The Network of You is bigger than you think, and LinkedIn provides a cost-effective and time-efficient way to leverage these relationships to engage donors. Even if you only spend ten minutes per day on the site, these four fundraising features of LinkedIn should become a core part of your donor development strategy.
Use Linked in to connect with parents, donors, community leaders, thought leaders, faculty, and even prospective faculty. Connecting requires sending an invitation to each person based on your current relationship: colleague, classmate, business associate, friend, or other. The "friend" option is the easiest because it doesn't require qualifying the nature of your relationship. LinkedIn provides a template message that should be edited to personalize your brief connection invitation. You might include acknowledgement of the person's achievement(s) and suggest a dialogue in the near future about an opportunity to collaborate.
Once connected, you will receive status updates posted by the person along with having access to their network through direct or indirect introductions. If one of your connections knows an executive in your community with whom you would like to build a relationship, you can request an introduction through LinkedIn and the system makes the process simple. (Hint: An iPad app that will show the scope of your LinkedIn connections and help you connect the dots is ProInsights. I use this app frequently to analyze opportunities and set up meetings.)
With the wealth of background data available through LinkedIn, you should never have a "blind" conversation with a donor. Learn what is important to each donor and his/her sphere of influence by researching what is being posted by or about the person along with the other people and organizations with whom he/she is associated. Learn the language and issues of your donor's world so that you're able to demonstrate genuine interest and preparation. By gaining common language and understanding you position yourself as a professional advisor who can establish shared vision and an investment proposal.
Introductions & Recommendations
Look for ways to connect people in your school community who share common interests. They may be in the same industry, share the same hobbies, or perhaps they attended the same university. You can introduce them through an email that provides a few sentences on each person, or you might set up a time to meet for lunch.
LinkedIn also makes it very easy to write a professional recommendation for people in your network. Such a recommendation can be accepted and displayed on their public profile as a testament to their valuable qualities. Make it a goal to write one introduction and one recommendation each week. This would only take about fifteen minutes and the mutual benefits will be well worth the investment of your time.
Donor relationships shouldn't be one-sided, where you expect them to invest time to learn about the school but you know nothing about their goals and interests. (This is especially true of your board members) Listen to and engage with people from your community who are active on LinkedIn. Participate in the dialogue on select groups that supports awareness and relevance. You may even be able to start a LinkedIn group for your local community, then invite the real estate agents, business owners, executives, and civic leaders to join.
As Zig Ziglar once said, "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want."