If a picture is worth a thousand words, your nonprofit’s Instagram account is a storytelling gold mine.
Instagram, which continues to be a highly engaged community-building and social media platform, celebrates its 13th birthday in 2023. Learn how your nonprofit organization can capitalize on the sixth most-visited website in the world to engage donors in ways that work.¹
Instagram for Nonprofits
Originally a personal photo-sharing platform, Instagram has expanded to be a must-have marketing tool for businesses to promote products, provide insight into company culture, and share stories with widespread audiences.
Nonprofits can use an Instagram business account to elevate a mission, advocate for support, build community, solicit donations, and show impact. This marketing strategy makes these possible by using one of the most natural and powerful mediums possible: visual media.
In our latest Why America Gives report, over two-thirds of next-gen donors (69%) said they prefer to hear from organizations on social media compared to other mediums. With that in mind, nonprofits must prioritize social presence in 2023 and beyond.
Instagram by the Numbers
Understand the full potential and reach of Instagram with a closer look at the numbers.²
- It has more than two billion active users, with 1.3 billion visiting the site daily
- It has weekly site visitors that include 47% of U.S. adults
- It has a potential ad audience of 996 million for accounts that use Instagram stories
- It has become a top social media platform for people looking to connect with brands
Additionally, it’s 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: 26 Ways to Use the Latest Instagram Features to Your Advantage
Data supports using Instagram for nonprofit marketing, but it can feel challenging, especially when you don’t know where to start or how to keep up with the platform’s latest features. Below, we share 26 Instagram tips for beginners and seasoned experts to step up their game.
1. Understand the Algorithms
There’s some conflicting data regarding general best posting times. HubSpot claims it’s Monday to Thursday at any time except 3 to 4 p.m.³ On the other hand, Latergramme claims it’s 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.4
Our best advice? Try both out and see which times are most effective for your audience. Then, refer 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 selecting “View Insights.” Or for more holistic statistics 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 after work hours, so keep your audience in mind when posting.
However, there’s more to Instagram algorithms than timing. After all, timing may not have the greatest impact on what followers see anymore. The algorithms also consider:5
- Post data: This includes information 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: This includes 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. This is why it’s crucial to create engaging content.
- Your data: This includes information like how often you engage with others’ content, including likes and saves. You’re more likely to have your content seen if you also engage with others’ content.
- Relationship data: This includes 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’s crucial to respond to supporters and like their content too.
2. 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 Meta owns Facebook and Instagram, you can run Instagram ads in the same place as your Facebook ads. Go through your Facebook Ads Manager and check out all the ways you can cross-promote on both platforms.
You can also create Instagram ads through the phone app. Post a photo, video, carousel, or story with paid promotion.
3. Use Pinned Posts
Instagram users can now pin three pieces of content to the top of their profile grid.
Your nonprofit can use this feature to highlight news or announcements, content that best highlights your brand and mission, or a call to action for supporters to donate to your cause.
To use this feature:
- Click the three dots next to a post or reel you’ve previously shared
- Select the “Pin to Your Profile” option
4. Optimize Instagram SEO
Instagram search engine optimization (SEO) involves taking steps to ensure your Instagram content pops up near the top of the results list when users search the platform for words related to your nonprofit.
The Instagram SEO feature is particularly crucial for engaging younger generations, as nearly 40% of Gen Z prefers conducting their internet searches using Instagram or TikTok rather than Google.6
A few factors that impact what content appears first for Instagram search results include:
- Search text: Instagram looks for usernames, captions, hashtags, locations, and bios that match the text a user puts in their search.
- User activity: Instagram is more likely to suggest results from hashtags and accounts a user previously interacted with (or ones their mutual connections have interacted with).
- Popularity signals: Instagram will recommend content that’s already popular with others based on clicks, likes, shares, and follows.
Given these factors, some ways you can improve your Instagram SEO include:
- Use tools like Google Analytics and Google Trends to learn which keywords drive traffic to your website and include those in your Instagram bio and captions
- Use Instagram Insights to learn which hashtags drive the most traffic to your account and use those strategically
- Select “Write Alt Text” from the “Accessibility” section under “Advanced Settings” to draft custom alt text that makes your content more accessible to people with visual impairments while allowing you to incorporate relevant keywords
- Add a location to your bio
- Engage with other accounts that rank for your keywords
5. Use Instagram Collab for Greater Engagement
Instagram collab is a feature that Instagram business accounts can use to co-author content with someone else. This strategy helps increase the engagement and reach of your social media posts. You or your collaborator can create a single feed post or reel, then invite the other to collaborate on the content. Once the collaborator accepts the invite, the post will appear on your account and theirs, along with its likes, comments, and shares data.
