24 Ways to Use Pinterest Trends to Drive Fundraising and Cause Awareness

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Years ago, while working for a human services agency, I stumbled upon the fact that the most clicked-on item in our e-newsletter was the ‘Recipe of the Month.’ It really had very little to do with our mission, but we wanted to offer something ‘tasty’ that would assure folks opened our emails. The recipes were from clients, staff and volunteers; we then included a sentence or two about the relevant program.  We hoped folks would come for the recipe, learn something about our mission that might intrigue them, and then stay for the meal. It worked! It’s a way we gave them yummy cheese with their healthy broccoli.

That was before Pinterest. If I did it today, I’d pin recipes to Pinterest; then link to video of a group of volunteers cooking up a batch of special meatballs to deliver and serve at a homeless shelter. The following month I’d share step-by-step photos showing kids making an easy, fun and nutritious after-school snack.  The possibilities are endless, and I’d be so excited by the opportunity to expose my nonprofit’s work to folks well beyond my own email list!

Yes, that’s what I’d do.  And here’s why.

Pinterest has become a social media giant. It is now the third most popular social network in the U.S. in terms of traffic. It’s retaining and engaging users as much as 2-3 times as efficiently as Twitter was at a similar time in its history [see this new infographic on Pinterest user data and some basic stats about who uses it and why it’s important for marketers ]. It’s not just a giant scrapbook for folks wanting to simply capture their own stuff in a handy place. Folks pin stuff from other sites – hopefully yours will become one of them – and then they repin and repin, spreading your content virally.

Pinterest is a huge sharing network.  80% of pins are repinned from other people’s boards. So if you offer original content, folks will be hungry for it. It’s also a huge engagement venue – with Americans, on average, spending 1 hour and 17 minutes on the site. Foodies love it (57% of pins are food related – so my old recipe sharing idea would be golden!). DIYers love it. Home decorators love it. Art admirers and designers love it. Moms love it. Women love it (68% of Pinterest users are women and female donors are a growing philanthropic force).  So, if you can key into these demographic and psychographic factors and get folks to your Pinterest boards (and if you have other good stuff there as well) you may be able to get folks to linger long enough to get a pretty good sense of your mission.

Pinterest is based on images. This is the important part for nonprofits to thoughtfully consider.  What do you have that folks might want to share? Of course, if you work with cute puppies, it’s easy. Or amazing visual art.  Most of you will have to work a little harder. But most nonprofit work is naturally image-based.

Images are powerful beyond belief. There’s scientific data backing up the old adages that ‘A picture is worth 1,000 words’ and ‘Seeing is believing.’ A new guide to visual storytelling practices reveals that when information is presented orally only, people who are tested 72 hours later remember only about 10% of what they heard. That jumps to 65% when pictures are added!

Pinterest referrals spend money. In fact, recent data reveals they spend 70% more than referrals from non-social channels. People would rather associate with your brand via Pinterest than Facebook (43% to 24%). And here’s a fascinating piece of data: Pinterest pins with prices get 36% more likes than those without. Plus, 28.1% of Pinterest users have an annual household income of at least $100,000. That’s why you’ll see so many businesses starting to put up Pinterest catalogues – price tags included. Imagine a typical Pinterest user, sitting by their computer, beverage by their side and credit card at the ready.  That’s an open invitation for nonprofits to get in the game.

Pinterest users are passionate. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!  I’m not a scrapbooking type, yet once I tried Pinterest I got easily hooked. I now have 77 boards, including ones on Pinteresting (tips for nonprofit use), Pinteresting Nonprofit Fundraising (examples) and Social Media Engagement. Nobody does passion better than nonprofits, so leverage what you’ve got to connect with folks who share the values your organization enacts.


1. If you’ve not done so already, set up a Pinterest account and build a few boards. Here’s a beginner’s guide.

2. Read up on how to build your profile, generate traffic and integrate Pinterest into your multi-channel social marketing here and here.

3. Brainstorm a list of what you might share that would appeal to lovers of food, crafts, design, home improvement, do-it-yourself, fashion, art, travel, fitness and the like. This is great fun to do with a group, and has the added benefit of educating others within your organization about the benefits of Pinterest.  That way, hopefully, others will continue to send ideas your way!

4. Explore Repinly to see what pins are trending, or go to the Pinterest homepage and click on the “Popular” tab on the left hand side of the header. This will take you to all of the most popular pins at the moment. Then simply make a list of what you might have that is similar.

5. Look through your photos and find the compelling images. A hug from a volunteer who’s just delivered a meal.  A smile from a child who’s just received a comforting teddy bear. A view of a beautiful landscape on a piece of recently conserved land.

6. Pin these images onto your own Pinterest boards with a quick, intriguing caption; then link back to more information on your website (one nifty way to do this is to embed the photo on your website page that describes the pertinent program; then pin it directly from your website. To make this pinning easy you can simply install a pin-it bookmarklet. Users encountering your pinned image will automatically be linked back to your website. (If you don’t link to a photo on your website, you can simply add your website page’s URL to your pin description on Pinterest).

7. Spend a little time with your image descriptions as they will get prominent placement on Pinterest and must be compelling enough to entice the user to click on your ‘pin.’

