Scanning for Good: 5 Reasons QR Codes Are a Safe Option for Nonprofits

At last year’s Blackbaud Conference for Nonprofits, Allison Nassour and I presented to a full room on the topic of QR codes. We were thrilled that so many people wanted to learn more about them, but also surprised at how many were already using them at their nonprofits.

It seems that QR codes have gone mainstream, or at least hit that tipping point where it’s pretty safe to include them in campaigns. I’ve blogged about how a few nonprofits are using them, and how the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was seeing real results, but it feels like there is a new energy around using them. With so many creative ways to use QR codes, it’s time for your nonprofit to consider incorporating them into your next campaign.

Here are five reasons QR codes are a good option for your nonprofit:

More and More People Are Scanning QR Codes

They are everywhere – and people are scanning them! 14 million Americans scanned them in June of 2011, and there was a +4500% increase in use from 2009 to 2010. I see them in every magazine, subway station, and store shelf I encounter. My kids have me scan them when we are reading their books, and my wife recently scanned one in London to hail a taxi. People are using them!

QR Codes Can Do a Lot

When scanned, QR codes often take users to a mobile web page.  In addition to web URLs, QR codes can contain SMS messages, plain text, contact info, event invites, Google Maps locations, YouTube videos, or social content. Clever use of mobile technology might be just what your next campaign needs. If you’re creative, the sky is the limit – mobile engagement has many flavor combinations.

Tons of People Can Get a QR Code Reader

With smart phone penetration in the US crossing 40%, QR code readers will soon be everywhere. iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry users can download one of many apps that will scan not only QR codes, but many types of bar codes. If you have BlackBerry Messenger 5.0, a QR code reader is native to the device! The message is that your audience has the gear to scan QR codes.

Creating QR Codes is Easy and Free

Including QR codes will not add a ton of time to your project, or break your budget. and Kaywa both create QR codes for free and have a ton of features. If you’re already using a URL shortener like or, you’re in good hands because they automatically generate a QR code for you. The benefit here is that you can use these platforms native metrics to track the success of your QR code.

Many Nonprofits Have Used Them Successfully

I even bet your nonprofit has used them, right? There are great stories on the web about nonprofits who have seen success with QR codes, like Heifer Portland, The South Carolina Aquarium, and Maymont. Check out the slides from our presentation, Scanning for Good: How Nonprofits Can Use QR Codes – there are a bunch of examples in the second half of the deck. Engagement, advocacy, fundraising – these are all areas where QR codes will help you tap into the mobile market.