Tag: instagram

How your charity can get more followers on Instagram.

If you have read my blog before you might have gathered that I like Instagram. My personal IG site/page is personal, but clearly a big part of my life involves leading and volunteering for charitable organizations. So as a result my personal IG page looks like a Hodge podge of charity posts mixed in with my family pics and pictures about my personal images. Not the I would recommend you manage your charities IG account or other social media in this way, probably quite the opposite, however my IG account has a few followers and I clearly am going to use my personal social media to gather support and awareness for the organizations that I am passionate about, that I work for, that I volunteer or that I donate to (or frankly in some cases all of the above).

However I do feel that Instagram is a powerful tool for a charity or a nonprofit organization. It is the old a “picture is worth a thousand words” adage. A charity that has a compelling story to tell -that can be visual should be utilizing this media. Now on social media you often hear people say that it is less important how many followers you have than  how engaged they are. There is some truth to this, however think about this if your charity was offered a 60 second commericial for free during the Super Bowl or you could have that same 60 second commercial on your local community access station -which would you chose? I am guessing you would choose the Super Bowl- why? because so many more people will see your commericial. Having more followers on IG means more people are going to see your story, see the important work you do in your community, and find out about your need for volunteers and donors. Okay so lots of followers is not everything, but lets face it having a few more than you have now isn’t going to hurt you and the likelihood is that the more you have the more donors and volunteers you are going to attract to do the important work you are doing in your community.

So with this in mind using hash tags on your IG posts is a great way to increase your following and the video below tells you exactly how to do this:


4 things your business or charity should do with Instagram

I have to say Instagram or IG has got to be one of my favorite social media platforms. I think it is an ideal platform or communications vehicle for a charity to use. Particularly charities like ours were imagines can easily tell the story of what we do or who we help. I have some favorites among the charities but I think you will find some charities out there who typically would have avoided asking their users or consumers to be part of their awareness campaigns becoming very effective in using vehicles like Instagram. I think to tell the story using this tool you do have to literally build your own audience, but once you have built it, your followers are there for you to engage any time you want to. The video below suggests a few tips on how your charity can build this audience.

How your charity can increase it’s Instagram Followers

Instagram is a great social media platform for nonprofits and charities to use. If your organization has a story to tell or a case to present images will likely help you to convey those messages in a powerful way. However if no one is following your Instagram account you are going to have a hard time getting your message out. Here are a few tactics which will increase both the number of IG followers paying attention to what your charity is doing. Additionally the vlog will give you a few tactics to help you to get these followers more engaged in what your charity is doing.

Instagram 101 for charities


           Last summer I was at a conference. During a session on social media use in nonprofit organizations the presenter suggested that charities were most active on Facebook. This was likely true at some point but personally I am becoming a bigger fan of the potential of Instagram, or IG as its users call it. Nonprofit Tech for good (April, 2014) describes;” Owned by Facebook, Instagram is the largest mobile social network in the United States. With more than half its users outside the United States, Instagram is well-positioned to become more broadly used worldwide.” Personally I view IG as almost a hybrid of twitter and Facebook. You can post great images like you can on Facebook, but the feed has much more of a twitter feel to it. When I say a twitter feel to it, it feels somewhat less cluttered than a Facebook feed. An advantage for a nonprofit is that Instagram does not have a character limit like twitter so for some posts you can tell more of a story than twitter allows.

          Nonprofit Tech for good (April, 2014) goes on to explain why your charity may choose IG as one of your social media platforms of choice. They explain: “For cause awareness, Instagram is a highly engaged community. Your nonprofit will likely receive more Instagram likes than Facebook likes and Twitter retweets combined, and it’s a community that is very responsive to nonprofits and images and videos that foster social good.”

         If you have a minute the full post is worth a read. There is link below in the references to the full article. There are some helpful hints about things like using hash tags and how often to post. While you are at it Nonprofit Tech for Good (2014, February) also has a related post on ways charities can use Instagram for fundraising (reference and link also below). In true instagram type form the post is mostly images so it will only take you a moment to glance through. Instagram does have the capacity to allow organizations to tell their story and their users stories through both images and words. Here is something to consider my personal twitter account has about 10 followers for every one follower I have on Instagram. From time to time I have done peer to peer fundraising and I have used both my instagram and twitter to ask people to support this fundraisers. Even though my twitter account has a much broader reach, most donations come from people who follow me on instagram. Not a scientific analysis for sure but a trend worth considering. I think this is because Instagram appears to be a channel that is more effective in telling a story and developing closer relationships with followers. Instagram is certainly a platform that your charity should consider as part of your efforts to tell your organizations story.


