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5 Strategies for Nonprofits to Use Instagram More Effectively

By Intern Blogger on 12/10/15 10:00 AM


The U.S. Census Bureau reported in June of 2015 that Millennials are now the largest generation, outnumbering even the Baby Boomers. Thanks to the Millennial Generation the social media revolution has a large army of foot soldiers.

This media revolution has ultimately changed the way Millennials receive and distribute information. 52% of Millennials engage with brands using social networks. Now it is even more essential for nonprofits to be able to communicate their brand and key messages through images, which makes Instagram an important opportunity.

Instagram is encroaching on the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin). There are more than 75 million daily users on Instagram and 90% of those users are under the age of 35. Instagram is on the rise and there is no sign that it is slowing down.

Five nonprofits. Five strategies.

There are some simple ways to make sure your organization is using Instagram to leverage your brand and appeal to those Millennials. Here are 5 strategies nonprofits use to promote themselves and their messages through Instagram.

1. Tell a Story

National Geographic @natgeo


Instagram is more than just images. The imagery has to be engaging and evoke some kind of emotion, whether that is humor, concern, awe, or intrigue. National Geographic publishes quality photos, but also connects a story to each image. Each story asks followers to comment and engage with them on their photo.

A few other elements that are great about this Instagram profile is that on the National Geographic website, there is an icon link to this profile and in the bio of the Instagram account it links back to the website. More importantly, the blue check next to the username indicates this account has been authenticated by Instagram as an “official” account.

2. Composition

Feed Projects @feedprojects


FEED has done something a little different with their Instagram account. They have branded themselves to appeal to fashionable Millennials by modeling each photo like most fashion accounts. Each one of their photos has a picture of their product and each image has similar composition and tone. When looking at these images it is apparent who the organization is, each image is branded. FEED also targets their images toward content Millennials find appealing like fall, food and coffee (insert snarky remark from sarcastic millennial).

3. Appeal to Your Demographic

Food Revolution @foodrev


Food Revolution uses Instagram to target a specific demographic. Can you guess who that demographic is? It is new families and you can tell from the snacks they have posted, the activities, the kids smiling and eating, and the recipes.

Food Revolution does a great job not forcing their message onto their followers, but instead, engages them with content that leads to their message of transforming the food system to support healthy people and a healthy planet.

4. Call to Action

Do Something @dosomething


Do Something is an organization that is all about “making a world that sucks less” by asking Millennials to do something about it. They are constantly coming up with new campaigns to changing the world and they use Instagram to connect and engage.

In each photo there is a Call to Action (CTA). The CTAs are activities to participate in or t-shirts to buy. In each photo it has a brief description about what the campaign is and then tells the followers to go to the link in their bio line to participate. This is a nonprofit that is constantly asking you to do something and provides all of the information is a concise and direct way.

5. Engage the Community

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy @railstotrails


Rails to Trails Conservancy has very specific content guidelines which directly reflects their initiative, creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connection corridors t build healthier places for healthier people. Each photo is capturing a journey that is taking place because of their goal. The unique thing about this account is, people that are active in the community take the photos and Rails to Trails posts them. This account also has a tone that reads like a real living breathing human being. Not only are all the pictures pretty and definitely evoke some kind of emotion. This account could be your friend, coworker’s or neighbor’s account.

Bottom Line

To sum it all up for you, there are five general strategies for nonprofits to consider when establishing your brand on Instagram.

  • Set guidelines for your images; what is going to be in each image, what is the color scheme or who is taking the pictures?
  • Each image should have a story that goes with it or a call to action; each photo has to have a purpose, it can’t just be posted because it looks pretty, this will also help evoke some kind of attachment to the content that is being posted.
  • Keeping in mind who the audience is always a priority; understanding what your niche is interested in or finds important is vital to your images reaching the right people.
  • Your bioline should never be neglected.
  • Lastly, have fun!


Nicole Follini is a Millennial who hails from Westchester County, New York. She currently anticipates graduating from Champlain College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations. After graduation Nicole plans to move back to her home area and work in New York City in the lifestyle and fashion industry.

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The Change Conversations blog is where changemakers find inspiration and insights on the power of mission-driven communication to create the change you want to see.


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