Do you use Linkedin? I’m surprised how many people in the nonprofit sector answer no when I ask this. Digging deeper I usually get a sheepish shuffle mumbling about how it doesn’t do much. I think it can be one of the most powerful tools an organization can use for fundraising. In this post I’m going to introduce you to one simple thing you can do to take advantage of this powerful social networking platform.
One of the best uses of Linkedin that I’ve found is to find and meet people that I need to meet. By need to meet, I mean someone who shares a common goal with me — someone who can benefit as much from knowing me as I can from knowing them. I don’t believe Linkedin is a good place to cold call. In fact, I think it’s a terrible place to cold call. But it’s an ideal place to network for introductions that end in warm calls.
First you need to connect with people that you know — colleagues, co-workers, former co-workers, competitors, vendors, friends, and family. Invite them to link to you, but give each one of them a reason why they should do so. Don’t simply use the default request, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” That’s about as personal and useful as hitting a Like button on Facebook. The reason that you want to connect to all of these people is because they know people that you need to meet and you know people that they need to meet. Connecting with them is the first step in making that happen.
Once you have connected to your base network, you can begin to meet new connections. Start by searching for a company or foundation that you would like to touch. Do you want to meet the CEO? They will likely show up on the list of employees connected to your search. Now look at the 2nd degree connections that you have at that organization. These are listed under the Shared Connections button. Chances are you know one of these people who is a 1st degree connection to your target. Go through your list of 2nd degree connections and identify the people who are most likely to be able to introduce you to the person you want to meet.
Once you have found your likely sources for an introduction, send them a personal email. Do not use the Linkedin Inmail function. I will explain why in a moment. In your personal email, ask your connection how well they know your target and if they would be willing to introduce you via email. Explain why you want to meet them and why you feel it would be a benefit to your target. Your contact will likely reply that they either don’t know them well enough, aren’t willing to make the introduction, or that they would be happy to do so. It can be as simple an introduction as, “Bob meet Sally. Sally meet Bob. I could be mistaken, but I think you two have some good reasons to chat.” Then you have a direct email address for your target and an introduction to begin a conversation. All donors come to your organization through conversations. This is just the beginning. Now you have an opportunity connect with a potential donor one on one and can begin to work you donor nurturing process. Then you can ask for introductions to your new friend’s contacts.
The reasons that you use your personal email are twofold. First, you want a direct email address and contact info for your target. Second, Linkedin’s Inmail system lets everyone in the chain of the conversation see that you asked for an introduction. Yes, you did ask for an introduction, but it’s not a very graceful way to make it happen. So use your personal business email account.
Once you start using Linkedin to get and give introductions you will begin to quickly expand your network in a meaningful way. If this is the only thing you add to your use of Linkedin, I guarantee that you’ll begin to see terrific results for your organization. But there’s a whole lot more that you can add to this. Check back with us to keep learning.
Photo courtesy: smi23le via Flickr. Licensed under creative commons.