Do-gooding has gone digital. In an age where the internet facilitates quick issue-support, easy crowdfunding, and direct communication with people on the ground, it’s easier than ever before to make a difference from your couch. While digital activism’s reach is impressive, its depth is often shallow. Nonprofits are a deeply rooted antidote. But by focusing on their local community, they often miss out on reaching thousands online who want to get involved. Ready for a ridiculously simple solution? Set up a nonprofit Instagram account and grow your audience.
In 2019, 97% of nonprofit organizations in the US and Canada were regularly using social media to engage with supporters. However, the majority were active on Facebook, where daily usage and sign-up rates have been steadily declining for young adults and teens.
Meanwhile, Instagram reigns as the 4th most-used social media app, with 1.4 billion monthly active users who are primarily 18-34. It’s the place to be for a nonprofit that wants to connect with Gen Z and Millennials. But little more than half of nonprofits actively use Instagram. They’re missing out.
So if you’re wondering should our nonprofit be on instagram? The answer is yes.
For users, Instagram is a platform for learning, sharing life snapshots, and getting inspired by artists and creators. For nonprofits and other organizations, Instagram is a multi-use tool for driving donations, recruiting volunteers, building community, and increasing brand awareness.
Wondering how to get started? We’ve gotchu.
How to Create an Instagram Account for a Nonprofit
It can seem like there’s an overworked Gen Z intern behind every nonprofit. But the truth is you don’t need to start an intern hiring process to produce a top-notch page.
Any team can pull together to create a nonprofit Instagram presence that is true to their brand and resonant with audiences both old and new.
The first step is pinning down your why. How will taking your mission to socials positively impact your organization, those who support it, and those who benefit from it?
Best Nonprofit Instagram Accounts Know Their “Why”
Your nonprofit Instagram account will be that much better if the reasons you start it run deep within your own organization.
Here are some benefits that push many nonprofits to up their IG game:
- Creating brand awareness
- Connecting with community
- Attracting donors and volunteers
- Directing traffic to your other channels
- Promoting your events
Sure, you can do all of the tasks above through your website, but unless you’re an SEO all-star, few people who aren’t already aware of your operation will stumble onto your page.
Instagram (and TikTok) are the best options for generating quick and widespread engagement.
How to start or set up an account
The earlier you start your account the better, but it’s never too late to jump in.
When you name your account, make sure that it will be easy for users to find you. Maybe the name of your organization is already a username that belongs to someone else, but you can make it your own by adding periods or an extra word.
For example, @slammedialab can become @slam.media.lab or @slamdigitalmarketing.
For this initial step, practicality reigns supreme. Don’t worry, the creativity kicks in soon after!
Once you’ve decided on a username, our recommendation is to opt for an instagram business account rather than a personal one. Why? Better metrics and features. You may not be trying to turn a big profit, but you are still looking to make a big impact, so leveraging business tools is a must-use strategy.
Unlike personal accounts, Instagram business account benefits for nonprofits include the ability to share contact information with followers in your bio, add links to your stories, and more.
You’ll want to connect this account to Facebook. If you already have a Facebook Business account, that’s even better. You can use this Facebook profile to generate a business Instagram account. Otherwise, you’ll have to attempt to connect the two accounts retroactively, which can be tricky.
Here’s how you link your Instagram account and Facebook profile:
- Tap the person icon on your profile pic in the bottom right of your account
- Tap the 3 lines in the top right, then tap the settings button
- Tap Accounts Center at the bottom, then tap the Set up accounts center
- Tap Yes, finish setup
- Sync your profile photo, then tap continue
- Once completed, you’ll be able to cross-share
We recommend creating an email and phone number specifically for your nonprofit Instagram account. You can give all your team members access here and have one or two people own managing the inbox.
Think of your socials as a direct line to people you don’t see in the day-to-day of your work, but who are still invested and available in what you do.
How to Run a Successful Instagram Account for a Nonprofit
A good post can get the attention of everyone—young pop culture nerds to “what’s his face?” octogenarians. But the secret here is counterintuitive; good content that reaches a wide audience often gains traction because of its hyperspecificity.
Which means nailing down who you want to reach (and how) is a critical step.
Our audience identification process includes nailing down the following audience demographics:
We also like to think about who these individuals already follow (both brands and creators).
If you’ve been operating an account for a while, you can take this rough sketch of who you believe your audience to be and compare it to Instagram Analytics.
Are you currently reaching your target audience? Is it time to think about shifting it? What are you doing right and what do you need to go back to the drawing board on?
Nonprofit Instagram Strategy: Define who you are
Once you’ve landed on your archetypal user, it’s time to create the archetype for your brand’s social presence. Are you the jester entertaining viewers? The professor educating them? Something else entirely?
