LinkedIn and nonprofit fundraisingIn teaching nonprofit social media, I call LinkedIn the "little engine that could."

Started in late 2002, LinkedIn has seen many social media platforms rise and fall. (Anyone remember Friendster or MySpace?) But LinkedIn keeps trucking along. And in my non-scientific experience, it is the preferred social media platform of many executives. They tell me where the other platforms seem a free-for-all of personal information, they like LinkedIn's focus on work. It feels safe to share your resume and interact professionally with others.

These professionals are your donors.

Your donors are using LinkedIn

And in a recent article by The Economist called "LinkedIn Has Already Shaken Up The Way Professionals Are Hired – And It's Just Getting Started," users aren't just limited to executives. Managers and even those in more "service" related jobs are turning to LinkedIn.

According to the article, here are some of the ways they are using LinkedIn:

  • Employers are using LinkedIn to develop a short list of people who could fill positions that might be opening in their company.
  • Students are using LinkedIn to see where people go in their careers after graduating from certain colleges.
  • Staff members are using LinkedIn to check up on the new hire who starts today.
  • And job seekers are using LinkedIn to scope out what working at a company might be like based on their profile and those of the people working there.

If they are used to doing research on LinkedIn, it's only a matter of time before they turn LinkedIn's tools on to your nonprofit.

Donors are checking out your nonprofit

As I reminded Fundraising Kick subscribers last week, Google reports donors start researching donations in September! What would they find if they did their research on LinkedIn?

Here are some ways to find out:

  1. Google your nonprofit's name with the name LinkedIn

    In your favorite search engine, type: [your nonprofit's name] LinkedIn

    You'll likely see your organization's LinkedIn profile page as well as any profiles from people who've listed your organization as an employer. What does it reveal? Is it representing your organization the way you'd like it to be represented?

  2. Review your senior leadership's LinkedIn profile

    Donors like to give money to organizations with leaders they can trust. Do the profiles of your top leaders inspire trust?

  3. Check out the profiles of your board members and key volunteers

    LinkedIn provides a section for listing "Volunteer Experience & Causes." Are your board members and key volunteers listing your nonprofit there? This may be an easy place to engage them. After all, volunteering can enhance a person's resume, just like it can enhance a college application. (But don't force them. It is their profile. They can use it as they want.)

If these results aren't what you'd hoped for, create a plan to start making that change.

Not just for donors

Of course, LinkedIn isn't just for donors. Fundraisers can use it too. You can use it to research donor prospects. Check out their profile and see how they represent themselves. This can help you craft your initial approach or communicate during a solicitation. (Just remember that users can see who's viewed their profile.)

You might also want to experiment with using LinkedIn to set up actual meetings. In a Movie Mondays video, fundraiser Rebecca Zanatta said she had a much higher rate of successfully making appointments through LinkedIn rather than regular email. She thinks it might be because prospects were able to use her LinkedIn profile learn more about her before replying. You can see her video at: http://bit.ly/NPusingLinkedIN

Finally, you can use LinkedIn's tools to congratulate donors and board members on job changes and accomplishments. Be careful with these. They can be triggered by odd things, even something as simple as a person just updating her profile. It's best to say something like, "[Name], from LinkedIn, it looks like you're celebrating a new job. Is that accurate? Regardless, it was great to see your name in my inbox!"

Your turn

Fortunately, most of these LinkedIn tweaks can be done fairly quickly. Which ones do you think you'll do?

While you're at it, I'd love to connect with you on LinkedIn. You can find me at: http://linkedin.com/in/marcapitman

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