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Pinterest For Nonprofits

Pinterest for Nonprofits

You can use Pinterest for nonprofits as a powerful storytelling tool.

Do you remember thumbing through magazines and newspapers and being captivated by a photo of your favorite celebrity, a turn of phrase in bold letters, or an intriguing article?

Do you remember grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting out squares and rectangles out of the pages?

Pinterest is like that.

Or in their own words: Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing things you love.

Instead of print material, you draw inspiration from the web – primarily images and video (and recently, slideshows and audio, per Jason Miles of Marketing on Pinterest) from websites you frequent.

Instead of your refrigerator or a corkboard, you “pin” your findings, called “pins”, onto virtual boards, called “pinboards”. You can categorize these however you’d like.

Who Uses Pinterest?

Most Pinterest users, or “pinners”, are women; as of March 2012, 83% of American users were women, and the average age cohort of the typical American pinner is 35-44. According to comScore, there are now 48.7 million pinners worldwide.

Why Do People “Pin”?

According to a study by Engauge, 90% of pinners look to Pinterest as a source of ideas. Here are some other ways that Engauge identified in which Pinterest benefits pinners:

  • Get inspiration for their careers or hobbies (57%)
  • Store images of things they dream of having (53%)
  • Keep their thoughts and ideas organized (47%)
  • Share their ideas with others (32%)

As of January 2013, some of the most popular categories of pins and boards include:

Popular Pins

  • Food and Drink
  • DIY and Crafts
  • Other
  • Home Decor
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Women’s Fashion

Popular Boards

  • Home Decor
  • Other
  • Art
  • Design
  • Women’s Fashion

Should My Nonprofit Use Pinterest?

At this point, you may wonder what place your nonprofit would have in a space that seems more suited to the likes of Martha Stewart magazine or Etsy.

My first foray into Pinterest had me feeling like Alice when she first stumbled into the rabbit hole to Wonderland. It was remarkable how easily three hours would pass meandering through myriad images of DIY ideas, delicious recipes, decorating tips, motivational quotes, and wedding dresses.

I shared that to acknowledge the potential of Pinterest being a black-hole of time, which, along with money perhaps, your nonprofit doesn’t have enough of; however, the use of any social medium carries this risk.

And based on the Nielsen Company’s report on social media trends for 2012, social media is becoming increasingly indispensible storytelling tool for businesses and nonprofits, writes Aine Creedon for Nonprofit Quarterly:

It has been about a decade since social media became an influential force on the Internet, and although many thought it would merely be a fad, report after report shows us that social media isn’t going away anytime soon. Nielsen’s report links the consistent trend of social media growth to the emergence of new and innovative social networks…

Is Pinterest for You?

So how can you know whether Pinterest suits your nonprofit? Ask yourself:

Who’s following our stories?

If most of your audience and supporters are women – especially those in their mid-thirties to mid-forties – being present on Pinterest is strongly encouraged. And as more millenials (Generation Y) – arguably the most tech-savvy, social media oriented sector of the population – join your support base, it’ll get harder to ignore Pinterest.

How are we telling our stories?

If your nonprofit uses photos and videos to tell stories, Pinterest is a great way to share them.

If you’ve got a YouTube channel or Flickr page where you upload & share your videos and photos, respectively, pinning these moving and static images to your Pinterest page would expand your exposure.

Even if your stories are told primarily through words, whether they’re updates on your website or entries on your blog, as long as you’re including images in these posts (per good blogging practice), they’re pinnable. Infographics and inspirational pithy quotes lend themselves to repinnability.

For example, the screenshot is of my pin of a post from Guy Kawasaki’s blog; the post consisted of an infographic breaking down the components of a blog post. First pinned about two years ago, it’s my most repinned (454) and liked (124) pin.

Are our stories being shared?

Your nonprofit doesn’t have to be on Pinterest profile to have a presence on Pinterest. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation doesn’t have a Pinterest profile (yet) but plenty of pinners are sharing their content.

Tip: Check if your nonprofit’s being talked about on Pinterest simply by substituting your website’s URL (http://pinterest.com/source/gatesfoundation.org/) for “gatesfoundation.org” and enter the URL in your browser to see.

Pinning Like a Pro

If you’ve identified your core audience and the key ways you’re telling stories and determined that Pinterest fits your nonprofit, you’re almost ready to start the pinning party!

