This is the eighth post in a blog and webinar series called 101 Digital Marketing Best Practices for Nonprofits, written and presented by Heather Mansfield. Please sign up for Nonprofit Tech for Good’s email newsletter to be alerted of new posts. Thank you!
Related Webinar: Social Media Best Practices for Nonprofits
Launched on May 5, 2003, LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. 51% of its users are college-educated, 20% are senior-level professionals, and the average salary for a LinkedIn user is $46,644 USD per year. It’s an ideal community to connect co-workers, influencers, donors, and corporate sponsors.
For the first 13 years of its existence, growth was slow but steady. That changed when LinkedIn was purchased by Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2 billion. Since then it has grown from 106 million active monthly users to 310 million active monthly users. In the last few years, Microsoft has rebuilt LinkedIn working out many of the kinks and bugs that made it frustrating to use, and has launched a suite of new tools and functionality for LinkedIn Pages, Profiles, and Groups.
Strangely, nonprofits have been slow to embrace LinkedIn. Their use of the social network is mostly inconsistent and without strategy – the 10 best practices below are meant to change that.
1) Set up and prioritize LinkedIn Pages in your social media strategy.
For now, LinkedIn Pages outperform Facebook and Twitter in organic reach and engagement. That will likely change as LinkedIn shifts to prioritizing sponsored content in the LinkedIn Feed, but for the last few years, those nonprofits that have regularly posted to their LinkedIn Pages (and engaged their community) have been enjoying an approximate organic reach of 8% – compared to Twitter’s 6% organic reach and Facebook’s abysmal 3% organic reach. These numbers are based on the performance of Nonprofit Tech for Good, and of course, vary depending upon how your nonprofit uses Facebook and Twitter.
That said, organic reach has been dropping slightly for LinkedIn Pages over the last year and will likely continue to do so, but the recent growth in its popularity, the demographics of its users, and the ability to connect with donors and engage corporate sponsors and foundations have made LinkedIn a must-use social network for nonprofits.
To begin, and this is important, your nonprofit should conduct a search on LinkedIn to see if a page already exists for your organization. In years past, if a staff member or volunteer added your organization to their profile and were the first to do so, LinkedIn automatically created a LinkedIn Page for your nonprofit. Though increasingly rare to find an auto-generated, unclaimed page, they do exist. If you find one for your nonprofit, follow the instructions to claim and set up your page:
If your nonprofit does not find an unclaimed LinkedIn Page, then start from scratch and create a new page by going to your LinkedIn homepage > select the “Work” icon in the upper right > Create a Company Page.
It is worth noting that if your nonprofit later discovers a duplicate unclaimed page for your nonprofit, you can easily delete the unclaimed page provided you have a professional email address i.e., an email address that matches your website URL. Gmail, Yahoo, etc. email addresses are not allowed, and as a general rule, should not be used for your nonprofit communications publicly or internally. As discovered in the Global Trends in Giving Report, the .org domain is by far the most trusted domain for nonprofit website and email communications.
Once you have claimed or created your LinkedIn Page, the set up process is straightforward. Upload your avatar/logo (250 x 250), a cover photo(1128 x 191), add a description and website URL, your company/organization size, industry, and city and country. You also have the ability to add a call-to-action button to your page, for example, the “Visit website” button on Plan International’s page:
Once your page is set up, encourage all staff, board, and volunteers to “Follow” your page and as an admin of your page, you have the ability to “Invite [your] connections” to follow your page. Currently, the limit is 100 invitations per month.
During the set up process, you may have noticed Showcase Pages? If your nonprofit has a large following on LinkedIn and a signature program that is well-known to the public, then a Showcase Page could be worth time and effort. Otherwise, focus on building a following for your primary LinkedIn Page and do not create Showcase Pages.
Finally, prioritize your LinkedIn Page in your overall social media strategy and commit to posting regularly. A sure sign that a nonprofit has integrated LinkedIn into their social media strategy is a LinkedIn icon featured on their website. For example, Plan International’s website:
2) Post 2-3 times weekly to your LinkedIn Page and respond to your followers.
According to HubSpot Research, Linked Pages that have 100 followers or more earn a median of two clicks on the first two posts that a nonprofit shares on LinkedIn per week. And while that may sound low, it is double the rate of Facebook Pages. In the age of monetizing social media through algorithms and paid advertising revenue models, getting two clicks per 100 followers is generous.
