This is the eighth post in a blog and webinar series called 101 Digital Marketing & Fundraising 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: LinkedIn & Twitter Best Practices for Nonprofits
Related Certificate Program: Certificate in Social Media Marketing & Fundraising
Launched on May 5, 2003, LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. 51% of its users are college-educated 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 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 worked out many of the kinks and bugs that made LinkedIn frustrating to use, and has launched a suite of new tools and functionality for LinkedIn Pages, Profiles, and Groups.
Until 2021, nonprofits were slow to embrace LinkedIn, but now most nonprofits understand its unique role in professional networking and nonprofit outreach. To ensure your nonprofit is maximizing the potential of LinkedIn, utilize the 10 best practices listed below.
1) Set up and prioritize LinkedIn Pages in your social media strategy.
Until recently, LinkedIn Pages outperformed Facebook and Twitter in organic reach and engagement, but that has changed now that nonprofits are regularly posting to their nonprofit’s LinkedIn Pages. That is the conundrum of all social media – the more users it gains, the more content there is inundating the feed, thus the stricter the algorithms become to prioritize only the most engaged organic content and boosted paid content.
Organic reach for LinkedIn Pages is currently estimated to be 3.49%, down from 5% in 2021. If your nonprofit is just getting started with your LinkedIn Page, have realistic expectations. Like other social media, it will be a challenge to grow an engaged following on LinkedIn.
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 LinkedIn 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 LinkedIn 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. As discovered in the Global Trends in Giving Report, the .org domain is by far the most trusted domain for nonprofit websites and email communications.
Once you have claimed or created your LinkedIn Page, the setup process is straightforward. Upload your page logo (250 x 250) and a cover image (1128 x 191), as well as a description, website URL, your organization size, industry, 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 Room to Read’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 connections” to follow your page. Currently, the limit is 250 invitations per month.
In 2023, Nonprofit Tech for Good does recommend that nonprofits prioritize their LinkedIn Page in their social media marketing and fundraising strategy and commit to posting regularly. A sure sign that a nonprofit has integrated LinkedIn into its social media marketing and fundraising strategy is a LinkedIn icon featured on its website. For example, the footer on Room to Read’s website:
2) Post 2-3 times weekly to your LinkedIn Page and react to your followers.
Data on the best frequency to post on LinkedIn Pages is all over the place. Recommendations range from once a month to 5X a day! Nonprofit Tech for Good (linkedin.com/nonprofitorgs) has experimented with once a week, once a day, and twice a day and came to the conclusion that the more we posted, the less the organic reach and we have settled on posting a little less than every other day.
If your nonprofit has less than 10,000 followers, post 2-3 times weekly. More than that? Expand to 3-4 times weekly. Nonprofits with 100,000 or more followers, experiment with 5-6 weekly. However, if your content is receiving little engagement (reactions and comments), regardless of how often your nonprofit is posting, it’s best to pull back or invest in LinkedIn Ads. In terms of what kind of content to post, below are three types of content that consistently perform well on LinkedIn.
1. Share timely news and blog content that communicates the story of your mission and programs.
Timely news articles and blog content work well on all social media, but it performs exceptionally well on LinkedIn. For example, Food Tank recently wrote a blog post about a new study that found that 73% of food in grocery stores in the United States is ultra-processed. The post received high engagement and likely drove more traffic than usual to Food Tank’s website.
2. Curated content relevant to your mission and programs.
WildAid has long been committed to ending the practice of shark finning and when the United States recently banned the sale of sharking fins, WildAid shared an article announcing the news written by CBS News to its LinkedIn Page. The post does not send traffic directly to the WildAid website, but it did become WildAid’s most engaged post to date, and engagement helps increase your organic reach. If your nonprofit doesn’t have the capacity to regularly blog or write news stories, curating well-written content is a good substitute.
3. “Thank You” posts tagged corporate sponsors and partners.
The LinkedIn community is a social network built for business and nonprofit professionals, thus it is absolutely a best practice to tag and thank your corporate sponsors and partners in your page posts. Your sponsors and partners will take notice which helps reinforce their commitment to your organization. For example, this post by the Atlanta Community Food Bank tags and expresses appreciation for their sponsor, MSC Industrial Supply Co.
Finally, be sure to respond to any LinkedIn followers that comment on your posts even if it is only a LinkedIn Reaction. Compared to other social media, comments are infrequent and thus more authentic. Again, a good example from WildAid:
3) Monitor your LinkedIn Analytics.
LinkedIn Analytics offer an important metric that Facebook and Instagram do not – the ability to view clickthroughs on organic posts. Nonprofit Tech for Good has long suspected that reach, impressions, and video view metrics are inflated by social media companies, so the only three metrics you can truly trust are clickthroughs, reactions (Likes, Love, etc.), and Shares/Reposts.
On LinkedIn, you can monitor these important metrics by selecting “Show Stats” located in the lower right corner of each of your posts. For example, here are post stats for a recent post on Nonprofit Tech for Good:
You can also view these important metrics by day, week, month, year, or by a custom date range by visiting the LinkedIn Analytics dashboard featured on your page:
LinkedIn Analytics are comprehensive and the best way to learn about the data available 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.
Compared to other social media, LinkedIn Ads are expensive and the site spends your money fast! Thus far, nonprofits have been slow to adopt LinkedIn Ads. According to the Nonprofit Tech for Good Report, only 17% of nonprofits that invest in social media advertising have a budget for LinkedIn Ads.