Your content will be much easier to create if you define the limits it must exist within.
To create these limits you can start by:
- Jotting down four emotions you are looking to elicit
- Identifying 3-8 effective ways to communicate that speak to your audience
- Collecting data from a basic user research survey
Nonprofit Instagram Strategy: Pillars, Buckets, and the North Star
After working through your nonprofit Instagram archetype, the next step is to create content pillars (ideas and topic areas that your brand deeply cares about).
When creating new pillars, our preferred plan of attack is to ideate, ideate, ideate, and then winnow your list down to the three or four pillars that feel most true to your organization.
As you develop your brand’s content pillars, your audience should be at the forefront of your imagination. For maximum impact, whatever you land on should be:
- Easy to communicate
Once you know what your audience wants and what your organization wants, it’s time to identify the content formats that will make up your Instagram feed. We call these “content buckets.”
Typically, we recommend three static formats (meme, photo, graphic, etc.), Instagram reels, and stories.
Not only do you want each piece of content to hit your objectives, match the feel of your brand, and look quality, but every piece of content should also complement its neighbor.
Now you have all the pieces you need to start churning out content and creating a stellar Instagram feed. Before you get to work, we recommend synthesizing all of your backend work into one sentence. Something you can look back at anytime to realign your strategy. Something you can show to new team members to communicate your social’s goals and strategies in seconds. We like to call it the north star.
Here’s an example of a north star we created for our work with nonprofit Peer Health Exchange:
The place on IG with real stories at the intersection of health & identity of young people today: the hopes, the inspiration, the struggles, the needs. By youth, for youth.
Quick Tips and Hacks to Starting an Instagram Page for a Nonprofit
But what about when it comes to the actual posting part? Here’s a lightning round of tips and tricks for you:
- Add a link in your bio: this hub provides users a route to all sorts of useful resources—from your website to your donation page.
- Leverage Instagram stories: this content is front and center on your page, so it’s a great spot to house things you want everyone to see, no matter when they first follow your nonprofit Instagram account.
- Go live often: Instagram lives are a great opportunity to stream digital events or exchange followers with accounts you love.
- Invest in ads: The most successful nonprofit ad campaign we’ve created ran on instagram. As advertisements continue to integrate with content, don’t miss out on the opportunity to amplify your work.
The Benefits of Running a Successful Instagram Account for a Nonprofit
Like we said at the top of the article, there are many reasons to invest time and energy into running a nonprofit Instagram account:
- Boosting brand awareness
- Connecting with community
- Finding donors
- Attracting volunteers
- Promoting events
Looking for more details here? We’ve got you covered.
Boosting brand awareness: Consistently posting with a cohesive brand voice, feel, and tone helps audiences get to know your nonprofit. They’ll start to recognize you, then they’ll start to remember you. That’s two big steps closer to getting involved in your work.
Connecting with community: Whether you manage social media for a large business or a nonprofit, Instagram offers unique opportunities to engage with followers directly through comment sections, messages, and live events.
Finding donors: Because Instagram business accounts allow admins to include links in their bio and on stories, donating is made easy for people who want to give.
Attracting volunteers: When people can feel the love through your page and see joyful photos of past volunteers, they’ll be more likely to take the leap and begin volunteering at your nonprofit.
Promoting events: Whether you’re sharing a graphic advertising an upcoming event, or streaming an event on live, Instagram nonprofit accounts provide ample opportunities for bulking up your guest lists.
Instagram content examples
The best nonprofit instagram accounts have this in common: they know what their audience wants and they give it to them.
This is easier said than done, because it requires a measure of restraint. Maybe your nonprofit wants to go all in on generating donations from Instagram followers or educating them on your issue. While incorporating calls to action and infographics into your regular content output is useful, focusing on these above all other mediums can be counterproductive. No one wants to scroll through an account that just screams at them to donate.
To get results, nonprofit Instagram accounts must strike a balance. Plus, aesthetics help too.
Peer Health Exchange is a nonprofit we’ve worked extensively in the past. Their content is beginning to perform well for a few key reasons:
- Deep knowledge of their audience
- A cohesive and aesthetic page
- Actionable health content
With care and time, their page went from looking like a conglomeration of disjointed posts:
To a curated space with a distinctly Y2K feel:
Pretty rad, we know. And we know you can do it too.
Tools That Make it Easy to Become an Instagram Nonprofit
The backbone of a killer social presence (from YouTube to Instagram) is consistency. Big gaps in your posting cadence will lose you followers again and again.
That’s why effective systems and processes are arguably the most important piece here.
