Instagram Stories for Nonprofits

How to use them and why they are impactful

by: Nicole Grossberg

There’s no question that social media is tough to keep up with. It seems like every other day there’s a change to the algorithm, a new platform emerges, or a fresh feature is released. It might seem overwhelming, but have no fear! There’s no need to utilize every platform and every feature, but as a nonprofit there’s a huge benefit to Instagram stories, and we’re here to tell you how to get the most out of it for your org.

Why Instagram Stories? Can’t I Just Post On My Feed?

Sure you can. But there’s this pesky thing called the Instagram algorithm, which personalizes your feed based on who and what you like on the platform. According to Later, “Instagram’s main goal is to help you see content from your ‘friends and family,’ and with the algorithm, they say that people now see 90% of posts from their friends and family, instead of 50% when it was the chronological feed.”

What this boils down to is just because your fans follow you doesn’t mean they will actually see your content in their feed. This is where stories come in. While it is still not confirmed how stories are ranked there are some theories floating around that it’s more heavily based on chronological order. Regardless, stories are an extremely valuable piece of real estate in the social media landscape.

Why should I use Instagram Stories for my nonprofit?

User Growth Is Outrageous

As a nonprofit, there is a good chance you have limited resources, especially when it comes to content creation. Instagram stories are a great place to reach a very large user base for little to no investment (more about that below). According to Instagram, in just 13 months Instagram stories user growth rose an astonishing 200% from 100M users to 300M users as of November 2017. That’s almost as much as the population of the United States!

Content Is Ephemeral

Instagram stories only last 24 hours, and once that time is up it’s gone forever. Unless you put it as part of your highlights, that is. We have to give credit where credit is due and Snapchat was definitely the pioneer of the fleeting disappearing genius that is stories. Thanks to them there’s an easier (and more economical) way to reach your target consumer.

Now, why is it economical and useful for nonprofits? Because this type of content is short lived and won’t be stamped on your feed permanently, the images and videos you post don’t have to be polished and perfectly executed. In fact, consumers tune in to stories for their authentic feel. It gives them a chance to take a look behind the curtain and get to know the brand or organization on a more personal level.  

What types of content should my nonprofit post on stories?

Behind the Scenes

Who doesn’t like to feel special?! By giving your audience an inside look you’re telling them they are important and deserve to see a different side to your organization. Many charities and brands execute this by doing tours of their office, showing prep for events so fans can see “how the magic happens” or featuring employee outtakes to highlight the culture of the company.


For nonprofits in particular, stories can and should be used to educate about your cause. As long as you aren’t constantly preaching, it’s totally okay to talk about your organization and what you stand for. Check out the example from Doctors Without Borders.

Shout-Out to Your Fans

This is a super simple way to make your most loyal followers or those who donate to your charity feel appreciated. Whether it’s a tweet, a $25 contribution, or pictures from an event, the little things people do go a long way. Take a look at how Kiva showed their gratitude in this story:

Ask Questions and Learn About Your Audience

Other fun and engaging tools are questions and polls. Both offer a fantastic and authentic way to connect with your audience. Ask fans a question or give them an opportunity to ask about your nonprofit and its mission. Below are examples from Lonely Whale, Calpak and Womens Health UK.

Provide Value, Value, and More Value

Last, but certainly not least—always give your fans content that will benefit them. It doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about campaigns and initiatives that ultimately keep your nonprofit running, but at the end of the day consumers won’t be loyal to a brand that’s only receiving and not giving. Below are two stellar examples from The Years Project and the American Heart Association. Notice how The Years Project provides value by arming their audience with answers to burning questions, while also educating them on their cause.

Key Takeaways for Nonprofits Getting Started with IG Stories

  • Give your fans something they want or need!

    We can’t stress this enough. Providing value should always be your number one priority, even over promoting your nonprofit and mission of your organization.

  • Educate

    As a secondary priority after value, make fans and consumers aware of what your nonprofit is about. Humans inherently want to help, so if they see something that triggers a personal passion, they are more likely willing to donate, write to their local legislator, or sign up to volunteer.

  • Give devoted fans some love on your stories

    They will appreciate the thank you.

  • Use IG features to gain insight

    Polls and questions are gold for marketers. Find out what type of content your audience wants to see and what they want to learn from you.

  • Don’t take it too seriously

    You definitely don’t need to invest tens of thousands of dollars on photoshoots and models, especially with limited resources. The more authentic and relatable your content is, the better.

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