Instagram for Nonprofits and Social Impact: 21+ tips and tricks

Social Media

Instagram isn’t just a place for your best selfies and dinner photos. With over 1 billion monthly active users (71% under the age of 35), the platform is another touchpoint for nonprofits on social media. Nonprofits can use Instagram to broadcast their work, find more users to engage with their mission, demonstrate impact, and even fundraise — especially fundraise now that Instagram has donation stickers.

To help you get started, we’ve pulled together 22 tips to guide your Instagram strategy in the right direction. With these tips, you’ll be doin’ it for the ‘gram in no time.

Instagram for Nonprofits: The Basics

1. Know the difference: Business vs. personal accounts

Like Facebook pages versus profiles, the organic reach of posts that are made on an Instagram Business Profile is going to be lower than organic reach on non-business profiles. For nonprofits on Instagram, however, the Business Profile is necessary both for metrics and collecting donations. Consider leveraging multiple accounts. Cultivate donations on your Business account, but share messages and campaigns on a personal account as well (such as an influencer, spokesperson, or thought leader in your organization). Make sure you include links in your bio to build audiences around each platform. The goal with the second personal account is to ensure that your message is seen by more potential supporters. A great example of using multiple accounts is Teen Vogue, which has a main Teen Vogue Instagram account while also sharing new content and features on the personal account of their Executive Editor Samhita.

2. Make your logo your profile picture

Consider the bird’s-eye perspective and go with as simple a version of your logo as possible so that it’s still readable even as a small icon. This helps build brand recognition and awareness. You can even have fun during major holidays — for instance, the Brooklyn Academy of Music changes the overlay of its logo every June to reflect Pride Month’s rainbow flag. 

3. Put a link in your bio. Better yet, put a Linktree in your bio

Instagram is the hardest social media platform for getting users to go onto your website, so make the most out of the link opportunities you have. Linktree offers an easy landing page for you to add multiple links to curious followers. This could include your top content, an email signup page, recent press features, and (of course) your donate page. If you prefer to work with one link at a time, keep things topical around key campaigns, landing pages, or content and be sure to note in any related posts that a link for users to take action is in your bio. 

4. Don’t accidentally go private

Slippery thumbs warning: While Instagram has made it much easier to toggle between your nonprofit’s Instagram account and your personal account, it still can be very easy to accidentally set your profile to private. You can confirm that your account is public either by going to your page on a desktop (make sure you aren’t logged into that account), or under Settings click on Account Privacy and check that Private Account is off.

5. Include the (new) Instagram logo on your website

Instagram updated its logo in 2016 (which the New York Times dubbed “the Great Instagram Logo Freakout of 2016”). Adding your Instagram link to your website header or footer alongside your links to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is an obvious must, but if you haven’t updated your Instagram logo yet, now’s the time to get on that.

Instagram for Nonprofits: What to Post

6. Videos get more engagement than photos

According to a recent report by Sprout Social, video posts receive 38% more engagement than image posts, and 2.1x the amount of comments. Aim to keep your videos between 15 and 30 seconds, and remember to include captions. Here are our top nonprofit video tips

7. Take a step back and consider the grid

The secret of any Insta-celebrity is that they don’t just think about their posts in the moment; they also consider the overall “grid effect.” How do your images and video content interact with each other? How do your 9 most recent posts complement one another or tell a story? Consider sticking to 1 or 2 filters for a consistent look and feel (the Metropolitan Opera mostly sticks to Nashville for backstage photos and goes au naturel for professional shots). Here’s a great list of ideas for playing around with the grid effect on Instagram, including alternating patterns and ways to make one image stretch out across 3, 6, or 9 posts for that “ahhh” effect.

8. Edit your photos for that extra zhuzh

If you’re taking photos at events (especially on your mobile phone), a few quick swipes either in Instagram’s editing tools, your phone’s photo editor, or an app like Snapseed or VSCO can help make it look more polished. Focus on brightness, contrast, and reducing warmth (most lights tend to cast things as more red/orange than they really are).

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9. Low on photos? Make graphics in Canva

Use Canva for Nonprofits to develop a rotating set of graphics. Set up 3-5 templates that you or an intern can then iterate into dozens of images that highlight supporter or impact stories, fast facts, quotes, or even graphic versions of on-site articles. Lung Cancer Foundation of America’s Instagram does this to great effect, sharing statistics about lung cancer, highlighting people living with lung cancer, and breakthroughs in research. A website like Unsplash can also be a goldmine for rights-free stock images that you can incorporate into image designs.

