Top 8 Ways to Leverage LinkedIn for Nonprofits

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By Ritu Sharma, CEO, Social Media for Nonprofits

For those seeking the best talent or opportunities in professional fields of all kinds, LinkedIn is the go-to social network. But beyond the basics of a place to host your resume and search job listings, LinkedIn is breaking out as a place to shine as a thought leader, and to attract mentors, partners and ideas worth developing.

linkedinfornonprofits

These benefits aren’t limited to the commercial sector. Nonprofit decision makers should know their organizations can also gain from a presence on LinkedIn – especially if business professionals are your demographic (then you can even use LinkedIn for fundraising).

There’s a learning curve anytime you decide to add your organization to a new social network. Luckily LinkedIn has an entire section dedicated to nonprofits, and how to make the most of the platform. I’m going to break down some of that information to make it even easier.

Here are a few features you need to know about:

1. Company Pages

If your organization’s CEO or other key staff have personal pages on LinkedIn, that’s great. But they don’t take the place of a company page, which offers a snapshot of your organization, like a mini-website – but on LinkedIn’s prime turf.

A company page gives your organization formal credibility, and a singular location to share information on upcoming campaigns, volunteer and paid job opportunities, and more. All of which can (and should be) be amplified by those in your organization with personal profiles on LinkedIn.

2. Premium Options

Nice as it sounds to have broader messaging options, and the ability to see who’s viewed your profile beyond the free “last five”, upgrading personal profiles probably isn’t necessary. But if the idea of a premium profile for your CEO or other top dogs intrigues you, you can test drive the feature free for 30 days. After that it’s $60 per month.

Your company page should be the focus of your efforts, and the upgrades available for that aren’t likely to be useful if you’re not a major firm constantly looking to hire. Free is fine.

3. Groups

Groups are where the gold is on LinkedIn. They’re one of the best ways to engage influencers and thought leaders, and put your own thought leadership out there by posing and answering questions.

But you don’t need to start your own group to reap engagement benefits. Nor should you – especially if there are already numerous groups covering the same topic.

It’s much smarter to become an active contributor in an existing group, to develop your chops and emerge as a leader where there is a built-in audience. If you discover a gap in the conversation and know you can add value that isn’t already there, then create your own group – once you’ve garnered the connections to make it successful, of course. There’s nothing worse than speaking to an empty room.

4. Showcase pages

These pages are meant to highlight an aspect of a company page likely to warrant its own following. For instance, Microsoft has separate showcase pages for its Office and Lync brands. If you’re a huge nonprofit with multiple sub-organizations, showcase pages could be worthwhile. Or if you’re NOT huge but host multiple events, showcase pages allow your target audience to tune in to only those updates that apply to them.

But if you’re an organization devoted to one cause, your company page will get the job done.

FYI, showcase pages aren’t designed for short-term campaigns, in case you’re tempted to set one up for the duration of a fund drive or other campaign. Use status updates and long-form posts to communicate these events and drive traffic to your organization’s website.

5. Hiring

Finding talent is certainly one of the major advantages of LinkedIn, and what – at its heart – it’s designed for. You can post job openings on your company page and personal profiles, and research candidates to see not only what their past experience is, but who has recommended them (immediate supervisor or someone more tangential).

If you need to take it up a notch, LinkedIn offers Career Pages to more narrowly target your messaging, along with price reductions for nonprofits.

6. Volunteer and Board Recruiting

LinkedIn may best serve nonprofits with tools for finding these most valuable people. Organizations may post volunteer opportunities and board member openings for less than $50 per post (a company page is encouraged to further amplify).

This can be the perfect way to find new volunteers and those who have been dying to be board members, but haven’t been approached by anybody. Be sure to have current board members and volunteers post their connection to you on their LinkedIn profiles.

“Trusted providers” Catchafire, NPower’s Community Corps, Taproot Foundation, and VolunteerMatch can help with finding volunteers (everything from writing your post to training), and an upgrade to Board Member Connect, which offers webinars and a special group dedicated to connecting nonprofit leaders, can broaden your reach on the board front.

But before spending on services you may not need, ask other nonprofit leaders how they’ve fared by using or not using premium services, and weigh the cost against the potential ROI. If you need something super specific, premium services may help, but more than likely you can get what you need without spending extra.

7. Paid Ads

Like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn offers paid ads to supplement organic reach. You have a choice between pay-per-click (PPC) and sponsored updates. Read more about both here. Are they worthwhile? Not unless you have the budget to support it (and most nonprofits don’t). They’re too expensive and limits often don’t stop where you set them – be warned! I’m hoping this is something that improves soon as it certainly has potential.

8. Pulse

Users are excited about LinkedIn’s new publishing platform, which allows members to publish long-form posts on their page or profile, though access is still being rolled out. If you see a little pencil icon to the side or below the paper clip icon in your status update box, you can post. If you don’t – be patient. They’ve been rolling the ability to post out to users incrementally.

The goal of long-form posts is getting your content featured on Pulse, the award-winning mobile news app now fully integrated with LinkedIn. Being featured is a bit of a lottery win, though if you set yourself up as a publisher, and create a robust following you could get lucky.

The ultimate jackpot is being invited to be an Influencer. Create a viral presence and you just could make the cut, as LinkedIn changes the roster regularly. They look for “the most engaged, prolific and thoughtful contributors.” So become an engaged thoughtful contributor! You won’t regret it.

What’s your experience been like using LinkedIn to network?

 

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