Instagram Marketing Tips That Nonprofits Can Start Using Today

These real-life success stories from top nonprofits will help you build community, drive donations, and maximize your Instagram efforts.


Most nonprofit organizations have a compelling story to share with the world. So why is it so hard for them to get traction on Instagram?

It usually comes down to simple marketing. 

Just like any for-profit enterprise, a nonprofit is subject to the whims of Internet users. In order to succeed, nonprofits need to establish a clear brand story that forges a genuine connection with their audiences. To create that authentic brand connection, 30 percent of today’s nonprofits are using Instagram.

Below, we’ll look at some of the most successful nonprofits on Instagram and find out what they do that works so well (and how you can emulate these strategies yourself).  

Instagram marketing tips for nonprofits

Using a story to drive Instagram marketing strategy: Pencils of Promise

On the surface, an organization like Pencils of Promise (@pencilsofpromise) has a complex story. It’s a story that won’t fit within a single five-second clip. 

The idea for the pro-education group came when its founder gave a child a pencil and saw how much it changed his outlook. Pencils of Promise has gone on to equip education programs around the world.

But how do you fit a story like that in an Instagram post? How do you show the impact of long-term education programs? 

They do it with confidence and expertise. In the example below, you’ll see that Pencils of Promise can tell a story through multiple Instagram story frames, slowly unwrapping every new piece of information and enticing people to click forward.

You can see on the progress bar that Pencils of Promise revealed bits of information one by one to encourage people to click through the whole story.

With every new frame, Pencils of Promise slowly unveils what’s happening in Adzinukorpe, and the strategy makes you want to be a part of the story. By the time the visuals come around…

…you’re fully invested in what’s happening in this community. 

By using the Instagram Stories feature to its full potential, Pencils of Promise doesn’t just share what’s happening. It makes you want to know more. It makes you feel like part of its story.

Tip for your Instagram presence: Remember why they call it Instagram Stories in the first place. Use this feature to make your followers feel like they’re with you. Like any good story, don’t give away everything at once. Use the clips incrementally to generate interest, and don’t just share the occasional visual element. Put the elements together to tell a real story.

Instagram Stories receives an audience of some 500 million people every day. They want to know stories like Pencils of Promise. People want to connect with you, and your nonprofit has an interesting story to tell, too. 

Growing a community you can interact with: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Remember that we’re talking about social media here. A give-and-take between an Instagram account and its audience should be part of the fun. We can see that in action with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (@StJude).

St. Jude regularly includes video posts that feature Q&A interactions. In one recent post, St. Jude experts discussed how video games help kids with life-threatening diseases get through hard times.

Not only is it an interesting question. It’s also a relevant one. The answer will teach us more about St. Jude, the work they do, and their approach to the healing process.

But there’s something else going on here: Building a sense of community. St. Jude could make posts about what’s happening at the hospital and do little else, but they go a step beyond. They engage their audience. The Q&A format is a straightforward way to hear what people are saying on the other side of the screen. 

Tip for your Instagram presence: Use video to increase engagement and foster a community.

Also remember that video posts receive 38% more engagement than regular Instagram posts. Video content will help you to reach an untapped audience. 

By using features like Q&As, you also promote engagement by asking your audience for questions in future segments. This keeps people involved with your posts and shows that you’re part of a larger community. It makes social media a two-way street, the way it was meant to be.

Driving donations with the Instagram donation sticker: American Heart Association

Instagram is happy to help you with donations. They’ve made that clear through the innovation of a donation sticker that you can attach to your stories.

The idea behind a donation sticker is simple. Someone following your account sees the sticker and feels motivated to make a contribution. They can click on the button and head right to a donation page (that’s it). Using a donation sticker should be a no-brainer for any nonprofit on Instagram.

But the key is to use it well. That’s what the American Heart Association (@American_Heart) does. When you click on their Instagram profile, you’ll see they keep their donation story pinned to the top (under Donate).

Browse to the story and you’ll see how easy the donation sticker makes it to contribute:

Instagram marketing tip donation option

The sticker fits seamlessly into the story with a prominent call to action. 

One question remains: How do you secure a donation sticker for yourself? 

The first step is to go through Charity Verification for your organization’s Facebook page. After that, you’ll want to link your Instagram and Facebook accounts so that your nonprofit receives the same distinction on both platforms. Also, your profile on Instagram should be a Business Account to use features like a donation sticker.

Tip for your Instagram presence: Show why your nonprofit’s story is so compelling. In the case of the American Heart Association, we know why their nonprofit matters: Too many people die from heart disease every year. 

Pair this story with the prominent placement of a donation sticker and remember to pin that story to the top of your profile to keep it prominent. Now you know that every post has a chance to generate donations. You’ll be free to focus on better content and better engagement.

Making full use of native Instagram marketing tools: TED Talks

Asking for donations can feel like asking someone for a favor, but you can build an even larger following on Instagram by doing your users a favor first.

One way to do that is by using Instagram’s marketing tools to create unique experiences for your Instagram audience. That’s what TED Talks (@TED) does.

TED Talks has a built-in advantage: They have a lot of content to share. So TED used Instagram stories to create a playlist of the best TED Talks of 2018. Using the “See More” link, TED then linked these individual clips to the full presentation on their website.

Instagram stories marketing tip for nonprofits

The simple lesson: Take the time to think about what kind of value you can create for someone following your organization on Instagram. Is there something simple like this that you can do for them? Can you organize lists so they can access interesting content? 

Tip for your Instagram presence: Make full use of the media on Instagram to give people a reason to click on your website. That includes the following tools:

  • “Swipe up for more.” If you have a verified Instagram account or more than 10,000 followers, you don’t have to limit your content to what Instagram can host. Use text links within your Instagram stories to give your audience a way to access further content.
  • Create interesting polls. Polls like Q&As give the audience something engaging to do.
  • Use Stories Highlights. These highlights “pin” your favorite stories to your Instagram wall which allows you to continue delivering the same valuable content to your audience.
  • Contests and prizes. Using links and stickers, you can call attention to events like contests, awareness runs, and even contests with prizes.

Leveraging influencer marketing: International Community Foundation

Instagram influencers will always remain a powerful way to build outreach. 

When International Community Foundation created a #GivingTuesday campaign to support migrants and deportees stranded in Tijuana, outreach with Mexican-American actress Ana Lorena Sánchez helped drive engagement immediately. 

With hundreds of thousands of followers, Sánchez was able to boost awareness of this donation drive. Within a day, the project had already amassed $31,000 on a goal of $40,000.

Tip for your Instagram presence: When you need a boost, engage with influencers to drive attention to your campaign. But don’t just pick any influencer at random. The strategic partnership with Sánchez made sure that our message was seen by many of the people most affected by this issue. 

Making Instagram marketing tips work for you

The Instagram marketing tips above should be a great starting place to begin creating a content calendar you can use with Instagram, but there’s always more to learn.

Want more tips about social media marketing for your nonprofit?


Featured Photo: CDI Apps for Good - Students create digital tools to solve problems by CoderDojo Foundation
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