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The 3 Best Instagram Strategies For Nonprofits

Terry Ibele 11 December 2017 0 comments

This is a guest post from Social Media Specialist, Lilach Bullock.

Instagram Strategy for Nonprofits

Some nonprofits seem to get thousands of likes and new followers on Instagram effortlessly. 

And while it may seem difficult to get the same results, I’ve seen nonprofits find similar success pretty quickly.

If you’re struggling to get results (engagement, followers, and so on), or simply starting from scratch, I’m going to show you the three best Instagram strategies for nonprofits I’ve seen get more likes and followers. 

You can also watch my webinar, 3 Instagram Tips Successful Nonprofits Use to Raise Awareness and Win Supporters, if you'd like to hear more about getting your organization noticed on Instagram.


1) First Things First... How to Make the Most of Hashtags

Instagram, like Twitter, is a very hashtag-heavy platform, with many of its users searching for keywords and hashtags to find good content.

If you use the right amount of the right hashtags in the right places, you can end up driving a lot of traffic to your account.

In this section, I’ll show you exactly how to do each of these things.


Where to Find Relevant Hashtags For Your Account: 

Many nonprofits end up including hashtags like #impact, #donations, or #nonprofit. Unfortunately, these hashtags are so generic, they end up having little to no impact. 

The way I’ve seen nonprofits find success with hashtags is to first learn what hashtags their target audience is already using.

For example, a writing association might include the hashtag #amwriting, which is widely used and searched for by aspiring writers.

To find your target audience on Instagram, simply type in some relevant search items into Instagram’s search and see what pops up. You’ll quickly discover common trends in hashtag usage, which can help you decide which ones to use for your account.

Instagram Strategies For Nonprofits

If you need help with finding the right hashtags, here's a list of every nonprofit hashtag, which is a great place to start.

One tool that can help you in your search for relevant hashtags is #tagdef, which will tell you what a specific hashtag is commonly used for.

tagdef Instagram Strategies For Nonprofits

If you're looking for a more comprehensive guide, you can check out this one by Hello Social. 


The Perfect Amount of Hashtags to Use:

This a highly-debated subject – should you go for 30 hashtags per post, the maximum allowed? Or, should you keep things simple, and only include a couple of hashtags per post? 

The answer is somewhere in the middle; although there are no exact numbers (every account and every audience is different!), studies show it’s best to keep your hashtags between 5 and 10 per post. One of the recent studies I read from Agorapulse’s Social Media Lab, found that 8 hashtags generate the most engagement – but, 6,7, and 9 hashtags generated close numbers too. 


The Best Place to Include Your Hashtags?

Many nonprofits’ first instinct is to include hashtags in their posts’ captions; but, there is another option that many find better success with. 

As marketing guru Neil Patel points out, using hashtags in your caption often clutters your description and call to action and can actually  put people off. 

The better option is to put your hashtags in a comment, like Water for People does, a non-profit aiming to bring clean water all over globe. Here’s an example of how this looks:


The Best Way to Find Your Hashtag Success:

From what I’ve seen, the nonprofits that continuously create small experiments with hashtags learn how to generate the most success from Instagram. 

One great way to experiment with hashtags is to keep a few different (but similar) hashtags on rotation to see how using them affects your results. Likewise, try different numbers of hashtags per post; you might reach more people and get more engagement if you use fewer or more than 8 hashtags.

If you’d like to experiment with more than just hashtags on your Instagram account, I’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best Instagram tools to help you analyse your results and reach more people to greater success.


2) What to Post to Maximize Success

Hashtags can help you get more traffic, but what you do with your Instagram posts determines if that traffic engages with your account and stays.

While there are many Instagram strategies for nonprofits to maximize engagement on their accounts, the content you post is by far the most important.

In this section, I’ll cover three types of posts that always engage people well on Instagram.


Grammers love quotes

"Grammers" are what people who use Instagram are commonly referred to and one thing Grammers absolutely love quotes on Instagram.

Whether it’s something inspirational, something motivational, or simply something to put a smile on people’s faces, quotes get a lot of engagement.

Even better is when you can relate that particular quote to your cause. TWLOHA, a nonprofit helping depressive and suicidal people, often uses quotes to inspire their audience. Here’s an example that got over 5,000 likes:

In fact, quotes for this nonprofit tend to be more successful for them in terms of likes and comments as opposed to image posts.

If your nonprofit hasn’t tried creating quotes for instagram yet, an app that makes it easy to do so is called ImageQuote.

