Originally published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy
To get the full benefit of LinkedIn for reaching prospective donors and board members, fundraisers need to be able to count on all of the people in their network, Anthony Pisapia told participants at a recent Nonprofit Technology Conference. Sometimes that means turning down invitations to connect—an idea that doesn’t come easily for fundraisers.
“I always say, ‘Would I pick up the phone and call these people?’” said Mr. Pisapia, director of development and programs at Tech Impact, a charity in Philadelphia that provides technology help to other nonprofits. “Set a high bar for interaction.”
The social network has a wealth of information for fundraisers conducting research on potential donors, he told conference participants.
“LinkedIn is big data,” said Mr. Pisapia. “It’s a giant collaborative database with contact info—who you know, what you do, what you like—and it’s all sitting out there for us as nonprofits to take advantage of.”
The information on prospective donors’ profiles and the people they’re connected to gives fundraisers valuable clues on how best to appeal to them, he says: “It lets you understand the world in which they live.”
Fundraisers can also use the social network to determine who in the organization’s orbit can introduce them to a potential donor or board member.
While LinkedIn has an automated way to ask for an introduction through the site, Mr. Pisapia, says it’s more effective to ask your contact for the introduction offline: “You can do it within LinkedIn, but it gets icky and strange.”
Groups Are Key
But it’s not enough for individuals at a charity, such as the head fundraiser or chief executive, to be active on LinkedIn, Mr. Pisapia warned.
“Your executive director leaves, and they take all of those connections with them,” he said. “So you have to think about how you’re capturing those contacts, how you can continue to communicate with them.”
Mr. Pisapia recommends that nonprofits set up LinkedIn groups that supporters can participate in and organization profiles, called “company pages” on the site, that they can follow. Organizations can set up as many groups as they like and make them either public or private.
Groups are a great way to spur discussion, he said. Plus the information that LinkedIn provides on where group members live and work can offer insights on how to reach out to donors. For example, he said, a fundraiser from Villanova University could look at a breakdown of the people in its alumni group for ideas on how to get them more involved with the university.
“Maybe I should set up some kind of alumni activity for people who work at PricewaterhouseCoopers, maybe an administrative affinity group, an engineering group,” said Mr. Pisapia. “You can start to really look at and get information on these folks about where they’re working and think about how you could leverage that for an event.”
Mr. Pisapia also writes recommendations on LinkedIn for his organization’s trustees and members of its chief information officer advisory board as a way to recognize their service.
“Your board members are very proud of their association with your organization,” he told conference participants. “This makes them feel very good. It’s a giant bear hug online.”