I am seeing changes in the technology world that lead me to believe that QR codes and Fourquare are not useful tools for most nonprofits.

I often include a section in my nonprofit technology trainings about "up and coming" technology trends for nonprofits and one year ago, both of these tools were included, but about 6 months ago I stopped including them. From what I've been reading, I think nonprofits don't need to put effort into these tools anymore.

QR Codes

QR Codes, those little boxes that look vaguely like barcodes have been appearing on everything from restaurant menus to bus stop ads and even on Mercedes cars. As I mentioned to a colleague last year, in my experience, if a technology is too difficult for your grandmother to understand, it is not something that is going to catch
on with a wide audience. So far the data I see has supported this.

Qr code flow chartQR codes have seen very low levels of uptake from
consumers (estimates range from 3 – 12% of folks having used a qr code once,
repeat numbers are even lower). As this article from Invoke describes, the issues are that
they create a barrier instead of a simplified user experience and the effort
outweighs the benefits. Personally, I deleted the QR code scanner from my
smartphone months ago and have not missed it once. If you followed the link to the story about QR codes in Mercedes cars above, you saw they reported that even that application would be obsolete in a few years.

Recently this image on the right went around on Facebook, which sums up my feelings.


I used to be a regular Foursquare user, checking into places
via my smartphone, earning badges and seeing where other folks in my network
had been. Ever since Facebook added their own check-in feature, however, I have not used
Foursquare. Even when I did, I struggled to see much widespread application for
nonprofits. It made some sense for nonprofits with a physical location, like a
museum or store, but beyond that it was just another channel to maintain added
to the many other communication channels nonprofits are tasked with maintaining

A Business Insider article from January reports on PrivCo saying Foursqaure will fail buy the end of 2013.

Where to Focus

So while I don’t have anything against Foursquare or QR codes,
as I see their usage flat or declining I strongly urge nonprofits to put their limited resources
into tools and technologies that are proven to have an impact and staying
power. Most nonprofits would do better putting resources into
improving their content, website and email communications along with select social media
channels. Thinking about your nonprofit's strategy for mobile devices is a much more solid investment for those interested in the leading edge.

  Category: Nonprofit Technology, Nonprofit Web Presence, Social Media/Web 2.0, Web/Tech


  1 Comment

One Response to “Opinion: QR Codes and Foursquare Not Worth Nonprofits Time”

  1. Carolyn M. Appleton

    This is very helpful. I agree they are not the best focus for nonprofits. But they are fun.
    In terms of QR codes, I have seen them used during large outdoor festivals with some success (at various “stops,” for providing additional directions/maps, special “deals,” coupons, and the like). In the for-profit environment, I have seen them used mostly by real estate companies(if you drive past an enticing property, the QR code allows you a handy way to access purchase details, quickly). But again, QR codes shouldn’t be a primary focus for nonprofits.
    With Foursquare, like Peter Shankman notes in his new book, I found they don’t care about their users and are generally unresponsive. I check in on Facebook and Google+.


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