Nonprofit Tech for Good (2014, April) Top 5 Instagram Best Practices for

           Nonprofits as retrieved from http://www.nptechforgood.com/2014/04/14/top-5-instagram-best-practices-for-nonprofits/

Nonprofit Tech for Good (2014, February) 6 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Instagram for Fundraising as  

         retrieved from: http://www.nptechforgood.com/2014/02/06/6-ways-nonprofits-can-use-instagram-for-fundraising/

How often should your charity post on social media?


             If you are responsible for the social media posts for your charity- how do you determine how many posts per day do you do? On my personal social media sites I post a little more frequently than our staff post on our RMH social media sites. Jill who is responsible for our social media always says “only post awesome” –I on the other hand am a little more willing to post something that is a little less than awesome. How often you post on social media does depend a lot on which platform you are using. When considering Facebook Mansfield (2012) suggests;” Large national and international nonprofits with well-known and much loved brands have a different experience on Face Book from that of most small to medium sized nonprofits. They usually have lots of fresh content to share and their fans are much less likely to “unlike” their page if they overshare on Face Book. Small to medium sized nonprofits, should err on the side of caution. Less is more.” Mansfield recommends Facebook status updates of 1 to 2 a day or less.

          I would tend to agree with her recommendations followers, on twitter seem much more tolerant of frequent posts than Facebook followers. On twitter higher volume seems to be a key. The social media expert who manages the site for our Global charity has told me that she tries to target about 12 tweets a day. Personally I have found the most growth and interaction on my personal social media when I am able to average about 20 interactions a day. Now keep in mind I don’t necessarily want to send 20 tweets a day out about our organization. I want some of those interactions to be mentions and retweets of other peoples content. Mansfield (2012, p.97) reminds us that: “Retweet unto others as you would have them retweet unto you is the golden rule of twitter. The more your nonprofit promotes others through retweets and replies, the more your nonprofit will in turn get retweeted and mentioned.” She goes on to advise:” Strategically speaking one of your primary goals on twitter should be to earn retweets and mentions by others because this is the fastest way to grow your follower base (Mansfield, 2012, p.97).

              Twitter followers do have more tolerance for more volume –but a good portion of that volume can’t be about you or your organization. Think about any relationship –who wants a friend who only talks about themselves. On a personal level this is discipline that I struggle with. There are so many things about our organization that are cool that I want to push out there-but there does need to be balance. To be quite honest sometimes I am good at creating this balance, sometimes I am not. Kanter and Fine in their book The Networked Nonprofit, remind that:” The key ingredient for any relationship is good listening. Rather than just talking to, or worse at people on-line, organizations should first listen to what people are talking about ,what interests or concerns them and how they view the organization. Listening is a terrific way for organizations to orient themselves online.”

           So I suppose how frequently or infrequently you post is important, but how much you listen and engage your followers is equally important. When someone who works for another charity is starting off on developing their social media sites and they ask me the question how often do you post? I usually suggest that they experiment with their own volume to see what works best for their followers and their charity. For my own social media my personal targets are 1-3 instagram posts a day, twitter 12-20 interactions a day and Linked In and Facebook 1 to 2 posts a day. I don’t always hit those targets although some days I post at a higher volume. Anyway your charity should test and experiment with different levels of posting, and as Mansfield suggests that with some platforms such as Facebook “less is more.”



Kanter, B & Fine, A,H. (2010) The networked nonprofit: Connecting with social media to drive change.

           San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mansfield, H (2012) Social Media for Social Good: A how to guide for Nonprofits:  New York: McGraw



How is your nonprofit engaging Millennials ?


           I love the way Millennials engage with the charities that they are passionate about. A lot of nonprofit leaders or fundraisers are more concerned with engaging more mature donors. In general the older we get the more likely we are to have more disposable income, and as a result, make larger average gifts than some of our younger donors may make. On average Millennials do give smaller gifts, however they do tend to have a propensity to help an organization in a variety of ways, and they are very prone to doing a lot of marketing for your charity using their social media networks in a way that some other age cohorts are not as likely to.

