How to Use Instagram for Nonprofits

How to Use Instagram for Nonprofits


After launching on October 6, 2010, Instagram amassed 25,000 users on the first day and 100,000 app downloads by the end of the first week. Its founder, Kevin Systrom, decided to take the company public in an IPO scheduled for 2012, but Meta, then Facebook, had other ideas. The tech giant acquired the platform from Systrom for $1 billion in cash and stock, which turned out to be a good investment. 

After Meta acquired Instagram, its user base exploded, becoming the top-ranked image-sharing site on the internet, loved by millions of Americans and people around the globe. The site's biggest advancement was when the Meta team made the app compatible with Windows computers and tablets, and growth continued to rise rapidly.

Meta developed the platform over the coming years, attracting its first billion users by June 2018. Today, the platform is one of the largest social media sites in the world, but it's experiencing stiff competition from TikTok. As a result, the IG team introduced many new features, including "Reels" and "IGTV," to compete with the shift towards the video-watching and sharing market. 

Instagram offers digital marketers a way to connect with their target audience. The platform's robust marketing tools, available to business account holders, provide an excellent way to improve reach and conversion in fundraising and awareness campaigns. 

This post unpacks how to use Instagram for nonprofit social media marketing. We'll discuss the features and benefits of using IG and how to integrate it into your nonprofits social online marketing strategy.


Why Nonprofits Should Use Posts on Instagram

Every digital marketing plan must include social media strategies. There are several platforms, but Instagram offers you the most visually rich app for posting images and videos. It's also an excellent platform for reaching a young adult demographic.

According to data from Oberlo, as of January 2023, approximately 31% of Instagram audiences are between 18 and 24 years old. 31% of IG users are aged between 25 and 34 years old, and 15.7% of users belong to the 35 to 44-year-old age group.

Instagram caters to a youthful demographic, and these individuals have significant disposable income. According to a study by Statista study, in 2021, the average disposable income for millennial households was $84,563. Gen X households have an average of $102,512 available annually.

Many of these households and their peer groups are on Instagram, giving nonprofit marketers an opportunity to tap into this massive market to capture donations. If we examine the content available, IG posts tend to be more polished and not as raw as TikTok. This gives nonprofits the ideal platform for promoting their campaigns, allowing them to represent their brand professionally to their target audience. 

Instagram has over 2 billion users, while TikTok has just over a billion, making IG the better platform for optimal reach into the nonprofit's target demographic. IG has a better mix of content options, supporting images, and short-form video, with options for live streaming. These mediums are the most popular choice of content for people in the 18 to 44 age group, after YouTube. 

Nonprofits can utilize IG marketing strategies to spread awareness of their fundraising campaigns and mission, ask for support, solicit volunteers, build a community, prospect for donations, and show the impact of their initiatives in their local and international communities. 

If you're not using IG in your campaigns, you're leaving donations and support on the table.


Setting Up a Nonprofit Instagram Account

To set up a business profile on Instagram for nonprofits, you'll need to have a standard account first. We won't get into the nuances of setting up a basic account as it's fairly straightforward, and the official IG site has plenty of tutorials if you struggle. 

However, you must open a business account to market on Instagram to run ads. Follow these four steps to convert your standard account to a professional/business account. 

  1. Tap settings.
  2. Click the option "Switch to a Professional Account."
  3. Click the description option for "nonprofit." (There are other options for NGOs, charities, youth organizations, and environmental conservation organizations – choose the option that suits your nonprofit).
  4. Select "business."

After setting up your business account for your nonprofit, add a phone number, email address, and location for your nonprofit headquarters. Connect your Facebook ad manager to your Instagram profile to enable ads. Instagram recently added a feature called "Instagram Charitable Tools," as a nonprofit, you can access this feature. 

According to research into the tool, more than 10% of online donors choose to use this feature to donate, and there is a 93% probability they'll donate again. However, only 13% of nonprofits use this tool, so it's worth implementing it to stay ahead of the competition in your social sector. 

After setting up your business account, you have access to the analytics dashboard that will come in handy for monitoring your ad and nonprofit outreach campaigns. You can track Instagram's analytics for 90 days, giving you insights into real-time Instagram metrics on posts, promoted posts, and stories.

Set your profile picture as something representative of your organization and its nonprofit branding. You could use your organization's logo or an image from your last fundraiser or event. The idea is to make the image personal but professional. The profile picture should be consistent with your brand identity across all platforms to avoid user confusion when deciding to click the follow button. 

Next, complete your Instagram bio. This section gives you 160 characters to explain your nonprofit mission; make them count. Set up the "donate" button in your profile and link it to your donation campaigns page on your website. Add a "linktree," which opens to reveal important links like donation pages, your website, and other social media accounts. 


