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How to Use Instagram for Nonprofits

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We all have a little Ansel Adams in us. But for most, becoming a world-renowned, award-winning photographer is out of the picture. That’s where Instagram comes in. With cool features and settings, we can transform everyday photos into pieces of art.

But, first things first, what exactly is Instagram?

Instagram is a social network that operates through a smart phone application. It lets you take a picture and, with filters and contrast, turn it into an extraordinary work of art. When you are finished altering your photo, you can post it directly to Facebook and Twitter to easily share with friends and family. You don’t have to be a professional to create amazing photos your supporters will love. With Instagram, anyone can do it.

Here are a few ways nonprofits can make the most of Instagram.

Show who you are

More than most other businesses, your audience wants to know who you are. They want to see your personality and meet the people behind the doors of your nonprofit. Your biggest strength is the passionate community you already have. Take advantage of it.

Instagram is a fantastic place for you to show your audience who you are and what you do. Take pictures of your staff doing what they do every day. Take pictures of your volunteers working hard for the cause. Go behind the scenes to show your personality and what you stand for.

An Instagram is worth a thousand words

As a nonprofit, you probably hold more events and fundraisers than other businesses. This is a great opportunity to show your supporters what they can expect from your events. It’s also a simple way to promote your next event.

Taking pictures of your event is great, taking pictures of people at your event is terrific, but taking pictures of volunteers in action is powerful. Have your event attendees take pictures and use a designated hashtag to group all of these images together or use your handle when publishing the image. That’s right…Instagram allows you to use hashtags! If you’re not familiar with hashtags, they’re basically a fancy term for the actual # symbol used in front of a word or phrase on Instagram. Hashtags help categorize photos so that they can be easily found.

Build awareness with hashtags

Just like Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, Instagram uses hashtags to group images together. A large number of people peruse Instagram by searching for their favorite hashtags. Make sure to use this technique.

There are many hashtags out there that can help build awareness. Search around and find the ones that are right for you. Some of the most popular hashtags are #nonprofit #activism or #socialgood, but there are plenty for you to choose from.

Remember though, if you are going to use hashtags, you should only share your photo with other social networks that also use hashtags.

Connect the dots            

One of the best features of Instagram is how easy it is to connect your account with your Twitter, Facebook, Email, Tumblr, Flickr, Foursquare, and even your website. This makes Instagram a dynamic tool that can help you build awareness and connect with your audience.

Get comfortable with something new

The best way to get to know any new social network is to take the time to see how other nonprofits and businesses are using it. Mashable wrote a great article highlighting 10 nonprofits and how they use Instagram. This is the perfect place for you to start.

After you’ve researched how other nonprofits use Instagram, set up a personal account to get comfortable with the app and its features before you direct your audience to your nonprofit’s new Instagram page.

So go on, check out Instagram, explore, and play around!

Are you a nonprofit using Instagram? What’s your advice to others looking to use it? Let us know in the comments below.


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  1. Hi there. Nice article. We’ve been exploring ways to use Instagram at our nonprofit, but what we are trying to figure out is this: Do we need an Instagram account for our nonprofit, or just have members and others associated with the nonprofit use a designated hashtag for a particular event and post photos from their personal Instagram accounts?


  2. Hey Josh,

    So glad you enjoyed the article.

    Getting an Instagram account for your nonprofit is a great idea. You will also want to use and promote hashtags for your specific events, but this way your members can tag both your nonprofit’s account, as well as the hashtag you’ve created. This will help build your presence and it gives you a chance to use your account to promote and show off your organization.

    Thanks so much for reading and I hope this helps!

    • Hi Kristen. So far, that’s been the core of our plan—select specific hashtags for certain events (and promote ahead of time what hashtag will be used) and also promote specific hashtags to be used at every function.

      Let me ask these follow-up questions: I currently use my personal account on my iPhone app. So, how do I sign up for another account for my nonprofit, and how can I do that without disrupting my personal account on my iPhone app (if that makes sense)?


    • Sweet.

      By the way…looks like you can post to the business Facebook page if you use Apple iOS:

      “Connect your account to Facebook, Twitter and any other third-party sharing sites where you have an account (Profile > Edit sharing settings). This will allow you to:
      Share photos to those services, including your brand’s Facebook page if you are an Apple iOS user (we hope to make this feature available for Android in the future).”

  3. Yes, this makes sense.

    What you will need to do is first log-out of your current account. This can be done by doing the following steps:
    1. Go to the icon on the bottom right hand corner that looks like a business card
    2. Hit the icon in the top right hand corner that looks like a wheel (this is your options tab)
    3. Scroll all the way down and “log out”
    4. You will now see a Register button – this is where you can register your nonprofit account

    You will create this account just like you did your personal but use your brand information. You can not connect a Facebook business page but you can connect your business Twitter account.

    Here is a great guide from the help section of Instagram that tells you how to add your business to Instagram:

    This account will not be connected to your personal account. You will just have to make sure to log in and out of your accounts when necessary.

    • Good information Kristen. That’s a shame about Facebook since we don’t use Twitter.

      Now, a follow-up to my follow-up: I work in our central home office and coordinate social media as one of my responsibilities. The events and functions take place all around the country. So, the folks who will be posting photos and tagging them are not necessarily employees of our nonprofit. Does that matter? Should someone be logged in to our business account to post photos, or does the act of someone tagging us and our account on their personal Instagram automatically show up on our Instagram page?


  4. Tagging is actually a brand new feature in Instagram that was rolled out this week! This now means that people will be able to tag your nonprofits Instagram account and it will then show up in your Instagram under “Photos of You”.

    Make sure you update your Instagram app to get this new feature. It will also allow you to tag your members or volunteers! Right now you will have to know their Instagram username to tag them, but hopefully soon enough you will be able to just type in their name and tag them (though they will need an Instagram account to tag them).

    Here’s a great article on the new tagging feature:

  5. Well that’s fantastic, must be a new update as well! Thanks for the heads up!


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