If your nonprofit is going to use LinkedIn Pages, then commit to posting a minimum of 2-3 times per week to maximize your click-through rate (CTR) and engagement. That said, it’s important to understand that the type of content that performs best on LinkedIn is a bit different than Facebook and more similar to Twitter. Content that focuses on thought leadership, rather than inspirational storytelling, best serves the tone of the LinkedIn community. For example:
1. Breaking news that communicates the story of your mission and programs.
Breaking news works well on all social media (especially if it is good news), but it performs exceptionally well on LinkedIn. For example, the International Fund for Animal Welfare shared the good news that zero rhinos were poached in 2020. Within two hours the post had 49 likes which is more engagement than the same content had received on Facebook and Twitter when you consider that the IFAW has a fraction of the followers on LinkedIn that it has on Facebook and Twitter:
2. Curated content relevant to your mission.
Habitat for Humanity focuses on periodically posting curated content relevant to the cause of homelessness and housing. For example, this post features an opinion piece by ABC News on the structural reasons for the housing crisis in the United States written by their CEO:
It’s worth noting that posting curated content not written by a staff member is also a best practice on LinkedIn. If the content serves your mission and programs and contributes to thought leadership, then it’s a go for LinkedIn.
3. Tagging corporate sponsors and partners.
Since the LinkedIn community is a social network built for business and nonprofit professionals, it is absolutely a best practice to tag and thank your corporate sponsors and partners. Your sponsors and partners will take notice which helps reinforce their commitment to your organization. For example, this post by the Houston Food Bank tags and shows appreciation for their sponsor, CVS Health.
3) Monitor your LinkedIn Analytics.
LinkedIn Analytics offer an important key metric that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do not – the ability to view clickthroughs on organic posts. The reach, impression, and even engagement metrics provided by the top social networks on organic posts are often inflated and not a true reflection of the power (or lack of power) of your pages and profiles.
On LinkedIn, you can view key metrics through a pop-down of your posts, for example, a post on the Nonprofit Tech for Good LinkedIn Page:
Furthermore, in the LinkedIn Analytics dashboard, admins can view a variety of key metrics (including clickthroughs) by day, week, month, year, or custom:
LinkedIn Analytics are comprehensive (the location, job function, and industry of your followers, clickthroughs, reactions, growth, employee advocacy, the engagement rate and activity of pages similar to yours, etc.) and the best way to learn is to spend an hour or so a month studying your analytics. Odds are, LinkedIn Analytics will evolve to become some of the most useful data in your social media strategy.
4) Experiment with LinkedIn Ads (maybe).
Compared to other social networks, LinkedIn Ads are expensive and the site spends your money fast. It’s for this reason that nonprofits have been slow to adopt LinkedIn Ads. According to the 2021 Open Data Project, only 14% of the nonprofits worldwide that invest in social media advertising spend on LinkedIn:
For small nonprofits, LinkedIn Ads are likely out of the question, but for medium-sized and large nonprofits with budgets that allow for experimentation, LinkedIn could be an excellent site for reaching donors, particularly major donors. Before experimenting, however, it’s highly recommended you take a course on how to effectively run LinkedIn Ads.
5) Encourage current staff, board members, and volunteers to complete their LinkedIn Profiles.
Every action and interaction that your staff make inside the LinkedIn community helps increase your nonprofit’s brand credibility and exposure. Your organization’s name is featured in their headlines and your organization’s page is listed and linked on their profiles. For example, Heather Mansfield sharing content to the Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations LinkedIn Group increases the brand credibility and exposure of Nonprofit Tech for Good to those active in the group:
The marketing value of using LinkedIn Profiles is high enough that staff should even be encouraged to be active on LinkedIn during work hours. In fact, according to the Global NGO Technology Report, 27% of nonprofits worldwide have an official policy to allow staff to work on their LinkedIn Profiles during work hours.
To begin, provide your staff, board members, and volunteers guidelines for maximizing their LinkedIn Profiles, such as:
- Complete their profile and upload a professional photo.
- List all current and past positions as well as education.
- Upload work projects, such as presentations, videos, or special fundraising campaigns.
- Give recommendations to get recommendations. Setting a monthly goal of recommending two current or previous co-workers, partners, and funders will result in your staff receiving more recommendations in return.
- Be generous with endorsing the skills of others as endorsements are often reciprocated.
- List all languages spoken, honors and awards received, and publications.
- Follow your nonprofit’s LinkedIn Page as well as the pages of important partners and funders.
- Connect with past and current co-workers, colleagues, partners, and influencers.
Customized for small nonprofits on a limited budget, the Social Media Best Practices for Nonprofits webinar highlights current trends in using social media for fundraising, advocacy, and storytelling.
6) Empower your current staff, board members, and volunteers to advocate for your nonprofit on LinkedIn.
Launching a formal employee advocacy program for social media is an emerging trend in the nonprofit sector. Of all social media, LinkedIn is the platform best suited for employee advocacy. According to LinkedIn in their Official Guide to Employee Advocacy, the click-through rate (CTR) on a piece of content is 2x higher when shared by an employee on LinkedIn versus when shared by the company itself.
That said, you can not mandate staff, board members, and volunteers to share your organization’s content on LinkedIn, but you should encourage them to keep their profiles up to date and remind them via email or Slack that content is regularly shared to your organization’s LinkedIn Page – and that sharing and engagement is appreciated, but not required.