Content & Post Best Practices for Nonprofits on Instagram

Your Instagram content strategy is an important part of your marketing on the platform. You can post stories, images, reels, and live broadcasts via IGTV (which we'll discuss in a moment). 

It's important to maintain a consistent post scheduling routine. If you post erratically, it sends the impression to your followers that you don't use the platform very often, and you'll experience a drop in audience engagement. If you're struggling to maintain your posting schedule or forget to post, consider using an app like Hootsuite to automate your posting responsibilities.

Stick to the following times during the week to post your content and maximize social media engagement on Instagram's platform.

(Pacific Time) 

  • Monday 12 p.m. 
  • Tuesday 9 a.m.  
  • Wednesday 11 a.m. 
  • Thursday 11 a.m.
  • Friday 2 p.m./ 7 a.m.  
  • Saturday 9 a.m.                 
  • Sunday 7 p.m.

The best days of the week to post your image-based content are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The best time and days to post your Reels are between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., Monday to Thursday. The above times are in Pacific Time, but post in the local time zone of your nonprofit and where you get the most reach.

People tend to view IG the most in the morning, at lunch, and before they go to bed. Most analytics firms agree that posting on the weekends gives suboptimal results, with Sunday being the worst day of the week in terms of post engagement. 

Instagram is a high-quality image and video platform. Don't post images and videos in grainy, low-quality format or you'll lose out on engagement and followers. You don't have to post every day. Start with three to four times a week and adjust your posting strategy based on the feedback you receive from your analytics manager. Stick to these best practices, and your campaign is on the right track.


Engagement Is Everything

As with all social media platforms, engagement is everything and the primary drive of your campaign's success. If you serve your followers high-quality content, they'll like, comment, and share your posts. Use Instagram's analytics manager to assess who likes your posts. Every comment offers you an opportunity to engage with your audience. So, stay on top of your feedback management.

Ensure you reply to all comments to spur more engagement. The Instagram algorithm notices this behavior, and they're more likely to promote your content or push it to the search & explore page on the site, attracting new users to your profile and content where you can convert them into followers. If you notice a potential donor commenting on your posts, stories, or reels, shoot them direct messages (DM) to continue the conversation. 

Use hashtags and geo-location tags to improve the visibility of your posts, reels, and stories. Users often search the platform using hashtags. Use a tool like Keyhole or Hashtagify to analyze the top trending hashtags in your niche and add them to your posts to improve visibility and a better chance of landing on the Search & Explore page. 

In 2023, Instagram launched the "Collabs" feature. It allows you to highlight your strategic partnerships by adding other accounts as collaborators for influencer collaborations. If the partner accepts your collab request, your content will show up on their feed as well as yours, extending your reach to their audience. You'll also share in all engagement activities, such as likes, shares, and comments, boosting your chances of ending up on the Search & Explore page. 

The collabs feature is ideal for planning events with other organizations or thanking sponsors and donors. Showcase your volunteers, don't forget about tagging them, and invite them to collaborate. 


Leveraging Instagram Stories and IGTV (Instagram Video) for Nonprofits

Instagram Stories are a feed of photos or videos. They disappear from your profile 24 hours after posting them. Stories content is separate from your main feed, and they're so successful that 83% of marketers use them. Instagram's Stories are presented as a slideshow with each video or photo representing a new slide. 

Videos can be up to 15 seconds long, and photos appear for up to seven seconds before moving to the next slide in the story. Your followers can identify your new stories by looking for the orange and purple rings around your profile photo. After the 24-hour timeline expires, you can save it in the "Story Highlights" folder. 

You'll create engagement opportunities by adding elements like overlays, captions, and custom music. Followers reply to your Stories via interactive features like stickers and polls or through your DMs. The big benefit of using stories is that they skip the queue and appear directly in your follower feeds. The IG algorithm promotes them heavily, giving you better visibility on the platform. 

Unlike the high-quality content you post in your main feed, Stories allows you to get raw and gritty with your posts. The result is a less "salesy" feeling that showcases a sense of authenticity with your nonprofit's brand and content strategy.

Stories and reels are great tools for posting short-form content. If you want to post videos longer than 10 minutes in length, you'll need to use the Instagram Live or IGTV features. Instagram Live is a fantastic tool for live events. You can spread the reach of your local event globally with Instagram Live, creating a hybrid live virtual event to get more eyeballs on your event proceedings by tagging your post with a geo-tag. 

IGTV (now known as Instagram Video) allows you to upload longer videos. To utilize the feature, tap the "+" icons on the top right of the screen or swipe away from your main feed. Select a video from the camera roll or record one. You can work and edit your video using cropping and trimming tools and choose from various filters. 


