34 (53.4 percent)
    and have a household income of $100,000 or above (36.1 percent).

    I was pretty close on my gut instincts in the blog.

  7. @Mandy — Sorry I thought I’d approved and replied but I didn’t.

    And the whole QR code thing is pretty addictive…in a good way. I had to resist scanning in the TSA line here at SJC.

    Love to see when you incorporate QRs into your next event!

    Great to see you!

  8. Pingback: oneicity // income solutions for non-profits » don’t forget to add this to your next donor event

  9. I recently downloaded a reader to my iphone and can’t help scanning things because I am just so curious to see what the promoter has cooked up. Combining the QR code with a thank you video is such a great idea, maybe even adding a QR code on a donation receipt could be an effective way to connect with donors, even if it is only a few who actually scan it.

    And I just gotta say, love the shirt, reminds me of the other Steve.

  10. @Corrie It is addictive isn’t it?

    Ha! you actually watched the video! I’m impressed. (It does reduce the time spent deciding what to wear).

    Thanks for stopping by. Love having your input.

    Which reader are you using?

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