Blog Archives

Revisiting LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service

linkedin5When I engage non-profit organizations in board development related issues, it can be like simultaneously operating in two parallel and polar opposite universes. One universe exists where everyone is talking about how things are “supposed to be” done. This is described in the agency’s written board development plan. In the other universe, there are board members and staff sitting around a table talking about “some guy” they know without any discussion about board composition gap assessment, prospect lists, prospect evaluation or anything that sounds like process.

Growing the capacity of your non-profit board is a complicated formula that includes you doing the following:

  • Understanding the holes you need to fill.
  • Successfully identifying prospects who fill those gaps.
  • Thoughtfully evaluating and factoring in a prospect’s skill sets/talents and experiences so a smart determination can be made about moving forward with recruitment.
  • Developing and using a recruitment process that sets expectations and helps a potential prospect see what they are potentially say ‘YES‘ to doing before making that commitment.
  • Employing a thorough new board member orientation program and ongoing boardroom training calendar.
  • Developing and using tools (e.g. performance plans, dashboards, scorecards, etc) to show board members where they’re at and what they still need to do.
  • Engaging in year-end evaluation discussions focused on recognition and deeper engagement.

Your board governance and board development program will be “top shelf” if you do ALL of these things. Just having it in writing doesn’t count. You need to practice what you preach.

Not doing even one or two of these things is akin to skipping ingredients in a recipe. Following this analogy through to its logical conclusion, I ask you to imagine what a bread recipe looks like if you forget to add the yeast or the flour.

I often hear board development committee volunteers and staff openly complain about how hard it is to:

  • identify good prospects
  • ascertain skill sets and experiences
  • complete prospect evaluation exercises in a satisfying manner

linkedin4With this in mind, I am reminded of an old “Mondays with Marissa” post from a year ago titled “How Nonprofits Can Maximize LinkedIn to Grow Their Community“. In that post, Marissa talked briefly about LinkedIn’s new Board Member Connect connect service. This was a new service launched in 2012, and it was just getting off the ground.

In the last few days, I was poked by LinkedIn about this fee-based service for non-profit organizations. They’re organizing another informational webinar on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm (Central Time). Click here to learn more and register.

In the meantime, I thought I would take a look around the blogosphere to see what others were saying about LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service. The following are just a few of the more interesting articles I decided to share with DonorDreams blog readers who might be interested in learning more:

What I found most interesting is that I didn’t come across any web reviews from non-profit leaders who’ve used LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service. It makes me wonder if . . . a) no one is really using this service or b) everyone is so happy that there isn’t even one random web review complaint?

I suppose the only way for your agency to find out is to attend the webinar and ask around.

Have you used LinkedIn’s Board Member Connect service? What was your experience? If not, how else is your board development committee identifying good prospects for your board? Please scroll down and share your thought, ideas and practices in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Let’s talk about your organization’s LinkedIn group page

linkedin2I use LinkedIn. It is one the social media platforms I am on almost every day, which is probably the reason I was asked to manage the LinkedIn group page for a fundraising professionals organization where I’m a member. At first, I was happy to do it. After all, I’m on LinkedIn every day. Right? However, after a few months of being the volunteer community manager, I am left wondering: “What in the heck are we trying to accomplish with this group page?

Of course, this got me wondering how many non-profit organizations find themselves in the same situation? So, I logged into my LinkedIn account and surfed around to a handful of group pages of agencies I follow. What I found was similar to the page I manage . . . a handful of followers and very little activity.

So, I thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts and suggestions based on my limited experience with this project. Hopefully, you will also weigh-in with your thoughts and experiences using the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.  🙂

Target audience

linkedin1Your agency’s LinkedIn group page isn’t like your website. You shouldn’t treat it like a landing-place for all kinds of different stakeholder groups. The best group pages I’ve seen have an obvious target audience with whom they are speaking.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a page. It is “For Members Only,” which simply means that you need to ask to join and get approval from the person managing the page. I presume this decision was made because: 1) people like to “belong” to things and the more exclusive the better, 2) the Chronicle is probably trying to protect group members from businesses and spammers targeting fundraising professionals, and 3) they are deliberating focusing on developing a “target audience“.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands’ LinkedIn page is simple. While I can’t be sure, it certainly seems like their target audience is their employees. I can see a number of reasons why a non-profit agency would want to create a virtual space for its employees including: 1) ease of communication, 2) sharing of work ideas and best practices, and 3) creating a sense of community and family.

Who is your target audience? This really needs to be the first question you answer because it will drive every other decision you make with regards to your agency’s LinkedIn page.

Content is KING

contentI don’t care if you are managing a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account or a LinkedIn group. Content is ALWAYS the key to success and engagement.