Instagram Fundraising Tools and Features

While Instagram has plenty of content features, it also offers plenty of nonprofit-specific fundraising tools for your campaign. We've already discussed the donate button in your profile, but the platform offers many other interesting and useful features that add value to your fundraising efforts. 

Let's start with the donation sticker. Instagram Stories lets you create a fundraiser with a 24-hour deadline. This feature allows your supporters to give to your campaign without leaving the platform. IG offers 100% of the donations collected to the nonprofit, taking no admin fees. 

To access the donation sticker, you must set up your business account and register with IG as a nonprofit entity when finalizing your account details. After completing your account setup, sign up for the Charitable Giving tools. Link to your Facebook profile, and you're ready to go. 

After receiving your notification of eligibility from the IG team, follow these steps to activate the sticker and add it to your Instagram fundraising campaign. 

  1. Open the camera and upload a story.
  2. Click the "sticker" icon.
  3. Choose the "Donation" sticker.
  4. Select the nonprofit organization.
  5. Customize your video fundraiser with the Stories tools.
  6. Tap "Send to."
  7. Tap "Share." 

Start your donation sticker story campaign by uploading video and image content to your story representing your cause and goals. Give your followers a clear indication of why you're raising the funds and what you intend to do with them. 

Get creative and utilize tools like gradient text and emojis to add personalization and drive engagement. Use the highlight feature in stories if you want to extend your campaign and story beyond the usual 24-hour cut-off limit. The highlight feature pins the story to your profile to improve its visibility to your followers.

Pot your donation sticker in several stories to spread your reach and capture more donations for your campaign. Ensure you take your videos in vertical format. 98% of people viewing it will use this format. Get straight to the point with your request for donations and campaign information. Waffling on will cost you viewers and drop engagement, it doesn't work. 

If your nonprofit sells merch to your supporters, consider using the Instagram Shopping feature to promote your online store and drive sales. Advertise your nonprofit merchandise in posts and leave the shopping link to your merch store to drive traffic. 


Instagram Nonprofit Campaign Case Study – Young People's Theatre

The Young Peoples Theatre is Canada's largest and oldest professional theatre company with a rich heritage and 50+ year legacy. The company targets youthful audiences and has staged countless plays over the years to enhance young people's lives. 

The theatre experienced a huge downturn during the pandemic. The nonprofit ran an Instagram ads campaign utilizing augmented reality (AR) effects to boost awareness. The campaign aimed to remind parents of the value of performing arts in children's lives. 

Zulu Alpha Kilo, a Toronto-based ad agency, crafted two interactive AR ads using kid-friendly brand ambassadors. One was a story of an "alien" finding their voice through a theatrical experience, and the other was a zebra learning about the world through attending a live performance. 

Both ads featured a "Try in Camera" call to action that launched the AR experience. When viewers snap a selfie, the AR filter effects display as an overlay, making viewers appear inside a theater scene. Thousands of viewers took center stage as the character to experience it from their POV. 

The ads included a message promoting the viewer to "Star in our AR filter," sharing their experience with the hashtag #StarInAR. The campaign targeted Canadian parents aged 25 to 50 in their Instagram Stories and feeds. 

The campaign results resulted in a 6.3-point lift in ad recall and a 1.8-point lift in brand familiarity. 


Challenges Faced by Nonprofits on Instagram

While nonprofit campaigns on Instagram are highly effective, they aren't without challenges. Nonprofit marketers need to know several things before planning and launching their campaigns. Many marketers run into issues with the IG algorithm affecting the visibility of their posts. 

The algorithm doesn't care if you're a nonprofit and can't determine the difference between business nonprofit accounts and the average user. As a result, you don't get any special treatment on the platform. What you post plays a huge role in the success of your campaign. 

For instance, if you're raising funds for a humanitarian crisis and show images of malnourished babies, the algorithm might view that as offensive content that violates the IG terms of use. It will either ban your post, demonetize it or bury it so far in the site content feed that no one will see it. Continually posting controversial content will likely earn you a "shadow ban" on your account, where no one will see it. 

This destroys campaigns and all the effort put into them. To circumvent this issue, ensure your content meets the IG terms of service and post at the right times and on the best days mentioned earlier in this post. These tactics provide optimal views and engagement and give your campaign post the best chance of reaching the Search & Explore page, where it could go viral. 

To avoid Instagram challenges, balance your promotional content with visual storytelling techniques to change things up and give your account a human feel. Posting promotional content all the time makes your account look spammy, and you'll lose followers and engagement. 

You can't control what people comment on your posts. If you experience any negative comments, respond to them immediately to nip them in the bud before they have a chance to spiral out of control. If you experience abuse, report it to the IG team, and they'll remove the comments and replies from your post. 


