Attention Data Nerds: Nonprofits Miss Out on the Power of LinkedIn: Learn How to Tap It | Beth's Blog

Attention Data Nerds: Nonprofits Miss Out on the Power of LinkedIn: Learn How to Tap It

Research Studies

Note from Beth: By the time you are reading, I’ll probably have been on a jet plane for far longer than I want to be and maybe have landed in Rwanda.   Once I recover from the journey, expect read reports about the Networked NGO in Rwanda and use of social media to support Women’s Rights organizations.   If you’re motivated to go deeper on LinkedIn after reading this summary,  you will want to check out my curated list of nonprofit and LinkedIn resources here.
Nonprofits Miss Out on the Power of LinkedIn: Learn How to Tap It – Guest Post by Geri Stengel


Whether connected or cold calling, you can build long-term, valuable relationships using LinkedIn. Find out how easy it is.

LinkedIn isn’t some stodgy place where people post their resumes. It’s a no- to low-cost database that is a rich source of information about potential major donors, board members, employees, and strategic allies.

Yet few nonprofits recognize LinkedIn’s potential as a research database or a means of getting introductions, according to Ditch Digital Dabbling: How Small Businesses + Nonprofits Can Master Online Marketing, research undertaken by Ventureneer and Message Medium.  Nonprofits use LinkedIn less and they view it as  less effective than small businesses and, frankly, small businesses aren’t catching the wave as they should. Only the digitally literate power-users are beginning to “get it.” They’ve put in the time to learn LinkedIn to learn how to use it and reap the benefits.

LinkedIn has 150 million affluent, influential members. They work in technology (15%), finance (12%), and 11% are entrepreneurs, according to Amodiovalerio Verde, a new media and technologies consultant. LinkedIn members are there to find people and to be found. If their passion overlaps with your nonprofit’s mission, they will welcome the opportunity to connect.

LinkedIn lets you search for the people who are passionate about your cause.  It’s as easy to use as filling out a form. You can search for those passionate about your cause, within your geographic area,  and have skills or values that are a fit for your nonprofit.

LinkedIn is a great place to find people you want to know. Sometimes you’ll want to get an introduction through a common connection but as John Brothers, Cuidiu Consulting, says, cold calls work, too. Sometimes it is better to go in cold. His firm specializes in helping nonprofits build capacity; frequently, fundraising is part of the services his firm provides.

For Brothers, success means building long-term relationships with funders. Before he makes an ask, he knows that the nonprofit he represents is a really good fit for the funder. He knows this because he meets with funders and gets to know them over a period of time.

Brothers has a checklist when taking off on a business trip and part of it is to search LinkedIn to find funders he’s always wanted to know. He feels awkward about asking his connections for intros to funders. People covet their relationships with funders so he opts for a different approach: a paid LinkedIn plan.

The benefits of paying include access to more people — not just those who are within a few degrees of separation — additional search filters, seeing the full profile of everyone and, of course, the ability to connect with people directly through InMail.

Brothers writes a note to the prospect. In it, he points out the common passion for a cause he and the funder share. He suggests breakfast or coffee to get to know each other better. Brothers rarely gets turned down.

But Brothers uses LinkedIn to guide more than cold calls on prospective funders. He’s on the board of several nonprofits that host galas.  Auction items are often needed for these events. When he wants free tickets to a show, sporting event or a cruise, he uses his LinkedIn connections to get that all important introduction.

Don’t think of LinkedIn as a technology, even though it is. Think of LinkedIn as an onramp to building relationships with people who can become funders, board members, employees or strategic allies.

The online marketing survey gathered extensive data and benchmarks about how small businesses and nonprofits use online marketing and whether they are seeing results. For the executive summary, visit Ditch Digital Dabbling: How Small Businesses + Nonprofits Can Master Online Marketing.

Geri Stengel is founder and president of, which connects nonprofit execs, social entrepreneurs, and socially responsible small business owners with the knowledge they need to make the world a better place and to thrive as sustainable organizations. Her blog, Vistas provides insights, strategies, techniques, and solutions that help values-driven businesses realize their social-change missions.

15 Responses

  1. Glenn says:

    Great post, Beth. Here’s another way to use LinkedIn. If you are recruiting leadership volunteers or the donors mentioned above, invariably you’ll be asked some version of “where do you spend your funds?” Using LinkedIn, you can gain additional background on that prospect and you might be able to use that information in your reply. For those of us who fund research, I’d respond, “I understand you’re a graduate of the University of Texas. One of the ways we spend our funds is by funding cancer research and we currently fund x grants totaling x dollars at UT.” You can also do this using a state or city. “I understand you’re originally from St. Louis, did you know we fund….”

    It’s not just research, you might be able to tie something from the prospect’s background to the programs you offer.

  2. Glenn says:

    Correction, Great Post, Geri! (Quick–More caffeine!)

  3. MRodgers says:

    I have created a few discussion groups regarding nonprofit funding on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to network and grow in your profession while also helping others.

  4. Search-Aid says:

    We have yet to move on LinkedIn, other social networking sites can take up alot of our time. I can see from a networking and fundraising avenue there can be some real beneifts. Worth considering- Thank!

  5. Amber says:

    We’re not officially on LinkedIn yet either, but this is a push in the right direction. Thanks for the valuable insights!

  6. […] write too much about LinkedIn myself, but it can be an important tool for nonprofits. This guest post by Geri Stengel for Beth Kanter explains how nonprofits can build relationships through […]

  7. Brett says:

    Great article. Linked in really is undervalued by those in the non-profit world but there are enormous opportunities here.

  8. Tina says:

    This is a great article. I sat on a non-profit board for 5 years and I must say this article is moving in the proper direction. Non-profits must move with the time, and the time is now LinkedIn and similar social networking site are great marketing tools that will sustain and take your organization to the next level.

  9. Thanks for reminding our non-profit friends that they can use the same tools our forprofit buddies use.

    I agree that it’s a low-cost business tool that offers lots of value. The hard part is getting Exec Directors and boards to invest in quality training to insure their staff know how to use the tools for the best possible value. Too often they feel that if the tool is free, we’ll figure it out and be OK – This is a big mistake.

    Thanks for the share Beth! – Teddy (@TLBUrriss)

  10. Ditto – goofed and missed the guest post ID – so sorry for my foolishness Geri /Teddy

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