Bluetooth beacon technology has started to grow in large businesses and stores. Beacon tech is a small sensor device, one that senses when you (or your phone) is within a certain range. Then it sends a signal to communicate with you in real-time about products, offers, etc. Beacons are used for targeted marketing and sales, such as:

  • User analytics
  • Indoor navigation
  • Contactless payments
  • Proximity marketing

This is great! But now you’re asking, “how can nonprofit organizations, which do not usually have a physical shop or products to sell, benefit from beacon technology?” I see two main uses for beacons, depending on the type of nonprofit organization: events and fundraising through geo-targeting. There are (at least) six uses for beacons during nonprofit events, seminars, workshops and conferences.

  1. In-event navigation. You can use blue-tooth beacon technology to help your attendees find the check-in table or other areas of interest when they arrive. Next, use the technology to alert attendees to panel discussions and speaker information so they know when and where different events are taking place. If you have vendors or breakout sessions, help attendees know when they are close to these events and what time the events will start.
  2. See how long attendees stay at your event. It’s always good to see who shows up to your events, but sometimes attendees are late and miss check-in, or they leave early. Beacon technology will allow you to measure who actually shows up and how long they stay. Perhaps everyone left before the final event or just after lunch. This can help you plan better, more engaging events.
  3. Request feedback through electronic surveys after the event. Sending a survey link after the event is good, but sometimes these emails get overlooked or go to spam. You’ll get the most reliable data if you ask for feedback just after the event ends, before your guests have moved on to other things.
  4. Ask your attendees to stay connected by signing up for email newsletters or suggest they follow you/your speakers on social media while they’re already thinking about your organization.
  5. Offer discounts on future events or services to reward attendees. Let them get a sneak peak at upcoming opportunities as a reward for being there.
  6. Follow up with speaker/organization information at the end of an event. Send contact information or “learn more” links straight to their phone, so they don’t have to remember to look you up later.

Nonprofit organizations fundraise in many different ways so beacon technology may not fit every style. Depending on what your organization offers the community and its funding sources, consider these two ideas for beacon fundraising.

  1. Proximity fundraising. Just in the same way for-profit companies may get your attention when you’re near their store, nonprofits can set up proximity marketing to alert passersby about the organization and current programs. For example, if someone walks by a food pantry, the organization can send out an alert with a statistic about the lack of access to nutritional food in the neighborhood and prompt for a donation. Or, if a person passes by a school or daycare center, the organization can send alerts about to current programming and student milestones it’s proud of, prompting the visitor to support the next initiative.
  2. Corporate partnerships. Companies like Macy’s or CVS Health often partner with charitable organizations and ask their shoppers to support the cause. I’m sure you’ve been asked when checking out at Jewel Osco or another store if you’d like to donate $1 to X cause with your purchase. With beacon technology, organizations can push “the ask” directly to the shoppers’ phones while they waiting in line or picking up their items.

Keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list of ideas. As the technology begins to spread and be adapted by new companies and organizations, more strategic uses will come to light. Have you used beacons? How might beacon technology work for your organization?