It’s worth noting that LinkedIn Analytics provide a module for monitoring LinkedIn employee advocacy where nonprofits can view their LinkedIn Page engagement by employees, such as recommendations, posts, share activity, comments, and reactions. Nonprofit Tech for Good is a one-person operation, so we have no employees, thus no employee advocacy data, however, this screenshot gives you an idea of the data available:
7) Brand executive staff as thought leaders on LinkedIn.
Executive staff are excellent ambassadors for your organization’s mission and programs and can serve as the public persona for the thought leadership occurring at your organization.
In addition to your nonprofit’s official profiles, pages, and accounts on social media, it’s highly recommended that at least one member of your executive team, preferably the CEO/executive director, be regularly active on LinkedIn.
Ironically, it’s common for even the most social media-savvy CEOs and EDs that are active on Facebook and Twitter to neglect LinkedIn even though engagement is usually higher on LinkedIn and the audience better targeted. For example, when you compare the follower count of Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE USA on LinkedIn, her engagement rate can be 10x higher or more on LinkedIn than her engagement rate on Facebook and Twitter when posting the exact same content:
So, in addition to following the LinkedIn Profile guidelines listed in best practice #5, executive staff should also regularly post updates about your organization’s programs to their profile and connect and engage with key stakeholders, such as partners, funders, corporate sponsors, and the media.
Lastly, and unique to LinkedIn, is the ability to publish articles. If your CEO/ED regularly writes content for your organization, make sure to also publish the content on LinkedIn to solidify your organization’s status as a thought leader. For example, Michele Nunn’s article on Courage, Compassion, and the CARE Package:
8) Use LinkedIn to engage major donors, corporate sponsors, and foundations.
Fundraisers and executive staff should actively engage donors and funders on LinkedIn. At the very least, conduct a search and send “Connect” requests to major donors and key staff that work at companies that sponsor your organization and foundations that have made a grant to your nonprofit. For example, a quick search of the Public Welfare Foundation results in a list of several key staff:
Once the connection is made, engage with the content they share on LinkedIn or if you’ve worked together, give them a skills endorsement or positive recommendation. Be sure to also follow and engage with their organization/company page, in this case, the Public Welfare Foundation:
That said, your engagement has to walk the fine line between being authentic and appearing overly excited and spammy, otherwise, you run the risk of annoying these important connections. Similar to how your organization has a plan to engage and report back to major donors, sponsors, and funders through email, print, and phone calls, create a strategic plan for LinkedIn. At the very least, schedule two hours monthly to conduct fundraising outreach and stewardship on LinkedIn.
Once you have become experienced and skilled with the LinkedIn community and learned how to effectively engage and cultivate current donors, then you may want to upgrade to LinkedIn Premium to also use InMail to prospect new donors, sponsors, and funders that you’ve found difficult to connect with by other means. It will likely still be a challenge, but one that seasoned fundraisers and executive staff will embrace.
9) Join and participate in LinkedIn Groups.
LinkedIn launched Groups in 2005 as a means for professionals to connect with other professionals in a public forum. Over the decade that followed, most groups became overrun with spam and tech glitches, and as a result, LinkedIn Groups almost became obsolete. Since Microsoft purchased LinkedIn in 2016, they have fixed the glitches and provided better tools for group admins to filter out spammers and feature important content.
Conduct a search of LinkedIn Groups based on your professional interests and join few groups. Well-maintained groups can be excellent forums for asking for advice or sharing thought leadership relevant to your organization’s mission and programs, but rarely are they appropriate for posting fundraising pitches or calls to follow your organization on social media. Keep that in mind! Every action you take in LinkedIn Groups reflects your personal brand and the brand of your nonprofit.
Should your nonprofit create a LinkedIn Group? That depends on the purpose of the group. If you have a group of supporters that you know are active in LinkedIn on a regular basis, then perhaps a private LinkedIn Group would be a good way to stay in touch and communicate with one another in a private setting.
If you are considering creating a group for mass marketing reasons, its likely that another organization or individual has beat you to it. There are many perks of being the admin of a large LinkedIn Group, but at this point your nonprofit would have to invest a lot of time and resources growing the group to 10,000 or more.
10) Experiment with LinkedIn Events.
LinkedIn relaunched LinkedIn Events in 2019 and though we do not have any official data on their popularity or success, a quick browse of LinkedIn Events reveals that they are resonating with the LinkedIn community.
To create an event for your nonprofit, visit your page and select Admin tools > Create an event and complete the required fields:
Once your event invitation is live, there are some unique marketing and engagement options. Admins can invite up to 1,250 of their connections to attend the event and engage attendees with live chat and polls. All that said, Nonprofit Tech for Good has no experience with LinkedIn Events – until today (August 10, 2021). We’ll experiment together to see if our upcoming LinkedIn Event performs well and report back.
101 Digital Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits is a blog and webinar series (written and presented by Heather Mansfield) on website design, email marketing, online fundraising, and social media best practices for nonprofits, NGOs, and charities worldwide. Those who register and attend all three webinars in the series will earn a Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising from Nonprofit Tech for Good.