When it comes to your LinkedIn group, here are a few suggestions with regards to creating content (e.g. creating a purpose for people to belong to your group):

  1. Be Mike Myers on SNL’s Coffee Talk sketch. Post a weekly discussion topic or question of the week.
  2. Find blogs that might interest your members and post links to those sites.
  3. Identify subjects that will be interesting and create a poll.
  4. Use the group site to share information (e.g. webinars, meetings dates/times, etc)

Commit yourself to learning

linkedin3There is so much more to learn about managing a LinkedIn group (e.g. group policies, promotion, etc). It is impossible to cram everything into one blog post.

If you plan on undertaking the job of creating or managing your agency’s LinkedIn group, I suggest setting aside an hour per week where you can just click around and read more from others on best practices. While you’re reading, I urge you to jump into conversations and discussions on blogs by sharing your experiences and asking questions.

Here are a few places you may want to get started:

So, does your agency have a LinkedIn group page? Are you thinking about starting one? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts, questions, best practices, strategies, ideas, etc.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Evaluating your non-profit board volunteer prospects’ social reach and network

social reach1I was recently engaged in an engaging discussion about board development with a great group of non-profit board volunteers. The range of topics in that conversation spanned issues such as prospect identification, evaluation methods, prioritizing prospect lists, cultivating prospects, recruitment process, orientation, recognition, and evaluation.  It was one of those conversations that a facilitator loves because everyone was engaged and actively participating. There was an energetic dynamic in the room, and then someone asked a really tough question:

“How do we evaluate the scope of someone’s social network?”

This question stems from the discussion on the importance of diversity in your boardroom. After talking about the obvious (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity), these discussions always turn to the more difficult subjects including how to assess a prospective board volunteer’s social network and social capital. Of course, this is important because you don’t want a boardroom full of people who all walk in the same social circles.

Moreover, this is important because:

  • Fundraising — The collective network in your boardroom is related to the reach of your fundraising program, its appeals and potential future donors.
  • Board Development — Birds of a feather flock together, and the collective network in your boardroom will give birth to future boards. Board replicate themselves all the time!
  • Group-think — People who are close and come from the same walks of life can sometimes think alike, which can greatly influence board governance and important decisions.

So, what is the answer to the aforementioned question pose by this obviously super smart board volunteer?

Well, it is complicated and simple all at the same time. Ugh!

social reach3For decades (and probably centuries), board development committees have answered this question the old fashion way. They sat down around a table and talked it over. Those committees who were successful had a diversity of people sitting around the table and were able to assess a prospect’s social network in an anecdotal manner. They talked about what they see and hear about the prospect. Here are just some of the things they most likely talked through:

  • Does the prospect sit on other non-profit boards?
  • What church does this prospect belong to? Are they active? Who else belongs to that church?
  • What other groups does this person belong to? (e.g. Rotary, Kiwanis, country club, chamber of commerce, local booster clubs, etc) Who else belongs to those groups?
  • What else do we see this person’s name attached to? (e.g annual reports, donor recognition walls, local newspaper articles, etc)
  • How does this prospect’s network, reach, and social capital compare to what is currently sitting around our boardroom table?

This is what “old school” board development assessment work looks like. It is highly effective. It has a track record of working. It is highly dependent on a diversity of people with a diversity of perspectives engaging in such a conversation.

Of course, our 21st Century mindset and perspectives leads us to question old approaches and investigate new tools and approaches, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So, I recently opened up my board development toolbox and re-examined some very traditional tools such as:

  • board matrix
  • sample prospective board member information sheet
  • board candidate rating form

In doing that simple review, it occurred to me that there isn’t much substance to those tools from the perspective of assessing someone’s social network, social reach and social capital. The matrix does ask the board development committee to assess  “community connections,” and the information sheet also asks questions about your prospect’s affiliations and other non-profit board service. While these tools nibble around the edges, it wouldn’t be difficult to tweak these tools to more directly address the question posed by our board volunteer at the beginning of this blog post.

social reach2However, there are some “21st Century” tools that your board development committee might want to start using when talking through the issue of a prospect’s network. Consider the following:

  • Do a Google search on your prospective new board members during the evaluation phase of your process. Talk about the results of that search.
  • Look at their online social networks (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). If no one around the table is connected to the prospect in that way, then: 1) that might tell you something in and of itself and 2) you might expand your reach and find someone on the board or among your network who is linked in such a way.
  • Use Guidestar to determine if they are associated with other non-profits in your community.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the “old school approach”. In fact, one simple way that you can tweak this traditional approach is by including your prospective future board volunteers in the process. Asking them to help you answer a few questions about their network and their reach. If done appropriately, it wouldn’t have to feel awkward.

