In the past few years, you’ve probably noticed several businesses and organizations using QR codes. But, even though these scannable codes have been around since the mid-’90s, they’ve only recently become common and many people still don’t fully understand what they are or how to use them. But, QR codes can be great for fundraising, events, and sharing information about your nonprofit.
What is a QR code?
“QR” is an abbreviation of “quick response,” which is a perfect descriptor for this two-dimensional code. It’s an easy and fast way to access a website, social media page, PDF, vcard, or unique landing page. Because the code is designed to take you to a specific digital place, it is built around the link that you want to direct people to and will take them there in 1-2 steps.
All QR codes start as a black and white square, made up of a pattern of smaller black squares over a white field. This unique pattern contains data, like a URL, which imaging devices, like cameras, can read. Most modern smartphones have QR code scanning software built into their cameras, and for older ones, there are several free apps that you can download. Some top-rated options are QR & Barcode Scanner, QR & Barcode Reader, and Free QR Scanner.
For newer smartphones, all you need to do is open your camera app, hover it over the QR code as if you were taking a picture of it, and within seconds the coded link will pop up in your camera viewer. From there, you tap the link and it will bring you to the page or information being shared. The apps function in the same way, but instead of opening your camera, you open the app that you have downloaded.
Types of QR Codes for Nonprofits
There are also two main types of QR codes: static and dynamic. Static QR codes are straightforward, baseline codes; they can’t be altered and they don’t track data. These are great if you’re sending users to a single site or page where the link will not change in the foreseeable future. They’re also great for one-off events like galas, fundraisers, and short-run programs.
Dynamic QR codes can track how many times they’ve been scanned, where they’ve been scanned, the device type that scanned them, and they allow you to update or change the URL at any time. These are ideal if you’re looking for a long-term, evergreen QR code that will live on something that’s difficult or expensive to update, like business cards or high-quality signs. They will cost more, but the metrics that you’ll be able to gather from them can often be worth the cost, especially in fundraising or marketing.
There are still a lot of questions around QR codes like, “how do I make one?”, “how much do they cost?”, and “what can they be used for?”. We’ve compiled an extensive overview of need-to-know facts, typical uses of QR codes for nonprofits, and dos and don’ts to help you explore this incredibly useful technology.
How to Create and Use QR Codes for Nonprofits
QR codes are a handy and useful application of technology for nonprofit fundraising. Here we explain how you can create them, costs, where you must use them for fundraising and make the best use of them.
- How to Create a QR Code
- The Cost of a QR Code
- QR Codes for Nonprofits
- Where Can You Put QR Codes?
- QR Code Dos and Don’ts
How to Create a QR Code?
One of the biggest hurdles for nonprofits considering QR codes is where to start and how to make one. They seem complicated, but they aren’t! You don’t need to understand code or be a graphic designer. In fact, there are several free online services that will create a unique QR code for you. All you need to do is provide the link you want it to send people to, and the site will generate the appropriate code and provide different downloadable file types for you to use.
Keep in mind, though, that several sites appear free, but have built-in paywalls. Some only allow a certain number of scans of a specific code before you have to start paying a fee (similar to a domain fee). Others will only allow you to generate a small number of QR codes. Some do both. Most sites do not make this clear, so be sure to search through the site, read reviews where available, and be wary of any place that asks for payment information upfront.
Here are a few sites worth checking out:
- Beaconstac’s QR code generator
- Scanova’s QR code generator
- QR Code Generator
- QR Code Monkey
- QR code generator by Jason Delport
If you are handy with code or have someone on your team who knows any of the Programming Languages, you can bypass the generators (and the potential fees) and create your own custom QR codes. Codeburst has a recent step-by-step guide on Medium that is a good introduction to creating a QR code with Python.
The Cost of a QR Code
The cost of maintaining a QR code varies from being completely free to require a monthly fee. Many places offer different fee structures based on how you want to use your code and what kind of data you’re looking to get from it.
The free options are: create your own QR code through a Programming Language or use a free QR code generator. The first is the ideal option but requires you or someone on your team to be able to write code. If this isn’t available to you, you can explore free generators, but be aware that they have several limitations. This option is best if you aren’t looking to get metrics data from users, you’re using this code for a temporary fundraiser or event, or you’re able to replace the code easily if it stops working.
Paid options allow you to have a higher (or unlimited) number of scans per code, can allow you to access metrics data, and can provide more flexible codes that can be updated or customized with color or logos. There are usually 3-4 tiered plan options, starting with basic or free plans and ending with premium or professional options. Lower rates tend to be around $5-$7 a month, and higher rates can range from $20-$100 a month.
Where to use QR Codes for Nonprofits – Top 10 Ideas
The potential uses for QR codes at nonprofits are practically endless. Any site, digitized information, or channel that you might want to direct your audience towards can be put into the code, creating a simple, small pattern that you can place almost anywhere. A few top uses are:
1. Fundraising campaigns
If you have a special campaign raising funds for an upcoming program, building plan, or emergency relief, a static QR code is an easy way to bring people to an information site or direct donation page. QR codes for fundraising can be a simple addition to any online campaign.
2. Evergreen donation pages
A dynamic QR code is a great option for evergreen nonprofit donation pages. With one quick scan, any guest at an event or individual visiting your nonprofit can send in a one-time donation or schedule recurring donations without having to navigate to your donation page from your website or social media platform.
