Instagram for Nonprofits: 4 Tips to Get You Started

instagram for nonprofits

As an organization, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constantly evolving social sphere. You have a Facebook strategy. You have your plan for Twitter. LinkedIn is covered. But, Instagram? It’s just visuals.

Snap a pic, choose a filter, add a caption with a hashtag or two, hit “share” and your work is done. If you’re feeling fancy, you can shoot a 15-second video or make a Hyperlapse.

But, Instagram for nonprofits? Can you accomplish anything there?

It’s a fair question. If you’re going to be on Instagram, it needs to benefit your nonprofit. Can you have a strong presence there? Will you see a worthwhile return on your time and efforts?

With the right strategy, it’s possible. Instagram can be an awesome place to showcase your nonprofit’s impact.

Not sure where or how to start? Here are few tips to help.

Before Anything Else, You Have to Commit

There’s a deep, dark pit filled with too many organizations suffering from Instagram commitment issues. Don’t fall into it.

If your nonprofit makes the decision to jump on the Instagram bandwagon, you need to go all in. This means posting photos regularly, building up a community of followers and interacting with other users on the network. Instagram may be all about the visuals, but engagement still plays a huge role in your success.

There’s nothing worse than having a poorly managed, practically inactive social media account out there for visitors to stumble on.

Mission of Hope Haiti does an awesome job of posting compelling photos, engaging with followers and maintaining its community of followers by posting regularly.

instagram for nonprofits mohhaiti

Balance Consistency and Quality

This is where I think nonprofits struggle most. You need to post regularly enough that your followers remember they’re following you. But, your photos need to be compelling. There’s a balance in consistency and quality that you’ll need to find.

The prospect of having to post a powerful and engaging photo on Instagram every day of the week is probably a tad overwhelming and pretty unrealistic. This is where showcasing the different aspects of your nonprofit’s work and using Instagram as a promotional tool comes in handy.

Pure Charity gets creative with their posts. Sometimes it’s a snapshot of the people they’re helping. Other times, it’s a pic of their team, a promotional graphic or an inspiring quote.

instagram for nonprofits pure charity

Shaking up your posts by adding some variety is a great way to help maintain that balance between consistency and quality.

Tell a Story

Every post should tell a story about your nonprofit’s impact.

You might be limited to a photo and a caption, but, lucky for you, a picture is worth a thousand words. Use the caption to expand on your photo–tell the part of the story a visitor would never know from looking at the picture.

Doctors Without Borders always uses captions to give viewers the whole story. It makes already compelling photos mean so much more.

instagram for nonprofits doctors without borders

Not sure what type of photos to use? Your options are endless. Post a picture of volunteers at work, a compelling profile of someone you’ve helped, an engaging graphic for an upcoming fundraiser, an inside look at your team in action, etc. You can’t go wrong if you’re showcasing your nonprofit’s efforts.

Shooting a video? Provide context in the caption. Describe the events leading up to the moments captured in the video, or what happened shortly after. Mercy Ships does a fantastic job with this.

instagram for nonprofits mercy ships

Captions are an opportunity to make sure your viewers get the whole story, not just the moments captured in the visual.

Call Your Visitors to Action

Just because you’re posting photos, doesn’t mean you can’t ask people to act. Instagram doesn’t allow you to put active links directly in your captions, but that shouldn’t stop you from including a call to action.

Americans for the Arts posted a series of photos calling people to take action on Giving Tuesday, and directed them to the necessary link in the caption.

instagram for nonprofits americans for arts

Drive visitors from Instagram to your website by inviting them to learn more through your blog, make a donation, sign up to volunteer, etc. Let them know where to access a direct link. A lot of nonprofits will include a live link in their Instagram bio.

Hopefully these tips help your nonprofit get up and running on Instagram. If you have the visuals, Instagram is a powerful opportunity to share stories of your nonprofit’s impact.

Is your nonprofit on Instagram? Do you have any advice for nonprofits looking to create or improve their presence? Or do you have some nonprofits you love following? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Britt Vogel is the wordsmith at Wired Impact. She spends most of her day reading and writing about nonprofits and how to create more dynamic digital content.

6 Comments on “Instagram for Nonprofits: 4 Tips to Get You Started

  1. 1 Lee Free November 14, 2016

    I think instagram is about number of followers today. More followers – more money, happiness and other people need now. They even use apps like zen-promo.com just to get more followers. And I get it’s for sharing but now it’s more about profit.

    1. 2 Christine Soucy November 15, 2016

      Thanks for commenting, Lee. I’d tend to advise against seeking followers for the sake of followers or nonprofits treating social media as a profitable venture. There’s still a lot to be said for a softer approach. Instagram can be a means to visually share powerful and unique stories to inspire supporters to donate down the road. It’s a way for nonprofits to engage with their supporters so that they’ll feel more comfortable getting involved. But, of course, the more followers you have, the more people you’re able to reach. Including social media links on your website is a great way to drive supporters to those accounts.

  2. 3 Ivan O. December 7, 2017

    Great article! I have a question, though. I manage Instagram for the volunteer search and rescue group which I am a member of. I currently have it set as “Business Profile” is this a good idea for a non-profit (the obvious upside is I get to see the demographics of the people viewing us) or should I go back to a regular account?
    Thanks for the feedback!

    1. 4 Christine Soucy December 8, 2017

      Great question, Ivan. I’d recommend keeping your Instagram account set up as a Business Profile so that you have access to those awesome insights and data on your posts and audience. Just make sure you list yourself as a nonpofit within the “type of business category” so visitors don’t think you’re a for-profit business. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  3. 5 JS December 17, 2018

    Nice Article and very helpful for us non-instagrammers. So we are a start-up NGO and as instagram seems were all the young crowd is we want to use Instagram. In the start-up phase we will of course be slow so would Instagram be a good place to start?

    1. 6 Christine Soucy December 19, 2018

      Great question, JS. It’s tough to say without knowing very much about your organization. The most important question to ask yourself before joining a new social media network is: “Does my audience use this network regularly?” If the answer for your organization is yes, then you can start talking about allocating the time and effort necessary to engage with supporters on Instagram. Good luck!

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