QR Codes: What’s It All About?

A QR code, or Quick Response code, is a black and white code that smart phone devices can read through a free app. Shipping companies first used QR codes as a tracking device. Consumers and smart phone users have used QR codes increasingly in the past years to compare retail prices, share information, and connect users to Facebook pages to name a few.

To use a QR code, download an app on your phone. The camera of your phone sees it and links you to the destination of the code. As a Blackberry user, I use the QR Code Scanner Pro by The Jared Company or Code Muncher by Motek Americas Inc. downloaded from the Blackberry App World. Iphone users can search the app store for QR Reader for iPhone by TapMedia Ltd. or RedLaser – Barcode Scanner and QR Code Reader by Occipital. Droid users search the Android market for apps such as QR Droid by Droidla or RedLaser Barcode & QR Scanner by eBaymobile.

QR codes are created easily online on any QR generator site by providing the link, text, or other data that you want the code to contain. I suggest using The QR Project or QR Stuff.com. Basic QR codes are free from these sites, however customizable QR codes with a company logo or other graphics are available for a fee. As a student at the University of Virginia, I have seen increased use of QR codes on flyers around grounds. I can scan a QR code to sign up for the Fight Cancer 5K, 'like' Challah for Hunger’s page on Facebook, or find out more information about an organization. I have walked around grounds and seen students seizing this opportunity, and have also started to use QR codes in my own organization’s marketing approaches. QR codes are becoming more prevalent by users of smart phones, especially by people in my 'millenial' cohort. I believe that the Jewish community can use QR codes effectively to aid in marketing and communication strategies. The key to QR codes is they link printed physical material to online material. So next time you're printing up a flyer or newsletter, think about where you can include a QR code. With QR codes, you can:

Promote your organization creatively: The United Jewish Appeal (UJA) in Canada launched an iWalk mobile challenge where they asked participants to scan a QR code at registration that detailed instructions on two iWalk challenges: a trivia question and a challenge urging participants to take a picture at the event and email it back. This event gave the UJA website over 500 hits and about fifty people chose to subscribe to receive future UJA event notices, promoting their organization in a creative way.

Take an active step: TSA at the St. Louis Airport uses QR codes to link people waiting in security lines to their website, download an app that will tell them approximately how long security lines are at different airports, and a page that gives the most up to date information as far as what can be brought through security checkpoints. Using QR codes in these ways, participants can actively connect to and engage with the organization or cause.

Network: NTEN put a QR code on each attendee’s name badge at their 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference with a link to their personal profile and contact information. Attendees could network and get each other’s contact information by scanning each other’s QR codes. Organizations are using QR codes creatively to coincide with their organization’s strategy and goals. The key is creativity and pinpointing how to best utilize them in your organization.

Other examples include:

  • On your next event program, put a QR code that allows users to sign up for your future events.
  • Place a QR code at your event registration table that attendees scan to donate a specified amount to your organization.
  • During your next mailing campaign, add a QR code that has participants start following your organization on Twitter.

Jewish organizations can use QR codes to increase social media in their marketing and communication approaches, shift focus from printed material to online content, and specifically engage those primarily online generations. QR codes are gaining popularity in the social media world and will be on the scene for a while so start developing some fluency in the use of QR codes and begin to integrate use of them in your organization’s strategies. It's easy, cheap and a great opportunity to be (slightly) ahead of the curve! Try it out and see how your organization will reap the benefits.

Kate Belza is the Darim Online student intern for 2011-12. She is a third year at the University of Virginia, majoring in religious studies with a minor in leadership. She is an active student leader at UVa Hillel, and co-founded a Challah for Hunger chapter at UVa, where they bake and sell challah and donate the proceeds to charity. She also serves as the fundraising chair for Relay for Life at UVa, and is Director of Philanthropy for her sorority, Alpha Phi. Kate serves as a student representative to the UVa Hillel Board of Directors.

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