Pinterest for Nonprofits: Why it works, and how to make it work for you

Social Media

Since launching in 2010, Pinterest has become one of the biggest social sharing networks with 250 million monthly active users. 40% of Pinners have a household income of $100k+, and they’re primed to spend: 93% of them plan to use Pinterest for purchases, and according to Sprout, 50% of users have made a purchase after seeing a promoted pin (that’s $2 in profit per $1 spent on advertising).
So how do nonprofits factor into that equation? Pinterest’s multifunctionality makes it the perfect medium for different people to come together and showcase their hobbies and personalities, whether it’s for reading or viewing material, shopping, design, recipes, or tips.

Why should nonprofits use Pinterest?

We understand that the idea of translating your organization’s content into Pinnable visuals can seem far-fetched depending on your cause or work. However, as Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council, notes (on, of all sites, Pinterest):  “Pinterest is a place where people go to get inspired and then take action. Leveraging the platform gives our nonprofit partners a unique, impactful way to share their causes and encourage people to support them.”
As the data suggest, this traffic can lead to people taking meaningful actions on your website, like signing up for your newsletter or donating to your cause. Here are 7 additional reasons to use Pinterest as a nonprofit:

1. You have strong visual content

If photos or video factor into your storytelling, Pinterest is an ideal medium to share them. Consider this a passive source of additional engagement and traffic for your website, with boards to share content around your impact, work, and digital resources.

Habitat for Humanity on Pinterest

Habitat for Humanity on Pinterest

2. You have cause-relevant data that can be visualized

Infographics perform well on Pinterest and can be a way of sharing your most relevant and vital data with users without trying to get them to click onto your site. Canva offers templates that you can customize, and offers its premium version free to qualifying nonprofits.

Amnesty International's infographics on Pinterest

Amnesty International’s infographics on Pinterest

3. You have merchandise to sell — or donations to cultivate

This is a fairly obvious win, but even if you don’t have a shop, you can use Pinterest to sell “symbolic” gifts tied to impact. For instance, you can mock up an image of a child receiving a checkup with a text overlay that says $25 vaccinates X number of children. Link these images to your donation page.

NPR Merchandise on Pinterest

NPR Merchandise on Pinterest

4. You have archives

Make the most out of your investment in digitizing your organization’s archives by uploading them to Pinterest. Tie them to relevant landing pages on your site, or set up a donation landing page related to your nonprofit’s archives and note in each Pin caption that users can fund your future if they enjoyed learning about your past.

The New York Philharmonic's Archives board on Pinterest

The New York Philharmonic’s Archives board on Pinterest

5. You work in a visual industry

Museums, orchestras, theater companies, public parks, national landmarks — the arts are not only a popular industry in the nonprofit sector, they’re also the most popular interest category for Pinterest users. But also consider environmental causes: Images of nature and animals are also popular among Pinners. We’re admittedly partial to this NRDC Pinterest board…

NRDC Pinterest Board

We love you too, NRDC…

6. You have resources to share with your constituency

You can link to resources on your website, or consider adapting them (as we recommend above with infographics) for the medium. The AARP, for instance, takes some of its tips for seniors and condenses them into smart visuals to reach new audiences. Be sure to include your logo or other branding.

The AARP on Pinterest

AARP’s Sports & Fitness board on Pinterest

7. You want to share other resources for your community of supporters

Former Whole Whale client PJ Library sends free bedtime stories out each month to Jewish families and offers a ton of local community events for their participants. Pinterest is a way of creating one additional touchpoint with its existing community members — if parents need books for their kids, they may also benefit from ideas for celebrating Jewish holidays with their young ones, or could use recipe or back-to-school ideas. And it’s possible that other potential parents will discover their service through these pins and be inspired to sign up.

PJ Library's boards on Pinterest

PJ Library’s boards on Pinterest

Pinterest marketing for nonprofits

If you’re looking to go deeper with your nonprofit Pinterest strategy, here are some tips to grow your audience and engagement.

1. Set up boards that reflect your organization

Your Pinterest account should reflect the personality of your nonprofit, with boards that align with your organization’s vision, mission, services, and values. Don’t be too self-promotional; focus instead on delivering value to the user. For example, The Trevor Project has a board dedicated to affirmations — perfect for its work in supporting mental wellness for LGBTQ teens.

2. Include the Pin It button on your website

Pinterest is a two-way street and you may already be on the platform without realizing it. You can take that one step further by giving users a prompt to share your site content to Pinterest. This can create a ripple effect of users meaningfully engaging with your on-site content, including those users that click back to your website and learn more about your cause. Make it as easy as possible for people to share your content.

3. Tell your story. All of it.

The beauty of Pinterest is that, with a limitless number of boards, you can create neat verticals of storylines that connect content to your mission. We love the International Rescue Committee’s board of Famous Refugees, which uses a simple black-and-white overlay and text (plus their logo, of course) to illustrate the number of people in the public sphere who are also refugees.

4. Create strong, visually-compelling content

This ties into the IRC example cited above: Using templates in Canva or your own stellar image and video library is key for a visual medium like Pinterest. Remember, you want to get people to click on the pin and go to your website so they can eventually get behind your cause. As noted above, infographics are another great way to get the message in front of people.

5. Watermark your logo on all original content

Make sure to also include your logo on each image. You want everyone to know who made the awesome content, and often the most meaningful engagements with your resources will come from people who found your original pin through a friend of a friend.

 6. Follow like-minded accounts  

Pinterest can be a major hub for networking, so it’s important build relationships. Make sure to also follow users back, and to follow aspirationally: Find thought leaders and influencers in your space and follow them so that they know you exist.

7. Take advantage of Pinterest analytics (and Pinterest traffic on Google Analytics)

The more you know about your account, the better. Pinterest Analytics allows you to tailor your content to generate the most engagement. Consider what works best on this platform and do more of that. Also, check your Google Analytics acquisitions to see which pins lead to the most — and most engaged — site traffic.

8. Promote key pins at key moments

Nonprofit organizations on Pinterest are fighting against major corporations (and major corporation ad budgets). An extra boost (with some smart targeting options) can be what you need for key campaigns. Especially consider this around key holidays, like the the end-of-year season, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, when more people will be searching Pinterest for gift-giving ideas. Or, if you have a seasonally-relevant campaign, experiment with a $100 ad budget. According to Sprout Social, interest spikes earlier on Pinterest than other platforms, so Pin early and often. Here’s a great calendar from Sprout that shows when Pinners start saving pins for each holiday or seasonal event. 

9. Don’t force it if Pinterest doesn’t work for you

All nonprofits aren’t equal when it comes to social media strategy. We’re all for experimentation, but if you’ve tried Pinterest out but haven’t seen an ROI or struggle to find content that is both worthy of being repinned an accurate reflection of your organization’s mission, then call an audible. Analytics will tell you which social media platforms are the best use of your time.

10. Check the trends

The Pinterest Trends Search is a powerful tool for understanding how topics adjacent to your cause may be on the rise. By browsing different themes you can inspire creativity in the ways you present your cause.