If a picture is worth a thousand words, your nonprofit’s Instagram account is a storytelling goldmine.
Instagram is one of the fastest-growing and highly engaged social media platforms, celebrating its 12th birthday in 2022. Learn how to capitalize on the latest Instagram features to engage donors on the 7th most visited website in the world.
Instagram for Nonprofits
Instagram has evolved as a platform for businesses to promote their products, provide insight into company culture, and share their stories in a more engaging way.
Nonprofits can leverage Instagram to share their mission, advocate for support, solicit donations, and show impact using one of the most visceral and powerful mediums possible: visual media.
Between 2020 and 2021, over half of donors (55%) said they were as likely or more likely to learn about new causes and donate to their campaigns through social media compared to other mediums. With that in mind, nonprofits must prioritize their social presence in 2022 and beyond.
Instagram by the Numbers
Understand the full potential and reach of Instagram with a closer look at the numbers. The social network boasts:
- 2.91 billion active users, with 1.22 billion monthly users
- 59% of U.S. adults are daily users
- 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories daily
- 1 in 2 people use Instagram to engage with new brands
- 44% of people use Instagram to shop weekly
Additionally, it can be helpful to look at how Instagram use compares across generations. In our Why America Gives 2021 report, we highlight the following generational breakdown of donors who are likely to learn about and donate to causes they care about on Instagram:
- Gen Z: 53%
- Millennials: 51%
- Gen X: 35%
Instagram for Nonprofits: 24 Ways to Use the Latest Instagram Features to Your Advantage
The data supports using Instagram to connect with your donors and broader audience, but it can feel challenging to know where to start or keep up with the platform’s latest features. Below, we share 24 Instagram tips for beginners and seasoned experts to step up their game.
1. Make Your Profile a Business Account
There are many perks to registering for a business account on Instagram, including the ability to add your “type of business category.” List yourself as a nonprofit so visitors can immediately see and understand your social mission. You’ll also be able to include your website and contact information, so it’s easy for donors to get in touch.
When you make your profile a business account, you gain access to content insights like impressions, engagement, and reach. Instagram provides great tips on how to set up and analyze your new business profile.
Another feature you can take advantage of as a business account is Instagram’s e-commerce options. You can use these features to directly sell branded products, experiences, naming opportunities, or other options to your supporters. You can have a “View Shop” button on your profile, link to products within your posts using a tag, or add product stickers within the Instagram Stories feature.
2. Upload Stories and Save to Story Highlights
Instagram Stories allow you to upload fun snapshots of your organization’s work without inundating your followers’ feeds. You can include photos, short videos, graphics, text, or all of the above. Stories let you share as much as you want throughout the day using the platform’s creative editing tools.
Instagram Stories only last for 24 hours and don’t appear on your profile’s image gallery or in users’ general feeds. Users will see your stories listed in the top row of their app along with other accounts they follow that have active stories. They can also find your stories by clicking on your profile photo on your business’ page.
You can also save stories to the Story Highlights section of your Instagram account, which lives right above the contact navigation bar on your profile (pictured below).
To add a story to your highlights, follow these steps:
- Go to your profile and tap “Story Highlights” below your username.
- Hit the plus sign to add a story, then select the story you want to add and hit next.
- You can then choose a cover photo and name for the story before pressing “add” (for iPhones) or “done” (for Androids).
- Story Highlights will be visible until you remove them. To add, edit, or remove a story from your highlights, simply tap “edit highlight.”
Instagram Stories have more than 500 million daily users. Can your organization afford to ignore that massive pool of potential donors?
3. Toggle Between Your Personal Account and Business Account
Instagram allows you to switch seamlessly between multiple Instagram handles without having to log in and out each time. To add another handle into the mix:
- Click the three lines in the upper right-hand corner of your profile page
- Select the settings icon
- Scroll to the bottom of the dropdown and click the “Add Account” button
- Input your information
To toggle between accounts, start on your profile page and press the respective logo at the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. Easily switching between accounts is a huge time saver for on-the-fly updates and checking your engagement throughout the day.
