5 Steps to Build Your Killer Nonprofit Instagram Strategy

5 Steps to a Killer Nonprofit Instagram Strategy

Julia Claire Campbell Instagram, Marketing, Nonprofits, Visual Marketing 2 Comments

Why should you consider building your nonprofit Instagram strategy?

  • Instagram is growing rapidly, with one-third of online adults reporting that they use Instagram!
  • They have nearly 1 billion monthly active users.
  • Instagram images get an average of 23% more engagement than their Facebook counterparts.
  • Brands see engagement rates 10x higher on Instagram than they do on Facebook.

With hundreds of thousands of brands, nonprofits, and organizations creating accounts on Instagram, how can your nonprofit cut through the clutter and stand out?

Instagram use among small and mid-size nonprofits is increasing, but very few set up and start using their accounts properly right out of the gate.

Even if your nonprofit is small and on a shoestring budget, there are several benefits to setting up and implementing a solid strategy for marketing your nonprofit on Instagram.

Join me for two special live webinars focused on getting your nonprofit results on Instagram – Instagram for Beginners and Instagram 201: Intermediate and Advanced Strategies

Here are 5 steps to building your own killer nonprofit Instagram strategy:

1) Determine your purpose.

Should you be on Instagram in the first place?

Without knowing a bit about you and your work, I’m not sure I can answer that for you – but it is a question you need to answer for yourself.

(HINT: Just because the Board told you to do it, or because you love Instagram in your personal life are not adequate reasons to set up and use the platform for marketing your nonprofit.)

Do a quick assessment. Success on Instagram requires the ability to create and share content specifically designed for the platform.

Eye-catching, colorful, compelling visuals win on Instagram every time.  

To optimize your nonprofit Instagram strategy, you have to determine 1-2 main goals – that’s your purpose, your WHY.

Some common goals that nonprofits have when marketing on Instagram:

  • Showcase your work
  • Build your community
  • Increase awareness of your brand
  • Showcase your culture and values
  • Advertise to potential donors
  • Increase donor loyalty
  • Share news and updates

When choosing your purpose and your goals, ask these questions:  

  • Why are you considering using Instagram specifically?
  • What attracted you to Instagram in the first place?
  • How can Instagram assist you in achieving your overall marketing goals?
  • How much time or budget can you commit to Instagram?
  • How does Instagram offer you something different to other platforms?\

For example: The IRS set up a new Instagram account with the stated purpose of “spreading useful information to help younger people get ready for the upcoming tax season.”

Resource: 5 Ways to Promote Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Message on Instagram

Girls, Inc. uses Instagram to thank donors and supporters.

2) Define your audience.



You can’t go anywhere on social media without figuring out who you are talking to and what they want to hear from you.

It’s not about pushing out your promotions – it’s about building a community of raving fans who will want to engage with your Instagram posts.

Your success on Instagram will be determined by your followers. Figure out what they want to see from you and give it to them.

How to do this? Look at your purpose and your goals. Why are you on Instagram in the first place?

To deepen relationships with current donors?  

To expand your reach a new, younger audience?

To showcase impact to the community?

Ask these questions:

  • Who is most likely to take the desired action that will get you closer to accomplishing your goals?
  • What are their passions and interests?
  • What are their dreams and goals?
  • What motivates them?
  • What do they want to learn more about?
  • Why does your cause resonate with them?
  • What value do you provide to their busy lives?
  • What problem does your nonprofit solve FOR THEM specifically?
  • Why would they share your content on social media? Is it useful, valuable, educational, entertaining?
  • What type of emotion resonates the most with your audience? Inspirational, aspirational, angry, sad, happy?
  • What sets you apart from your competitors?
  • What do you do best?
  • Why do people love you?

For example: The IRS wants to reach younger taxpayers, millennials especially, and they know that Instagram is the platform on which to do this. In an interview, their social media team said, “It’s a matter of meeting the taxpayers where they are.”

Resource: Instagram for Nonprofits: How to Use Instagram to Raise Awareness and Build An Audience

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay uses Instagram to showcase staff, volunteers, and the kids they serve.

3) Remain realistic.



I encourage my clients to work every single day on growing their Instagram following, but to be realistic and not to get easily frustrated.

Nonprofits, no matter how huge, will never be Kendall Jenner with over 100 million Instagram followers. (However, understand that many, many of those followers only comment on her posts to get likes themselves, and to promote their own accounts.)

Having followers just for the sake of having followers will not get you any closer to your goals and won’t increase authentic engagement, the key to getting more exposure and reach on Instagram.

The 4 keys to getting more Instagram followers:

  • Have a consistent content strategy.
  • Post great photos.
  • Engage with other accounts.
  • Use hashtags strategically.

If you remain true to your cause and your mission, if you provide great photos and videos that resonate with your audience, you will grow your followers.

Resource: [FREE EBOOK] The Ultimate Guide to Instagram for the Small Nonprofit

Love Beyond Walls shares words of inspiration and hope on Instagram.

4) Create posts specifically for Instagram.



Sure, you can use a photo or a video that you have used on another channel. But the key to getting traction on Instagram is to truly understand the aesthetics and the best practices for this unique platform.  

When creating content buckets, remember to focus on content that aligns with both your audience and your goals.

Sample content that works on Instagram:

  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • User-generated content
  • Educational (e.g. how to run a food drive, how to prevent elder abuse)
  • Culture focused (showing the human side of your org)
  • Fun / lighthearted
  • Client stories
  • Donor stories
  • Volunteer stories
  • Get to know the team
  • Team member takeovers
  • Partner showcase

Know character counts, research hashtags, determine if you can and should use emoji – these are all key to getting likes and comments on Instagram.

Resource: 15 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Instagram

DoSomething.org focuses on speaking to young people on Instagram.

5) Be consistent.



Social media should be looked at like exercise.

If you half-heartedly go to the gym for a half-hour per week, you are not going to get results.

If you are committed, if you work with a personal trainer, create a fitness plan, and execute on it daily or several times per week, you will make progress towards your goals.

My advice:

  • Post at least three times per week (during the work week).
  • Experiment to see what works best for your audience.
  • Monitor your Instagram Insights to look for trends over time.
  • Always consider quality over quantity – less is always more. Do not throw up a mediocre or crappy post because you haven’t posted in a while!

Tools to schedule and monitor Instagram posts:

The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center consistently posts information on getting involved in preventing and stopping sexual assault.

Nonprofit success on Instagram involves:

  • Knowing your audience and creating the types of posts that they like and that they respond to.
  • Creating every post to elicit a reaction – getting a link click, a like, a comment.
  • Having an authentic and friendly voice.
  • Showcasing eye-catching photos and videos.
  • Bringing “visual value” to the table with every post.

Remember: If people are not inspired, educated, or entertained in some way, they will not engage with you on Instagram!

Join me for two special live webinars focused on getting your nonprofit results on Instagram – Instagram for Beginners and Instagram 201: Intermediate and Advanced Strategies

How do you build your community on Instagram? 

Comments 2

  1. Colin V

    I loved this article!! Instagram is personally my favorite social media app, in terms of use for marketing and just general personal use. I think everyone could benefit from reading this article.

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