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, www.foursquare.com/user/nonprofitorgs [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: www.foursquare.com/venue/556716

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