Pinterest for Nonprofits: What It Is and Does
By Jennifer Flaten

Jennifer Flaten
Jennifer Flaten
Pinterest, the new social media site, is getting a lot of attention these days; it seems almost everyone is talking about “pinning“ something to their site. But just what is Pinterest and how can nonprofits use it?

Simply put, Pinterest is a site that allows users to create virtual “bulletin boards” of things that inspire them.

Whether that item is a new fashion, a gorgeous garden, or a delicious recipe, people are pinning it to their boards. These virtual inspiration boards are open for followers to view and comment upon, if they wish.

With the site growing and continuing to generate so much interest, many nonprofits are wondering if Pinterest is something that they can or should use.

As with any social media site, Pinterest has both its pros and cons, and just like any other social media site it requires careful thought before entering.

Many within the nonprofit community feel that Pinterest is a way to express more of the organization's personality, because it is a more visual medium.

That doesn’t mean that an organization whose mission is hard to put into pictures can’t enter Pinterest, but they may have to spend a longer time creating their theme.

Another reason nonprofits should consider joining Pinterest is simply because it is so different from the other social media sites:
  • It differs from Twitter, in that it doesn’t require constant updating and it is so much easier to post pictures. With Twitter, followers must click the link to view the picture and many followers are reluctant to do that so the impact of the picture is lost. With Pinterest, the pictures are right there, no additional clicking necessary.

  • While Facebook makes it easier to post pictures than Twitter, they still aren’t the focus of the Facebook account. Too often, the focus of a Facebook post is to encourage followers to “share” or “like” a post, the meaning of the actual post itself can get lost.
With Pinterest, followers are encouraged to spend time at the “board” reading and browsing the users “pinned” items. This is a great opportunity for a nonprofit to really capture the hearts of the followers.

A huge pro for Pinterest is how easy it is to use. Once users have an account it is simple to “pin” photos, links and quotes to the bulletin board and because it is so wildly popular many websites are even adding a “Pin it” button to make sharing easy items that you find and love.

Another plus, is how visual Pinterest is, just like a real bulletin board and the pictures take the center stage. Nonprofits can use a variety of photos, links, and quotes to tell their story and inspire their followers. However, they should be aware that they are solely responsible for photos they pin and repin and need to obtain permission from the owners to post them.

Followers can leave comments and feedback as with Facebook, but the site is less about the conversation as it is about the message.

As with any social media site, nonprofits shouldn’t enter Pinterest without a plan. That is, what does the organization want to show its followers?

Since the site is so visual, any nonprofit, starting a Pinterest account should take into consideration how they want to lay out their board.

The most successful Pinterest boards are visually appealing, and nonprofits want to make sure that while they are showing a little bit more of their “personality” their focus on their mission and branding remains strong.

As with any social media site, it requires updating, you can’t create a board and let it languish. This brings us to the down side of Pinterest, which is that it is another social media site.

It means the organization will have another site that will require maintaining and updating. In addition, it will require time and effort to gain followers. The organization must ask itself if they have the time and resources to monitor yet another social media site.

In any event, be sure to check out Pinterest.

Jennifer Flaten is a freelance writer. Contact her at
April 2012