This feature is particularly useful when working with influencers. Not only will you be able to automate some of the process of reaching a wider audience better, but you’ll also gain new followers and increase engagement with your content.
It can also be helpful when partnering with a corporation, as you can showcase the corporation’s sponsorship of your event or matching gift. This helps you share your mission with a larger audience while your partner company gets to showcase alignment with your values.
6. 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 various tools that let you schedule out automated posts.
For example, you can use Meta’s Creator Studio app to schedule Instagram Reels if you’ve connected your Instagram account to a Facebook business page. This means you can create them in bulk, then post them strategically when the time is right without needing to pour resources into creating new content.
7. Incorporate Nonprofit Instagram Hashtag Tips
Hashtags are a vital part of any successful social media strategy, but these can also be the toughest to get right. Instagram’s @creater account has advised users to include between three to five, 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 eight to 12 rule.7
But no matter how many hashtags you use, it won’t help you boost engagement or attract the right audience if you use the wrong ones. That’s why it’s crucial to 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 or #givingtuesday during that annual campaign.
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 use a more general hashtag, go with #pride.
On the flip side, if you wanted to use hashtags 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 gets the hashtag just right.
In addition to selecting the right hashtags for your posts, you can track hashtags related to your cause or organization to see what gains 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
- Type out all the hashtags for your photo on the sixth line
- Copy all 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.
8. Use Tag Handles in Your Captions, Stories, and Videos
To boost your posts’ exposure, the rule is to over-tag rather than under-tag. For example, if you post a picture of other people or participating 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 their followers to see it.
Imagine posting a photo of your volunteers: if you tag them in the caption and photo, you could add exponentially more views.
Collaborative efforts with influencers, staff, volunteers, corporate partners, or other supporters are 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.
9. Use the Instagram Desktop Site
Instagram’s desktop site allows you to comment on posts, see overall engagement, and view your feed and your profile page. For example, if you’re at work and simply want to check your account, use Instagram.com instead of pulling out your phone to log in to the Instagram app multiple times a day.
You can even access Instagram Insights on the desktop site, including how many individuals your posts 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 into 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.
10. 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, donation stickers, short videos, graphics, text, or a combination of the above.
However, keep in mind that 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.
Save stories to the “Story Highlights” section of your Instagram account to give your content a longer shelf life. This section lives right above the contact navigation bar on your profile (pictured below).
Instagram Stories have more than 500 million daily users.8 Can your organization afford to ignore that massive pool of potential donors?
11. 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. For example, 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. This will help you see which donors click through and strategize your social media approach.
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 nonprofit event registration page, your event strategy should include more social content to boost registrations.
Place your most effective stories (in terms of link clicks) in a story highlight to drive more traffic to your site.
12. Post More Video Content
Storytelling with concise, creative videos has become increasingly popular. That’s why in July 2022, Instagram consolidated all shared videos in the Instagram Reels tab and allowed any video 15 minutes or shorter to have access to the reels editing tools.
Instagram Reels lets users create short videos, capped at 90 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 also launched templates for reels with preloaded audio and clip placeholders to help streamline the creation process.
13. 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. For example, 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 with your latest call to action or where they can learn more about your work.
DMs can be a great way to foster relationships, although responding to them can be time-consuming for your staff. Luckily, there are ways to automate this. Using the Meta Business Suite, you can set up an auto-reply for all new messages and 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, say a supporter sends a message asking how they can register for your upcoming event. They’ll receive the quick reply you created with that information, including any relevant links.
14. Browse Posts You’ve Liked or Saved
If you want a record of the content you’ve liked or saved recently, this easy tip is for you. To view posts you’ve liked:
- Click the hamburger icon (three lines) in the upper-right-hand corner of your profile page
- Select “Your Activity”
- Click on “Interactions”
- Click “Likes”
To view posts you’ve saved, start at your profile, click on the hamburger icon, and select “Saved.”
