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How do Instagram photographers make a difference? Here's one way.

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Cricket Wireless

When scrolling through Instagram, you may come across a captivating image like this:

Europe is currently facing one of the biggest migrant crisis in recent history, with over 400,000 migrants this year having already reached Europe as they brave the dangerous and arduous journey to flee from war and dire economic conditions in their various homelands. 2,800 of them has lost their lives attempting to reach Europe this year, while many others are stuck in limbo as European countries decide how to handle the influx of migrants. To help support the migrants, we have partnered with the International Association For Refugees (@iafr_media) to fundraise for their refugee relief efforts. On October 3rd, join us in Jersey City, NJ, or Austin, TX, for a walk to raise funds and awareness for IAFR's efforts in Europe. Visit @iafr_media to learn more about what they're doing to help, and sign up here (http://on.fb.me/1LdNowa) for the fundraising walks. 📷: @saunakspace #gramforacause #refugeeswelcome #openheartsus

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Or this:

Or this:

Maybe it catches your attention; maybe it even intrigues you enough that you want to learn more about the subject featured in the image.

That's what Gramforacause is counting on.

But let's back up a little bit.

A few years ago, digital storyteller Denise Chan found herself engaging more and more with Instagram. And she noticed a few interesting things about it.

One was that it had a really passionate community of creatives — on and offline. Chan started attending "Insta-meets," in-person meet-ups where she and fellow Instagrammers would take photos together around a certain theme or style. She was inspired by how passionate and engaged the community was.

She was also intrigued by how Instagram was accelerating as a marketing tool — particularly when it came to influencer marketing.

And then she noticed one more thing: Many nonprofits were, well, missing the Instagram boat.

From the intersection of those three things, Gramforacause was born.

Members of the Gramforacause crew. All images via Gramforacause, used with permission.

How it works is simple:

1.Nonprofits that have a cool story but no one to tell it — or rather, show it —  submit a project request.

2. Gramforacause has a database of more than 200 (mostly volunteer) photographers around the country, dubbed "storytellers." When they get a request from a nonprofit, the team carefully reviews it and chooses a storyteller who would be a great fit for that specific project.

3. The storyteller and nonprofit each receive an email with project specs. If both parties are interested in working together, Gramforacause makes the introduction.

Projects range from photographing one-off, offline events to online campaigns where the storyteller posts images over a series of weeks. They've also done Instagram takeovers, with storytellers directly accessing the nonprofit's account and posting on its behalf for a few days. Many of the storytellers are Instagram influencers, so they crosspost on their own channels as well.

Gramforacause has only been around for two years, but in that time, it's done some pretty awesome things.

Whitney Tressel, Gramforacause's community manager, photographed the Salvation Army's Divisional Star Search event.  

Image by Whitney Tressel/Gramforacause.

Storyteller Cathy Lee snapped some photos while in Haiti visiting friends she'd met on a previous mission trip.

Photo via Cathy Lee (@cathyslee)/Gramforacause.

Storyteller Karen Heredia shot a volunteer/sponsor party put on by Reveal, an organization that puts on workshops and experiences that help empower women who have experienced domestic violence. At the party, attendees shared moving experiences they've had while volunteering with the org.

Image by Katen Heredia (@khere)/Gramforacause.

They also held an event with Big Brothers Big Sisters where they taught mini photography workshops to the "bigs" and "littles," and then sent them out along with storytellers on a mobile photography scavenger hunt.

"The kids came back, and they were really inspired by it," Chan says. "We had a few kids that said they wanted to pursue photography professionally."

In 2016, Gramforacause partnered with CWS (Church World Service) to put on a fundraiser called Hello, Neighbor.

The goal was to raise funds to support resettling refugee families in the Jersey City area.

The event offered food, music, local vendors, and a photo booth by Pursuit of Portraits (a portrait photography magazine that actually started as an Instagram account). Refugees from the area who work with CWS also came and shared their stories.

"It was a great community bonding and a very educational experience for a lot of people who came out," Chan says. And it was a success; they surpassed their fundraising goal and raised nearly $3,000 for CWS.

Another neat thing that's come out of these project is that many storytellers find themselves wanting to learn more about the nonprofits' work.

"We've found that actually ... a majority of our photographers that sign up said that they're interested in using or joining Gramforacause in order to learn more about causes and ways that they can get involved," Chan says.

She adds, "Social media has really made it so easy for people to find their platform. Just using these channels to connect people and build their own ways of giving back."

If you are an Instagram whiz, Gramforacause can always use more storytellers and brand ambassadors. If you're interested in joining them — or donating  — check them out.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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