Posted by Pamela McLeod

Ready, set, gotta catch ‘em all! If you've noticed a number of people walking around outside with heads down staring at their phones, then you may already know about the latest trend sweeping users’ mobile devices: Pokémon Go. As the newest installment of software company Niantic’s best-selling Pokémon franchise, the app has taken the world—and those beyond it—by storm.

With all new technology trends, you should first ask: Can I leverage this tool to grow my nonprofit? The answer is yes, yes you can. And how? We’re glad you asked. Let’s take a closer look at how your nonprofit organization (NPO) can take advantage of the biggest mobile app to hit the technological world: Pokémon Go.

What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is the newest member of the Pokémon franchise created by Niantic in partnership with The Pokémon Company. The mobile app works in conjunction with Google Maps on users’ smartphones. Its most unique aspect, though, uses augmented reality.

In short, augmented reality combines the real world with augmented elements, meaning computer-generated. Users who play Pokémon Go use cameras on their mobile devices to see Pokémon in real physical settings around them.

But what exactly are Pokémon, and how does a person play the game? Pokémon are animated cartoon “animals” (or Pocket Monsters) that users find, capture and keep as digital pets. Hence the game’s catchphrase, Gotta catch ‘em all! In Pokémon Go, users act as trainers, finding and catching Pokémon for their collection. They can also gather supplies, train and duel Pokémon or meet other players at locations called PokéStops and PokéGyms.

Now augmented reality comes into play. Pokémon Go has been most praised for its ability to get players off the couch, exercising and interacting in the real world. Because here’s the catch: To find Pokémon, people literally have to find them, which means going out into the neighborhood, walking around and searching. The really cool part? Physical buildings and locations like museums, parks and historical markers house PokéGyms and PokéStops where players meet.

For more answers and insight into all of your Pokémon Go questions and concerns, read this article by Pokémon, or this one by CNN.

Why should my nonprofit use Pokémon Go?

Now, the biggest question: Why should NPOs utilize Pokémon Go? Well, here are a few stats to demonstrate its sheer popularity.

Pokémon Go reaches across age ranges, racial divides and backgrounds to bring together users of all kinds. While unsure how long this white-hot popularity will last, one thing remains: Now is the time for a nonprofit organization to capitalize and grow its cause.

How can I leverage Pokémon Go?

If your NPO likes the idea of utilizing Pokémon Go, you can get involved in a variety of ways. The biggest? Marketing, marketing, marketing. At the very least, due to its popularity, Pokémon Go offers a free marketing tool—at the most, a cheap marketing tool. Check out some of these ideas a nonprofit organization can take advantage of to catch ‘em all (constituents, that is).

1. Use Poké Locations.

If your NPO has a physical location, then you should find a PokéStop or PokéGym nearby—an incredibly useful tool to take advantage of when marketing to Pokémon Go users.

Find the nearest PokéStop or PokéGym to your location, then share it with your organization’s social media followers. This offers an incentive to lure players to the area for more foot traffic, introducing your cause and possible lead generation. And while still not possible to create your own Poké Location, Niantic says it’s in the works. Follow this page provided by Pokémon Go to see when applications for Poké Locations will become available. Check out an example by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, who utilized a PokéGym and a merchandise offer to drive constituents to their organization front.

2. Offer social media challenges.

Like Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, your NPO can take advantage of Pokémon Go by offering prizes to constituents who get involved in social media challenges. Post a picture on social media of Pokémon at the location and ask constituents to do the same. Set a specific end time for the challenge, then pick a winner from those who submitted pictures using a hashtag created by your organization.

The nonprofit grows its social media presence while engaging constituents and raising awareness for its cause. Take a look at this example from the National Mall and Memorial Parks on Facebook.

3. Drop a lure.

For nonprofit organizations who want to drive Pokémon Go traffic, consider dropping a lure on the game. You can bring in cheap foot traffic by purchasing lures through the game either with PokéCoins or real-world money. Lures attract Pokémon to the location (the geolocation of your smartphone) for 30 minutes in turn attracting users to find the Pokémon. Note: Someone on your team must use the app in order to purchase the lure.

Choose a specific time to market the lure, then spread it across all social media platforms. For example, “Hey Pokémon Go players! We’ve got Pokémon all over the place! We’ll be dropping a lure this afternoon at 3:00 at our Pokéstop. Stop in & catch ‘em all for a cause.”

4. Try Charity Miles for Pokémon Go.

One application taking Pokémon Go by storm is Charity Miles. The company offers a downloadable mobile app to raise money for various nonprofits. Users pick an organization and raise money for it by walking, running or biking with the app open on their phones: The more miles accumulated, the more money raised. With the Pokémon Go phenomenon, Charity Miles has asked players to keep the app open on their phones during Pokémon hunting to raise money while playing. If your nonprofit wants to partner with Charity Miles, click here for more information or to fill out an application.

5. Talk about Pokémon Go.

If your NPO doesn’t have a physical location to drive traffic to, you can still get involved! The most important rule of marketing says stay current, and Pokémon Go is current. So take advantage and talk about it. Encourage players to share their pictures with your organization on social media, coax users to come to events with Poké-incentives and get involved with the action.

Simple, yet effective examples of Pokémon Go engagement include:

Talk about Pokémon Go on social networking platforms like Facebook or Twitter, but try taking advantage of other outlets as well. For more insight, take a look at our articles on Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest for your nonprofit.

Pokémon Go offers a new and exciting opportunity for your NPO to capitalize on. With an incredibly diverse user base, marketing options are limitless with the application. And it may not be long before Niantic begins offering more opportunities on how you can sponsor a PokéStop, purchase advertising on their app or partner with the company (McDonald’s has recently announced its paid sponsorship of Pokémon Go). Don’t waste too much time going through a formal communications plan though. Get involved and just have fun with it! Leverage Pokémon Go for your nonprofit organization and you can be the very best, like no one ever was. Gotta catch ‘em all!

Interested in more ways to utilize the latest trends for your nonprofit’s marketing strategy? Firespring can help! We offer useful materials, webinars and seminars on how your nonprofit can market itself to further its cause. Find out more by calling 877.447.8941 or email