This can help you gauge how much you’ve interacted with your target audience recently. And 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, helping your nonprofit become a part of their everyday life. By demonstrating that you support them, 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 high-quality content you regularly save or like to identify potential nonprofit influencer partnerships.
When you save content, remember to organize the posts by specific folders. This keeps your Instagram research and engagement organized. For example, you might have a folder of saved user-generated content from your virtual fundraising events.
15. 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. To increase engagement for your nonprofit, consider posting a photo in your story that asks followers to turn on notifications for your profile. You can also promote this through your email newsletters.
But only do this once in a while to avoid overwhelming 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 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 that draws 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” on
- You can also tap the arrow next to “Live Videos” and select notification options
16. Change Your Tagged Photos to “Add Manually”
When another account tags your handle on their photo, you’ll get a notification. However, you might miss a crucial notice like this, among other notifications for comments and likes.
To solve this, turn on the “Manual” approval option to approve photos where you’re tagged. 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 cog wheel 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.
17. Reorder and Delete Your Filters
Did you know you can reorder your filters to allow your favorite ones to appear first? Once you land on the filter page of your post, scroll left through the filter options until you see the “Manage” tile and click it. Then, 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 that allows you to create Instagram presets, meaning custom filters that you can apply to your photos with the simple click of a button.
18. 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 ensure everything has a consistent look that ties to your brand. To pull this off effectively, try using available design apps, like Canva for Nonprofits, to incorporate your brand’s font, logo, and color palette into what you share.
19. Add Instagram to Your Website and Donation Pages
Make sure to add social media follow icons to your nonprofit’s donation websites. After all, Instagram is a major social media platform that deserves a place alongside the other big players—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and 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.
20. 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, which makes it easier 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. After all, having a clear understanding of how your content performs is critical to optimizing your Instagram strategy. And without it, you’re unable to make informed decisions.
Another feature you can take advantage of as a business account is Instagram’s e-commerce options. Use these fundraising tools to directly sell branded products, experiences, naming opportunities, or other options to your supporters.
You can also 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.
21. Make Your Account Public
This one seems obvious but can get easily overlooked: make sure your nonprofit supporters can follow your account without needing to request access. To check up on this:
- Click the settings icon near the upper-right-hand corner of your profile page
- Scroll to the section called “Account Privacy”
- Make sure the “Private Account” option is off
Additionally, use your logo as your profile picture so Instagram users can quickly identify your account as connected to your cause.
22. 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 drop-down and click the “Add Account” button
- Input your information
Then, to toggle between your personal and nonprofit Instagram 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.
23. Have a Designated Team Member Review Push Notifications
If you have multiple people logging into your nonprofit’s Instagram account, it might be unnecessary to have everyone turn on push notifications on their phones. This can also confuse which team member is supposed to respond to notifications and cut into team members’ productivity.
That’s why it’s a good idea to have one person turn them on and be in charge of monitoring activity on your account. This person should also be responsible for addressing any notifications that require immediate attention.
24. Follow the Instagram Blog to Be the First to Know About New Features
The easiest way to stay up to date on all new Instagram features, best practices, and all things creative, check out the Instagram blog. And for business-account updates, tips, and announcements, follow the Instagram Business Blog.
25. Invite Your Facebook Community to Instagram
Like Facebook, Meta owns Instagram, so there’s 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. This can be a big time-saver.
Additionally, if you’re 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. For those of your donors googling “How to add an organization you’re supporting on Instagram,” make it easy on them and simply send out an invite via Facebook. This is a great way to generate more followers and build your Instagram presence. To do so:
- Click the settings icon near the upper-right-hand corner of your profile page
- Tap “Invite Facebook Friends”
- Log into your Facebook account as prompted
- Invite away
Below this section, you can also connect to Facebook to discover Facebook friends on Instagram that you might not follow yet.
26. Use New Instagram Features to Stay Ahead
As we’ve seen over the years, with features like Instagram Reels and stories, Instagram continues to add new features to improve the user experience. By keeping up with these, you show your followers that your content is 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, and consider incorporating these into quick infographics to share with your followers.
Following the Instagram blog, as explained in number five of this list, is a great way to learn about updates in real-time.
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 while driving momentum toward your donate button. 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
- Interact with your supporters to increase engagement