Nonprofit Technology

How to Use Instagram for Nonprofits

Published by in Nonprofit Technology

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then what’s the value of a black-and-white vignette – artfully angled – of a venti quadruple-mocha half-soy fluffacino with extra fluff?

Instagram for Nonprofits

What if it’s a shot of a smiling child getting ready to take a drink of fresh, clean water – thanks to the effort of your nonprofit organization?

charity water instagram

Instagram, a social photo- and video-sharing platform, lets you harness the power of images to engage followers and volunteers, share your mission, and expand your audience.

Not hip to the filters, the hashtags, the #catstagram? This guide is here to help you make the most out of Instagram for your nonprofit.

Why do you need to be on Instagram?

It’s incredibly popular, and its user base (and range of photo-editing tools) is growing.

Last December, Instagram’s CEO announced the product’s community topped 300 million members. From late 2013 to late 2014, Instagrammers increased from 17% to 26% of all adults online, according to Pew Research Center. Just under half of those users are on Instagram on a daily basis.

And among those ages 18 to 29, 53% use it to share photos of sunsets (#nofilter), peruse pics of tasty pastry, or relive sepia-toned memories of the past.

In the nonprofit realm, Instagram earned the #5 spot in the ranking of most important social media sites in the 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report. It hopped over Pinterest and Google+ in popularity since the same survey last year.

With visual communication one of the biggest nonprofit technology trends this year, it’s not surprising that Instagram is drawing more focus from marketing folks.


First things first: You’ll need an account (you probably saw this one coming). Choose a username that is easily searchable and closely identified with your organization’s name (think about eliminating the spaces if you have multiple words).

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Next, select a photo that is emblematic of your group – a logo works well. Keep in mind this image will appear pretty small within Instagram, so don’t have it be too busy or detailed.

Instagram also has a short bio section, where you can tell the internet a little about who you are and what your mission is. You can and should add a link to your website, as well. (Now would be the time to make sure your site is ready for mobile access.)

You’re nearly ready for primetime – all you’re missing are your followers. To attract them, get your name out there. Having a searchable account helps, but you can also let your supporters know through other channels: include an announcement in your next email blast, post a link to your new Instagram on Twitter and Facebook, and include a prominent button or link on your website.

You should also take this time to follow accounts similar to yours, or nonprofits you admire, and get a sense of what you like, and how they successfully engage with their audiences.

Get ‘Gramming

You work at a nonprofit. Chances are the interior of your office isn’t the most picturesque locale, even if it’s papered with motivational posters.

But what if you fanned out those colorful promotional flyers? Or you could take a 15-second video to introduce the faces on your team. And maybe on Thursdays, your executive director brings her dog in for the afternoon.

Your digs, your people, your materials – they all go into making your nonprofit run, and can give followers a glimpse of what makes you special.

Plus, everything looks better with a filter.

Consider posting a #selfie with a star volunteer, or go back to your roots with a #tbt (Throwback Thursday) of the organization’s first office (even tinier!) or elicit a chuckle at your board president’s ‘70’s hairdo.

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Whatever your pick, your content should tell a story. Use the caption to add more meaningful details, and include any relevant hashtags you’ve come across to help users find your posts. (Important: Make sure your account is public.)

The caption, or any text in the image, should be a call to action for your followers. You can promote upcoming events, entice them to learn more, or encourage them to make a donation to support your cause. Keep engagement high within the platform by quizzing your followers, taking a poll, or holding a contest.

Instagram captions don’t support clickable links, so if you want to promote a website, be sure to keep its URL short and memorable. You can also direct followers to your main profile page, where you added your website.

screenshot 3

How frequently should you use Instagram? A general rule: Post early, post often. Aim for at least once a day. Take advantage of the “insta” part of Instagram to cover your nonprofit’s events live, sharing multiple snapshots over the course of a day or evening.

But Instagram is not just about broadcasting. Pay attention to the posts users like or comment on, and jump in to thank supporters or answer questions (comment with @username to respond to specific queries). If you’re engaged, your followers are more likely to be too.

To measure your success, the free tool Iconosquare (previously Statigram) keeps track of lots of statistics such as followers and likes, and can manage comments.

iconosquare 1 iconosquare 2

Above all, remember to stay true to your organization and your mission. Post high-quality and engaging content, and the followers will follow.

Does your nonprofit use Instagram? Share your tips in the comments below!

Looking for Nonprofit software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Nonprofit software solutions.

About the Author

Hannah S. Ostroff

Hannah S. Ostroff

Hannah S. Ostroff is a writer for Capterra, a free resource that matches buyers and sellers of business software. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, she spends her free time cooking, singing, reading, and watching videos of baby animals.


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