8. If you really don’t have shareable photos or video, create an infographic. Or do both. These are hugely popular on Pinterest, and Beth Kanter  has collected a whole board full of infographic examples about social change.

9. Add photos or video links to all your blog posts and newsletter articles so that folks can pin them to their own Pinterest boards (make it easy for folks by adding a ‘pin it’ button to the share icons on your blog). The beauty of Pinterest is that when other Pinterest users happen on these images, and click on them, they will automatically be directed to your original article.

10. You have two options. The first is to sell stuff.  The other is to ask for donations. The Nature Conservancy does both. Here’s a link to their ‘support nature’ board; here’s one to their ‘shop nature’ board. Amnesty International built a holiday gift guide board, plus they also sell items via a t-shirts and clothing board. You can find a board full of cause marketing ideas from Joe Waters on Pinterest with some pretty cool ideas I’d suggest borrowing and pitching to your own potential funders.

11. Create graphic images with inspirational quotes.  Folks love these on Pinterest, and it’s an easy way to showcase your organization’s values. Here’s a few about the value of art, the value of justice and the value of education.

12. Engage with others who share your passions by following other boards, leaving comments on pins, repining relevant pins to your own boards and collaborating with staff and volunteers to build a board together. See 12 Ways to Use Pinterest for Your Nonprofit by John Haydon and Why and How Causes Should Use Pinterest by Joe Waters.

13. Consider a Pinterest contest to drive engagement. It’s still the wild frontier on Pinterest, and not many nonprofits are leading the way. So there’s plenty of opportunity. Take a look at 8 Real-Life Examples of Engaging Pinterest Contests.

POTPOURRI of some really cool examples/food for thought. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So borrow these ideas from other nonprofits (and there are more ideas here from Avi Kaplan) and make them your own:


14. Sierra Club. They published an article in their magazine about how to repurpose trash into treasures.  They then pinned the image from the article onto a Pinterest DIY board. If folks happen onto this, they’ll find the Sierra Club has 31 other boards from which they can choose to view images. One of these is eco-eats , playing off of the universal love of food by the Pinterest crowd. You get the idea.

15. Amnesty International. They built a board with recommended books worth reading. They use the captions to reveal how these recommendations are aligned with their mission, offering the audience food for thought and perhaps a reason to learn more. For an example of how this works, here’s the beginning of one caption (for the book “Half the Sky”: “From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.”

16. Feeding America. They developed a partnership with Land o’Lakes Butter. See their pin-a-meal; give-a-meal board.

17. Charity Water. They have a creative fundraising board  packed with 32 different ways individuals can initiate their own campaigns to bring clean water to people in need.  Not only does it inspire action, it also recognizes and rewards folks who have already taken this initiative. Here’s one awesome example  from a six-year-old fundraiser – and I double dare you not to love it!

18. Goodwill.  They have a great DIY board, tapping into the Pinterest community’s love of crafts.

19. National Wildlife Federation. They’ve managed to key into the Pinterest community’s love of DIY with a craft project tied to their mission. They’ve put this right on their website; then pinned it onto their own DIY board. Others repinned it, I found it, and you can see I’ve pinned the image directly to one of my personal Pinterest boards. Since every image on Pinterest links back to a webpage, anyone who clicks on this from my board will automatically be directed to NWF’s website. Nifty! They also keyed into the Pinterest food-loving community with a kid-friendly recipe. Yup, I also repinned this one.

20. Heifer International.  They’re known for their holiday gift catalogue and have taken it to Pinterest. Check out the alternative giving board for ideas.

21. Operation Eyesight. Pinterest users love color. I have a whole bunch of color boards myself. This nonprofit has keyed into this by creating a colorful board that visually and compellingly reveals the importance of sight.

22. Book Ends. A whole board of useful recommendations for kid’s literature.

23. Junior Achievement. Useful tips on money management for kids.  A whole board full.

24. Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I chose this as the grand finale, as they have just about every trend covered.  Mission-inspired DIY crafts and recipes; inspirational quotes; gorgeous nature photos and compelling videos, cute little animals, ocean-inspired art, environmentally friendly ‘plastic free living’ board, ocean reading lists for kids and adults, a travel board of ‘dreamy ocean destinations’ and even a color board of things that glow!

Is your nonprofit on Pinterest?  Do you know of one doing a great job of education, engagement and fundraising on Pinterest?  Please share and I’ll add them to my Pinteresting Nonprofit Fundraising board!

Claire Axelrad
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE contributes a monthly column on Social Media and Nonprofits. Claire brings 30 years of frontline development and marketing leadership experience to her work as principal of her social benefit consulting firm, Clairification. Named Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Claire teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, is a web and audio presenter for Good Done Great Nonprofits and was recently honored as “Best Fundraising Blog” by FundRaising Success' 2013 Fundraising Professionals of the Year Awards. Her passion is instilling an institution-wide culture of philanthropy to help organizations build constituencies and drive increased income to sustain and expand missions. +Claire Axelrad
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  1. says

    I really like what you have to say here Claire! It was a great read and you really did quite a good job of bringing to light many of the issues/misconceptions of social media. Thanks for sharing.


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