4. Be Strategic With How You Use Links
One of our top Instagram tips is getting creative with the links you place in your bio section and in the link sticker on each of your stories. If you have blog content or are launching a new fundraising campaign, add a link directing viewers to your site.
You might even consider using a bit.ly tracking link to analyze traffic from your Instagram profile. You can see which donors are clicking through and strategize your social media approach from there. For example, if you see that a single Instagram story about an upcoming fundraising event results in five registrations from the link sticker to your registration page, your event strategy should absolutely include more social content to boost registrations.
Pro Tip: Place your most effective stories (in terms of link clicks) in a story highlight to drive more traffic to your site.
5. Follow the Instagram Blog to Be the First to Know About About New Features
This is the easiest way to stay up to date on all new Instagram features and best practices. For all things creative, check out the Instagram blog. For business-account updates, tips, and announcements, follow the Instagram Business Blog.
For more nonprofit social media strategy tips, check out these Classy posts:
- How to Create Instagram Stories That Engage and Excite Nonprofit Donors
- 4 Tips to Write More Engaging Nonprofit Instagram Captions
- 3 Nonprofit Instagram Campaigns We Absolutely Love
- How to Use Instagram Reels to Engage Your Nonprofit Supporters
- Social Media Content Planner
6. Invite Your Facebook Community to Instagram
Instagram is owned by Facebook so there is a lot of overlap with what’s possible between the two platforms. This includes being able to post content between the two platforms automatically. By syncing your accounts, whenever you share a post or story on Instagram, the platform will ask if you want to share it to your Facebook account as well, which can be a big timesaver.
Additionally, if you are an admin of your nonprofit’s Facebook page, you can log into the Instagram app and invite your Facebook friends to follow your Instagram page. This is a great way to generate more Instagram followers. To do so:
- Start at your profile page and click the settings icon near the upper right-hand corner
- The very first option you’ll see is to “Invite Facebook Friends.” Tap this option
- Log in to your Facebook account as prompted
- Invite away
Right below this section you can also connect to Facebook to discover Facebook friends who are on Instagram that you might not follow yet.
Pro Tip: If you’re interested in amplifying your fundraising across Facebook, the Classy for Facebook integration allows you to do just that. Learn how you can improve your fundraisers’ experiences, empower them to raise more money for your cause, and leverage the integration to retain them as donors.
7. Make Sure Your Account Is Public
This one seems obvious, but it can get easily overlooked. Make sure your nonprofit supporters can easily follow your account when they land on your page. To check up on this:
- Start at your profile page and click the settings icon near the upper right-hand corner.
- Scroll to the section called “Account Privacy.”
- Make sure the “Private Account” option is turned off.
8. Post More Video Content
Storytelling with concise, creative videos has become increasingly popular. There are multiple ways to leverage video through Instagram. Two of the best ways are through Instagram Reels and Instagram Video.
Instagram Reels lets users create short videos, capped at 15 seconds, with access to filters, music, and other editing tools to up their creative flair. The feature is similar to TikTok and has the potential to tap into a younger audience.
Instagram Video is the latest update the platform introduced for making it easier to create and share video content. It combined what was formerly known as IGTV and feed videos and added some new editing features, including trimming, filters, and tagging. Users can easily share these videos to their Stories and through direct messages. Video previews within the feed last for 60 seconds. Instagram Video is a great way to create longer-form content to engage your audiences, such as advocacy videos or educational content.
9. Have a Designated Team Member Review Push Notifications
If you have multiple people logging into your nonprofit’s Instagram account, it might not be necessary to have everyone turn on push notifications. This can confuse the process of who is supposed to respond to notifications and can also cut into team members’ productivity.
However, it is a good idea to have at least one person turn them on and be in charge of monitoring activity on your account. This person will be responsible for addressing any important notifications that may need immediate attention.
