Instagram Stories for Nonprofits

Social Media

When Instagram launched its Stories feature in August 2016, most people saw it as a rip-off of Snapchat. A few years later and it’s clear that Instagram has beaten out Snapchat, and the feature has proven itself to be much more than a copycat, especially now that nonprofits can collect donations via Instagram. Here’s our guide to using Instagram Stories as a nonprofit. 

Instagram Donation Stickers

First things first: On May 1st, 2019, Instagram launched donation stickers for stories allowing supporters to raise funds for verified Instagram nonprofits. Here’s how to create an Instagram Donation Sticker.

What is (are?) Instagram Stories

Instagram’s Stories feature is a way for users to share photos and videos with an expiration date: After 24 hours, they disappear. Each piece of media is shown for 10 seconds (photo and video) on autoplay, meaning that they essentially stream between your content and then bring users on to the next account’s Stories. These don’t live in your main Instagram grid or user feed, but are prioritized above the feed and linked to on your profile via your avatar. A little bit Netflix, a little bit Snapchat.

A few other things have changed since Stories launched, here are some of the key features:

Stories Highlights

While Stories will by default disappear after 24 hours, you can opt to save key Stories as Highlights on your profile. These display as miniature albums above your main Instagram feed.

Planned Parenthood's Instagram Stories highlights

Planned Parenthood’s Instagram Stories highlights


Stickers, Gifs, and More

Instagram Stories have allowed for filters (different from the standards offered on Pinterest but just as diverse) and text overlay. They’ve taken that one step further with a number of stickers, including a gif integration, geotags, hashtags, and — as noted above — the Donation sticker.

No Longer Restricted to the Last 24 Hours

When Instagram Stories first launched, you had to either post content you captured using the Stories camera, or media that was taken on your phone within the last 24 hours. No more! While Instagram will default to adding the date the picture was taken if it’s older than 24 hours, you can delete it from your Story before you hit publish.

Text-Only Features

Just want to put out a message and make sure it gets heard? You can choose from a variety of fonts and colored backgrounds to put out a call-to-action, a last-minute campaign, or a change in event timing or venue.

Why should our nonprofit test out Instagram Stories?

Stories are one way you can try to beat Instagram’s algorithm, which since 2016 has, like Facebook, filtered users’ feeds to show them the posts they’re most likely to be interested in at the top. Brand pages can get buried if your followers are more casual observers. Stories by default lives at the top of the app, which means you can stay in your followers’ view.

You also probably have an audience on Instagram already, so if you were debating between this and Snapchat (one of the hardest platforms to build an audience on), that’s a big plus for Instagram. With Instagram Stories, you are simply providing more content to an audience you already have, which will save you a ton of cultivation time. 

There’s (some) data! You already know your follower count, and Instagram puts a clean number on story views and view rate (how much of your story your users actually watched).

whole whale university social media course

Online Course

Social Media for Social Impact

Become your own social media marketing expert!

How to use Instagram Stories for nonprofits

Tell a Story

Unlike your Instagram profile, which is likely made up of polished and posed photos, Instagram Stories are much more casual. Use the successive video feature to tell full-length stories and show events or ideas as they unfold. 

Pin Highlights

Have at least 3-5 to start with, showing off different facets of your work: Impact, supporters, about your organization, campaigns, recurring events. Also: Ask your key partners, staff members, and influencers to include a Story Highlights reel on their work with you.

Use Analytics

Instagram now offers insights if your account is set up as a business profile (we have thoughts on this). Use this information to get to know your followers. When are they active on the platform? Does the demographic information help inform your content? What content is already performing well? Use this information to understand what you should be sharing and when.

Connect with Your Followers

Instagram Stories make it easy for users to send you a message as a response to your story. Take full advantage of this and encourage users to send you a message. This promotes 1:1 engagement with people in your audience that you may not have reached otherwise. Just make sure you have somebody monitoring and ready to respond!

How are other nonprofits using Instagram Stories?

Nonprofits are using Instagram Stories to showcase their impact, go behind the scenes at events, and, of course, share photos and videos of animals.

Do Something 

Do Something uses their Stories to share their mission and vision in action. Their campaign-based work is the perfect opportunity for Story Highlights, especially when they capture events as they unfold, thereby leveraging social proof for social good. They even do monthly volunteer horoscopes!

Do Something's Instagram Stories

International Rescue Committee

The IRC ties its work in refugee aid and advocacy to its Stories, offering a quick recap for people looking to understand a complex issue or how an org they support is involved. Here’s an example from the US-Mexico border.

IRC Instagram Stories from the US-Mexico border


TED has best-of “playlists” on their Instagram Stories, which in and of itself is brilliant. But extra points to how they use interactive Stories flair, like polls and gifs for that extra dose of playfulness. 

TED Instagram Stories

Polar Bear International

Yeah, they have adorable videos of polar bear cubs in their Highlights, but this was a stunning campaign: Marking National Poetry Month, Polar Bear International shared a poem a day in their stories with the hashtag #PolarPoetry. As they saved them to Highlights in the same album, you could see the progression over 30 days representing ice melting. This wins Instagram Stories. Everyone else can go home.

Polar Bear International Instagram Stories