We asked, you answered: How can nonprofits use QR codes?

Recently at the Social Media for Nonprofits conference in NYC, as Andy Steggles talked about developing mobile strategies for nonprofits, I tweeted: Is your nonprofit using QR codes? How?”

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Have you seen a compelling campaign that involved QR codes? (Photo: Brian Suda, Flickr/Creative Commons)

For those who aren’t familiar, QR (short for “quick response”) codes are those pixel-y little boxes you might have seen popping up on store windows or in magazine ads. If you have a smart phone, you can use it to snap a picture of the code and it will take you to the web address of, say, a coupon, a video, or any number of things.

My pal Emily Goodstein wrote a long post about QR codes for Convio’s Connection Cafe blog recently. Check it for a much better explanation than mine, and for an example of how the National Partnership for Women and Families used a QR code to occupy conference attendees as they waited in a long security line. There’s also a helpful intro post up at Nonprofit Tech 2.0.

I was curious about the ways that organizations like yours might be using this technology. Here are some of the responses to my tweet, from folks with lots of different goals.

Spread awareness

  • CAMBA Inc., a Brooklyn-based human services organization, recently included QR codes on transit posters for an HIV anti-stigma campaign. (Click that link to see the Facebook note that accompanied the campaign as well as the poster.)

Inspire an action

  • Hope & Heroes, the children’s cancer fund at Columbia University Medical Center, is considering adding a QR code to a save the date postcard for an upcoming walk event. Anyone who sees the postcard could scan the code and go straight to the registration page.
  • Miss Representation, a documentary film and nonprofit aimed at raising visibility of women leaders, tweeted: “We used QR codes to help spread a petition! Check it out: http://j.mp/mOBrgV.” They posted the codes around San Francisco and, though it was hard to track, found that it increased the number of signatures.
  • Larry Schooler of Austin, TX, noted: “We’re a city government, not nonprofit, but we use QR codes to send people to websites where they give input on city policy.”

Share a video

  • Independence First, an organization that serves people with disabilities in greater Milwaukee, WI, said: “Honestly we use them on almost everything now. Ads, flyers, event invites, brochures. Love em!” A second tweet clarified that for each of those examples, the QR code takes you to a video – one might be an invitation to a big event; another a more general “About Our Work” video.
  • Small Change Fund, a collective giving campaign based all over Canada, added a QR code to the backs of their staff business cards. The code “links to video of our founders explaining who we are & why we exist!”

More ideas, plus a caveat

  • Rebecca Saidlower, Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at The Jewish Education Project, wrote “we discussed using them on conference badges as mobile business cards.”
  • And finally, a word of caution from social media manager Josh Ness, who says that if you’re thinking about developing a QR code, you should “try to avoid these QR mistakes!”

Your turn! Have you ever bothered to snap a photo and see where a QR code might take you? Has your agency or organization incorporated QR codes into your campaigns? I’d love to hear about it.

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Comments (5)


  1. kaggwa Benjamin writes:
    August 16, 2011 at 8:59 am

    inspiring and encouraging work . i think it deserves more efforts


  2. K Varney writes:
    August 16, 2011 at 9:51 am

    The World Park project in Central Park


  3. Cheryl Black writes:
    August 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for the shout-out about Emily’s blog! For Convio clients looking to become familiar with QR codes, they’ll be a big part of this year’s Summit in Baltimore. Just download a reader to your smart phone and knock yourself out giving them a whirl.


  4. Sasha writes:
    August 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

    At Willis Center (www.williscenter.org), we are just starting to use QR and love the convenience they will provide smart phone users – so simple to scan a picture instead of typing in a (sometimes long) web address and attempting to avoid errors. We started by using QR codes on all marketing materials for our upcoming 20th anniversary event and car raffle. We’ll be adding QR codes to all of our printed materials (brochures, annual reports, etc) in the coming year. In addition, we are considering adding a QR code to our business cards that will automatically add the individuals contact information to the scanner’s phone.


  5. Idealist writes:
    August 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Thank you for these great examples! Keep ‘em coming. -Julia


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