QR Codes: The Future of Fundraising?

Earlier this fall, I was at the National Catholic Development Conference in Chicago. Wandering through the exhibit hall, I came across this flyer.

If you're like me, you don't really know what that box is in the upper righthand corner. It's called a "QR Code."

Apparently, years ago Toyota created them as a way of labeling parts. Today, they're used to embed web links. For instance, if you scan the box on the flyer, you'll be sent to a YouTube video introducing the company's staff!

Matt, the person pictured on the right, told me that these could also be used in direct mail to send people to customized web pages. Can you imagine sending a direct mail piece and giving the donor the option of landing on a page that could remind them of their last gift, the funds they've given too, and anything else you wanted to put on it?


QR codes still seem to be the domain of geeks like me. So I wouldn't change any year-end appeals you're mailing this fall. Or even next year. But you might want to try experimenting with QR codes. Some people are embedding these codes in their posters.

Joe Waters, Director of Cause Marketing for Boston Medical Center, showed such a poster in a post on cause marketing during Halloween.

See the QR code in his poster? It takes people to a page that gives more information than a poster could hope to. A person would just use a QR reader on their phone (Android has one built in; Blackberry users can use their BlackBerry Messenger to scan QR codes) and the link would open in their phone's web browser.

Making QR Codes the Easy Way

The easiest way I know to make a QR code, is to go to the URL shortener http://bit.ly.

  1. Enter the web address you want people to go to. In my case, I entered http://fundraisingcoach.com/store.
  2. Then bit.ly shortens it. If you want, you can customize it. I customized my result to be http://bit.ly/FRCstore.
  3. Then simply type .qr after that link. So if you go to your web browser and type in http://bit.ly/FRCstore.qr, you'll see a page like this:

    Simply copy this image using "print screen" or a program like SnagIt. And you have your very own QR code!

The uses for QR codes are endless. Think of this: What if you put a QR code in the poster for your next fundraising event? Someone walking down the street comes to the poster. Seeing the QR code, she scans it with her phone and is taken the page for her to purchase tickets. It's so easy, she purchases one for herself and one for her best friend. And then she continues walking down the street.

Chances are great she wouldn't have remembered to buy the tickets when she finally reached a computer. But you made it ridiculously easy for her to do what she already wanted to do!

How are you using QR codes in your nonprofit fundraising?

Tell us in the comments!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to https://fundraisingcoach.com/21-ways/


  1. This is very cool technology, Mark, and is being adopted in a big way in the commercial world (see a great white paper from my friends at InterlinkOne... http://ilnk.me/535b ), and the nonprofit world is sure to follow... eventually!
    This is just one more method for what we are working hard to do with our clients' direct mail campaigns -- DRIVE an online response. Online gifts are typically 30% higher than gifts via reply mail, so n/p orgs should really jump on board and use this "push strategy" within the messages -- and offers -- of their mail appeals. Dedicated landing sites are key as, in most cases, online response to direct mail is not being tracked properly, and this factor is a major influence of recent claims that "direct mail response is down" in fundraising. Is it really, or are orgs just not as committed to tracking online response to mail as they are mail response to mail? So, methods that both encourage folks to respond (give & join) online, and are 100% trackable -- like QR codes, pURLs, etc. are the future of DM fundraising, and therefore get my vote! And like anything else in the n/p world, adoption of the technology won't happen overnight. But this technology, convenience, and "cool factor" is what your Gen X, GenY, and GenThumb donors, members and prospects will respond to, folks - and they're the ones that will be rapidly replacing your check-writing "Matures" and the older end of the Boomers now on your files. Onward!

  2. Having never heard of QR codes until a few weeks ago, they've now come up on several occasions - from using them to sell tickets to events to telling the history of items in charity shops (by their previous owners). Of course, my words of caution to potential clients keen to use this new technology is that it does require the donor to either be aware of it - or the charity will need to be prepared to educate them about it. I do think this is a potentially exciting opportunity for charities to attract new donors though and look forward to watching it develop.

  3. We are using these in our next catalog for the book publihsing division (Editions) of the American Library Association. We don't do them for individual book, but for general categories.....like administration and management. Customer get's the catalog and can to right to the store and order.


  4. That sounds like a great way to get people used to seeing the codes in the catalog!

  5. We're testing QR codes on the posters for our most recently announced fundraising events, two firewalks in march of next year.

    The link takes you direct to the FAQ & sign up page - should be interesting to see the results.

    I agree that their use depends upon your supporter base knowing about the tech, but it won't be like that forever.

  6. I am interested in using QR codes, because they are quick, convenient and multi-locational. However, can one donate using a QR code without having to fill out a form? For instance, can one scan a QR code and get charged $5? I worry that filling out the form using your cell phone will halt the process with most givers. Thoughts?

    • I'm asking around, but it seems direct donations aren't yet possible. As I see it, these link to a website. but not a PayPal account or any other financial account. 🙁

  7. Hey Marc

    As per our earlier chat, we're about to test them with a couple of clients in upcoming DM appeals.

    See attached here for a little more info on our recommended implementation.



  8. Thanks so much, Jonathon. I love your point in your post about filling in the information for donors.

    As I mention above, that is what really intrigues me about these codes (or simply customized URLs). I think our job is to make it ridiculously easy to give. These can help with that!

  9. I agree, Marc. Steering people to dedicated and custom landing pages, via QR codes, direct mail, e-mail-- whatever-- is becoming more important all the time; making it easy for them to give. Development professionals need to realize that both prospects and donors are visiting their web sites--to learn more or to simply "validate" their organization--before making a donation. A 2009 Kellogg Foundation study revealed that 65% of all donors visit the organization's web site EVERY time they give, which means that number could be 70% or more now, and probably is 50% or more for prospects/new donors.
    While we have not yet tested QR codes with clients, we are stressing daily that direct mail and other communications must DRIVE online giving.
    See my recent article on this here...

  10. Nicole Murphy says:

    Our school PTA uses QR codes for fundraising efforts. Right now the code links to our website to make donations through a PayPal account. I would like to have a code at restaurants we do fundraisers with. Right now, families have to print out a coupon to present at restaurant. Then the restaurant gives a percentage of their bill to our PTA. Is there a way for us to receive the discount if the families scan the code at the restaurant? I would like to eliminate the paper coupon to those interested in using the codes instead.

  11. Nicole, GREAT question. That would definitely make life simpler.

    I don't know if it can be done. I'll tweet this out though.

  12. John DiPietro says:

    Great thread with lots of learning here. Glad I found it.


  1. [...] has been a lot of talk this year from np techies to fundraising pros alike about QR (”quick response”) codes ? those blocky looking codes that, when [...]

  2. [...] has been a lot of talk this year from np techies to fundraising pros alike about QR (”quick response”) codes ? those blocky looking codes that, when [...]

  3. [...] Coach, Marc A. Pitman is based in the US and recently highlighted the use of QR codes in fundraising.? This fascinating (and relatively simple) technology can be used to direct donors to specific web [...]

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