Muschamp Rd

Location Based Services and Non-profits

March 2nd, 2011
W2 logo

Last night I went to Net Tuesday‘s event. It was good and very well attended, but none of the speakers addressed how locational based services (LBS) could be used for social good. The speakers talked about how locational based services can help you find a restaurant or a cafe, plan a meeting, better enjoy a game, even meet hot chicks who share similar interests to you. It was a bit different crowd than I remember at previous Net Tuesday events, younger, prettier, more business owners and entrepreneurs.

Now in 2019 a lot more people have smartphones and location based services are more common but people have also learned of some of the dangers of social media particularly in giving too much of your personal information not to mention your real time exact location to the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

Anyone using LBS in the DTES?

Downtown Eastside

After the official talks were over, I made my way over to Eli and we briefly chatted on why Locational Based Services weren’t really appropriate to the non-profits he worked for. Eli works for the David Suzuki Foundation and he says most of his base of supporters are older and not digitally proficient. Locational Based Services require the latest smart phone and a willingness to download and in some cases regularly use software in order to begin to see benefits.

What about LBS for Charities?

I also talked to someone from Union Gospel Mission (UGM). I used to work in the Downtown Eastside, I was also a software developer in a past life, so I have a pretty good perspective on the topic. He also enjoyed the talks but wasn’t sure how LBS would benefit his organization. Union Gospel Mission works with the poor and one of their big services they provide is free food. When you’re dealing with clients who can’t afford food, it is unlikely they have smart phones which support locational based services apps.

We talked about fund-raising a bit and how online giving is growing, but is still a small percentage of the donations UGM receives. But we could both see how there might be a small trickle over to mobile apps and we left it at that and cleaned up the room.

Not all non-profits are officially charities

One other point I need to make before I go further, not all non-profits are registered charities. Not all are able to issue tax receipts for donations. The government only considers certain services charitable acts, W2 who donated the room for the event, is a non-profit arts group in Vancouver’s inner-city, I don’t think they are a registered charity and much of their work and the services they provide the community, don’t count as “charitable acts”.

Ironic Networking

Anyway the networking continued over at the Pourhouse, which is a bit of an ironic name for an establishment in Vancouver’s inner-city, though I don’t know if they realized it at the time. I’d been there once before and I remember it being pretty classy, not the type of place unemployed people usually frequent. I’m not always the busiest and most enthusiastic networker, but after I got some food in me and was on a barstool, I began to talk to the people around me.

My barstool thoughts on LBS for non-profits

Eventually I got asked as someone with perspective, how location based services could be used by non-profits. Now I’m not an expert in LBS, and I was being put on the spot, I checkin sometimes, but I don’t have Gowalla, or Foursquare, or even Yelp Mobile on my iPhone. However I understand how they work. I briefly mentioned digital donations, but a lot of non-profits aren’t looking for money, where I think LBS could be leveraged by non-profits is in volunteer recognition.

Volunteer Recognition in the Digital Age

This is the example I gave to Digital Thor. I have to be one of the few people who knows multiple Thors in Vancouver. One volunteer opportunity I was asked to do a long time ago was pick English Ivy out of Stanley Park as it is a non-native and intrusive species. When you volunteer you often get a t-shirt or something to commemorate the event. I think an organization with Klout, such as the David Suzuki Foundation, could partner with an established LBS service such as Gowalla and award a special badge for volunteer service.

People will do a lot to unlock a badge these days

This badge could only be unlocked if you volunteered on a particular day in a particular place doing a particular task. It would have cachet and thus value. It could add to you digital reputation. If the idea caught on you could earn multiple cause based badges whether your interests are in the environment or in feeding the hungry. The passion you have for a cause would be reflected in your online social profile as recognized by digital rewards earned through location based services.

This idea won’t help all non-profits, a certain amount of size and scope is necessary to form a partnership and rally a supporter base. However it is a way to leverage location based services and people’s proven tendency to show off online where they are and what they are doing. Thor thought it had merit and since I thought it up on the spot, it was decided I should write it down, once I stopped drinking beer.

If you have thoughts on using location based services for social good you can leave a comment below. Currently I am once again unemployed and attempting to use search engine optimization or SEO for my own good by improving the Quality of this blog.

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