LinkedIn does offer an Ads Grant Program, but it is unclear how competitive the program is and how much the grants are. It’s also limited to certain causes and the application periods are random. You can learn more at socialimpact.linkedin.com/nonprofits.
For small nonprofits, LinkedIn Ads are likely out of the question due to their cost, but for medium-sized and large nonprofits with budgets that allow for experimentation, LinkedIn could be a good site for reaching donors, particularly major donors.
5) Engage as your nonprofit page to elevate your brand on LinkedIn.
As an admin for your page, you can engage as your page with posts shared to feed by individuals and pages that you personally follow on LinkedIn. When you have a few minutes of free time, engage as your page (desktop only) to help increase the exposure of your page within the LinkedIn community:
LinkedIn and Twitter have unique roles in your nonprofit’s social media strategy. LinkedIn is ideal for connecting with sponsors, funders, and thought leaders while Twitter is a fast-moving community built upon real-time news and information sharing.
In this two-hour webinar, nonprofits will learn best practices for using LinkedIn and Twitter.
6) Encourage current staff, board members, and volunteers to complete their LinkedIn Profiles.
Every action and interaction that your staff, board members, and volunteers make inside the LinkedIn community helps increase your nonprofit’s brand credibility and exposure. Your organization’s LinkedIn Page is featured and hyperlinked on their profiles and these individuals often choose to use their current job title in their LinkedIn Headline. For example, Heather Mansfield of Nonprofit Tech for Good:
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 ensure that your nonprofit’s staff, board members, and volunteers are effectively using LinkedIn Profiles, provide them a basic set of guidelines during the onboarding process and/or via email reminders every 3-6 months encouraging them to:
- Complete their profile and upload a professional photo.
- List all current and past positions as well as education as well as professional certifications.
- Upload work projects, such as presentations, videos, or special fundraising campaigns.
- Give recommendations to current or previous co-workers and colleagues.
- Be generous with endorsing the skills of current or previous co-workers and colleagues.
- List 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 or follow past and current co-workers, colleagues, and influencers.
7) Empower your current staff, board members, and volunteers to advocate for your nonprofit on LinkedIn.
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 that staff, board members, and volunteers engage with your nonprofit on LinkedIn, but you should encourage them to keep their profiles up to date and remind them via email or Slack that engaging with your nonprofit’s page is appreciated, but not required.
LinkedIn provides Employee Advocacy analytics for pages that displays anonymous engagement data by employees, such as recommendations, posts, repost activity, comments, and reactions, so you’ll be able to see in real-time the benefits of employee advocacy on LinkedIn.
8) Encourage executive staff to be regularly active on LinkedIn.
Executive staff are important ambassadors for your nonprofit and on LinkedIn, they can serve as thought leaders for your mission and programs. It’s highly recommended that at least one member of your executive team, preferably the CEO/executive director, be regularly active on LinkedIn.
That said, it’s common for social media-savvy executive staff to be active on Facebook and Twitter, yet completely neglect LinkedIn even though engagement on LinkedIn is usually higher. For example, when you compare the follower count of Michelle Nunn, President & CEO of CARE USA on LinkedIn and then on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll see that her engagement rate can be up to 5X on LinkedIn when posting the exact same content:
Once executive staff have completed their LinkedIn profile, they should regularly post updates about your nonprofit’s programs from their profile and connect and engage with 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 nonprofit, make sure they also publish the content on LinkedIn as an article on a monthly or quarterly basis.
9) Use LinkedIn to connect with 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 “Follow” or send “Connect” requests to major donors, important staff who work at companies that sponsor your nonprofit, and foundation staff that have made a grant to your organization. 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 their LinkedIn posts or if you’ve worked together, give them a skills endorsement or positive recommendation. Be sure to also follow and engage with their LinkedIn Page, in this case, the Public Welfare Foundation:
That said, your engagement and outreach has to walk a fine line on LinkedIn between being authentic and appearing overly excited and spammy, otherwise, you run the risk of annoying these important connections. Similar to how your nonprofit has a plan to engage 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 sign up for Sales Navigator for Nonprofits/Plans & Pricing.
10) Join and participate in LinkedIn Groups.
LinkedIn launched Groups in 2005 as a means for professionals to connect online 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 a new suite of tools to help group admins to filter out spammers and promote popular content.
Conduct a search of LinkedIn Groups based on your professional interests and join a few groups. Well-maintained groups can be excellent forums for asking for advice or sharing resources, but rarely are they appropriate for posting fundraising pitches. Every action you take in LinkedIn Groups reflects your personal brand and the brand of your nonprofit, so be careful not to inadvertently spam groups with fundraising asks.
Should your nonprofit create a LinkedIn Group? If your nonprofit has a large number of supporters or staff that you know are active on 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 public group for marketing reasons, it’s likely that another organization or individual has beaten 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 significant amount of time to grow a new LinkedIn Group.
Post Updated: January 17, 2023
Our Certificate in Social Media Marketing & Fundraising program covers the fundamentals of social media marketing and fundraising for your nonprofit. Participants will learn how to create and maintain a content strategy, current best practices for the top-performing social media sites, and how to be an early adopter of emerging social media trends.
The program requires the completion of four webinars and costs a total of $100 USD. You can attend the webinars live or view the recordings. Learn more & register!