Instagram for NGOs: How Media for Social Change can help in Brand Building

Sumati Joshi About Sumati Joshi

Sumati Joshi is a social entrepreneur passionate about sustainable impact. She has a background in engineering and experience with niche consulting firms. A Resolution Fellow, Alibaba Global Dreamer and Harvard Project for Asia and International Relations Scholar she hopes to bring social change through awareness, advocacy, and action.

If there was a Star Social Media Platform of the Year Award for 2018 Instagram would perhaps emerge victorious. It feels like everyone is on it—organisations, celebrities, individuals, even pets seem to have dedicated profiles!

At a time where Instagram claims to have one billion users worldwide, not having a profile for your NGO is a chance missed at reaching a wide audience and marking your digital and social existence.

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While Facebook clearly has more user profiles, Instagram is a strong storytelling platform with a unique and engaged audience. Typically, ‘Instagrammers’ spend more time on the app, satiating their hunger for content in frequent intervals, engaging with themes that interest them. Hearts (likes) come easy and they’ve even developed their own “lingo” (read: language).

Non-Profits are often caught up with core functions such as program management and fundraising to put dedicated efforts into softer, but nevertheless crucial, aspects like social media marketing and branding. NGOs work for the community or a cause—a field of work that requires support, engagement, and resources from their audience.

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Since social media is the easiest way to have your voice heard (without geographical barriers!), it only makes sense to invest time in building an online profile. Instagram is an effective tool to share your vision, mission, impact, appeal for donations, call for volunteers, keep in touch with donors and raise awareness.

Now that we’ve established why it would make sense for your NGO to jump on the Instagram bandwagon, or level up your current insta-game, let’s break down how we can get this done.

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  1. A Business Profile

Instagram for Business is incredibly powerful in helping you understand and interact with your target audience. It also reflects a professionally run organization, and a complete profile can help users contact you directly via DM (Direct Message), Phone, Email or even find directions on Map. It only takes a matter of clicks to switch from a personal account to a business profile. Profile owners get actionable insights about what are the best times to post, what is the demographics of your current followers and which post received most engagement on a personal dashboard.

How to set up a business account

  1. Link in Bio

Instagram restricts the usage of outside URLs through the app, except the one link you can add in your Instagram profile in the website section. Instead of keeping the link constant as the homepage of your website, many accounts use this feature to push an important link to their users. For example, @savethechildren is running an End-of-Year fundraiser campaign and their profile link is the Donate Now page on their website. Each fundraiser related post calls the user to click on the ‘link in bio”. On the other hand, @amnestyinternational’s profile includes a link to their latest video release directing traffic to their YouTube channel. Ideally, the link should direct the user towards your latest endeavor, whether it’s an event, publication or even a promotion.

Link to Bio

  1. #WhatsInAHashtag?

Any word on your Instagram caption or comment if preceded with a hash sign (e.g. #word) becomes a searchable and indexed entity. What this means is that when you click on or search for #word on Instagram the search results will show all posts where it’s been mentioned on a single page.

Hashtags can serve both the purposes: (1.) To add relevant but popular hashtags to ensure your post comes up when people look for these keywords, and (2.) To create a unique personal hashtag that exclusively relates to you and your audience can use while sharing about you. In the picture illustrated @charitywater uses #VolunteerDay, a popular hashtag with ~26K posts as well as #CWCharityBall which is an exclusive hashtag for their event.


  1. Instagram Story

Perhaps the most widely used feature on the platform, Story is a vertical format picture or video that disappears after 24 hours of being uploaded. They are fun and there are lots of options to experiment with, each soliciting a different response. Polls are my personal favorite because it only takes a fraction of a second to get a meaningful response from your followers. Usually, the data captured gives a direct insight, which can be further analyzed for trends. Some other interesting features are:

  • Countdown Sticker: An excellent last-minute add-on to your New Year Story, it shows the number of days, hours and minutes to run up to the date you desire. Perfect for fundraiser deadline reminders.
  • Questions: An interesting way to collect qualitative answers from your audience or collect questions for a Ask Me Anything (AMA) session. These questions collected from users can be added in the subsequent story or a Live one
  • Slider: A lot like a rating scale, this can be used to gauge mood or instant reactions.

(Pro tip: A simple emoji can sometimes elicit a response than a lengthy, framed question)

  • Mention: Just like a Facebook tag, you can “mention” another Instagram profile on your story. If you allow, the mentioned account can reshare your story on their profile.
  1. Instagram Live

Live helps you connect with your followers in real time. In an increasingly digital world where most communication is pre-planned and thought through, Instagram Live gives this platform a spark of spontaneity. Followers get to interact with a real person on the other side of the screen. It is a great way to add a touch of intimacy in your relationship with your e-supporters. Live sessions can span across a variety of themes like Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Subject Matter Experts (SME), Instagram Takeover by an employee, candid chat with your organization’s Executive Director or even a live stream of events—the possibilities are endless! How to go Live on Instagram

Storytelling is a high visibility, high impact communication tool, especially for NGOs. Whether it is a video or photo, a creatively crafted story that calls out a societal problem, appeals to individuals, calls for action and /or shares your effort and impact plays a huge part in your fundraising and brand building potential. We’ve put together a list of do-not-forget tasks that’ll ensure that your NGO’s business profile is #instaworthy in 2019:

  1. Do not forget that Instagram is a mobile application, best used and viewed on a mobile devicethird-partyrd party software let you schedule posts in advance, I implore you to access your account on a mobile device to explore the platform and derive maximum utility.
  2. Do not forget to save your Stories as Highlights on your profile. Highlights appear as storyboards pinned right on top of your profile. Major events, themed photo series, beneficiary testimonials should be clubbed under relevant themes and highlighted.
  3. Post away! Do not be afraid of oversharing. Consistent posts are key to an influential Instagram profile.
  4. Do not hesitate in making an investment in Instagram Ads. It’s super easy and can be done on Facebook itself. (News: Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and since then has made the two platforms very compatible)
  5. In case your NGO / Social Enterprise makes products, do not forget to consider Instagram Shopping as a sales channel. Shopping in Stories is available as a feature in select countries.
  6. As your Instagram persona takes shape and you build a profile- do not forget to keep a tab on your followers. Unlocking thousand (1000) followers gives Business Profiles a “Swipe Up” button that lets you redirect users to an external URL from within your stories.
  7. Do not overuse cellular data while browsing the amazing content that Instagram has to offer. Internet can be significantly expensive in certain parts of the world and the bill is often personally footed by an employee or starts gnawing into the NGO’s budget. Reset the Instagram setting to “Use Less Data”.
  8. Collaborating and Co-creating is inspiring! Do not forget to engage with users to ask for submissions, suggestions or even a one-day-takeover like UN Youth Envoy did for #WorldYouthDay. Watch here.
  9. Do not forget that several great resources are freely available on the internet for you to oomph up your Instagram posts. My top recommendations are:
    1. Canva (Canva – Graphic Design Creator)
    2. Snapseed
    3. VSCO
    4. Instaquote
  10. Do not be overwhelmed about the plethora of options Instagram throws at you! It’s a journey of learning, sharing and growing together. Instagram is a community and the users are rooting for your success—all you have do is share!

PS: Do not forget to follow our Instagram page @fundsforngos so we can tag along in this journey with you. Have a #blessed 2019!

Disclaimer: All posts have been taken from official Instagram handles of respective accounts to demonstrate best practices. All rights reserved with content owners.

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