10. Reduce the Time It Takes to Answer DMs
The direct messages, or DMs, feature on Instagram allows you to connect one-on-one with your supporters. If followers respond to your Stories, those responses go to your DMs. Supporters might also reach out directly to ask you how they can help or where they can learn more about your work.
DMs can be a great way to foster relationships, but they can also be time-consuming for your staff to respond to. Luckily, there are ways to automate this. Using Facebook Business Suite, you can set up an auto-reply for all new messages as well as an away message to let users know when they can expect to hear from you again.
You can also use Instagram Quick Replies for commonly asked questions or comments. This allows you to respond to messages based on keywords automatically. For example, if a supporter sends a message asking how they can register for your upcoming event, they’ll automatically receive the quick reply you created with that information, including any relevant links.
11. Browse Posts You’ve Liked or Saved
If you want a record of the content you’ve liked or saved recently, this easy tip will help you find that. To view posts you’ve liked, start at your profile page and click the hamburger icon (three lines) in the upper right-hand corner, select “Your Activity,” click on “Interactions,” and then click “Likes.”
To view posts you’ve saved, start at your profile, click on the hamburger icon in the upper right-hand corner and select “Saved.”
This can help you gauge how much you’ve interacted with your supporters recently. If you want your audience to engage with your content, you should do the same. A simple “like” or comment is an invaluable part of building relationships with your supporters. Your nonprofit becomes a part of their everyday life and by demonstrating that you support them back, you’re more likely to gain loyal supporters that go beyond social media.
You can also review this information to see if there’s a particular supporter whose content you regularly save or like to identify potential influencer partnerships.
When you’re saving content, you can organize the posts by specific folders. This can keep your Instagram research and engagement organized. For example, you might have a folder of saved user-generated content from your events.
12. See What Your Followers Are Liking
In addition to reviewing what you’re liking and saving, you can also check in on what your followers like. To do so, click the heart icon at the bottom right part of your screen, then select the “Following” option at the top left corner.
While likes are great, saves, shares, and comments are more impactful. It means that people are connecting with your content and staying longer. If you want to show up more in the algorithm, produce content your audience will want to save. Not sure what that would be? Keep tabs on your followers’ likes and use it to inform your ongoing content strategy. Looking at what they’ve liked is a great way to get a sense of the content resonating with people and what they’re more likely to save.
13. Schedule Posts Ahead of Time
When you schedule out Instagram posts, you save precious time that you can use to engage with your supporters instead. There are a variety of tools that let you schedule out automated posts.
You can even save drafts for Instagram Reels. This means you can create them in bulk and then post them strategically when the time is right without needing to spend time creating new content.
The directions vary for each automation tool, but here are a few useful links to get you started:
- How to Schedule Instagram Posts on Hootsuite
- How to Schedule Instagram Posts on Sprout Social
- How to Schedule Instagram Posts on Buffer
14. Nonprofit Instagram Hashtag Tips
Hashtags are a vital part of any successful social media strategy, but they can also be the toughest to get right. Instagram’s @creater account has advised users to include between 3 to 5, despite the platform allowing up to 30 per post. However, other data has shown that the more hashtags you use, the more eyes you get on your post, so some still stick to the 8 to 12 rule.
But no matter how many hashtags you use, it won’t help you boost engagement or attract the right audience if you’re using the wrong ones. Be selective when creating your hashtag strategy for Instagram.
If you’re just getting started, follow these two basic steps:
- Come up with a branded hashtag for your nonprofit or a specific campaign. Keep it simple and to the point, like how Girl Up simply uses #GirlUp.
- Use community hashtags that aren’t specific to your nonprofit, but to your sector or cause, like #girlpower in the Girl Up example.
When looking for the right community hashtags, use the search feature on Instagram to check which hashtag iterations are the most popular. For example, the hashtag #pride has nearly 13.4 million uses, but #pridemonth has around 1.1 million uses. In this case, if you wanted the potential to reach more people or wanted to use a more general hashtag, then you should go with #pride.