           For example when studying millennial donors Feldmann et al (2013) found:” Their interactions with nonprofit organizations are likely to be immediate and impulsive. When inspired they will act quickly in a number of ways, from small donations to short volunteer stints, provided that the opportunities are present and the barriers to entry are low (p.3)”. These authors go on to describe (Feldmann, et.al. 2013):” Peer influence plays an important role in motivating Millennials to volunteer, attend events, and participate in programs and give. We have some groups of Millennials supporters who definitely are always looking for different ways to support our organization.

           One of these groups Team McAwesome is one of our regular Home for Dinner groups who come in to make Sunday Brunch at least once a month for our families. In essence they are donors, as they buy the groceries to make the brunches, but they are also volunteers as they come in to prepare and serve the meal itself.  I am not sure I can remember all the ways the individuals in this group help us. Well let’s try, they have used other groups they belong to –to fundraise for us, they volunteer at our fundraising events or are participants at them. Whenever they make brunch they take photos and promote our cause on their own twitter and instagram feeds. In addition they routinely share, like or re-tweet our organizations own social media posts. Some nonprofit executives fail to focus on this group, as their average donation is smaller than other age cohorts, but to ignore the variety of ways these supporters will help your organization seems unwise.

          Even if Millennials can’t give as much as other demographic groups, they nonetheless are willing to raise funds for causes they care about usually by calling on friends and family. (p.3)”.  Some of the other findings in this study –we are starting to see in our own fundraising efforts. For example Feldmann, et al (2013) found:” While Millennials don’t give a lot, they do want to give what they have. One new finding this year is that 53% of the respondents said they would be interested in monthly giving. This format offers nonprofits an opportunity to experiment with soliciting smaller but more regular gifts.”  Another trend in donor support that we are starting to see more frequently is also described by these authors. “Another, less cyclical trend in peer fundraising is the Millennials are starting to ask for donations in lieu of gifts for birthdays and other events. This trend is worth watching (and capitalizing on) as social networks enable and facilitate such giving with greater reach and speed.”

             Supporters in this age group can be triple threats, they raise money for your organization, they volunteer and they market for you using their social network.” Seventy five percent of Millennials like, retweet or share content on social media (Feldmann, et.al)” so if you are able to engage them or enlist them they will be strong and frequent promoters of your cause. However the small nonprofit must continue to be diligent in interacting and engaging these supporters as it is likely that your charity is not the only one they are interested in. In the same study the authors found that 65% of Millennials receive emails or newsletters from one to five nonprofits. Like any donor Millennials must be stewarded and frequently engaged by the organization.



Feldmann, D,.Nixon.J, Brady,J.,Banker-Brainer,L. & Wheeler,L. (2013) The 2013 Millennial  

          Impact Report, as retrieved from:  www.themillennialimpact.com.

Does your charity’s CEO tweet?

          I have to admit two years ago I was a social media skeptic. After seeing what SM could do for our charity I am now more of an addict than a skeptic. For 4 years I ran the Edmonton RMH as well as the Southern and Central Alberta RMHs. While I was running the Edmonton Chapter one of our board members was the co-anchor of the CTV evening news. She was a big fan of our Home for Dinner program in which community groups volunteer to make dinners for the families staying at the House. Erin was determined to get CTV to help us recruit more groups to make dinners. She had a team from the news station cook dinner and shoot a bunch of “b-roll”. They interviewed other volunteer groups about the program. Finally she had me come on to the stations lunch hour newscast and be interviewed while they rolled the tape. It was a long segment and we were thrilled that before the end of the day two new groups had signed up. At this time our twitter site for the house had almost 1000 followers. The day after the segment we figured “what if we tweeted that we needed more dinner groups” We blasted out a tweet and low and behold two more groups signed up. The “a-ha” moment was the tweet had taken about 15 seconds to create and send. We work pretty hard to get traditional media coverage and we don’t get it every day. However using our own social media channel we were able to get the same outcome as our local television station. Not that we have stopped trying to get traditional media coverage, but the situation clearly demonstrated the benefit of using our social media to increase our local profile. A few months after launching our social media channels for the Houses, I was becoming such a fan of SM that I decided I needed to start my own sites/page. At the time none of the other CEOs or Executive Directors for the Canadian Ronald McDonald House was personally on social media, actually I don’t think any of the CEOs for the House in the states were on SM either. More recently some of the CEOs have jumped on the bandwagon, and I have become a firm believer that nonprofit CEOs should have a social media presence.  When the CEO is engaged on SM there can be many benefits for their organization.

