50 charities with biggest Instagram followings

I’ve been doing lists of the charities with the biggest Twitter and Facebook audiences for a while now.

And as time has gone on, there’s a question that has become more frequent: why don’t you do a list for Instagram?

It’s a question I’ve struggled to answer, because the truth is that I’ve tended not to think that much about Instagram because I don’t really get it.

It’s not a platform I’m on myself and (whisper it!) I only have a shallow knowledge of what distinguishes it from the other platforms.

But while my lack of understanding and interest has made it seem peripheral, the statistics show that it’s anything but. The latest Ofcom data suggests it’s now reaching 23.1 million people in the UK, after having seen 22% year-on-year growth last year.

This, together with the fact that it’s becoming increasingly central to our thinking at my charity, prompted me to do a list of the 50 charities with the biggest Instagram audiences.

The thing that stands out to me is what big differences there are between follower numbers. There are seven charities with more than 100,000 followers (compared to the 40 charities that have followings of more than 100,000 on Twitter), while at the other end of the scale there are some well-known charities with fewer than 3,000 followers.

Instinctively – and, as explained above, this isn’t an insight that comes from a place of knowledge – it also feels like Instagram offers good potential for growth.

Firstly, charity Instagram audiences tend to be so much smaller than for Twitter despite usage of the platform not being that far behind that of Twitter. And secondly, the National Trust’s audience of almost 500,000 shows that it’s possible for a charity to use it to develop a mass audience.

And my final thought? I’d expected the visual nature of Instagram to mean animal charities would perform well on it. The ranking seems to back this up, with four of them in the top 10.

So maybe I get Instagram a bit more than I thought I did!

Anyway, here’s the list…

Instagram followers

  1. National Trust, 497,848
  2. Dogs Trust, 193,174
  3. Unicef UK, 169,834
  4. Battersea Dogs and Cats, 139,966
  5. Cancer Research UK, 124,661
  6. Mind, 114,909
  7. WWF, 107,982
  8. RSPB, 99,690
  9. Woodland Trust, 99,258
  10. Amnesty UK, 84,280
  11. Save the Children, 82,571
  12. Royal British Legion, 79,617
  13. RNLI, 77,435
  14. RSPCA, 77,248
  15. BBC Children in Need, 66,908
  16. Macmillan Cancer Support, 58,899
  17. Cats Protection, 57,574
  18. Oxfam, 51,274
  19. Guide Dogs, 46,710
  20. Alzheimer’s Society, 43,825
  21. British Red Cross, 41,360
  22. Art Fund, 36,827
  23. Young Minds, 35,496
  24. Prince’s Trust, 35,265
  25. Comic Relief, 32,433
  26. BHF, 30,707
  27. Rethink Mental Illness, 29,311
  28. Help for Heroes, 28,038
  29. Great Ormond Street, 27,846
  30. National Trust for Scotland, 26,747
  31. Breast Cancer Now, 26,527
  32. Diabetes UK, 26,029
  33. Blue Cross, 24,920
  34. Teenage Cancer Trust, 23,641
  35. Breast Cancer Care, 23,423
  36. NSPCC, 19,752
  37. PDSA, 18,379
  38. Donkey Sanctuary, 17,356
  39. Marie Curie, 16,034
  40. Age UK, 15,478
  41. Anthony Nolan, 14,866
  42. Islamic Relief UK, 14,767
  43. Samaritans, 13,846
  44. Shelter, 13,187
  45. Brooke, 12,578
  46. Plan International UK, 12,552
  47. Crisis, 10,424
  48. Tearfund, 10,201
  49. Al-Khair Foundation, 9,304
  50. Prostate Cancer UK, 8,690

Looking at number of Instagram followers is only ever a finger in the air and comes with some big caveats. Not only is it a single (and potentially misleading) measure of success, but some charities may have causes and audiences that make it easier to build a big following than others. Also, the results are likely to be at least partly due to the resources committed to it.

The list of charities was based on the Charity Financials list of the top 100 fundraising charities, not including charities that were more cultural institutions than fundraising charities (eg Tate Britain and the National Gallery) or those without a significant social media presence. I also added charities not in the list that have a famous brand or big social media presence, but it does not claim to be a comprehensive list of all charities. Data was recorded on 24 February, 2019, apart from Asthma UK, where data was recorded on 26 February.

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