Nonprofit Instagram Quote


Don’t be all about business, all the time

How well do you know your target audience? What are their likes and dislikes?

Sometimes, to get people’s attention and get them involved, it helps to post some fun content – just to help you reach more of your target audience and hopefully keep them around for longer, so that they get involved in your nonprofit.

Something fun can be a picture of a cute dog that someone brought to the office one day, candid shots of your team from around the office, or something you know your audience is interested in.

For example, DoSomething (the global movement for good) received over 1,000 likes (they usually get a few hundred), by posting this Stranger Things image:

Buying snacks for tonight's #StrangerThings2 binge...

A post shared by DoSomething.org (@dosomething) on

While it was a bit of a risk, the post ended up connecting with fans of DoSomething on a deeper level, proving that sometimes letting your hair down can have a positive effect.


Behind the scenes pics and videos

Another way to attract people’s attention and get them to engage is to post more candid behind the scenes shots.

This can be anything from the prep you’re doing for a campaign, or your volunteers hard at work – whatever interesting is happening in the backstage, share it with your audience.

For example, PETA frequently teases their Instagram fans with upcoming campaigns and projects by showing a glimpse from behind the scenes, like they did with this Mena Suvari campaign, which received over 5,000 likes:

If you’d like to do this too, simply ask a volunteer to snap a few pictures of their day at your event and then send them to you to post. For more examples, take a look at CharityHowTo's post on visual storytelling for nonprofit's Instagrams!


3) How to Get Your Fans and Followers More Involved

User generated content (UGC) can be an extremely effective form of spreading awareness of your nonprofit.

And best of all? You’re getting your most loyal fans involved as well.

The way it works is simple; first, create a branded hashtag for your campaign (try to keep it short, self-explanatory, and make sure it includes your nonprofits’ name), then ask your followers to take pictures using your branded hashtags and following your instructions on what images you want.

You can then feature the best pictures and videos on your account; and not only are you getting some awesome free content, but you’re also making a difference in spreading the word.

The reason why this is so effective is because people trust regular people more than they do brands, charities, nonprofits, and so on.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not selling anything per se; you’re still asking for money and support for your organization, so people are naturally reluctant to trust your intentions. 

But, if they see their friends supporting a nonprofit, wearing their branded clothes, and so on, it’s much more likely they’ll make a bigger impact than whatever you might post yourself.  

For example, the aforementioned TWLOHA created the #TWLOHAInTheWild hashtag and asked their fans and followers to take pictures of themselves wearing TWLOHA clothes: 

Like TWLOHA, feature the best images on your Instagram account and don’t forget to shout out the person who initially posted the image. 

Another similar example comes from NEDA (the National Eating Disorder Association) during their Halloween campaign.

At a time when people usually gorge themselves on treats, those who have eating disorders might find themselves alienated. NEDA, instead, found a way to boost morale and provide some much-needed motivation with their campaign. 

They simply asked their Instagram followers to share their costumes using the #NEDATreat hashtag with the promise that they’d regram (post) a few select entries:

The response from their followers was fantastic (nearly 60 people participated) and provided a whole week’s worth of instagram posts for the nonprofit.

Another big plus of using UCG? Fans often love being regrammed by the accounts they follow, which could potentially turn them into better brand ambassadors for your nonprofit. 


The Secret to Success on Instagram

While you can gain a lot of success from the four strategies I covered in this post and following best practices like:

  • Post new content consistently to keep your audience engaged
  • Use hashtags strategically to reach a wider audience and gain more engagement on your posts
  • Diversify your content often to keep followers interested and engaged

The best advice I can give is to try not to obsess with the number of likes and followers your account has. If you want to grow a targeted, engaged following and community, quality over quantity wins every time.

If you need help developing your online content strategy, feel free to get in touch with me.

And if you'd like to learn more about building your Instagram account, check out this comprehensive guide.

What other great examples of Instagram nonprofit marketing do you know? Who are the best nonprofits on Instagram?


Additional Resources

Lilach Bullock Instagram Strategies For NonprofitsHighly regarded on the world speaker circuit, Lilach has graced Forbes and Number 10 Downing Street. She’s a hugely connected and highly influential entrepreneur. Listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers and was crowned the Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle. She is listed as the number one Influencer in the UK by Career Experts and is a recipient for a Global Women Champions Award for her outstanding contribution and leadership in business.

Terry Ibele [Learning Apricot]

Posted by Terry Ibele [Learning Apricot]

Published Monday, 11 December 2017 at 11:44 AM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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