3. Events and programs
For singular events and programs, a QR code can be a quick way to share information about what’s going on or about your nonprofit organization. If the event pairs with an ongoing calendar, or a series of events across organizations, you can also guide people to the full calendar of events, or a map.
4. Sponsor links
If your event, program, or exhibition has a sponsor, you can share information and fulfill obligations with a QR code. Any required signs can be streamlined with a logo and code that will direct your guests to a site with the full amount of information your sponsor may want to share.
5. Information pages
Anyone who’s put together ad campaigns or distributed posters knows how difficult it can be to get all your nonprofit information onto a digestible, attractive, and often small sign. QR codes are a great way to direct potential viewers towards more information. A quick scan can tell them all about your organization, campaign, or event.
6. Social media pages or blogs
QR codes are also a great way to build your followers on social media or online blogs. Including a link to your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or blog with a call-to-action like “follow us!” is a fast and more fool-proof way to bring people to your page than listing your handles or URLs.
7. Addresses, contact information, and directions
When you’re trying to direct people to a specific place, especially if it isn’t your nonprofit’s typical location, QR codes are incredibly useful. You can link to a pinned location on google maps, a page with detailed instructions covering different forms of transportation or origin areas, or a page with your address and contact information.
For special events like galas, you want to make everything as easy and seamless as possible for your guests. With QR codes, you can link to digital RSVPing or check-in, you can easily share directions or contact information, you can link to information on the gala events or your registration page, and you can have a quick and simple way to solicit donations. You can even include discount codes or freebies as part of your thank you package.
This is a wonderful use of QR codes. It can be incredibly difficult to get people to fill out surveys, so the easier and faster they are, the better. If you assume that most people have their phones on them at all times, and have a QR code linking to a post-event survey on site, they can scan the code and quickly fill out your survey before they even leave the venue.
10. Business cards
Including a QR code with a vcard that matches your physical business card significantly increases the likelihood of your new contact saving your information. It also makes networking smoother and more natural. At your next nonprofit conference, hand someone your business card with a QR code, and all they have to do is scan it and add it to their contacts. If you don’t have or don’t want business cards, you can have a vcard linked QR code on your desk or as an image on your phone, allowing a quick scan without the hassle of a physical card.
Where Can You Put QR Codes?
QR codes are also very flexible when it comes to placement. They can go on any printed material (business cards, posters, flyers, catalogs, wayfinding signs, etc.) and they can be shared digitally since they can be scanned by a phone from another phone, or from a webpage or digital sign. Also, since they’re two-dimensional (as opposed to one-dimensional barcodes found in grocery stores), they can be scanned from any side, there is no “right-side up.”
These codes can be very unobtrusive and don’t take up too much space in already busy or small signs. The thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want them clearly visible so people know to scan them and can find them easily. You may also want to supplement them with brand-appropriate design nearby and include some clarifying instructions about why someone should scan this code, especially if they won’t be placed next to a representative who can explain.
Some great places to consider including QR codes are:
- Informational signage
- Institutional signage
- Wayfinding signs
- Posters or flyers
- Business Cards
But, don’t hesitate to get creative with your placement and usage of QR codes. As mentioned above, they have a multitude of uses and can link to any digital place.
QR Code for Nonprofits – Dos and Don’ts
- The pattern is the code. Hence, you can’t overlay any images, logos, watermarks, or text on an already generated QR code. You’ll need to pay for a dynamic QR code and include those additions in the instructions.
- You also need to keep about a quarter-inch of blank space fully around the code; this will allow cameras or apps to read it. If you want to put instructions nearby, be sure to maintain a full ring of blank space around the code.
- You should always test your QR code before sharing it with the public. Mistakes happen: it’s possible there was an error in your URL, someone included the wrong URL; or maybe the text or images came too close to the QR code. Confirm that the code is scannable and directs you to the appropriate page before putting it out.
- Checking on your code regularly is always a good idea; especially if it’s in a densely populated area or is evergreen. Confirming that the code is still scannable and that the original URL is working will get you the best use-value for your code. It will also keep your signs, posters, or cards professional-looking.
- QR codes are still new for many people, and some older phones don’t have built-in software. If you think this might be a new or confusing thing for your audience, place an attendant nearby to answer questions.
- Be sure that any attendants and all staff or team members know how to use the QR code. Making sure that everyone can answer questions will inspire confidence in your organization. It will also help encourage people to use your QR code widely.
Now you know how to generate and use a QR code for a nonprofit organization. You have a good idea of potential costs, questions, and issues. Also, you know where and how to use these codes. Hence, you are all set to start using them to help promote and grow your nonprofit organization.
QR codes for fundraising are a great way to take your campaigns and donation efforts to the next level. They can also streamline your information-sharing processes. The metrics data that you gather from any dynamic code can help you in many ways. It can speak to the effectiveness of your campaign; help you understand who is consuming your content and how they are typically interacting with it. With this new information, you can build more effective, user-friendly campaigns in the future and continue to grow.
You can also start interacting with a younger, tech-savvy audience and look as modern and professional as you truly are. Get creative and have fun with these codes; they’re a great addition to your design process and should help you create more clean content. Plus, they’re a great touch-free option that saves paper and printing costs.
Our nonprofit blog can help you with more resources and tips on nonprofit management. Feel free to check it out.