Why Businesses Pin: Set Goals

First, you’ll need to determine why you’re pinning and what you hope to accomplish through Pinterest. If you glance through the success stories of different businesses using Pinterest, you may notice they share goals that apply to nonprofits also.

  • Branding: Businesses use Pinterest as a megaphone and a stethoscope; that is, they’ve used it to grow and build their brands and to monitor and take the pulse of their brand. Pinterest offers web analytics for businesses; you’ll need to verify your website to access them, but it’s a simple process.
  • Sales and/or Web Traffic: For retail businesses, if these two aren’t the same thing, they’re very similar. According to the U.S. Census, 80% of household discretionary spending is controlled by women. While fundraising would be the nonprofit’s equivalent to sales – you certainly could pin a campaign onto Pinterest – I would focus a nonprofit’s Pinterest plan on driving web traffic and reserve pinning for specific campaigns and/or certain seasons rather than long-term fundraising strategy.
  • Content Strategy: Pinterest analytics inform businesses which of their content resonates most with their customers, like with wikiHow, or the best ways to share their content, like with Etsy. Companies will adjust their approach to content accordingly. The overarching theme(s) of your stories may not change but the reasons you share the stories may shift. Sometimes we tell stories to educate; other times, we tell stories to inspire; a lot of times, to propel ourselves to act.
  • Community: For businesses, fostering camaraderie ties well with building brand loyalty; for your nonprofit, your community drives progress.

Get started with Pinterest

It would be wise to proceed with creating a Pinterest page even if you won’t be populating it right away. Like with Twitter, you might run into brand squatting, so go ahead and set up your page. Then download Pinterest’s how-to guide.

Be complete and specific

Some tips from HelloSociety I’d highlight as you hit the ground: provide as much information in your profile about your nonprofit, including where you’re based and your website (which you should verify with Pinterest). Some people might first discover your nonprofit on Pinterest than your website, so your profile will serve as an introduction.

charity water pinterest

Start with 5-10 pinboards with specific categories – e.g., “creative fundraising ideas”, “children’s home in kenya” – and have at least 5 pins for each pinboard.

This will at least give the first impression of having stories to sift through. As you continue sharing your stories on Pinterest, your existing boards will get fuller and you may create new boards.

Make your stories “pinnable”

If your videos are on YouTube and your photos are on Flickr, they’re already pinnable – YouTube and Flickr have enabled sharing via Pinterest. Including images in your posts and the Pin It button on your blog makes it that much easier, too.

Levo League does this quite well.

Note how the articles’ titles are worked into the image. At first, it seems overwhelming to populate an entire pinboard of career advice, but this actually makes Levo League’s content digestible – it’s easy for pinners to peruse then pick which one(s) they want to read.

You could argue that the Gates Foundation, who we highlighted in a previous post, gets by perfectly well without fussing with Pinterest and by simply focusing on the quality of their content.

I’d agree that even the best graphics won’t make up a deficit of substance –- but it could only help!

Share others’ stories

If you’re thinking, “We don’t have enough stories to fill our boards!”, be assured it’s okay; over time, you’ll have stories to share.

But you can also create collaborative boards whereby you invite other pinners to pin to it. This is a great way to let your supporters help tell your story and help them connect with one another.

Also, feel free to repin other like-minded nonprofits’ stories, too. If one of your goals in setting up shop on Pinterest is to raise awareness and educate, don’t be afraid to share that really good infographic on human trafficking that came from another nonprofit.

Being focused solely on self-promotion gets exhausting and who knows what opportunities to network and collaborate with other nonprofits you might discover because you showed some Pinterest love? Install the Pin It button onto your browser to help share content and follow some other nonprofits, too.

Pace your pins

When you do pin, set the total number of pins (across boards) to 15; pinning more than that in one sitting might be leave your followers feeling innundated.

Spacing those 15 pins across a work week would suffice and wouldn’t add much time to your social media schedule. Or you could just devote a chunk of time once a week to do your pinning.

While Engauge’s study found that about two thirds of pinners are most active at night (between 8 p.m. and midnight), don’t feel pressured to be pinning at that time. The same study found that a number of pinners are on Pinterest multiple times a day.


We hope this series of posts helps you better broadcast your story and advance your mission. Here are a few links for more information and ideas:

Happy Pinning!

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