What Does Foursquare Have to Do with Nonprofits?

From Flickr user Walter Elly (Creative Commons)

Foursquare is a web and mobile application that allows its users to share where they are—down to the specific building, park, business, etc.—with their friends. Users earn points and badges for locations that they frequent, and can even become the Foursquare Mayor if they have “checked in” to that spot the most. For many users, it’s like a game (or scavenger hunt?) that helps them explore their city.

So what does all this have to do with nonprofits? At first, I was skeptical, too. But then I read a post on the Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog and began to see the connection. Heather Mansfield recommends that organizations that are visited frequently by the public (like museums, theaters, libraries, parks, and zoos) should be sure to have a presence on Foursquare. Makes sense.

But Mansfield also lists some types of organizations I wouldn’t have thought of: food banks, homeless shelters, health clinics, hospitals, gyms, schools, and religious institutions. Think how valuable it could be to have Foursquare users effortlessly sharing information about how they’re dropping off donated goods, showing up for their volunteer shift, or making use of your organization’s services.

For tips on how your nonprofit can make the best of Foursquare, see these blog posts by Big Duck, Kyle Lacy, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Seeing Foursquare’s catch phrase, “unlock your city,” I couldn’t help but think of the project going on in New York City right now called Key to the City. Thousands of New Yorkers received actual keys that they can use to unlock 25 rooms, boxes, and spaces that have been set up throughout the city. The hosts of the locked surprises include museums, parks, community gardens, religious institutions, a library, a school, and a community development organization. It’s like an on-the-ground version of the online game, and offers a fun and creative way for organizations to interact with and educate the public.

Has your organization been a part of any location-based activities like these? Please share your experiences!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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