Scan Away


This week I came across something that I have seen almost everywhere but never gave it much thought or even knew what the technical term was.  You know you will be walking down the street and you see an add that has a bar code like image on the bottom that says to scan it and you will magically get a discount or be brought to another website.  Well the term for those bar codes are QR codes which stands for Quick Response.  These codes are two-dimensional bar code images that when scanned by your mobile device or tablet it will open up a link to a mobile website or send you a text message or email directly to your device.

How do they work? Point your camera phone at the QR code. Snap a picture. The phone instantly decodes the data. The user is linked directly to your media.


Now I never thought about using this as a potential marketing or campaign tool for public health but the more I learned the more I see how great this is for a non-profit!

In our reading this week in Social Media for Social Good by Heather Mansfield, she breaks down 5 ways that non-profits can use QR codes.


1.) At fundraising events, conferences, protests, and other situations.  A QR code can be created that links to a “donate now” or “text to give now” mobile page to flyers and other promotional materials at events or even as a way to sign petitions electronically.

QR code nonprofit-banner


2.) In the community: Bulletin boards are still around in grocery stores, college campuses, and restuarants.  Even though it sounds kind of old school a QR campaign can make an impact to a small non-profit with limited resources by creating these flyers and advertising on bulletin boards, telephone poles, or even mailboxes.  If a nonprofit has a partnership with a community business then one idea is to have a “scan for good” campaign at checkout or at a restaurant.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”QR Codes for Nonprofit Organizations” target=”_blank”>QR Codes for Nonprofit Organizations</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Aliza Sherman</a></strong> </div>

3.) In print newsletters, funding appeals, invitations, annual reports, and ads: This idea has worked well for the for-profit sector as a way of advertising with and in giving discounts to consumers.  The same approach can work for the non-profit sector as well.

4.) On location: this is important because QR codes can be anywhere you want them to be! If a non-profit is location based you can incorporate your QR code at locations with in your area like at the zoo or the museum.  According to Mansfield “People are often deeply moved and inspired while they are at a museum or an animal sanctuary, and QR code campaigns allow a nonprofit to tap into that inspiration instantaneously…they can be powerful motivators for social good.”

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”Scanning for Good: How Nonprofits Can Use QR Codes” target=”_blank”>Scanning for Good: How Nonprofits Can Use QR Codes</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Chad Norman</a></strong> </div>

5.) On Objects: You can add QR codes to promotional items such as T-shirts, coffee cups, hats, calendars etc…and will still work to scan from a device. It maybe a good idea to give out to new members or volunteers.  However there is some debate on whether this is really beneficial and that there are some places where QR codes don’t always work.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”QR Codes for Nonprofit Organizations” target=”_blank”>QR Codes for Nonprofit Organizations</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Aliza Sherman</a></strong> </div>


Now that you are informed on what a QR code is and what it can do look for one the next time you are out in your community and scan away 🙂 you just might be helping a non-profit meet its goals.









11 thoughts on “Scan Away

  1. Great job! This was an eye opening and informative post. I will keep an eye out for these QR codes more often. I too, have seen them, but never really paid much attention to them.

  2. I must admit that I never knew what those goofy looking codes were until this week. I kind of knew that a phone could use them, but I had no idea how powerful they were for businesses. Your post is mucho informative.

  3. Sara, you have a lot of great examples here. I downloaded a QR reader for my phone for the first time this because of an article I read in a magazine; unrelated to the course. I having scanning things left and right ever since. Most of them want to sell something but I agree it can be a great tool for a nonprofit.

  4. Great post. I first learned of the QR codes last year when a cat came to the clinic with a QR code on its collar. We scanned it, and it linked to the cat’s Facebook page, telling where he lived and what neighborhood he might be found in. So many applications! 🙂

    • This is hilarious! How does anyone have the time to do this kind of thing?? But I suppose it is a really good way to avoid having to pay for a service like HomeAgain.

  5. Nice post Sara. I did not know anything about DR codes either till I read about them this week:) Though I have seen them a lot many times, like others but without registering exactly what they were!

  6. Nice post! Although I still feel that I am really missing out on something from QR codes, as I never really have any desire to scan one when I see it, and I find it baffling that they are successful. It must be a very specific subset of the population that they appeal to.

  7. Wow great posts! I’ve seen these bad boys everywhere and never really understood its power. I am not sure if this will ever gain popularity but i definitely think that those who have the capability to scan do get benefits from instantaneous information. Awesome!

  8. Great post! QR codes are definitely a way to get people hooked on the spot. On top of that your information is now in their browsing history. I’d guess being able to pull it up later from a browsing history is a bit more reliable than remembering to go to a website.

  9. This is so practical and inspiring! I’ve never thought of putting QR codes on objects, like necklaces, etc. Kind of awesome. I’d be more likely to link to them if it were posted on an interesting object. Still, and I surprise myself with this, I rarely ever use QR codes. Maybe because it’s not a native app on iPhones, maybe because I find them kind of ugly, maybe because I am not sure why it really saves me time or energy as someone interested in information. Typically, if I want to know something, I expect to go to the home website and get the info i need in 2-3 clicks or just google the exact url. Still, these have a lot of potential… maybe I am just a stalwart.

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