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HOW TO: Add Your Nonprofit as a Venue Page to Foursquare

January 10, 2010

Part social networking site, part smartphone App, Foursquare is a tool meant to be primary used on the go on your smartphone. Quite simply, you “Check-in” to places while physically at the location and offer “Tips” and send out “Shouts”. Cafes, bars, and live music venues are its primary focus, but nonprofits are also adding themselves as “Venues” to Foursquare in order to show up in “Check-in” searches. Users then earn points when checking-in. Those points and check-ins then also earn badges.

I have suggested a badge for users that check-in to venues tagged “nonprofit”, and I am sure many others have as well. So far no word on any badges related to philanthropy, but they’d be crazy to not have one in the works. Nonprofits excel at early adoption of social media. If Foursquare can get thousands of nonprofits active on the site, their future looks bright. 🙂

That said, nonprofits that adopt new technology early always get the most exposure. That era of early adoption has now begun with Earthjustice and the Brooklyn Museum. If you want to be an early adopter, here’s how to get your nonprofit started on Foursquare:

1) Sign up for an individual profile on their website.

Don’t create a profile for your organization. Create a profile for yourself. Sign up. Do not skip the option to upload a photo. You will not accrue “Badges” if you do not have a photo, nor will you become a “Mayor”. Do not use your organization’s logo. At this point, the power for nonprofits on Foursquare is in the individual profile.

Now, something very important. You must sync your Foursquare account with your organization’s Twitter account to get a username i.e, [Friend me!]. Please note that you can change Twitter accounts at a later date, thus your are not locked into a FourSquare username. This also hints at how fully integrated Foursquare will be with Twitter. Love that. Love Twitter.

That said, I have configured that none of my Foursquare activity be automatically sent out as Tweets under “Settings” and I would suggest you do the same. I don’t think your Twitter Followers care much that you “Checked-in” at Starbucks, unless your organization is having a fundraiser at Starbucks. Hint. Hint. 🙂

2) Search for your organization.

There is a 99.99% chance that your organization is not going to come up in search results, thus select “Add Venue” and follow the steps below:

1. Enter the name of your organization… correctly. Don’t enter in all lower case. For Example, “Discovery Center”.

2. Enter the address. Foursquare requests that you use abbreviations for streets and avenues. Cities should be spelled out. States and countries should be abbreviated in CAPS:

438 E. St. Louis St.
Springfield, MO   65806

3. Enter your organization’s Twitter ID. If by chance you do not work for a nonprofit, but take the initiative to add nonprofits to Foursquare, please go to the nonprofit’s website to see if they have a Twitter account or Google the name of the nonprofit with the word “Twitter”. In most cases, if the nonprofit is on Twitter, then their Twitter account will show up in the top 10 Google results. Many people that don’t work at nonprofits, but want to help will be adding nonprofits to Foursquare. If you are one of them, thank you, but please do it correctly.

4. Add the Tags “nonprofit” and “nonprofit organization” and “charity”, as well as any other Tags relevant to your organization and its mission (human rights, environment, peace, etc.). The default is that all Tags appear in lowercase. Very important: Add the city and state of your organization as a Tag. It doesn’t make a difference in searches on the website version of Foursquare, but it does in the iPhone App version!

When the steps above are completed, here’s an example of a correctly added nonprofit venue:

3) If you have a smartphone, download the FourSquare App and then Check-in to your nonprofit venue.

Foursquare is available for the iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Palm Pre. Download the App, Check-in, and then on the next day, Check-in again. At that point you become the “Mayor”. Next, go to your venue profile and click “Are you the manager of this business?” You can then sign up for a business account to get access to your venue page to post “Specials” as well as statistical information.

Related Webinar:
How Nonprofit Organizations Can Successfully Use LinkedIn and Foursquare

28 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 8:13 am

    Perhaps this is coming up in your series of posts on Foursquare, but this post fails to answer the big WHY question. Why would a nonprofit care to input their physical location into Foursquare? What’s the overwhelming need for a resource-strapped NPO to get involved in yet another social media tool?

    It’s not enough just to create a profile. What is the organization going to do with this profile to achieve their organizational objectives? How will it integrate into their strategy?

    This post is a good starting point. Answer these questions and you’ll be able to help a nonprofit really determine whether Foursquare is going to be helpful to their cause or not.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      January 10, 2010 8:37 am

      There are some “hints” in there… but as mentioned, this post is just about the basic first step… and yes, the WHY will be in the future posts… but to add your nonprofit to FourSquare takes about 10 minutes… even if you personally never use the site again. Thanks.

  2. January 10, 2010 8:59 pm

    Foursquare is exploring how to take their check-in/gaming system and turn it into a ‘check-in AND donate’ model although it’s not their primary focus. Here’s an article with details:

    Another item worth noting is that FourSquare does use the location-aware capabilities of smartphones. Hopefully folks will check-in when they actually visit a location, rather than checking in to run up points and ‘mayorships’ which is possible. After all, the the key advantage these systems are supposed to offer over a general search is the ‘my real friends went here and recommended (tips) I get…” Emphasis on actual friends and real tips.

  3. January 11, 2010 5:40 am

    Interesting article! Keep up the good work!

  4. January 11, 2010 7:06 am

    Foursquare has the jump – and the twitter population – on board. It remains to be seen if that translates into fundraising possibilities, but one would ignore the possibilities of suxh at their own peril.

    As far as alotting time/resources to being on Foursquare, 90% of getting funding, whether it’s from a gov’t grant or a donation, is from making sure people know you exist. *Where* you exist is also helpful.

    Unapologetically treat you non-profit like a for-profit; get in peoples faces. Fourquare and other apps allow for this.

