Instagram for Nonprofits

Instagram is leveling the playing field and gives smaller nonprofits, with fewer resources, the opportunity to grow their donor base.

By Dana Wynkoop

A picture can say something in an instant; in a way that a million words can never truly express. Starting in 2010, Instagram has become one of the leading social media platforms and continues to grow its influence. Instagrammers (as they are called) are known to check the site several times a day and engage with posts on a much higher scale than with any other social network.

Instagram Facts:

  • Facebook owns Instagram
  • 90% percent of Instagram users are younger than thirty-five
  • Content with relevant images get up to 94% more views than content without images
  • Engagement on Instagram is 10% higher than Facebook, 54% higher than Pinterest, and 84% higher than Twitter
  • There are 500 million users and over 95 million posts per day
  • In 2016, Instagram created an algorithm showing the content users most likely want to see based on their past views
  • Instagram has one billion monthly users

Instagram can be used to build a thriving online community to raise awareness of a charity and collect donations. It can also help a nonprofit increase its visibility and relevancy, gaining new and younger donors. Nonprofits can use Instagram to keep donors updated by seeing the inner-workings of the organization. Posting pictures, videos, and content in real-time can evoke an emotional connection with donors, creating genuine engagement and strong relationships.

How to Install and Setup Instagram:

  • Download the Instagram application. The app store for the iPhone / Google Play Store for the Android phones / Windows Store for the Windows Phone
  • Once installed, click on the Instagram icon to open the application.
  • Enter either a Facebook account or an email with a username and password. Create a username or handle that is as close to the organization’s name as possible (@Username).
  • Fill out the profile information which will be visible to the public. In the settings section, use the organization’s full name, as this will appear under the profile picture and handle search.
  • Fill in the bio with actionable and informative information about the organization.
  • Add a link to the charity’s website in the description section to make it easy for followers to go straight to the organization’s page.
  • Set privacy settings on “Public” to build an Instagram following and to make it as easy for viewers to follow the charity.

Business Profile Option:

  • Nonprofits will want to use a business profile because it offers features that a personal profile does not. Instagram Insights offers analytics and performance statistics to include, likes, comments, and shares that drive visitors to the organization’s website. Instagram Insights also shows the total number of impressions, reaches, and engagements of each post. Additionally, there is an option to automatically pull contact information from the organization’s Facebook Business Page to Instagram, linking the two pages.

How to Install a Business Profile:

  • On the Instagram home-page, click on the “little man” icon at the bottom right-hand side of the screen.
  • Go to the upper right-hand side to find the “cog wheel” icon and click.
  • Scroll down the list to the “Switch to the Business Profile” option and click.
  • Confirm setup.

How to Connect a Facebook Page:

  • Open the Instagram page and click the “cog wheel” icon in the upper, right hand corner. Click the first option “Invite Facebook Friends.” Then click, login, and invite. It is also possible to connect to Facebook friends who are on Instagram and can be invited to follow the organization via Instagram.

How to Post:

  • Go to the profile and click “Story Highlights” below the username.
  • Click the plus sign (+) to add a story, then select the story you want to include and click next.
  • Only 2,200 characters are available to promote each posting, so be concise when choosing word content.
  • There is an option to choose a cover photo and name the story. Pressing “add” (for iPhones) or “done” (for Androids).

Plan: It is vital to set a consistent method of action to use all the benefits of Instagram successfully.

  • Decide how often to post and create a schedule.
  • Post during the time(s) of day posts are most likely to be seen.
  • Assign a designated staff person who is responsible for posting.
  • Be strategic and decide if the postings will be donor-centric, cause-centric, or organization-centric.
  • Set measurable and clear goals to track progress, such as how many likes or new followers a post receives, so as to determine which posts resonate best with the charity’s audience.

Followers: Establishing a social presence helps charities reach a broader audience to grow their donor pools.

