QR codes have been around for a long time, and I used to really hate them.
I thought nonprofits used them in situations where they made very little sense to me (like on a billboard or on a website) and where a shortened URL — something easy to remember and to type — made infinitely more sense. That was especially true when you needed a special app to read them. For these and many other reasons, they really didn’t catch on.
(What is a shortened URL? You can use something like bitly.com or just create a redirect from your own site like nonprofitmarketingguide.com/trends or buy a shorter domain and use that as your own shortener: npmg.us/trends)
COVID-19 changed all that by encouraging people to touch fewer shared surfaces like menus. Now you see QR codes in many more places, and today most camera phones will process them automatically (or with a quick confirmation that you are trying to scan something rather than photograph it).
So should your nonprofit start using them? Maybe!
You still need to think through the use case. Expecting people to focus a phone on a billboard (even if they are not driving) is still really foolish in my mind. Same goes for putting a QR code online — just give people the link to click!
You also need to be certain that what they see after they scan the code is mobile-friendly!
But I do think it’s worth thinking through whether QR codes could be helpful in places like these:
- Physical signage, so I can see a map of where I am or get other information.
- On other physical products, where you want someone to be able to learn more about the item they are holding
- When someone needs to take quick action that can be done on a phone, like coming up to an information table, scanning the code, and filling out a fast registration or permission form of some kind.
- On direct mail or other printed products, so that I can quickly get to the webpage where I can take action. In this case, PLEASE still include a shortened URL
- Where you want someone to do something on their phone like download an app
- On TV, maybe. As long as you can keep it on the screen long enough for people to get it. I’ve seen this done with big telethon-type fundraisers.
- Where you need to quickly exchange information with someone. You pull up your code on your phone, and they scan it on theirs.
Need more details? DonorBox has some good recommendations and resources.