On the flip side, if you wanted to use a hashtag that will pull up fewer total posts to have a better chance of standing out, you could use the search feature to find a hashtag with fewer posts.
Check out this post to see how Girl Up hits the nail on the hashtag head.
In addition to selecting the right hashtags for your posts, you can also track hashtags related to your cause or organization to see what’s gaining traction and how you can become a part of those conversations.
One more #tip for the road… if you don’t want to display your hashtags in your caption, use the following caption trick to hide them:
- Open your notepad on your phone
- Type out five periods, each on a separate line
- On the sixth line, type out all of the hashtags for your photo
- Copy all of this text
- Paste this text into a comment on your photo and post
- Refresh the photo
The comment will “shrink,” forcing readers to click it to see your hashtags.
15. Use Tag Handles in Your Captions, Stories, and Videos
To boost your posts’ exposure, the rule is to over-tag rather than under-tag. If you post a picture of other people or organizations, make sure to @tag their handles in the caption and the photo itself. Tagging a handle in the caption will notify the organization, but tagging the organization in the actual photo places the post in the “tagged photo” section of their profile, enabling all of their followers to see it.
Imagine posting a photo of your volunteers: if you tag them in both the caption and photo, then you could add exponentially more views
Collaborative efforts with influencers, staff, volunteers, corporate partners, or other supporters is a particularly effective way to leverage tagging. When you’re both in agreement to tag photos around a certain cause, you increase the number of eyes both accounts receive.
16. Use the Instagram Desktop Site
Instagram’s desktop site allows you to comment on posts, see overall engagement, and view both your feed and your profile page. If you’re at work and simply want to check on your account, use Instagram.com instead of pulling out your phone to log in multiple times a day.
You can even access Instagram Insights on the desktop site, which includes data on post reach, how many individuals interact with your content, how much your reach could increase with a sponsored post, and more.
Additionally, you can add posts from the desktop site, a long-awaited feature for many users. To do so, log in to the browser site and click on the plus icon shown at the bottom of the screen between the direct messages, and explore icons. That will pull up a “create new post” window similar to what you’d see on mobile.
17. Ask Supporters to Turn On Post Notifications
If a user turns on a particular account’s post notifications, it means that they’ll receive a push notification every time that account posts something. Consider posting a photo in your story that asks followers to turn on notifications for your profile to increase engagement. You can also promote this through your email newsletters.
Do this only once in a while to avoid barraging your followers, and frame your ask as an invitation to stay updated. For example, you could say, “If you want to stay up to date and never miss a single fundraising event, make sure you turn on our post notifications.”
You might also want to turn on notifications for other accounts you’d like to keep tabs on, whether you admire an influencer or another organization. This would ensure you never miss content from which to draw inspiration.
To turn on push notifications for someone you follow:
- Go to the account’s profile
- Tap the notification icon that looks like a bell
- Toggle the button next to “Posts, Stories, Reels, or Videos”
- You can also tap the arrow next to “Live Videos” and select notification options
18. Change Your Tagged Photos to “Add Manually”
When another account tags your handle on their photo, you will get a notification. However, you might miss an important notice like this, among other notifications for comments and likes.
To solve this, turn on the “manual” approval option to approve photos you are tagged in. Start on your profile page and click the second to the last icon on the right just below your bio and above your photos to view your currently tagged photos.
If you want to add photos you’re tagged in manually, click the cogwheel in the upper right-hand corner, scroll down to “Privacy and Security” and tap “Photos of You.” From there, you can toggle the “Add Automatically” option on or off.
19. Reorder and Delete Your Filters
Did you know you can reorder your filters so that your favorite ones appear first? Once you land on the filter page of your post, scroll left through the filter options until you hit and click the “Manage” tile. Uncheck the filters you want to delete, and click and drag your remaining filters to reorder them.
You can also use the free Adobe Lightroom app for professional-looking photo editing, including retouching photos and adding additional filters. This is one of several options you can find that allows you to create Instagram presets, meaning custom filters that you can apply to your photos with the simple click of a button.