10. Have some fun with Boomerang, slow-mo, or sped-up videos

You’ve probably seen these posts where a short video plays forwards and then backwards. That’s a Boomerang, which is a spinoff app released by Instagram in 2015. Met a fundraising goal? Post a celebratory Boomerang. Doing field work? Post an action Boomerang. Hosting an event? Catch an artsy Boomerang. Instagram has its own account of Boomerang inspiration. On your phone, you also have options for slowing down and speeding up video recordings that can be used to great effect. The Metropolitan Opera used speed-up mode to show one of its singers getting his wig on for a performance (think about how this could be used for gala set-up to build anticipation).

11. Post Instagram Stories and save your best ones

Instagram Stories is another way to share content on your profile. You can upload as many pictures or short videos as you want without over-saturating your followers’ newsfeeds. The images and videos will disappear after 24 hours. Instagram also includes the option to save your favorite Story posts to your profile, sitting just on top of your feed, which can be great for aggregating Story posts around areas of work. Consider bucketing out Stories around the countries you work in, the verticals of work you do, the programming you offer, or your regular events. Also ask your influencers to post stories to their pages that contextualize the work they do with your org.  

12. Use Instagram Donate Stickers to fundraise

Yep, you can do that now, too. Check out our guide to Instagram Donate Stickers here.

13. Share images that are related to your influencers

If you have a celebrity partner or a gala honoree, content related to their work can help with bringing in some of their following (especially if you tag them in both the photo and the caption). Example: Concern Worldwide US’s Women of Concern Awards honoree Samantha Barry of Glamour magazine attended the 2019 Met Gala, which was a perfect moment to tap into the museum’s most-anticipated event and tie it into her work off the red carpet.

14. Don’t forget archival content

If you’re an organization that has a long history, consider your archival materials for quality #ThrowbackThursday content. It also makes for a great storytelling strategy around your history.

15. Look for relevant National Days and holidays

Going back to Concern Worldwide US, the organization gets a lot of mileage out of National Toilet Day each year, using the hashtag to illustrate its work in water and sanitation. Check out the UN International Days calendar (and make sure to note the themes and hashtags for each year) to see where your work and their goals align. You can also have fun with the random National Days that now take over the Internet to get a little more hashtag mileage. And speaking of hashtags…

Instagram for Nonprofits: Hashtags

16. #Hashtag #all #the #things — but in the right way

Posts will get seen — and, ideally by extension, engaged with — with hashtags. While Facebook hashtags are best when kept to 1-2 per post, Instagram is much more liberal. But in order to avoid overwhelming users or making your caption unreadable, move these down from your caption by a few paragraphs or include them in a second comment.

17. Use a mix of broad and specific hashtags

The most popular hashtag on Instagram is #love. Sharing the #love means that you can potentially be seen by more users, though for that broad of a hashtag, the quality of users may not be high as the quantity. Try mixing popular hashtags (here are 100 of them) with those that are relevant to your org, the field of your cause, and your work to appeal to both numbers and commitment.

18. Use recommended hashtags

As you begin to tap out a hashtag, Instagram’s algorithm will serve up the most popular related hashtags. Remember the curse of knowledge: The way you talk about something may not be the same way everyone else does. Meet users on their level. Check out what other thought leaders in your industry (or the nonprofit industry in general) are using and incorporate those as well.

Instagram for Nonprofits: When and how to post

19. Post at the right time

A few data points to consider here: According to Sprout, the best times to post on Instagram are weekdays between 10am and 3pm. 

Heatmap of the best times to post to Instagram
Best times to post to Instagram (Source: Sprout Social)

However, you’ll want to consider some internal data as well. Use Instagram Insights to see what time of day your users are engaging with your posts the most. Consider, too, comparing this with the best days and times for website traffic (especially Instagram-driven site traffic) in Google Analytics. This will help you prioritize scheduling, especially around campaign-related content. 

20. Schedule posts ahead of time

Scheduling your posts ahead of time helps you to operationalize posting. There are a number of Instagram posting services, including and Sprout Social. 

21. Geotag your location

Adding a location along with a caption for your post not only tags your posts in that location, it can help you to build your local community. You can set up a location for your offices or headquarters and also monitor posts from people who tag themselves as being there (this is especially great if you’re a destination nonprofit or hosting a rally). 

22. Try Instagram Ads

For nonprofits, the most effective use of social media is as an advertising platform. Instagram Ads, much like Facebook Ads, lets you advertise to potential supporters in-app — and you can do both through the Facebook Business Manager. This will also give you another option to link users to your site. 

Are you double-tapping on any of these tips? Take them and start optimizing your Instagram profile and posts for success! And if you have any other tips, let us know! Tweet us at @wholewhale.