Pinterest board animal examples. From left to right: "Meow - Adopt a Cat" "Woof - adopt a dog" "Exotics for adoption" Adopted "There's no place like home.

Pinterest for Nonprofits: Pin for a Reason

We process about 90 percent of all our information through our eyes, so it is no wonder that we are drawn to images in order to feed our craving. Pinterest is the perfect place to satisfy this visual appetite – It provides a virtual scrapbook that allows you to “visually share, curate, and discover new interests by posting, also known as ‘pinning,’ images or videos” and organize these things you love onto different themed pinboards. And it is incredibly simple to use. You can “pin” images you find online or upload yourself, or can “repin” images that other people have already shared.

Pinterest was 2012’s social super star — exploding into the digital world and adding over 11 million users in less than a year. But the true potential here is not the expanding number of users, but the demographics of these individuals. Pinterest is being used predominantly by women between the ages of 25 and 44. This demographic is especially beneficial for non-profits; these are the women and moms who are not only making most of the household buying decisions, but also the ones that do the most giving.

In addition, Pinterest now offers accounts for non-profits and business to further take advantage of this social network. These accounts allow you verify your Web sites and easily add “follow” and “pin it” buttons to your site.

*Psst: Check out Pinterest for Business page to find additional tools and guidelines, as well as examples of how a variety of organization’s are using Pinterest.

How is this any different from Facebook/Twitter/other Social Networks?

I’ll admit, when I heard the buzz around Pinterest, my first instinct was “Great, another social media platform I have to learn and feel obligated to be a part of.” Fast-forward to three days and a hundred pins later, and I realized that I had quickly become a pinning addict (at this rate I’ll be attending Pinners Anonymous in the very near future).

So what makes it so different from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc…? Three things: the content, the interaction and the experience.

The first is the most obvious, unlike Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest is all about the images. It is like being able to look through 50 magazines at once, tear out all the pictures you like, and avoid any guilt about how you skipped all of the actual writing. It’s pretty much a picture book for grown-ups, which is not only awesome, but also makes Pinterest less work than Facebook and Twitter. You don’t have to scroll through posts or tweets, or click on links to read the article being referenced.

Secondly, while you can comment on other people’s pins, the most common form of interaction is through re-pinning or liking. This low-maintenance is definitely a big part of the appeal; it is less demanding or involved as Facebook or Twitter and doesn’t have the same “real-time” urgency.

Lastly, Pinterest also has a very different vibe from Facebook or Twitter. Facebook seems to be all about “me, me, me” — look at these pictures from this super cool party I went to and read my status about how I’m having more fun than you right now – whereas Pinterest has a unique DIY, hip and inspirational vibe. Users on Pinterest are seeking a creative and fun outlet to share images of their virtual bucket list and looking for new things to try and ways to improve life.

This is where it could fit right in with non-profits — “while big brands may struggle to tap into the cool, organic culture, nonprofits have a real opportunity to connect with people’s hearts.” They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; well this is the female equivalent — tasty visual treats that tap right into the soul. “Few things evoke human empathy and emotions more than pictures” and done right, Pinterest can help non-profits build awareness for their cause by providing a visual layout to connect with their followers.

So, should you be using Pinterest for nonprofits?

Of course, just because Pinterest is the new hot thing, doesn’t mean that everyone should jump on the bandwagon. Before joining, Mike Duerksen outlines a couple key questions to ask your self: 

  • Do you have rich, captivating images to share? Just because content comes in the form of visuals, doesn’t mean that it isn’t any less important.
  • Are you already on other social platforms? Pinterest is a nice complement and easy to integrate with your Facebook, Twitter, and/or blog account, but I wouldn’t recommend it the platform to start building an online presence.
  • Do you have the resources to do it well? While Pinterest doesn’t involve the same kind of user-interaction, it will still require time and attention to do it right. Make sure you have someone who can devote the adequate energy into another media outlet, and that this individual has a creative eye. Pinterest users are “cool, trendy and savvy” and will “sniff you out quickly if you’re not” — so doing it just because everyone else is won’t hold any benefit for your organization.  
  • Do you place value on SEO? The pins you post are also linked back to the original source, so if you post engaging pictures and videos that link back to your website you will have the added bonus of increased traffic to your site — both a SEO bonus and an additional way to gain new members and buzz around your cause.

I answered “yes,” now what?

Well before you go pin-crazy, it’s important to establish a strategy to increase followers and a set of goals you want Pinterest to accomplish for your organization.