    Another is Causeworld. I find this one very interesting because they’ve done the heavy lifting for the end-user and have logged in retailers in your respective areas. Logging in a visit to an area ends up benefitting a charity of your choosing from their selection. As time goes on, I’m expecting more charities to be added — especially since the app makes it very easy to suggest more charities to add.

    Another interesting aspect of Causeworld is that it’s owned by Shopkick, a for-profit company that I’d guess will create another app along the lines of Foursquare, once the revenue generating model is created/fine-tuned. I’d expect the relationship with large donot companies and the retailers they connect with in Causeworld to allow for open doors where they may not readily exist for Foursquare.

    The fact that Causeworld/Shopkick doesn’t put the onus of logging venues into the software, such as Foursquare, makes for a more seamless experience — as well as assuring retailers that the info w/in the app is accurate.

    So, we’ll see…

  5. January 11, 2010 12:33 pm

    Quick question about foursquare, I volunteer with Forgotten Voices International, a nonprofit that has a physical address for snailmail purposes but not a retail location of any kind. In other words, there wouldn’t be any reason for anyone to be ‘checking in’ to their organization.

    That being said, would it be worthwhile to have them listed on foursquare just so they show up in search results in general? Is there any value there?


  6. Laura permalink
    January 12, 2010 7:04 am

    The website keeps telling me to “check in” — but no one offers instruction on how to do that. I don’t have a phone, does this mean I cannot play?

  7. Laura permalink
    January 12, 2010 7:30 am

    OK, I found a way around it…

    Go to

    Check in on netbook. Done.

  8. January 12, 2010 9:51 am

    This is a great tutorial! One thing I’ve been thinking about: how can a nonprofit that offers programs at various locations utilize FourSquare? For example, a film festival that shows movies in various locations. How could someone check into the film festival, even though it is being held at a specific theater that might already be on FourSquare?

    If this is possible, a future post with information on this topic would be great.


  9. January 19, 2010 3:34 am

    We are a UK (London) based organization. I added our organization to Foursquare some time back. However I have not been able to get the location right – even with the postcode it does not map it correctly on the map and puts it the other side of the river! I have followed the “between this street and that street” instructions but this does not help. I now have 2 versions of my organization both at the wrong location so I am wary of trying again.

    Frustrating. I presume it is a problem with Googlemaps simply not being up to date with UK postcodes. However if anyone has any tips for making mapping work properly with (I assume) newer UK postcodes please let me know.

  10. February 10, 2010 1:55 pm

    interesting stuff to learn; problem is after I signed up as an individual, I found our organization already in there! Can’t figure out how to “control” our page, add our Twitter and Facebook Fan Page to this listing so others can access our group better. Any help to do this??

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 10, 2010 2:11 pm

      Send me the link to the venue on FourSquare and your Twitter ID… and I’ll see if I can edit on the iPhone version. I think many nonprofits will encounter this. If is it entered incorrectly on FourSquare… lower case or not the full name, then create a new venue and enter it yourself.

      • July 12, 2010 7:49 am

        Why do you stress signing yourself up under an individual profile, as opposed to an organization? Is there some benefit? ~Thanks!

      • nonprofitorgs permalink
        July 12, 2010 8:02 am

        It’s a gut feeling. How can a university or a nonprofit (a building, a physical object) walk around town and check-in to venues? Seems to scream too much marketing for me. Better to be a person with your organization’s logo superimposed over your personal profile image… and perhaps use your Twitter ID as your first name… then build your venue page with tips and to do’s. That’s my gut. MySpace was like that… they let brands usurp personal profiles… and initially it worked, but eventually people got tired of seeing all these brands acting like individuals… just didn’t work… MySapce became a Spam haven because of that decision. I think that is even more the case with Foursquare and geo-location in general. A library can’t uproot itself and walk into to Starbucks… but a librarian can. 🙂 We’ll see how the site evolves, but my gut tells me be a person first… and then we wait to see how the venues/badges evolve. I would love to see more branded venues for nonprofits… and badges earned for checking-in to venues tagged “nonprofit.” We’ll see…

  11. June 2, 2010 11:09 am

    As always, thanks for the great social networking tips! We are looking for a way to use it with our volunteer programs, but for now just adding the venue and a “top 10” list of things to see/do at our headquarters (since we do lots of tours). Eileen 🙂

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      June 2, 2010 12:11 pm

      Thanks. Love the Top 10 List. When all else fails, a Top 10 List won’t. 🙂


  1. links for 2010-01-10 | Company K Media
  2. FourSquare for Charity? | Future:Media:Change
  3. Five Simple (and Fun) Ways to Promote Nonprofits on FourSquare « Nonprofit Tech 2.0
  4. Five Simple (and Fun) Ways to Promote Nonprofits on FourSquare | Blogs
  5. Foursquare and the Library | Library Links « Book Mobilize
  6. links for 2010-05-28 « innovations in higher education
  7. Where are your advocates? Geolocation and your nonprofit « Classroom to Capitol
  8. 10 Types of Nonprofits That Absolutely Must Add Themselves to Foursquare « Nonprofit Tech 2.0
  9. SMEDIAM » 10 Types of Nonprofits That Absolutely Must Add Themselves to Foursquare
  10. HOW TO: Add Your Nonprofit to Facebook Places and Claim Your New Places Page « Nonprofit Tech 2.0 :: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits
  11. Nonprofit Tech 2.0 Celebrates Its One-Year Anniversary! « Nonprofit Tech 2.0 :: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits
  12. HOW TO: Create a Foursquare Page for Your Nonprofit « Nonprofit Tech 2.0 Blog :: A Social Media Guide for Nonprofits

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