How To Use Pinterest to Advance Your Organization

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We kicked off our Think Tank Summer E-learning Series with a webinar presented by Heidi Hancock, CFRE & David Svet from Mosaic Non-Profit Development on Pinterest for nonprofits.  Here’s a rundown for you from the presenters, with additional answers to the questions asked during the webinar.  Get the recording here.


Pinterest is an online social media platform that enables members to pin images to pinboards, save them, name them, describe them, and share them. It is an online community for collecting and sharing visual images. It offers some distinct advantages over other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that can be a powerful way to augment your organization’s community outreach and inbound marketing.

Pin boards are used by architects and designers to collect color swatches and material samples along with pictures and drawings in order to aid the process of generating a design. They are portable bulletin boards or scrapbooks with the purpose of telling the story of a design that is in development. Pinterest is an online version of the traditional pinboard.

Organizations can use Pinterest to tell their story to all of their constituencies — donors, sponsors, volunteers, members, potential members or employees, and the community at large. By organizing your organization’s case structure, interpreting it to a story archetype such as the fairytale, and then depicting your story visually on pinboards an organization can communicate with all of their constituencies in a powerful media. Since most people are visually dominant and learn best from visual input, Pinterest is an ideal way to significantly expand your storytelling abilities in social media space.

One of the most significant advantages of using Pinterest is that each image pinned includes a backlink to the image’s original source location — either online or uploaded by the user. So by pinning images from the stories that an organization is already telling online, it’s possible to create a large number of backlinks to those places. This increases that story’s chances of ranking highly in search engine search results. Because pins can be re-pinned by followers it is possible to exponentially increase the number of backlinks coming to your website and blog. This reason alone is enough to make it worthwhile to take a serious look at Pinterest.

As a social media platform in its early stages of development, Pinterest is changing rapidly and gaining a huge following. It isn’t a sure bet in that there are a lot of rumblings about copyrights and pinning someone else’s images. Lawyers and courts will sort this out. But for an organization to tell its own story with its own images, Pinterest is an ideal platform.


With regards to using photos on a blog…what are the laws regulating fair use, and giving credit to the owner of the pic?

Copyright laws are very clear. If you don’t own it, you can’t use it for commercial purposes. Creative Commons licenses are used for a lot of images online and allow you to use the image if you follow the terms of the license. It’s best to use your own organization’s images or images that you buy to tell your story.

Is it poor form to have Pinterest board only have photos from your website?

Yes. Having ONLY the photos that already appear on your website is selling your opportunity short. It can increase the number of backlinks to your site and may improve site traffic. But there is so much more that can be done to communicate with all of your different constituencies that it would be a waste not to do more.

I heard that someone has to “invite” you to use Pintrest. Is this true? What if you don’t know anyone on Pintrest and you want to sign your non-profit up — will it be difficult?

Yes, Pinterest is currently in private Beta testing and requires an invitation from a current Pinterest user. There are millions of Pinterest users, so it should not be too difficult to find someone who can do this. It only takes giving that person your email address and clicking to send you an invitation. If you can’t find anyone, send me an email and I will invite you to join: davidsvet[at]

ASPCA is using a hashtag in their description: #EndAnimalAbuse. Are there hashtags on Pinterest? How does that work?

Yes, you can use hashtags with Pinterest. But they don’t work quite the same way as you may have seen on other platforms. On Pinterest, clicking on a hashtag will conduct a search of the term following the hashtag and takes you to the results of the search.

How do you find and track the total number of re-pins? Some sort of ROI…

Your total number of pins is found in the header of your Pinterest profile. Also each board lists the number of pins on the board. ROI will be different for a lot of organizations. One way to track ROI in cash is to track the number of click-throughs from items for sale on your Pinterest profile that are purchased in your online store. It is highly likely that you wouldn’t have had those sales without the referrals. For more information on calculating ROI from your social media efforts see Olivier Blanchard’s book Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization.

When will Pintrest images be integrated with search engine “image results”?

They are currently searchable, however there aren’t a lot of outside links to Pinterest pins so they don’t rank highly at the moment. This is changing as retailers are posting more products on Pinterest. Do a search for, “bottles to organize bracelets,” and you’ll see Pinterest results in the search.

Have you heard of using hashtags for pinboard titles?

Yes, using a hashtag in a pinboard title allows the title to be searchable on Pinterest. It will deliver all of the other instances of the word in the title in the search results.

These [examples] seem highly concentrated on non-profit and profit getting. Any examples for industry uses? Story doesn’t fit the same format.

Actually, the fairytale format works brilliantly for business. All products and services solve a problem (or should). The problem is the villain and your business is the hero that defeats the evil problem and delivers a tremendous benefit to the benefactor.

For an organization that is just starting out, what pinboards do you recommend that should be set up first to gain a following?

I would start with the most compelling images that I have available or can get. Then tell the story of what those images mean to your organization. Then I would break down my organization’s story into a case structure and tell turn the elements of the case structure into the characters of a fairytale. Then it is a matter of finding or creating the images that tell those stories. Hit your most important constituency first that will yield the greatest result for your organization. Then move on to the others. Repeat the process on an ongoing basis so that you always have fresh stories to tell.

How do you suggest gaining followers?

Pin great images. These are pictures that other people find so compelling that they want them on their pinboards. When someone repins your image, reciprocate and repin one of theirs if appropriate, or follow some of their boards. It is a social community that relies on sharing and reciprocity. Be generous, offer comments, be gracious and respond when spoken to. You’ll get followers.

How often do you recommend adding a pin to Pinterest?  Are there best practices for this or is it just when you are inspired to do so.

Pin as often as you can without being obnoxious by constantly pinning. But you have to have a presence. Most pins are repinned at the time you pin them. Most people will follow you when they see a few of your pins and go to check out your boards. It’s one of those things where you must be present to win.

Can you use pinterest to recruit volunteers or staff?

Absolutely! Showing what it is like to volunteer or work for your organization is a fantastic use of Pinterest. It’s a place where you can celebrate volunteers and employees while showing off how great it would be to join you.

Thank you so much to David and Heidi for being our first set of presenters in the Think Tank Summer E-Learning Series!  REGISTER HERE for our next webinar at noon ET on July 26, Google+ for Nonprofits with Shelly Kramer and Debra Askanase.

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