Measuring Success: Analytics and Metrics for Nonprofits

Your nonprofit business Instagram account comes with an analytics dashboard to monitor the success of your ad campaigns and the engagement you get from your audience on your posts, stories, reels, and live events. 

Your business account's "Insights" dashboard offers analytics for your reach, audience, and interactions in the Overview tab. These Instagram insights provide data on your reach, total followers, engaged accounts and shared content. You'll get statistics on your stories, posts, reels, live videos, and videos in the "Content You Shared" tab. 

The Overview is the main tab in your insights section. You can access metrics from the last 7, 14, 30, or 90 days. Clicking on this metric gives detailed statistics like accounts reached, content interactions, and total followers. 

You can use these insights to plan and work campaigns and content strategies that deliver consistent organic growth. Analyze these analytics to discover your best-performing content and replicate the elements of those posts in future campaigns to improve your results. 

The "Content You Shared" tab gives insights into your follower and post engagement, content interactions, profile activity, and reach. It's important to note that reach is the number of unique accounts that see your content. Impressions are the number of times the algorithm displays your content. 

Analytics give you vital information on campaign and post performance. Analyzing the data lets you adjust your campaigns with your nonprofit Instagram strategy for better results.


How to Use Instagram for Nonprofits – FAQs


Q: How can nonprofits get verified on Instagram?

A: All nonprofits must verify their account with the Instagram team to prevent spam accounts from popping up to steal your followers and possible donations. The verified badge appears as a blue checkmark next to your profile name. Verified accounts get better reach on the platform and add to your brand credibility with your audience. 

Follow this process to get your Instagram account verified. 

  • Log into your account.
  • Tap your profile or your profile picture.
  • Click more options in the top right.
  • Tap settings > Settings and privacy.
  • Below the "For professionals" tab, tap "Account Type and Tools."
  • Tap "Request verification."
  • Enter your nonprofit name and upload your official business documents.
  • Follow the instructions on-screen and tap "Submit."

It's important to note that requesting Instagram verification doesn't guarantee a verified badge. Many nonprofits are still waiting for approval years after making their submission. Resubmitting your request doesn't make any difference in speeding up your verification application. 

Q: Can nonprofits sell products on Instagram?

A: Yes! Nonprofits can sell products like merchandise on Instagram. Create a post and open it in your ad manager. Choose the campaign objective "conversions" and focus on conversions and store visits to your Shopify page or e-commerce store. IG is a highly effective sales platform for marketers, and nonprofits can leverage this platform to sell more products and realize their fundraising goals. 


Q: How do nonprofits use Instagram ads effectively?

A: Instagram ads allow you to push your content strategy to the front of the cue, increasing your reach and engagement. Since Meta owns IG, the ad interface is similar to Instagram and Facebook. You'll need a business account to access the ads manager on IG. When setting up your campaigns, ensure you choose the right campaign directives and objectives. 

You have options for "Awareness," "Consideration," "Conversion," and "Campaigns" in the ad manager. Each option has different objectives. For instance, the "Awareness" campaign offers increased brand and local awareness, and extended reach for your posts. The "Consideration" objective increases traffic to your site or donation page and more engagement on your posts. The "Conversion" campaign boosts your conversions.


Q: What are the best times for nonprofits to post on Instagram?

A: The best times to post visual content on Instagram are early morning, lunchtime, and early evening. Research shows this is when users are most active on the platform and more likely to see and engage with your posts. Posting outside these times of the day buries your content under everyone else's, reducing your visibility to your target audience. 



Every nonprofit must include Instagram in its social media marketing strategy. Instagram has billions of users, and all your sponsors, donors, volunteers, and supporters use the platform. So, it makes sense to market where you'll get the most eyeballs. 

The image and video-rich nature of Instagram posts make it the ideal platform for capturing the essence of your organization. The adage "a picture says a thousand words" has never been this true. Instagram offers a mix of content media, from videos to images and live events. 

With so many tools and features on Instagram, you'll spread awareness and get closer to achieving your campaign and organizational goals. IG continues to be the go-to site for marketers and their audiences. In 2022, the platform experienced 548 million downloads. TikTok might be gaining on the site, but it's still the second most downloaded app across the Google Pay and Apple App Stores. 

By leveraging Instagram in your marketing campaigns, you can extend your reach and get your cause and mission out in front of a wider audience. If you need assistance with managing your Instagram strategy, reach out to the team at PayBee. We have the skills you need to improve your marketing results on the platform and all other social media apps. 

Our IG experts optimize your campaigns for success. We'll structure your ads, complete A/B testing, and ensure you get optimal results for your marketing budget. Sign up today and get your nonprofit in front of the people that matter online. 


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