How does your non-profit organization tackle the question posed at the beginning of this blog post as part of its board development process? Please use the comment box to share your best practices. We can all learn from each other and save time by not re-inventing the wheel.  😉

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How Nonprofits Can Maximize LinkedIn to Grow Their Community

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought that LinkedIn was the grownup Facebook. When it first started, I didn’t think much of it, but over the years, LinkedIn has become a powerful networking tool, not only for job-searchers, but for everyone in a professional community. Today let’s take a look at a few things that you can do to maximize your and your organization’s presence on LinkedIn.

Complete Your Profile
When starting out on LinkedIn, completing your organization’s profile is important. This is because the heart of LinkedIn is connecting people. The more information it has about you, the better it can serve as a networking resource for you and

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

your organization. Take some time to think about 10 to 15 keywords that you think would best describe your agency and their mission. Using the right keywords will attract the right people to your page.

Not only is an organization profile important, but it is important that everyone connected to your organization has complete profile as well. Make sure employees, volunteers and board members take the time to fill their profiles completely. There is a “Volunteer and Causes” section that can be added to personal profiles where supporters can list your organization.

Companies as Donors
If you are looking to find a company to sponsor an event or make a donation, LinkedIn would be a great place to start. Many companies will list in their profiles if they give to charitable causes or not. If you cannot find info on their profile, see who is connected to that company and reach out to people in your network.

My LinkedIn network, visualized

Follow People
I am not an advocate for stalking, except for in the case of LinkedIn. The more connections you have, the better your network, so follow people you know and people you don’t know. Having a connection can help you along the way, when it comes to

gaining volunteers, finding new donors, hiring a new employee, or finding a new board member.

Group Hug
One of the most dynamic sections to LinkedIn is their groups. There are groups focused on just about everything. Join as many as you can or have your organization start one tailored to discussions about your mission. People expect to start conversations in LinkedIn and groups can be a great way to create new connections.

Keep People Up to Date
LinkedIn is just like every other social media site; as in it works best when you update it frequently. So share news and blog updates with your community there too. Also, LinkedIn does a good job of of aggregating news that is important to you. It is a great place to find new articles to share with your followers as well.

Find Your Next Board Member
LinkedIn just released a new, exciting tool for nonprofits called LinkedIn Board Connect. This allows nonprofit organizations to use LinkedIn to find people who might be a good fit to be the next member of your board. For more information on this new service, take a look at LinkedIn’s announcement. Also, they are having a webinar on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 to explain what Board Connect can do. I suggest joining in to see if this is a tool that would be beneficial to your organization.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: finding the right social network for your organization is key to your social media success. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to find people and grow your community. How does your organization use LinkedIn? What are some of the things that work best on this social network for you? I’d love to talk about it in comments!

Answers to the two most popular social media questions asked by non-profits

At the end of yesterday’s post titled “Are non-profits yelling at their donors using social media?” I promised that I’d share a few revelations from a social media conference that Marissa and I attended last week hosted by SkillPath Seminars. Today, we’re talking about two of the most popular social media questions that I’ve been asked by non-profit organizations:

  1. Which social media platforms should your non-profit organization use to speak to donors and supporters?
  2. How can your agency do a better job at engaging its supporters using social media and gain more traction?

Let me first say that I highly recommend this SkillPath training conference to all non-profit professionals who are responsible for managing their agency’s social media communities. You can find more information at the other end of the link that provided above. (No, I was not paid to say this)

When looking through the conference materials on this subject, they list more than 20 different platforms that companies are using to market their efforts. However, it came as no surprise that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were the top three “networking platforms;” YouTube was the most popular “promotional platform;” and various blogging platforms (e.g. WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr) were the most popular “sharing platforms”.

Our trainers suggested that a company should give serious consideration to developing a presence on all three platforms and five sites. While that might sound easy enough, it becomes more complicated when you consider that you’ll be saying different things in each of these places. You need to figure out who your target audiences are and which social media platforms are best at communicating with them.

As I sat through many of the sessions, I found myself trying to translate the training curricula into non-profit speak. Assuming that my universal translator is working well, I concluded the following:

  • Facebook looks like a great stewardship tool where you can engage donors and show your “friends” how their contribution is being put to good use.
  • Twitter and its 140 character limitations could be an awesome cultivation tool where you catch the attention of prospects and drive them to a place where they learn more about your mission.
  • LinkedIn is more than a human resource tool. It is a place to build relationships with potential corporate supporters and identify special event sponsors.
  • YouTube can be a multi-purpose resource development tool and used in many different ways. However, it might be best used for raising brand awareness and developing a pool of interested prospects who you are positioning for cultivation activities.
  • Your blog is a friendly online place to engage in conversations with supporters and potential supporters. You can establish yourself as a “thought leader,” advocate and engaged listener.
  • All of these social media tools should be used to drive traffic to your website where there is more information, volunteer forms, donation pages, etc.

