LinkedIn for nonprofits: 6 tips for success

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LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. It exists to connect the world’s professionals and help us all be more productive and successful. We like to think of it as a digital relationship map of everyone you know, plus everyone that they know. It illustrates those first-, second-, and third-degree connections Kevin Bacon-style.

Sometimes we don’t even know who we know: Without LinkedIn, I wouldn’t have realized that my close friend’s partner is the Grants Manager at the foundation I’ve been trying to pitch. Or that my college roommate now sits on the board of my favorite local nonprofit.

There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for nonprofits to use the platform to increase impact and grow your networks.

Podcast summary of using LinkedIn for Nonprofits

Why LinkedIn for nonprofits?

Before we get into how you can make the best use of LinkedIn for your organization, let’s start with a simple question: Why LinkedIn?

LinkedIn also offers resources specifically for nonprofits. Beyond Company Pages and job postings, LinkedIn positions itself to nonprofits as a means of cultivating personal donor relationships — both at the individual and corporate giving level. They even have dedicated nonprofit specialists you can contact.

6 Ways to Succeed with LinkedIn for Nonprofits

1. Start with a LinkedIn page for your org…

To hit the ground running with a nonprofit LinkedIn strategy,  start with creating an organization or company page. Like any nonprofit social media platform, this should have the latest info about your organization’s mission and work. Make sure to include your logo, a link to your website, and a brief description of what your organization does. While this page might not see a ton of action on its own, it’s important to have for 2 reasons: 1. So people can tag your org in posts, and 2. So your staff, board, and volunteers can include your org on their personal pages.

Once your page is live, invite your staff, board members, and volunteers to include their experience with your organization to their personal profile pages. Even better if they mention your organization in their headline or summary description. Prioritize working with your executive director/CEO and other senior team members to build their profiles, including a photo and compelling summary of who they are and the work they do. This will be important for outreach later. According to LinkedIn, profiles with photos get 21x more views and 36x more messages.

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2. … But post relevant content on personal pages

LinkedIn is chock full of content, with over 2 million posts, articles, and videos added to the platform every day. But the platform prioritizes personal, human connections and relationships. No one wants to network with a nameless, faceless organization. Rather than spending a ton of time and energy posting on your company page (where you will likely have fewer followers than on your personal page), leverage the extensive networks of your staff and board to build real-world relationships with their digital connections.

Ask your executive director or CEO to post once a week, sharing content relevant to your org. This could include news or updates, like a recent media article or the launch of a new partnership or program. Or it could include contributing to important discussions or debates related to your mission.

For instance, CEO Aria Finger recently shared an article from Adweek covering a study conducted by her team at DoSomething Strategic clarifying their central finding.

Posts like this help establish your team as thought leaders in the space, while also bolstering the presence of your nonprofit within their network connections.

3. Always be connecting

The best fundraisers know that connections and relationships are essential to success. LinkedIn serves as a hub for building those relationships and, unlike other social networks, its focus is specifically on business connections.

Immediate Network

Begin by cultivating relationships with the important people already in your network, including your board, donors, community leaders, and staff. When you or anyone on your team meet someone new at a conference or event, add them on LinkedIn. These relationships can lead to important opportunities down the line, even if the connection isn’t immediately apparent. Because LinkedIn puts a focus on industry and job titles, you can also consider prioritizing relationship-building with new connections at grantmaking foundations or people who work in corporate giving.

2nd- and 3rd-Degree Connections

As you grow your network, you can see who your connections are also connected to in order to get a better sense of your nonprofit’s broader network. Search for 2nd-degree connections for organizations or individuals that you’d like to build a relationship with (such as a specific potential partner, funder, or donor). Use keyword searches like “social responsibility,” “nonprofit,” or “social impact” to find shared connections. Then ask your mutual friend to make that direct introduction for you. According to LinkedIn, direct introductions from a mutual connection see an 80% response rate.

Warm introductions are an engine of nonprofit fundraising, and nonprofit board members can bring a lot to the table through their 2nd-degree connections. To maximize this relationship capital, do some initial research instead of simply asking, “Who do you know?” Scan board members’ LinkedIn connections, and then ask them to make specific introductions to the people and organizations you know they already have relationships with.

4. Engage regularly to grow personal relationships

People post on LinkedIn because they want people to engage with their content. A little conversation can go a long way to drive action, build relationships, and show people that you care — which means they’ll be more likely to care about you and your organization too. Set aside 10 minutes each day to skim updates in your LinkedIn feed, comment on key posts, and respond to relevant messages. If someone is hiring for a role, share their post to your networks, or offer to make an introduction to a qualified candidate. Like or comment on an article, or congratulate someone on the launch of a new program.

Pro tip: Opt for LinkedIn alerts on important milestones in your connections’ lives, like job changes, birthdays, and mentions in the news. Engagement is often reciprocal, and the more that you engage with others, the more likely they’ll be to engage with you. In your settings, don’t forget to enable the Notify connections when you’re in the news feature so that they’ll also get updates about you. Also, make your email address visible to 1st- and 2nd-degree connections. This will make it easier for people in your connections’ networks to reach out with questions or opportunities.

5. Reach more people in your target audience

Like many social networks, LinkedIn offers some solid analytics for both audience insights and ad targeting. Our first tip is to install the LinkedIn Insight Tag on your website. Similar to the Facebook Pixel, the Insight Tag allows you to link user data in LinkedIn to tracking tags on your website. This means you can target site visitors through LinkedIn advertising, as well as discover unique audience demographic insights like job function, seniority, and industry. For example, 22% of Whole Whale pageviews come from people working in Marketing, and almost 30% are from companies with 11-50 employees.

You can use LinkedIn ads to target your audience by:

  • Job Experience (job function, job seniority, job title, skills, years of experience)
  • Company (including company connections, followers, industry, etc.)
  • Age & gender demographics
  • Education (degrees, fields of study, schools, etc.)
  • Interests (groups, member interests)

Job experience and company targeting especially come in handy if you have a specific network-related goal, such as reaching HR professionals for an initiative on mental health in the workplace, or the employees of a corporation that you’re campaigning to adopt a better policy around paid family leave. You can also target your own website visitors and existing email list.

For best results when narrowing your audience, LinkedIn recommends keeping your target audience over 50,000 for Sponsored Content and Text Ads, and over 15,000 for Sponsored InMail. You can also use their automated audience expansion and lookalike audience features to increase your reach to similar audiences. They even offer custom audience templates and recommended content

6. Recruit new staff, board members, and volunteers

Last, but not least, you can use LinkedIn to hire the people that you need to support your mission. Post job opportunities on LinkedIn’s job platform to recruit new staff, board members, and volunteers (LinkedIn also offers some nonprofit discounts!). Or post your job opportunities in your feed and invite your connections to recommend and introduce you to qualified, interested candidates.

Like any other communications tool, LinkedIn is most successful for nonprofits when it’s used as a platform to advance your mission and vision. This is built through cultivating real relationships, with the added benefit that LinkedIn is used by people who expect to be pitched or asked for introductions. While a company profile is critical, you’ll get more mileage out of encouraging your team to network on their personal accounts, broadening individual networks while showing existing and potential donors how they can further engage with your work.