Scanning for Good: How One Nonprofit Used QR Codes to Raise Awareness | npENGAGE

Scanning for Good: How One Nonprofit Used QR Codes to Raise Awareness

By on Mar 3, 2011


I’ve enjoyed watching the use of QR codes grow recently, particularly in the nonprofit space. For a sector often looking for creative ways to communicate our message, QR codes are a great tool for things like advocacy and scavenger hunts. But they are also great for traditional calls to action!

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a national organization creating hope in a comprehensive way through research, patient support, community outreach, and advocacy for a cure. They recently ran a successful QR code-based campaign, and  Allison Nassour, their Social Media Manager, was kind enough to speak with me about how the campaign went. So, I thought I’d share her story here with you!

Using QR Codes for Calls to Action

Typically, when you hand someone a flyer, hang a poster, or send a letter, there must be an easy way to get the recipient online to take action. Traditionally, friendly URLs have been used to get people to the right place – e.g. While effective, that’s still a lot of typing! QR Codes remove typing from the equation, allowing users to simply scan an image and be taken to a website.

When The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network was brainstorming ideas for their awareness event at an L.A. Kings game, QR codes were top of mind. They had seen some success with traditional calls to action, but were looking for something new to spark interest. Since most of the attendees at this event would be new to the organization, they thought this was a great chance to beta test the technology.

When the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network designed the flyer for their awareness night, they included two new calls to action: 1) a mobile opt-in via text message and 2) a QR code. Clearly they put a focus on the text message, but the QR code was nicely displayed as well:

I like how they also included some learning information, which helps those new to QR codes find a reader on their mobile device. This is an often overlooked detail, and a smart move when rolling out new technology to the masses – make it easy for them!

The Results

As the event unfolded, it quickly became clear which technology was getting more attention. Allison had estimated the text campaign would reach about 1000 people, but only 30 actually opted-in via their mobile device during the event (30 is a typical response with a friendly URL too). But the QR code was scanned over 200 times, a total surprise! So while the text campaign was a bit disappointing, the success of the QR code made up for it. Had the same flyer gone out with just a friendly URL or text option, only 30 people would have learned how to become more involved, but instead 200+ people had heard that message – that’s a win!

Why was the QR code so successful?

When I asked Allison why the QR code was such a hit, she pointed to a few reasons. The most obvious being ease of use: no typing, texting, calling, etc. People just used their cameras to scan the QR code, and they were off to the races. Also, with mobile devices being so omnipresent, people could actually get the info at the game – verses taking the flyer home, visiting the website, etc. Also, there is no privacy barrier. With the text campaign, you were giving up your phone number, name, etc. The QR code did not require any information – you went straight to the website.

So What Now?

For The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Allison said more QR codes will be used in the future thanks to the success of this pilot. If your nonprofit is looking to use QR codes as calls to action, check out my post on how nonprofits can use QR codes. I think the future is bright for QR codes, at least in the short term, so be sure to consider them when looking for a creative way to reach a new audience.

If your nonprofit is using QR codes, please let us know in the comments.

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