          Larry Kaplan suggests:” Businesses are now realizing that the CEO must be involved in social media activities. It raises a company’s thought leadership and credibility.” He goes on to describe: This is especially true for nonprofits, where thought leadership and credibility are much more critical to an organizations brand. Nonprofits are often defined by their policies, services and relationships with their communities-to a much greater extent than a business selling a product for example.”  Beth Kanter would further suggest that;” There are definitely some benefits to having your executive director or CEO present on social media channels. They can provide a human face to your organizations work, unique viewpoint, and serve as a thought leader in your field. “

           It may go beyond benefits for a charity, our world may be changing in such a way that an Executive may not have a lot of options in the future as to whether they chose to be social media savvy. Boards recruiting a new CEO want individuals who know finance, marketing, fundraising as well as how to design and deliver programs. Will social media prowess become a “must have: for executives in the nonprofit job market. Kaplan quotes Ann Charles in describing: “The role of the CEO has been transformed by social media and CEOs have no choice but to become more visible, social and accessible than ever before.”

          As CEOs of a charity we are concerned with spreading the word about our nonprofits mission and programs, we are also pretty concerned about attracting donors and financial supporters. To attract new supporters people need to know what you do, know that you are doing a good job at delivering this service and above all they need to trust your organization. This leads to another reason the nonprofit CEO may want to be active on social media. Zoe Amar points out;” 8 out of 10 people say they’re likely to trust an organization whose CEO and team use social media…[as well as] 8 out of 10 people are more likely to buy from an organization whose leaders use social media.”

          I am more than willing to accept that the sector may be changing in a way that social media usage will become a requirement of the job as a charity leader. I would go as far as to say I think the benefits far outweigh the costs of being engaged in/on SM. However like most CEOs the biggest challenge in being active on social media is the time commitment. About a year after I had started my own twitter (@larrymathieson) one of the other Ronald McDonald House CEOs asked me where I got someone to” do my twitter site? She would start twitter if she could find someone like that.” I laughed and told her I did all my own tweets. Jill manages the social media for our Houses but I did all my own tweets. It is an investment of time and I do think there could be some room for your staff assisting you in managing these feeds. Kaplan suggests;” It’s also important for the CEO to be personally engaged in social media. It’s okay to have staff (usually the public relations or communications officer, and sometimes the development department) manage and organize social media activity, and even ghost write portions of it. But the CEO needs to own and on some level create what goes out over his/her signature with minimal delegation.”  I would not disagree with Kaplan’s suggestion but I do lean a little more towards Kanter’s views in this area. She states;” …a CEO presence on social media is nothing that should be “ghost” written. It has to be authentic, reflect the CEO’s personality.”

          So you are a nonprofit leader and I have managed to convince you that you should be on social media, how do you find time?  I am not sure; when I first started working in the sector I didn’t have email. At some point answering and responding to email became part of my job, like everyone else I had to figure out a way fit it in. In some ways I think Amar in her Social Media for Charity Leaders: A Quick How to Guide, has some really practical advice.  She recommends;” I always say that social media is like exercise, even 10 minutes a day will make a difference, and the more you do the greater the return.”  I wish you luck in your own efforts and I think you will find Amar is right “the more you do the greater the return.”  By the way if you want to follow me –you can find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram all using the handle @larrymathieson .



Amar, Z (2013) The Top 30 Charity CEOs on Social Media, Zoe Amar, as retrieved from: http://zoeamar.com/2013/11/22/the-top-30-charity-ceos-on-social-media/

Amar, Z & Collins, M (2013) Social Media for Charity Leaders; A Quick “How to” Guide, Zoe Amar Communications

Kanter, B (2010) Should CEOs and Executive Directors Use Social Media? On Beth’s Blog, as retrieved from: http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2010/02/should-ceos-and-executive-directors-use-social-media.html

Kaplan, L . (2013) CEOs Must Embrace Social Media…Finally Nonprofit Quarterly,  as retrieved from : http://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/22767-ceos-must-embrace-social-media-finally.html