  • Search relevant hashtags and engage with posts and users.
  • Follow people who like or interact with the organizations; posting content builds a community of support.
  • Get the audience to participate by including a call to action on every post.
  • Tag people in images when possible and use geolocations for increased reach.
  • Invite connections from Facebook and Twitter to follow the charity on Instagram.
  • Take part in fundraising trends like #GivingTuesday.
  • Include the Instagram icon on the organization’s website and emails
  • Tag a location in postings to boost engagement.
  • Link with the organization’s other social media accounts to include Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Use the organization’s logo as the profile photo, so the image will appear on every post, gaining brand recognition.
  • Create an Instagram handle for the account to make it easy for potential followers to recognize the charity.

Content: Creating diversified content is essential to build an audience and keep them interested.

  • Share the organization’s mission and vision with stories, pictures, and videos.
  • Make sure Instagram posts are “on brand.”
  • Acknowledge donors who have given to specific campaigns encouraging followers to be a part of the organization.
  • Post quick snippets about an event, service, or program with follow-up installments.
  • Create employee and volunteer spotlights to create an emotional bond with followers.
  • Post inspirational, motivational quotes that can be related to the charity or cause.
  • Create videos that are about 10 to 15 seconds long, however, Instagram allows a video to be up to 60 seconds.
  • Post photos and videos. Photos get more likes than videos, but videos get more comments than photos.
  • Include the location when posting a picture, as people like to see where the photo was taken.
  • Use filters, tags, links, and hashtags with photos and videos.
  • Include a call to action with a link in the captions section of all postings.
  • In captions or stories, direct viewers to the “link in bio” to donate or support the organization.
  • Stories are hosted on a different part of the Instagram platform and are about posting quick, transient moments without worrying about over-posting.

Hashtags: Hashtags are a strategic way to reach a wider audience and to target a specific group. The Hashtag should be something unique enough that it will be relevant to the charity and not overlap with other organization’s posts.

  • When picking a hashtag, research into what likeminded organizations have used on similar posts and what hashtags make the most sense for a campaign.
  • Using the right hashtags can help drive viewers to the page. Utilize “every nonprofit hashtag” to find the perfect hashtag.
  • Enter hashtags in the comment section right after publishing.

Captions: Photos and videos are the cornerstones of every Instagram post, but the caption is equally important.

  • Including a well thought out caption is one of the best ways to grow engagement and followers.
  • Write clear and concise captions to convey key messages and a call to action.
  • Do not put hashtags in captions, as Instagram allows only 2,200 characters, so exceed three lines of text and the caption will get truncated.

How to add a Caption to a Photo or Video:

  • Take a photo or video or choose one from your phone’s library. You can also add effects or filters.
  • Click where it says “Write a Caption.”
  • Enter your caption and click “Okay” (iPhone) or “Share” (Android).
  • Click “Share.”

Links: Instagram doesn’t allow hyperlinks directly to posts through comments or post descriptions, but there are many other ways to incorporate links into posts and profiles.

  • In captions indicate that there is a link on the profile page and in the bio section.
  • Another option is to purchase Instagram Ads and use links in the ads.
  • Instagram also enables links directly to stories. Stories differ from posts in that they only appear for 24 hours, and can be customized with features like GIFs, polls and filters.
  • Consider using a tracking link to analyze traffic from the Instagram profile.
  • Use Pretty Links to shorten and track links.

Make Account Public:

  • Make sure supporters can easily follow the account when they land on the charity’s page. At the profile page, click the “Cog Wheel” icon near the upper, right hand corner, scroll to the section called “Account Privacy,” and then make sure the “Private Account” option is turned off.

Instagram is leveling the playing field and gives smaller nonprofits, with fewer resources, the opportunity to grow their donor base, and giving supporters more options to engage with an organization.

Pictures and visual video content is more effective in engaging followers and elicits a more emotional response than written content. When used thoughtfully and strategically, Instagram can be a wonderful way to reach and engage younger potential donors, volunteers, and advocates for a nonprofit. The Instagram platform offers a nonprofit the opportunity to present an organization in a more informal setting, making it far more relatable to both new audiences and longtime supporting partners.

Dana Wynkoop lives in Los Angeles and has worked in nonprofit on and off since 2003.