Keeping It Grounded with Foursquare
At the event, Naveen Selvadurai, one of the founders of Foursquare explained how their invention was driven by a series of questions: “How can we get better at living in our cities?” And, “How can we turn life into a game?”
For uninitiated, here’s how Foursquare works: get to a location and “check in.” Once the app registers where you are, businesses and nonprofits nearby can alert you to special offers — like a discount for frozen yogurt. Like Meetup, it’s also a way to connect with friends in real time. Depending on the number of times you check in, you can earn “badges” or be anointed “Mayor” of that place – which can come with special privileges and prizes. The app is expected to exceed the 2 million mark this month.
Foursquare makes intuitive sense for a nonprofit that is site-specific – like a community center or a museum. But what happens if your nonprofit isn’t grounded in that way? Is Foursquare still useful?
The answer is yes.
I talked with Fenton’s VP of digital, John Gordon, who has been working on Foursquare to create a “nonprofit” category for check-in spots along with a “do gooder” badge that can be earned by donating or taking action for good causes. He had some good ideas for how nonprofits can make Foursquare work for them:
1. Think “action” not discount. Instead of offering freebies and coupons, partner with a local business or mark a symbolically relevant site (for example, the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, or the statue of Gandhi in New York’s Union Square) by encouraging people to take action, whether it’s to support union workers or make a donation to a water rights campaign in India.
2. Stake a place as your own: Fenton is currently working with Heal the Bay to revamp its web site and digital strategy so PLACE is at the forefront. We’re integrating Foursquare by making it possible for people who check in at their favorite beach to receive an alert from Heal the Bay on actions they can take to protect the places they love
3. Partner with a local business: We mentioned this above, but it’s worth emphasizing. In New York, many owners of popular food trucks that sell everything from crepes to tacos, not to mention celebrity chefs at hot spot restaurants, are all using Twitter and social media to attract customers. Nonprofits can turn this into a win-win by encouraging their supporters to frequent their partner business, while using the business spot as a brick-and-mortar place for like-minded people to congregate around a cause.
“Foursquare gives you access to a shared community of people who share an affinity for the same beach or other favorite spot that you do,” says John. “Nonprofits need to develop an identity around these places to take advantage of people’s natural behaviors and lead them take action.”
Is your nonprofit using Foursquare or thinking about it? We’d love to hear about it!