20. Add Instagram to Your Website and Donation Pages
Make sure to add social media follow icons on your nonprofit’s website. Instagram is a major social media platform that deserves a place alongside the other big players—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube.
There are other ways to promote your Instagram account too. Consider including a QR code at in-person events or mailers that direct people to your page. To drive traffic, you can also include Instagram links in your emails and embed posts from your account onto your blog or other online web content.
21. Build a Consistent Look and Feel
You want your Instagram posts to be recognizable as users scroll their feeds. One way to do this is to make sure everything has a consistent look that ties to your brand.
You can find two examples of this in our past Classy blog, “10 Social Media Post Examples That Drive Engagement.” For this post, we talked to Natalie Bui, the co-founder of SHIFT, a racial and gender equity consulting firm driven to shift the culture of complacency at work and in our personal lives. We also talked to Danielle Perry, influencer and head of marketing for Living the Dream Foundation.
Bui’s organization uses illustrations and colorful text slides that align with the nonprofit’s brand and advocacy efforts. Perry shares how they wiped Living the Dream Foundation’s Instagram account to start over and make a more cohesive feed, one with all black and white photographs that capture the emotion of the nonprofit’s work.
22. Understand the Algorithms
Our best advice? Try it out and see which times are most effective for your audience by referring to the insights Instagram provides for business profiles or the results within your social media management tool.
You can see insights on individual posts by clicking on the photo and clicking “View Insights.” Or, for more holistic stats about your profile, click the bar graph icon in the upper right corner of your profile page.
When posting, ask yourself, would I see this right now if I followed this account? For example, think about when you log on to your personal account. It may not be until 7 to 9 p.m. after work hours. Keep your audience in mind when posting.
But there’s more to the Instagram algorithms than timing. Timing may not have the greatest impact on what followers see anymore. The algorithms also consider:
- Post Data: Things like location or how many likes and saves a photo has. Using a location can help your post pop into more feeds connected to that region, while greater likes and saves increase your reach overall
- User Data: Information on how often other users interact with your content. The more often people interact with your content, the more the algorithm learns to show it more. This is why it’s important to create engaging content
- Your Data: Things like how often you engage with others’ content, including likes and saves. You’re more likely to have your content seen if you’re also engaging with others’ content
- Relationship Data: Information on how your interactions look with a specific person. The more you and another account interact through comments, likes, shares, and saves, the more likely your content will continue to show up in their feed. This is why it is important to respond back to supporters and like their content too
23. Consider Instagram Ads
Use Instagram ads to promote your upcoming event or fundraiser. These ads look more like regular photos in a user’s feed than on any other platform, so this Instagram tip is worth trying out if you can put some money behind your social media efforts.
Since Facebook owns Instagram, you can run Instagram ads in the same place as your Facebook ads. Go through your Facebook ad manager and check out all the ways you can cross-promote on both platforms.
You can also create Instagram ads through the phone app itself. You can post a photo, video, carousel, or story with paid promotion, so use this Instagram Business blog post to learn about your options.
24. Use New Instagram Features to Stay Ahead
As we’ve seen over the years, with features like Instagram Reels, Instagram Video, and Stories, Instagram continues to add new features to improve the user experience. By keeping up with these as they’re added, you show your followers that you’re keeping your content fresh and engaging.
For example, stay up to date on the new stickers Instagram adds. Stickers are the graphics Instagram lets you include on videos and photos, like a location icon, gif, or animated hashtag. Also, remember to use interactive story elements, like polling or question boxes.
Following the Instagram blog, as explained in number five of this list, is a great way to learn about updates as they happen.
Instagram for Nonprofits Is a Powerful Way to Connect With Your Supporters
As one of the world’s most popular social media platforms, Instagram offers a powerful way to meet your supporters where they are. When using the platform, remember a few key tips:
- Be creative with your content
- Use the features available to you, including hashtags, links, stickers, tagging, and more
- Lean into video content through Reels and IGTV
- Interact with your supporters to increase engagement.