October 11, 2017 | Categories Featured, Fundraising Strategies

What Augmented Reality Can Mean for Nonprofits

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This post was contributed by Wayne Elsey, founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises.

I think one of the great aspects of living in the digital world is that as I’m writing this and thinking ahead to next year, within a year’s time so much could happen in the advancement of technology that we can only glimpse at the potential that lies ahead of us.

One of the technological innovations that the major tech companies are fully investing their R&D money is into augmented reality (AR). And, if you think that you can’t take advantage of it as a leader in the nonprofit sector, you’re mistaken.

Remember, we’re living in a world that favors those who not only think and operate outside of the box, the most favored are those who create their own box.

What Is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is what is essentially the union of the digital and real worlds with the imposing of computer generated images onto the real world images as viewed through a mobile device or tablet.

If you were paying even a little attention, you know that in 2016, Pokémon Go took the world by storm with AR. In brief, the game used the GPS from a person’s cell phone and sent people all around their neighborhoods on the search for dragons and rat monsters on their mobile screens.

How Did Some Nonprofits Leverage the Pokémon Go Craze?

During the Pokémon Go craze, nonprofits used the hashtag #MissionForGood to help spread awareness and to promote their causes. Some organizations that took advantage of the augmented reality game included the Art Institute of Chicago, the 92nd Street Y in New York City, and the United Way of Central Ohio.  The game provided the opportunity for local businesses and even some intrepid nonprofits to create a whole new way to market themselves in several ways:

  1. Some organizations which were open and available to foot traffic became a Pokè Stop, which drove people to their site for a free item.
  2. Local gyms in the neighborhood became a Pokè Gym, and some organizations partnered with their local gym and made a mini-fundraising event.
  3. Some groups created lures for a $0.99 purchase that helped “lure” people to the Pokè Stop.

What to Look for Next Regarding Augmented Reality?

The big tech companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google, and Snap are all investing heavily into AR. The fact that advances in technology are happening at such a rapid rate, it is now essential for all leaders to stay as informed as possible about technology as it evolves.

In today’s world, you want to stay ahead of the competition, and since you are, in fact, living in the digital age, it’s important to show that your nonprofit gets it and is going with the times. By doing so, you demonstrate thought leadership and innovation, which is what supporters want to see in the non-profit and business sectors.

So, what are some of the things that you should stay tuned for as augmented reality begins to establish a firmer root?

  • Digital advertising will rapidly evolve with augmented reality. For instance, many nonprofits enjoy bringing in donors to see and feel what happens at their organization. Some charities have been using live streaming to have people virtually tour or participate in an event. With AR, digital marketers will be able to create an entirely immersive reality that engages supporters in ways that have never been possible until now. By extension, you can have people clear across the country or around the world supporting your group because you’ve captured their attention with innovative augmented reality.
  • Celebrity endorsements will change. For many years, charities have been using celebrities and high profile individuals to help endorse their causes. Augmented reality is going to create an entirely different experience with AR as marketers can ask their high profile supporters to help them create unique promotional experiences, which is something that their followers and even the general public will want to support. For example, imagine a school having a famous NBA player. There will soon be a point where the marketing and fundraising team will be able to ask that player to create an AR opportunity where any sports fan and supporter of the organization will be able to “play” basketball with the NBA star player using AR.
  • Gaming like Pokémon Go will return. Whether it is Pokémon or another brand, you know this type of game will be back soon, and there will be another craze until it becomes ubiquitous and part of the reality for many people. Already some nonprofits have taken advantage to test out the first opportunity with Pokémon back in 2016. Expect that there will be more opportunities soon that will allow you to be creative regarding marketing and engaging the public to become aware––and perhaps donate––to your cause.

Nonprofit leaders have to look at the entirety of the digital world so they can take quick advantage of opportunities that could raise visibility quickly and potentially raise money. There’s no time like the present to being to immerse yourself and your team in AR and other technological advances as the real and digital worlds begin to meld together into a single reality.

Wayne Elsey
About the Author

Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE). Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, individuals and organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations. The shoe drive fundraising recently unveiled the 3.0 version of its new website, which you can see at Funds2Orgs.com. You can also follow Wayne’s blog at NotYourFathersCharity.com, which includes digital downloads of all of his books and resource papers on the “Free Resources” page.
Written by Jeff Vogel
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