June 22, 2011

6 ideas to help nonprofits get started on Foursquare

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A heat map of Foursquare members worldwide.

Use check-ins & shout-outs to raise awareness among its 10 million members

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, brands, start-ups, Web publishers, educators.

Guest post by Wilneida Negrón

WilneidaHere are six ideas to get your organization started on Foursquare, the geolocation social network that announced Monday it has surpassed 10 million members.

Make your nonprofit a venue on Foursquare

1Make your organization a “venue” on Foursquare so that when people are in your area, a notification about your organization will show up. You can take advantage of this feature by adding advocacy action alerts that will show up when others view your organization to alert people to any advocacy needed or even to recruit volunteers, etc.

Also encourage your staff to start individual Foursquare accounts so that they can promote their activities. For example, if you have an outreach or community education component to your work, your outreach staff could check in at venues where they are holding a workshop, attending a task force or participating in any other community meetings or events.

Bring awareness to resources in your community

2Use the “tips” feature on Foursquare to bring awareness about resources available in your community. Have your staff create individual Foursquare accounts and have them leave tips about locations in the community that could be helpful to your client population. You can also encourage local community leaders to leave tips as well. Your staff can also include facts about your organization, hours of operation, nearest subway or bus stop.

Promote and enhance the donation experience

3Consider this idea to enhance the donor giving experience and support local businesses. Talk to local stores and businesses and see if they will make a tax-deductible donation to your organization if a number of people come to their store. For example, talk to your local coffee shop and see if they will make a donation to your organization if 50 people will check into their shop within a period of time.

You can promote this arrangement in your other social networks accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. and let people know that if they check in at this store, the shop will make a donation to your organization. This is a win‐win situation for all: You can promote your organization and raise funds, local businesses also get promotion and business, and customers feel involved and glad they made a direct contribution.

Community education and public awareness

4Many organizations have been using Foursquare to educate the public and bring awareness to issues affecting the community. For example, the National Wildlife Foundation developed a campaign where every time someone checked into an outdoor space like a park or natural landmark, they would receive NWF sponsored tips of the wildlife they should look for, or views to not miss. The idea is to make visiting outdoor spaces interesting and informative and increase awareness, while at the same time increasing awareness of NWF.

Communicate with attendees at advocacy events

5If you organize advocacy events such as rallies, public meetings, etc. use the check‐in feature on Foursquare to have attendees check in to the event. You can then use this feature to communicate with attendees and send logistical and other information.

Generate goodwill: Support your allies

6The amazing day-to-day work that nonprofit organizations do often goes unnoticed. Use the “shout‐out” feature on Foursquare to congratulate and praise other organizations, community leaders, etc. every time you check into a venue. This little act can go a long way in generating goodwill and strengthening community ties.

What do you think? Do you have other suggestions for how organizations can use Foursquare?

Wilneida Negrón is a web strategies consultant with 10 years of experience in the non-profit and public sector. She is the author of The Non-Profit Guide to Internet Marketing, a toolkit to help nonprofits launch low-cost but high-impact search engine and social media optimization strategies. This article is excerpted from that guide with permission. LawHelp.org helps low and moderate income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, and answers to questions about their legal rights.
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4 thoughts on “6 ideas to help nonprofits get started on Foursquare

  1. Curious about number 5: “You can then use this feature to communicate with attendees and send logistical and other information.”

    Checking into a venue doesn’t create a clique or anything like that. It’s not like Facebook where you can post on the event wall and hope people see it.

    If I’m missing something, I’d love to know more about it.

    • Hi Hillary, thank you for your excellent question. This particular tip is for events created on Foursquare. Many organizations holding rallies, advocacy events, etc create separate event profiles (which they often delete after the event is over) often with multiple venues for the same event. For example, for a public rally, there may be a venue created for the sign-in table, then a second venue for where any speakers will be speaking, and a third venue for the location where informational tables or booths will be. Then using these multiple venues for one event, you can coordinate with volunteers, staff by encouraging everyone to check in to their particular posts and then using Foursquare as a place to communicate and share logistics as issues may arise. So, it can help with better coordinating among organizers.

      I hope this helps, if you have any additional questions let me know!

  2. Interesting stuff – certainly on this side of the Atlantic charities are very hesitant about getting involved with loc-soc platforms (as are most of the general public as yet)

    I wrote a similar guide on my blog, which has a lot of synergy with this. Hope you don’t mind me posting a link here but I think the two work well together http://bit.ly/lnkNhb

    • Thanks for sharing your guide John, does seem to touch on many of themes on this blog post. I particularly like your discussion of leaving “Easter Eggs” concept–seems like a great way to promote nonprofits with multiple offices/locations.