If you’re looking for a powerful and effective way to get your organization’s message in front of the widest possible audience, look no farther than Instagram.

Instagram may have started as everyone’s favorite way to share pictures of delicious meals and vacation photography with one another, but it certainly didn’t stay that way for long.

According to one recent study, about one billion people use Instagram every single month on average. Around 200 million Instagram users visit the profile of at least one business on a daily basis.

Not only that, but the site’s users spend an average of 28 minutes per day on the platform as of 2020 (count me in as one of those addicts!). This makes them one of the most engaged audiences across all of social media, too.

But it isn’t just commercial brands that are taking advantage of the social media revolution that we’re currently living through.

Nonprofits are getting in on the action, too. Instagram Stories for nonprofits are a particularly effective tactic, thanks in no small part to the fact that around 500 million people use this feature every single day.

As a nonprofit, there are a few key things you already know: how important the work you’re doing truly is, and that your cause is absolutely critical and will make a real impact in the life of your community. Now, you just need other people to know and believe in these things, too!

To do that, you’ll need to keep raising awareness, and one of the best ways to do that in 2020 is by leveraging the full might of Instagram Stories to your advantage.

How to Use Instagram Stories to Engage With Your Supporters: Breaking Things Down

At its core, the idea at the heart of the Instagram Stories feature is a simple one — it’s a tool that lets you share multiple photos and videos with your followers, all of which will appear together in a slideshow format at the top of that person’s main feed.

The benefit of this is that you don’t have to worry about over-posting. People can choose to click on your nonprofit’s “Story” icon (or choose not to). Everything you post disappears after 24 hours. It’s not unlike a variety of other social media tools out there, with Snapchat being perhaps the most famous example.

Plus, because Instagram Stories appear at the top of your followers’ feeds, even people who don’t see your posts appear as they scroll might see them — meaning you can reach a slightly different audience, and even a larger one.

And for Stories that you feel are particularly valuable or that you want to keep around longer, you can use the Highlight feature, which adds Stories to your profile permanently so that followers can tap through and view them. This is great for longer campaigns or to categorize your content — you could have a Highlight labeled “Events” and one labeled “Community Stories”, for example.

To put this idea into practice, you need to understand the overall journey that your target audience is going through as they slowly learn more and more about your nonprofit over time. There are four main stages of that “supporters’ journey”, and it may be helpful to think of them a bit like the four seasons of the year:

  • Spring – Awareness. This is the period when your number one goal is to be seen in your community and with your supporters. A great example are these stories from CaregiversAlberta, which aim to promote #YoungCarersAwarenessDay.
  • Tip: Use awareness stickers like location, @mention and #hashtags to expand your organic reach and expose your nonprofit to new potential followers.
  • Summer – Engagement. This is when you really start to reach out and have genuine conversations with your followers, encouraging them to reach out to you, too — like this story from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, which aims to foster a discussion around adoption.
  • Tip: Encourage people to share the post or save it for reference, use polls, quizzes, and question stickers. This can help show you more about your audience’s likes, dislikes, interests and more, and guide your future content choices.
  • Fall – Fundraising. This is when you really kick your efforts into high gear, using elements like donation stickers and calls-to-action to your advantage, like this series of stories from Lift Up.
  • Tip: Take advantage of the recently added donation sticker function, include Call To Actions (CTA) in your captions and do Instagram Lives.
  • Winter – Community Building. Here, you’ll want to shift your efforts towards featuring and tagging other businesses, like these two examples from the Mustard Seed Calgary.
  • Tip: Give kudos to nonprofits and local businesses that have been supporting you. This will help you build connections (who doesn’t love a shout-out?).

You can’t skip right to fundraising, regardless of how much you may want to. Instead, you have to naturally usher someone from one “season” to another, deepening the relationship you’re forging with them at the same time.

As stated, the first stage is the “awareness” stage — one where you try to inform your target audience about what you do, why you do it and why that effort ultimately matters so much.

Instagram Stories can be a hugely beneficial asset to that end, particularly if you post compelling content on a regular basis to really ramp up your following.

Don’t just post a few times per month and then go “dark” for weeks on end. Create and post on a regular basis with a schedule that works for you and stick to it. That will make it easier for new followers to learn more about you, and long-time followers to stay engaged in what you’re doing.

Stay Consistent With Your Branding

There are a few key things you’ll need to keep in mind to make sure that you’re not only using Instagram Stories in the right way, but that you’re doing so while creating the most compelling content possible, too.

First and foremost, you need to make sure that all of your Instagram Stories efforts are consistent with both the overall branding and voice of your nonprofit.

In a best case scenario, absolutely every piece of content you put on the Internet will all feel like it’s coming from the exact same place, enhancing the story you want your brand to tell. You’ll use the same language and make similar choices, regardless of what you happen to be working on at the moment.

Not only does this go a long way towards creating the most consistent experience possible for your audience, but it also gives them something tangible to latch onto. You avoid letting the “persona” behind your nonprofit get confused and muddled, which would only hurt the experience you’re trying to create, not help it.

Fundraising on Instagram: Donation Stickers and More

To really kick your fundraising efforts into high gear in terms of fundraising in particular, you’ll also want to learn how to use Instagram donation sticker features as soon as possible. Instagram allows eligible nonprofits like yours to raise money for charity directly through the platform, and the Instagram donation sticker is how you do it. Once you enable the feature, at that point you’ll want to:

  • Use Instagram Stories to share photos AND videos of what your cause is and why it’s so important.
  • Tell the true, emotional story of what those donations are going to help you and your people accomplish.
  • Highlight the Instagram donation sticker to not only let people know that it’s out there, but how it works. Note that once you highlight one of your Instagram donation stories, it stays on your profile for more than 24 hours.
  • Go live — everyday, or as often as you can. Going Live has the advantage of notifying all your followers who are online that you are posting, so they have the chance to check it out as it happens — and if they don’t see it then, it’ll still show up as a Story. People connect with people. And there is no better way then using video to share the story about your cause and why people should invest in it.

Align Your Stories With Your Marketing and Above All Else, Be Intentional

You’ll also want to work hard to make sure that all of your Instagram Stories efforts fit into your overall marketing strategy for your nonprofit and into your Instagram use overall. Don’t use Instagram Stories just because you think you have to. Use this feature because some core part of the narrative you’re trying to tell MUST be expressed in this exact way.

Make no mistake about it: in 2020 and beyond, Instagram Stories are a powerful way to get people to follow, support and embrace your cause.

About the Author

Kerstin Heuer s a branding and marketing consultant who is also the proud founder of Non-Profit Today. Since 2008, she’s been helping nonprofits communicate the heart of their organization by leveraging the trinity of branding, marketing and design to their advantage. She’s dedicated to helping nonprofits connect with their audiences and achieve their missions – something she’s been doing successfully for over 25 years and with over 500 nonprofits. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at kerstin@non-profit.today.

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