QR what?

QR code Viewers Choice  Aug 2011 npcoachQR code. What is it, and why use one?

QR code stands for Quick Response code, and it is designed for use exclusively with smartphones. Why should this matter to you? According to Nielson, today 40 percent of mobile users are on smartphones, and of those not on smartphones, 55% intend to get one by the end of 2011. Some forecasters predict by 2012, half of all mobile users will have smartphones.

For budget strapped nonprofits, this is good news. Using a QR code is free thanks to Denso Wave who owns the patents but graciously chose not to exercise them. And, for the moment, people are enjoying their smartphones. Find ways to tap into that joy.

Enter QR codes. QR codes are showing up everywhere: online, in magazines, on mailers, at the mall. Just last week, I received a business card with a QR code that automatically uploaded this person to my iPhone contacts.

Think of ways to use QR codes that support work you are already doing:

  • Profiling a client, volunteer or donor? QR their story.
  • Event invitations could be kicked-up a notch with the right QR.
  • Ticketless special event entry is possible using QR.
  • Event table talk: How many times have you gone to dinner with friends and huddled up around a smartphone? Nurture this natural dynamic at your nonprofit events. Encourage your guests to go to your preloaded conversation starters via QR.
  • Surveys and polls are QR-friendly.

Some recent online discussions have brought forward various ways of incorporating QR codes. Here are two examples:

  • Include a QR code on the outside of an appeal envelope, and be sure the landing page (where the QR code takes the user) is a mobile-friendly online giving vehicle.
  • Include a QR code in a thank you letter. One annual fund officer said their landing page was a YouTube video of the President with a thank you message. Clever idea.

It is easy to create a QR code, and you will find plenty of online QR code generators. My favorite QR code generator is Kaywa, and here’s a simple HOW TO :

  1. Got to Kaywa.com
  2. Select your “content” type: either URL, TEXT, Phone Number or SMS (Short Message Service for mobile devices)
  3. Enter your unique “content” (web address if URL, Text message for Text, etc.)
  4. Select your size (this is the size of the QR code image). Small is good for online usage; medium and large may be easier for printed materials.
  5. Then click “Generate.”
  6. Once your QR code appears, right-click to save for future use. Insert it into your materials just like a photo.
  7. Test it by using your smartphone QR reader.

QR tips:

  • Although many smartphones come with QR code readers installed, not all do so encourage your stakeholders to get a QR reader app.
  • Please be sure the landing page is formatted for mobile devices.
  • As with any tool, be careful not to over-use QR codes.

I am sure the next trend of scan-and-go communication is right around the corner. In the meantime, have fun with QR codes.

-Nancy Patterson


  1. Tau, Thanks so much for sharing a link to your recent QR code content. Non-donors are always a tough crowd no matter what the approach. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the QR code brings.

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