Instagram for Nonprofits — How Your Org Can Get Onboard | npENGAGE

Instagram for Nonprofits — How Your Org Can Get Onboard

By on May 10, 2017


Two female volunteers taking a photo during a volunteer activity, showing the value of Instagram for nonprofits to help spread your mission

Like many nonprofits and social enterprises you may be scratching your head and wondering how an Instagram presence can help you contribute to social good in a creative and heroic way. With all the noise out there, how can you be sure that your efforts are even moving the needle for your cause?

You know that Facebook and Twitter are still major drivers of traffic to your website, but your love affair with Facebook is somewhat diminishing because hardly anyone even sees your posts if you haven’t boosted them (i.e. paid for your posts to be seen). We’re getting report after report of diminishing returns on Facebook posts due to constant changes with the newsfeed algorithm. And you’ve correctly ascertained that Twitter’s penetration in the US population has peaked.

It’s time to add something else to the mix—let’s start thinking about the value of Instagram for nonprofits. Here are five key things nonprofits should know about getting started with Instagram.

1. Instagram is the fastest growing nonprofit community engine

In April, Instagram announced it now has 700 million users, with the last 100M growing even more quickly, and 200M are using Instagram stories. The 2017 M&R Nonprofit Benchmark Study found that for every 1000 email subscribers, organizations can expect to have 39 Instagram followers, and that orgs experienced on average a 101% Instagram follower growth in 2016.

Therefore, Instagram = the fastest growing nonprofit community engine on social media.

Instagram is here to stay, but for most nonprofits, Facebook and Twitter are still the leading referrers of traffic to main websites. Instagram will be a major player for organizations within the next 2-3 years, given its strength in key groups, such as rural locations and most 18-34 year olds, with other demographics likely to follow. It’s also easy to forget that Facebook owns Instagram and has integrated its Ads Manager to run ads on both platforms by default. This opens a new, young, diverse and growing audience to nonprofits and NGOs .

Keep up!

2. Engaging with supporters + influencers goes a long way

A little love goes a long way.  Pay attention to what others are doing on Instagram — follow key supporters, peers, influencers, those who inspire you, etc! —and engage with their posts with likes and/or comments! It’s about reciprocity – many of them will help you back.

Interaction (done well) warms people’s hearts. It’s age-old wisdom from Dale Carnegie and other wise people that if you show interest in others, they will be more interested in you and you’ll be more influential to them. Compile lists of Instagram handles for your team members, key supporters, influencers, and organizations with likeminded causes so that you can easily tag and mention them in your posts.

Along the way, you’ll also learn from these interactions what people are excited about right now and see how you and your mission can fit into the current online conversation in the best way.

3. Visuals will help you build brand awareness

Facebook, which owns Instagram, is putting a lot of emphasis on Instagram, including integrating augmented reality features going beyond Snapchat in coming years. Instagram is not a niche platform any more — it’s a major player. You need as strong a strategy for Instagram as you do for Facebook and Twitter. This is a challenge because many nonprofits are more focused on text than visuals — be the org who does visuals well! You can only post from your phone (or from Hootsuite on a computer after integrating Instagram), so you’ll want to recruit fun images from and about your team members, and save to your phone.

Your posts, stories, livestreams, and ads on Instagram will help you build awareness — especially with beautiful, colorful, high-definition, authentic images. There are so many easy ways to curate images—from team outings, program activities and events to pictures of your mission in action and those you serve.

There are many Instagram accounts from which you can take inspiration — we offer a couple! And once you’re in Instagram, the platform will make some good suggestions for others to follow based on your interests and people you follow.


 7 examples of nonprofits on Instagram:


6 examples of brands on Instagram:

4. Incorporate hashtags and mentions

After you’ve written up a snappy post and before hitting Share, type a hashtag sign (#) and start writing words relevant to your post to see what hashtags Instagram recommends. You can collect a list of hashtags that other like-minded orgs and influencers are using.— a platform that helps you identify popular hashtags by keyword area—can be used to find and analyze popular hashtags to help amplify your post and your cause . You’ll make your posts discoverable to people interested in that topic, beyond those who currently follow you. Then sit back and enjoy more engagement with your posts and new followers!

Mention and tag relevant people and organizations to gain more visibility from the people you care about — mentioning someone in your post’s copy sends them a notification, and tagging them makes the post appear in their tagged photos.

5. Use features like Livestream and Instagram Stories

Live videos on Instagram get preference in the Instagram news feed algorithm for display, so give it a try and go live! Once a live video has ended, it’s no longer visible on Instagram (so do it for long enough, like at an event!). And don’t worry about perfection. These videos disappear after the video has ended, so focus on really giving your viewers a behind the scenes look into your organization and mission.. See instructions for doing a live video.

Unlike Instagram Live, Instagram stories stay on your feed and your profile for 24 hours, with content grouped together in slideshows. You can choose to upload a video you’ve taken to your Story, so that it’s visible longer than livestreaming is available. If desired, you can also share them as a post to your feed timeline, for even longer enjoyment.

Who’s watching your content? You can check by watching your own story, then swiping up to check out who’s seen each photo and video. See what’s most popular and use that feedback to select what to feature from a particular part of your story, by posting it on your profile. (Source: Instagram Stories blog post)

Follow Fission and Cheryl on Instagram and shoot us a note if you’d like to connect and talk strategy about your organization, foundation, or social enterprise! Our team is here to help heroes lead bigger movements. We want to hear how you increase your organization’s influence and the wider world’s awareness about the important work you’re doing — by interacting on Instagram with beautiful visuals, videos, hashtags, mentions, interactions on other people’s content, and social ads!

If you’re ready right now for more tips on Instagram for nonprofits, 25 Instagram Tips for the Modern Nonprofit by Classy’s social media gal lays out great pointers. Otherwise we’ll be back here soon with more tips to help you develop your Instagram presence!


Cheryl Contee specializes in helping non-profit organizations and foundations use social tech to create social good. She is also the co-founder of Jack and Jill Politics writing as “Jill Tubman” on one of the top black blogs online.

Cheryl was recently named as an Affiliate of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Cheryl is included in The Root 100 list of established and emerging African-American leaders. Huffington Post listed her as one of the Top 27 Female Founders in Tech to Follow on Twitter in 2011. Fast Company named her one of their 2010 Most Influential Women in Tech to Follow on Twitter. She serves on numerous boards and is a sought-after speaker for TV, news media and conferences.

She received her B.A. from Yale University and has an International Executive M.B.A. from Georgetown University.


Comments (4)

  • Jonah says:

    Hi Cheryl.I’m Jonah from I’ve read your article and want to thank you for introducing our tool to your readers. Appreciate it very much! 🙂
    Have a great day!Jonah

  • Shanta says:

    Hi I launched an IG for our nonprofit linked to FB for np. I get celeb feeds that will not go away. How do I get clean feed?

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