Can non-profits lead the way for mass-adoption or geolocation applications?

Compass on mapAs geolocation applications, like foursquare, Gowalla and SCVNGR, continue to gain integration with the general public and retailers, we are going to see a lot of cool things from companies benefiting retailers; however that is still a ways away. Sure it can be argued that broadcasting check-ins to existing networks like Facebook and Twitter adds to brand affinity, however as my friend Arik Hanson aptly put it in this post, people simply tune them out.  I know I do, at least unless there is a cheeky comment making me want to check out the location, but I still use the applications.

I don’t think it will be long before more brick and mortar stores embrace the platform for customer loyalty and acquisition however it will still take time. With that said there is one group that is ripe to set the standards for geolocation check-ins – non-profits.

Before you dismiss the notion as crazy, think about it for a second. Non-profits are experts at driving people to a location, generating buzz, raising money for their cause and getting companies to sponsor the event. Mixing this skill set with companies looking to do social good and experiment with a new medium could really lift this platform to the next level.

Let’s say company X wants to sponsor an event with the Jimmy Fund. In a traditional situation, this meant giving a donation to help both the charity and event. With geo-apps, the same event can be more impactful in buzz generation, money raised and brand recognition. Company X can now sponsor a mixer at a local nightclub to benefit the Jimmy Fund and then add $5 to their donation for every check-in on Foursquare up to $5,000. By creating a new location within the confines of the service, the sponsor is able to modify its contributions based on the number of people at the event.  It can also open it up to folks checking in at the night club, not attending the event but wanting to help raise money. This also helps raise the audience if the venue or room is above capacity.

Aside from the goodwill that company X generates by raising money for a noble cause, they can also offer a deal or coupon that can be redeemed on their website or in their store that is exclusive to people who checked into the event. It could also show brick and mortar locations the power of a geolocation presence.

This could be the way to ease in mass adoption of these applications, similar to the way that the Haiti disaster helped get mass adoption of donating money via text messaging. Would you be more likely to check into a location if it helped a charity?

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  • Anonymous

    This is a great idea for a fundraiser, and I definitely would be more likely to check in somewhere if I knew it was for a good cause. You might even get some social media users who wouldn’t normally have gone to the fundraiser to actually attend so they can check in. Once they’re there, they’re more likely to make more contributions, so it’s a win-win.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the geolocation apps even got behind this and made a pledge per donation themselves, since the whole thing stands to benefit them as well.

    On a user level, I do think broadcasting check-ins does build brand affinity. Even though many people “tune out” check ins on Twitter and Facebook, just the one second glance and name recognition does have an impact. Plus, we’re always talking about building one’s personal brand, and broadcasting check-ins (perhaps selectively) is one way to do that.

    Great post!

  • Christa Marzan

    Sean basically covered everything I wanted to say in my comment! I work for a non-profit, and this is a great idea for a fundraiser. I would love to bring this idea up to my boss and department and see if it’s something we can use in our favor.

    Great post, Jeff!

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully it helps Christa. If you do, let me know how it turns out.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. I only disagree with you on the affinity part as it will work for the user, but in terms of the followers or friends how many actually see the update?

  • Christa – please keep me posted as well. If executed, I would love to know how it turns out.

    Great post, Jeff!

  • Anonymous

    It’s hard to say. I think many followers see the update, even if it’s just subliminal. That’s a type of marketing. I do know that some users are annoyed by the check-ins (I’m not, I think it’s interesting), and will unfollow because of it.

  • If executed, I would love to know how it turns out.