February 16, 2015

There are a number of ways that various businesses can use Instagram. But what about nonprofits or charities? While they still fall under the "business" category (versus personal use), they aren't looking to "sell" something or grow their business in a traditional sense. They have different priorities and end states. So I decided to put together some top tips on how nonprofits can use Instagram.

Know Your Mission

I recently wrote a blog post on knowing your message on Instagram. This is a similar concept. If you don't know why your nonprofit is using Instagram, you'll struggle with seeing success.

Your "mission" could be to increase contributions. It could be to increase awareness about your nonprofit in general. It could be to promote the ways in which your charity functions and gives back. Whatever that mission is on Instagram, you need to first and foremost define it.

Set Up Your Account Accordingly

If you're going to use an Instagram account for a nonprofit, I highly recommend you set up a unique account. Don't use an existing personal account or business account (unless it's already tied directly to the nonprofit organization). You want people to follow your account because they are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. You do not want to overwhelm friends, family, and business connections with your nonprofit messages if they have no interest. It can become offensive, awkward, and you can lose followers.

So, instead, focus on a unique account dedicated to the mission and values of your nonprofit.

Now that you have a unique account, it's important that the profile is set up properly. Choose a username (how you will be recognized on Instagram) that represents your nonprofit and your message. Choose a profile photo (logo or person) that defines the nonprofit and that represents the mission. Write a good bio description that explains the values and mission of the nonprofit while giving people a reason to follow your account.

Use The Bio URL Effectively

As you likely know, there is only ONE place to put an active hyperlink on Instagram and that is the URL link in your bio. Make sure that you are using this to maximize your results!

You can change this link as often as you need (daily, weekly, monthly) so that you can use it to your best advantage. If you're running a campaign to collect donations, put the donation page link in the bio. If you are promoting an upcoming event, put the event page info as the link. If you are wanting people to read a recent blog post or press release, put that link in the bio. You get the point.

Also make sure that you are driving people to this link by using clear calls-to-action in your Instagram posts that tell people specifically to click on the link in your bio.

And, to track the efficiency and traffic of the campaigns and promotions, use a trackable link (like bit.ly) as the link URL. This will allow you to see how many clicks were generated from Instagram (clicks from Instagram on mobile devices are not tracked as referral traffic by your website analytics).

Have a Unique Hashtag

You should have a hashtag associated with your nonprofit. It should be easy to remember and not too long. Use this hashtag on your posts and encourage your supporters to use it when they share images.

If you have events or campaigns that you're promoting, create another unique hashtag specifically for each of these. Again, encourage attendees and supporters to use these hashtags to build awareness and keep track of the event.

Post Content Inline With Your Mission

Your posts on Instagram may include videos (up to 15 seconds) or photos. Your post captions could be short or long (up to 2200 characters), depending on the message you want to share. Although, captions under 500 characters generally tend to perform better, but this could vary depending on your audience.

Some nonprofits may have enough content to post multiple times a day. Others may only have enough to post once a week. Whatever the situation, choose a posting schedule that you can maintain consistently - this is the most important thing! And remember, more isn't always better 😉 It's about quality content that produces optimum results.

Choose content that enhances your message, clarifies what your nonprofit does, and that benefits the audience.


If you're hosting an event (fundraising or otherwise), get the buzz going in advance by promoting the event on Instagram. Encourage people to attend, participate, or donate. Looking for volunteers, ask. Looking for buzz, promote it. And don't forget to use your hashtags!

When you're hosting events or attending events on behalf of your nonprofit, showcase these details during the event via Instagram. Give clear details about what is going on and what is being done. Tag speakers or presenters or influential attendees associated with the event. Beware though of posting too many updates. Keep posts to once a hour tops so as not to overwhelm your audience. You can also use collage generator tools to create one image consisting of a number of small images as a way to showcase a lot of information in a single post.

Highlight Volunteer Work

Showcase and highlight the hardworking volunteers who make your organization run. Whether it's stuffing envelopes, collecting donations, working a fundraising event, or working on an organization goal, show who is out there doing the work.



User Generated Content

Everyone loves to get involved! So if your supporters are out there using your unique hashtags, repost (use 3rd party tools) some of their best content to your account. It gives you free content to share, a fresh perspective of the event, and draws in the support of those already behind you!



Behind The Scenes

These are great content posts no matter what business you're in. But they are equally, if not more, powerful for nonprofits. People are often very skeptical of nonprofits and charities and how the work is done, where the money goes, and who's doing what. Take the opportunity to build trust with your supporters by pulling back the curtain and letting them in on what goes on behind the scenes.



Promote Your Campaigns

When you have campaigns running (especially a Text-to-Donate campaign), promote this regularly on Instagram. Create good graphics that encourage support. Use your captions to explain where the money goes and how to easily donate. If you're going to repeat the campaign posts multiple times, consider changing up the graphics to keep it fresh and inviting.



Promote Your Website

During down times or off-peak seasons, encourage your audience to visit your website. Provide them links to blog posts, donation pages, organization information, and other pages on your website. Staying top of mind is key, and finding ways to entice supporters back to your website is vital in keeping that interest.

Promote Your Merchandise

Do you offer merchandise as a way to generate funds and increase awareness? Promote this merchandise on Instagram. Show your team wearing or showcasing the merchandise. Show new boxes of merchandise arriving for distribution. Offering a temporary discount or promo on the merchandise? Advertise it on Instagram. Remember to change out your URL bio link to the product page though so people can buy it quickly and easily!



Tips and Advice

In an effort to support awareness, provide regular tips and advice to your audience. They can be a regular series or a seasonal post. But find ways that you can educate and support your audience to encourage participation and engagement on Instagram.



Thank Your Supporters

This might be one of the most powerful ways to connect with your audience. Take the time to thank your supporters. If you reach a milestone in donations, reach a goal in a campaign, raise a certain amount from a fundraising event, complete an organization project, give back to a family in need.... whatever it is, take a minute to create unique post content to thank your supporters for making it happen. Remember, without them, none of this happens!



I hope that these examples and tips help you better craft your Instagram strategy for your nonprofit. There are so many ways you can customize your Instagram strategy to boost awareness and drive support for your nonprofit!

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