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Instagram Introduces a Donate Button

By Lori Sampson, MBA, EA, CAM

If a picture is worth a thousand words, quality images can be powerhouses when it comes to communicating your nonprofit’s mission and impact. Images can wordlessly convey recent accomplishments or a compelling need. Images move people.

Enter Instagram. A social platform designed around sharing images. Nonprofits have been slower to incorporate Instagram into their marketing and public relations strategy. The reasons vary but often include the perception that Instagram attracts a younger demographic than other social media services and isn’t a place for social activism.

However, the time is ripe for nonprofits to give the platform another look. Not just because of the power of pictures to tell your story, or because Instagram is now growing at a faster rate than other, more familiar platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Now is the time to reconsider Instagram in your outreach because the social media platform announced this year it would be adding a donate button for nonprofits. That is no small matter for nonprofits looking to attract new followers and donors.

Who’s On Instagram?

For every 1,000 email addresses on their contact lists, nonprofits had an average of 41 Instagram followers and 474 Facebook fans, (2018 M+R Benchmark Study). While your organization may have fewer or more, the important thing is the trend. Users on these platforms have both been increasing, but the rate of Instagram use has been growing faster than that of Facebook.

The upshot is that many of the people you already have a relationship with are using Instagram, and many of those who don’t, will be soon. The goal is to get those supporters to share your images, stories, and hashtag to reach a whole new population who don’t know you.

Social media isn’t just a tool to increase awareness of your organization and its mission. It’s a tool to prompt action and an effective tool at that. Both Facebook and Instagram are effective for promoting events, particularly with their capacity for live video feed. And survey research has demonstrated that the majority of nonprofit donors, regardless of generation, prefer to give online. According to the Global Survey on Giving Report conducted by the Public Interest Registry, social media was the communication tool most likely to inspire giving, slightly edging out emails. A website (18 percent) and print (12 percent) were less likely to inspire giving, followed by television ad (6 percent), phone call (3 percent) and radio ad (3 percent). According to that same survey, the social media apps most effective for inspiring a donation were Facebook and Instagram.

Last year’s announcement by Facebook that fundraising on its platform had reached $1 billion caused quite a stir in the nonprofit community. Clearly, social media is a force in philanthropy. And Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is ready to start growing its influence in the world of online giving.  

How Does the Donate Button Work?

Instagram users can choose to add a donate button to an Instagram story, video or photo by selecting the new “Donation” option from the special effect menu. That’s the same place that includes things like Location, Countdown, or Music. The user is directed to a charity menu to select who they want their followers to support.

The organizations a user is able to select are pre-approved by Facebook. The approval process in the United States involves Facebook confirming with the Internal Revenue Service that the charity has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status "in good standing."  The organization must be signed up to accept donations on Facebook, and its Facebook account needs to be connected to their Instagram account.

What to do now?

If you aren’t already on Instagram, start with a serious planning session. The challenge for many nonprofits is creating fresh content suited for the visually driven platform. You’ll need a bank of images and story ideas. Instagram Stories are a great tool for nonprofits versus just an image because you can add your hashtags and context in a few short sentences. However, stories expire after a day and aren’t permanent part of your feed. Nor do they allow for paragraphs of exposition or hyperlinks to lead users to external content. Consider starting off with a few Instagram stories that you can “highlight,” which means they will stay “pinned” to the top of your Instagram feed just below your profile, which is also where users will see a link to your website.

If you don’t have a branded hashtag, now is the time to come up with one. You need your hashtag on your stories on Instagram, but more important is to have your tags show up in other users’ posts. Include the hashtag in your emails to your current supporters to encourage them to use them in their social media posts. Let your supporters know you are on Instagram so they will start following you and sharing your posts.

After you are up and running on Instagram, you’ll need to get your organization approved to receive donations. Then look to your supporters. Let them know about Instagram’s new donate button and your status as an eligible charity! Once you get a supporter to use that button on your behalf, be sure to show them the #donorlove on your social media.

It will be some time before we know if Instagram will have the same billion-dollar impact on fundraising that Facebook has had. Regardless, they are making the effort to help organizations reach new people in new ways. It’s worth putting some thought into how your organization can best utilize the app in your communications. 

Lori Sampson is a partner with Myers, Brettholtz & Company, PA and manages the accounting services department.  Her years of experience include working with nonprofit organizations, small business, and homeowner and condominium associations performing part time CFO, controllership and consulting services.? She has been with the firm since 1993. 

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