Getting Started – Strategy For Building Followers

      I. Promote through other channels. The fastest way to get your Pinterest presence off the ground is by promoting it through other digital platforms. This can be done through the following ways:

  • Add the Pinterest follow button to your website
  • Promote your presence on Pinterest through your other social networks by encouraging your supporters on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to follow your pins
  • Write blog posts to promote Pinterest account
  • Follow like-minded Pinterest users you would want to follow you back

     II. Make the best boards on a specific topic. Become the expert for a certain subject or topic relating to your non-profit’s mission/cause. This will set you apart from other pinners and create a compelling reason for users to want to follow you.

  III. Engage with other pins. Don’t just pin, re-pin. Follower users you admire and re-pin images that resonate with your organization’s mission and overall story. This will enhance your engagement with users. You can also get your present supporters involved by adding a “pin it” button to your website or blog which will make it easy for visitors to highlight your cause.

Keep in mind that you can also pin videos. This could be a way to give more information on your cause or as a powerful call to action. For example, an inspiring video could share a story of an individual whose life has been changed because of your help and how it also changed your life to volunteer and be part of your organization. You can pin videos right from YouTube, so if you already have a YouTube channel you can pin those in a simple click.

Your Pinterest Goal — Pin for A Reason

While these steps will help you build your presence on Pinterest, the type of boards you create should be determined by the goals you set. These goals will not only help you establish a content strategy, but also help you evaluate your progress on the platform.

The secret is all about “figuring out who you really are, and allowing your supporters to find the many ways that your work connects, inspires, and engages them”. Keep in mind that your audience is looking for ideas and inspirations and the visual content you share should speak to that desire.

The following are a variety of ways you can utilize Pinterest to support your marketing goals:

  • Inspire — Focus on compiling a collection of boards that are in alignment with your mission statement, and create multiple opportunities for followers to find inspiration. For example, NRDC BioGems has created boards that share a variety of images and information, which provides interesting content for its wide range of supporters – whether they’re crafters, outdoor lovers, parents, children, or friends of animals.

NRDC BioGems

  • Strengthen Brand Identity — Reinforce your organization’s branding throughout your Pinterest page and boards by pinning images that incorporate your organization’s colors, and by creating boards with images of your non-profits events and people. For example, Jumpstart highlights it’s employees through the board Our People, which helps Pinterest users gain a more personal connection to the individuals behind the organization.
  • Position your non-profit as a thought leader and expert — Create boards dedicated to providing information specific to your industry. For example, AARP has positioned itself as the leader in life after 50 by creating boards “dedicated to information on Social Security and How to Save for Retirement.”

AARP Pinterest Example

  • Drive Traffic to your website — Drive traffic back to your website, thus increasing your visitors and improving SEO. Mother Nature Network has done a nice job of this by creating boards with pins that bring users back to their website. Keep in mind, you need to strike a balance between self-promotion and including other’s content in order to keep your followers — MNN has done this through their Save the Climate! board that features pins from a variety of users that focus on the issue of climate change and clean energy.
  • Foster relationships — Pinterest can help foster multiple kinds of relationships. One option is to promote companies whose ideals are in alignment with your non-profit through a board such as Products We Love or Wish List, where you could pin companies you admire for their philanthropy. Furthermore, you can also use Pinterest in this way to support corporate partners as part of a larger cause marketing campaign.  Unicef USA has done this through its boards Gifts that Give Back and Inspired Gifts.

Pinterest can also be used as a way to publicly thank your dedicated        volunteers and supporters. Abroaderview has done a great job doing this through creating boards that spotlight their volunteers around the world.  This not only allows your organization to give a special “shout out” to volunteers, but also allows your constituency as a whole to see their support and donations at work. 

Abroaderview Pinterest Example

  • Educate — Pinterest can be used to promote causes and to inform people about your non-profits mission. For example, Amnesty International USA includes boards to both promote fair trade goods, as well as inform people about human rights violations. This is done through pinning must-reads under their Human Rights Reading List board, infographics pinned to a Facts board, and teaching guides for elementary age children under their Little Activists board.
  • Call to Action For example, the Humane Society of New York pins adorable images of fluffy critters needing a home, a board sharing photos of animals that have been adopted, and a Wish List of items needed at pet shelters.

Humane Society of New York Pinterest Example

Remember, like other social networks, Pinterest isn’t an outlet to just blatantly promote your organization. Users are drawn to the organic nature of the sharing on this network and will definitely be turned off if you are constantly shoving your cause down their throat (or eyes). Instead, have fun with it and be creative — pin images that capture the core values and lifestyle of your non-profit and you’ll attract the attention of potential donors and volunteers who share those same interests. Images are a powerful form of communication, and the right kind of picture really can be worth 1000 words (which is a whole heck of a lot of tweets).


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