Sat, January 22 2011

What is a QR code and why might it matter for nonprofit marketing?

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

This is a guest post from Blase Ciabaton.  It’s better that he answer these questions!

Smartphone ownership has exploded in North America and will only continue to accelerate.  As a clever nonprofit, you need to recognize that the proliferation of smartphones offers a super-convenient way for volunteers, donors and fans to connect with your organization.  QR codes represent the most hassle-free way for you to start interacting with smartphone users.

What’s a QR Code? A QR Code is a 2-dimensional barcode that was initially developed in Japan to track automotive parts.  As the adoption of QR codes mushroomed, marketers quickly began to realize their potential not just in Asia but all over the world.

How Do QR Codes Work? When smartphone users snap (same mechanics as taking a smartphone photo) an image of a QR Code, they are pulled to a specific landing page designated by the creator of the QR Code.  If you create a QR Code you can deliver smartphones users to a compelling video, your Facebook page, your blog or even to your organization’s donation page.

All of the newest generation smartphones come preloaded with QR Code reading software, including the iPhone and Android.  A free app or software can be downloaded quickly and easily to enable QR Code reading in slightly older smartphones.  I’ve included a QR Code in this post if you’d like to test out your smartphone. (Katya’s note: I have a Blackberry and did this via BB Messenger.  Go under Scan a Group Barcode.  It will then ask you permission to go to Blase’s website link.)

How can I use QR Codes in my Marketing?

Event Promotion & Registration: If you’re trying ramp up attendance for an event, then be sure to include QR Codes on all of your marketing materials.  This is especially helpful if you want attendees to preregister or purchase tickets in advance.  Smartphone users can scan a QR Code from a poster or flyer and be taken to the registration page for your event.

Fundraising: Why not include a QR Code in your next fundraising appeal?  For donors who want to contribute online, let them scan a QR Code instead of making them type in a lengthy URL; the QR Code can deliver them to your online donation page.  You want to make it as easy as possible for people to support your organization.

Promote Your Organization’s Online Presence:  If you want to get more Facebook Fans, increase subscribers to your e-newsletter, or get people to follow you on Twitter then why not generate QR Codes that correspond to these and include them in your next print newsletter?  This is a great example of integrating your traditional and online marketing.

Why are QR Codes Important Tools for Nonprofits?

1) They’re essentially free
2) They’re very easy to create
3) They’re measurable
4) You’re able to repurpose your marketing material, instead of having to create new material from scratch
5) They integrate your marketing across different channels
6) They’re not just for the big boys.  In less than the time that it takes to read this short post, you could have already generated your first QR Code.  Most QR Code generators are cloud-based and don’t require any sort of special training or loading of software on your computer.

How Can I create QR Codes?  There are many free and paid QR Code generating websites.  If you want to experiment by creating a free QR Code, you can click here to go to Google’s free QR Code generator.  Please note, there are some limitations when using the free QR Code generators especially as it relates to image quality or tracking specific QR Code use.

If you’d like to see more examples of QR codes, get more information about how to create QR codes or download free QR Reader software for your smartphone, please visit my blog.

How have you seen examples of QR Codes incorporated in nonprofit marketing?  Please share your comments below!

Blase Ciabaton has helped nonprofits launch successful direct mail fundraising campaigns every day for the last 7 years.  In 2009, Blase Ciabaton launched the blog,  The .blog caters to the nonprofit community and tackles issues related to postage permits, mailing lists, returned mail and donor conversion.  If you found this post valuable you may want to sign up for his weekly e-newsletter or following his blog’s rss feed.

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