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?