Yes, this is a lot of work and at some point you’ll need to frame your agency’s strategy in a written social media plan. While it is easy to think that it might end up on the fundraising department’s plate, I think there is an opportunity for thoughtful organizations to transform their agency into a “social company” and share the workload and transform your workplace culture.

Enough on platforms.

What about building momentum? Gaining traction? Engaging more deeply?

The following are just a few of the suggestions offered by our SkillPath trainers:

  • Write content that is interesting to your reader. (If you don’t know what that is, then go ask them)
  • Host contests
  • Offer coupons
  • Make your content interactive
  • Include links to things that your audience will find interesting and useful

Perhaps, one of the best ideas I heard was that a picture is worth a thousand words. Write less and post more pictures of your mission, your programs, your volunteers, and your donors. This one simple idea that will probably result in increased traffic, more content sharing, and deeper engagement.

Is your agency using social media? How’s it going? Do you feel like it is working? Why or why not? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Want access to donor data? Then your non-profit needs a strategy!

This week we’ve been talking about technology and donor data at DonorDreams blog. Tuesday’s post, which was titled “What can’t your donor database do?,” looked at all sorts of interesting functions and features associated with database software packages. Wednesday’s post, which was titled “Wow . . . Non-Profit Donors are Naked!,” examined various free online tools that can help you capture invaluable data for inclusion in your donor database. If you missed either of those posts, I encourage you fo circle back and check them out!

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about social networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). We all agree that these sites possess an unbelievable amount of free personal information about our donors. Yet, I see so many non-profit organizations struggling with social media.

I suspect that non-profit organizations are too thinly stretched and don’t dedicate enough time and resources to developing an effective social media strategy. I believe a little bit of time and lots of thoughtful strategy can go a long way towards getting donors engaged, which gets you closer to that FREE and invaluable donor data.

The following are just a few ideas that even cash strapped non-profit organizations can implement:

Get “friendly” online. You can’t just set-up your Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn presence and expect people to find you and connect. Look over your donor list, identify your top few hundred donors, and actively ask them to connect.

Content is important. I’ve seen too many Facebook pages with little to no content, which begs the questions “Why did I like this page in the first place?” Perhaps, it might be worth your time to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk to 10 of your more active donors. Ask them what kind of information they’d like to see your non-profit post on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. I could rattle off all kinds of ideas today (e.g. pictures of your mission being brought to life, transparent sharing of program outcomes, etc), but none of what I say matters. What matters most is what the people who you want to join your social network want to see.

Engagement is king. Your agency needs to understand the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Social media is not about shouting at the top of your virtual lungs various things about your agency on your social network pages. That was so Web 1.0. If you want your social media strategy to work, then you need to engage your donors in “conversations”. People don’t just cruise over to your Facebook page or Twitter feed to check out what you’re saying and posting. They get there because you’ve drawn them over with a shiny object. I’ve seen some non-profits do the following to build a following and engage donors:

  • Run a contest online. During a certain period of time, anyone who likes your page or follows you gets entered into a raffle and a chance to win something (e.g. iPod, iPhone, iPad, gift card, etc). It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does need to be fun and something people value. It could also focus on submission of something for judging (e.g. picture, essay, etc).
  • Ask for opinions. I’ve seen organizations poll their social media followers on a variety of issues. Those issues could even be operational in nature. For example, ask donors and supporters to help you name something. Or ask their opinions on adding a new program or expanding to a new site. This can be particularly effective because people love to be asked their opinion.
  • Become an advocate. How many online petitions being circulated by non-profit organizations have you signed in the last 6 months? I know I have signed at least four. This can be particularly effective because people love to be asked to get involved in ways that supplement their financial support. It is an easy way to help a donor feel involved. Besides, you’ll probably end up asking them to consider making an online contribution at the end of the petition process.

The bottom line for me is twofold:

  1. Donors are giving away valuable personal information about themselves online for FREE. It is worth investing a little time to engage them because you’re already trying to do it in other ways as part of your resource development program.
  2. Nothing associated with your social media presence will happen by accident. You need to put together a strategy and execute your plan (regardless of how simple it may be).

If you are looking for more in-depth ideas on Facebook best practices, I suggest you read what the good folks at DIOSA Communications  are suggesting.

What does your agency do to engage donors on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest? What metrics do you use to track your effectiveness in inspiring and engaging participation on your social network platforms? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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