5 Instagram Ideas for Nonprofits to Boost Followers and Engagement | npENGAGE

5 Instagram Ideas for Nonprofits to Boost Followers and Engagement

By on Jun 13, 2017


Instagram Ideas for Nonprofits

At the Lupus Foundation of America, we’ve been active on Instagram since 2013, though until recently, it was not a central part of our organization’s social media strategy.

By mid-2016 however, Instagram’s growth in popularity was having upside effects that we couldn’t ignore. With name recognition alone we were gaining 200 new followers a month. At the same time, our follower growth on Twitter was becoming stagnant, and we decided to see what kind of results we could get for the Foundation by paying more attention to Instagram as a distribution channel for content and campaigns.

We had no baseline  data to help us determine what types of content would work best on Instagram, or what actions our followers could be encouraged to take. So, over the past 9 months, we’ve taken a ‘spaghetti against the wall’ approach, experimenting with a wide variety of content ideas to see what sticks.

5 Instagram Ideas for Nonprofits


1. Get Your Followers Involved by Asking Questions

Asking questions has been a great way to learn from and engage with our younger audience.

Instagram Ideas for Nonprofits from Lupus Foundation of America

2. Share Behind the Scenes Photos of Your Staff

We share photos in our office space and at events  to showcase what we do on behalf of those impacted by lupus.

Instagram Ideas for Nonprofits from Lupus Foundation of America

Instagram Ideas for Nonprofits from Lupus Foundation of America


3. Include Fundraising Asks

We incorporate fundraising asks both for larger campaigns like our 2016 Giving Tuesday campaign and one-off asks like this Valentine’s day promotion.

Example of fundraising on Instagram

Example of how Lupus Foundation of America Fundraises on Instagram


4. Create and Share Educational Content

We create educational content in support of our mission to empower, educate and connect.

How Lupus Foundation of America uses Instagram to connect with supporters


5. Promote Newsletter Sign-Ups

Newsletter sign up drives have helped to build our subscriber base, giving us more opportunities to engage and offer different ways for supporters to get involved.

Newsletter sign-ups on Instagram

What We’ve Learned Works on Instagram:

  1. Asking questions regularly and fostering a two-way conversation has proven useful as a way to build brand affinity among our Instagram followers.
  2. Sharing occasional, carefully selected behind the scenes photos is an easy way to humanize the organization and demonstrate how we use donations to fight for our constituents.
  3. Instagram has been a healthy lead generator for email sign ups. It’s now part of our regular editorial calendar to put our eNewsletter sign up form in our profile.

What Hasn’t ‘Stuck to the Wall’:

  1. Instagram (both organic and paid) has not worked as a platform to promote our online individual giving campaigns. For our latest online giving push, we opted to keep our Instagram content awareness-only and make the hard asks via email, Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Our educational content can be complex and nuanced—the opposite of what works on Instagram. It remains a challenge to distill health education into snackable bits of content without oversimplifying or sharing misleading information.

The Results of our Instagram Strategy

Through this 9 month experiment, we gained 6000 new Instagram followers; we’re about to crest 30,000 in total. For comparison, during that same time we gained half as many new Twitter followers. Each of our Instagram posts get between 300-1000 engagements, and we’re trending upward as we learn what content works and how to create it.

Instagram has also become the second most popular social referral platform for our website. This is still eclipsed by the inbound traffic we see from Facebook—where on a good month we surpass the follower growth we can achieve on Instagram in a year—but is still an indicator that Instagram is an important platform engage new audiences and share our digital content. Now that more spaghetti is sticking to the wall, we have two goals for Instagram: 1. Keep exploring ways to post that will drive inbound web traffic and 2. Use analytics to map the user journey from Instagram follower to engaged constituents.


Anne Berlin is the Digital Communications Manager at the Lupus Foundation of America. She’s spent 10 years as an accidental evangelist for data-driven, user-focused communications, helping DC-based nonprofits craft and amplify messages and spur key constituencies to action using email, web, social and apps. She’s part scrum master and part content strategist. As a proud data nerd, her idea of a good time is pulling custom reports from Google Analytics. Anne is a power user of Luminate Online for email engagement and audience segmentation and contributes to multi-channel fundraising campaigns for the Foundation.

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