Our favorite tools for nonprofit Instagram accounts are:
- Content calendars
- Automation tools
- Strategy decks
- Social analytics tools
We recommend Airtable for content calendars. On an Airtable project base, you can create a calendar and a running ideas list where each item is sorted by status, pillar, bucket, and more. Airtable allows you to create multiple views of your calendar and lists so that you can filter items based on any criteria.
For example, a nonprofit that wants to start pushing out more content around food justice can create a view of their ideas list that filters out anything not tagged with the term “food justice.” That takes out an entire step of searching for the ideas you’re looking for, and makes content production that much easier.
Setting up Your Editorial Social Media Calendar
Creating your editorial social media calendar shouldn't be stressful. At Slam, we’ve stopped using tools that make us slower like Google Suite. We use tools that help us save weeks of time and allow multiple stakeholders to review, change the statuses, and allow multiple views.
This is why we use Airtable. Airtable is an easy-to-use tech platform that allows you to create calendars, databases, and forms. It’s a smart Google sheet. Their UX is amazing, friendly, and simple.
We tell our nonprofit clients to use Airtable to manage social calendar. Setting up an Airtable calendar is pretty easy. Here are the steps:
- Create an account and use an existing editorial calendar template
- Have a list of content that you want to queue up to the calendar
- Organize content by channel, bucket, and format
- Set multiple views on Airtable based on your needs (i.e. view by person, status, channel)
- Invite your colleagues to join or share a view of the Airtable
- You are all set!
If you are looking for a shortcut, we’ve released our Airtable Content Calendar for nonprofits along with a tutorial.
Using Automations to Save You Time
Automations are life changing for processes. Think about the hours you spend on manual work and repetitive tasks like:
- Creating documents
- Adding entries to your database
- Pasting the same information to different tools
Automation can help you change these workflows. We recommend using Zapier! Zapier can take integrations even farther. It’s a tool that allows users to integrate two or more apps at a time.
Our favorite way to use Zapier for content creation is to integrate a Slack or Teams channel with Airtable. On this channel, every team member can drop content ideas that will automatically transfer over to your Airtable calendar. From there, team members running point on graphics, copy, and posting can take ideas to the finish line.
Presenting Your Nonprofit Instagram Strategy
For launching your initial strategy, make sure you got a great and beautiful presentation that you can use to convey your thoughts!
At Slam, we present strategies pretty much every week. We’re creating a template that has everything you need to share your nonprofit Instagram strategy. The template has:
- A section to introduce yourself
- A section to include themes, content buckets, direction
- A section to include examples, must-dos
- A framework on how you’ll tackle your strategy
- A section to include next steps
Sign up to be the first to know when the template is released here.
For social analytics and community tools, we recommend Iconosquare or Sproutsocial. These tools give nonprofit’s comprehensive analytics and actionable insights. From who is viewing your stories, to when to post to get the highest levels of engagement, these tools are great to keep in your back pocket.
If you’re a nonprofit, you get discounts. Make sure to use these links:
Managing Your Instagram Nonprofit Community
Your team is set, your calendar is full, and your posts are steadily going live, but there’s still more to do. As posts gain momentum, comment sections and DMs pick up and require attention. As your following grows, hosting an Instagram live becomes a possibility.
Throughout all of this, your numbers are changing.
It’s time to get serious about managing your Instagram community and reporting your data.
We won’t spend too much time on community management because how you do that is guided by your organization’s communication style. However, we will give our top recommendations here:
- Respond to comments when possible
- Encourage commenting through CTAs in captions
- Answer direct messages
- Create content that your followers request
- Host Instagram Live events
Nonprofit Instagram Reporting
At the one month mark of officially launching your new Instagram strategy, we recommend compiling your first report.
Our basic report format includes:
- High Level overview (MoM)
- 3 highest performing pieces
- 3 lowest performing pieces
- Next Steps
The month over month high level overview includes:
- Engagement Rate
In just over a month of creating content, you may not be seeing drastic changes. That’s normal. The goal of the report isn’t to identify whether Instagram is worthwhile (it is, it just takes time), but rather to further refine your strategy.
Pay special attention to what posts are performing well and what posts are gaining little traction. Is this due to the type of content? The subject matter? The time of day the post went live?
Be thorough in your analysis and use the data to continue driving engagement upwards.
Level Up Your Nonprofit with Instagram
Still just wondering should our nonprofit be on instagram? We didn’t think so.
If you’re ready to jump in and want more actionable tips to get started, we’ll be releasing our nonprofit marketing bundle in the next few weeks. This will have comprehensive tips on content, social, SEO, and website that have helped our nonprofit clients get millions of visits to their site. You can sign up here.
With our insight, your team’s creative thinking, and a little bit of elbow grease, your nonprofit can join the cohort of organizations making real impact by building a presence on Instagram.
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