LinkedIn for Nonprofits: How Your Nonprofit Can Leverage LinkedIn for Impact

Learn how to leverage LinkedIn for nonprofits to help build your brand, promote your culture, engage donors, and more from our conversation with Anthony Jones!
LinkedIn for nonprofits
About the guest:
Anthony has spent almost 20 years as the digital marketing director at Ducks Unlimited, the world's largest wetlands and waterfowl conservation nonprofit in the world.

Podcast episode transcript ↓

Josh:

Welcome to Big Ideas For Every Org. We help leaders discover powerful, big ideas that increase organizational impact.

I'm Josh, and today we're joined by Anthony Jones.

Anthony has spent almost 20 years as the digital marketing director at Ducks Unlimited, the world's largest wetlands and waterfowl conservation nonprofit in the world.

Today, he's the owner of Anthony Jones Consulting, where he helps businesses and nonprofits unlock the power of LinkedIn to generate more relationships and revenue.

Anthony, thanks for joining us.

Anthony:

Hey, Josh. Thanks a lot for having me today. Thrilled to be here.

Josh:

Awesome.

So before we jump into the topic today, tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

Anthony:

You bet. Yeah, so as you mentioned, I had the privilege of spending almost 20 years working for Ducks Unlimited, where I led a team that was responsible for all the digital marketing programs for the organization.

That spanned the website, social media, online fundraising, email marketing, and mobile app development.

Yeah, during that time, I had a fantastic career, worked with some amazing people. We raised over $40 million through our online channels while I was there and just a fantastic experience.

About a year ago, I made a transition into my own consulting company, where as you said, today I help organizations both in the for profit and nonprofit sector leverage the power of LinkedIn to generate more reach, more visibility, and more revenue for their business.

→ Check out our podcast episode on increasing impact despite uncertainty

Build your employee ambassador program

LinkedIn for nonprofits - brand building

Josh:

Awesome. Awesome.

Yeah, and me and Anthony we're just talking before the episode here and we're just touching base on how we got connected. I connected with Anthony, gosh, probably a year ago or so on LinkedIn, really just out of chance.

He showed up in my feed for some posts, some content, and I grew up in Louisiana, duck hunting, part of local Ducks Unlimited chapters.

I know a lot of people involved with that organization. So, for me, it was a quick affinity and an easy decision to connect with Anthony a year or so ago.

However, what I was impressed by was Anthony was at Ducks Unlimited and he was getting his Ducks Unlimited LinkedIn channel, by extension his own channel, in front of thousands of people, perhaps even millions by now, who had no connection to his organization, to his nonprofit.

I just thought that is absolutely brilliant, so good job on that, Anthony. You've done a lot of incredible work on LinkedIn.

Before we talk about LinkedIn as a solution here to a certain problem, tell us, how did you begin to see this problem with nonprofits not using social media, and specifically, not using LinkedIn for nonprofits?

Anthony:

I mentioned earlier that part of my responsibilities at Ducks Unlimited was to oversee social media, and of course that included LinkedIn. LinkedIn really came on our radar four or five years ago, and at least for me, that was the one social media channel that I had no experience with.

The only time I use LinkedIn is when I needed to hire someone for my team. I looked at it as basically a job board. But we noticed that, that was starting to evolve, it was starting to change. So I became active on LinkedIn, personally, just to basically learn the platform to figure out what works, what doesn't work.

Over the course of several years and generating content and through a lot of trial and error, as you mentioned, I was able to build up a personal brand, again, just to understand the platform.

As I was doing this, I realized that so many organizations simply take the wrong approach when it comes to LinkedIn. That is they have the same view of it today that I had several years ago where they just think of it as a place to recruit talent and post company updates, job postings, press releases.

But they're really missing out on the real impact that can be had when you empower your staff to be active on the platform and having them build their personal brands.

That is the absolute biggest opportunity that organizations both in the for profit nonprofit world have today.

→ Check out our YouTube video on how to raise awareness for your nonprofit!

How your nonprofit can leverage LinkedIn

Learn to leverage LinkedIn for nonprofits

Josh:

Yeah, so talk to us about that.

Talk to us about what's the process of implementing this in your nonprofit? How do you get your leadership within the nonprofit, your influencers? And could this apply to higher ed or ministries as well, but what's the process of doing this?

Anthony:

Yeah, and there's a couple of steps and you touched on one very important one just then, and that is really getting the executive level buy-in.

Whether that's at the board level or senior leadership, at the staff level. And really making sure they understand the value of building this employee brand ambassador program.

Obviously, if you are employed in an organization and you see your leaders are being active and they're leading from the front, that's going to make you a lot more likely to participate yourself. But the other thing that organizations really need to understand is they need to build a policy and have guidelines in place that support the employees as part of that process.

I've looked at a lot of social media policies over the last few years, and I can tell you that most of those policies take a very restrictive approach. They talk about, "Okay, here are the things we don't want you to do. Be careful not to say this or do that."

They're so restrictive that it almost scares employees from being active on LinkedIn at all.

As a result, there are 750 million LinkedIn accounts across the world, but less than 1% of the total LinkedIn user base post content on a weekly basis.

People just don't know what to post, they don't know how to interact with the network, and thus that's part of the huge opportunity. Because the three million people who are posting are getting like nine billion collective views to their content every week.

You really need a communication strategy, you need a set of guidelines that gives employees the kind of guide rails or side rails, if you will, of what's appropriate. But it should not be so long and lengthy that it stifles participation or stifles creativity. Because at the end of the day, people connect with people.

They connect with people on a much deeper and very real level than they do with any type of corporate brand, even a nonprofit organization that they may be passionate about. They connect with people on a human level a lot better.

As we all know, in the business world, we do business with people we know, like, trust and remember. And the same thing applies in the nonprofit world, people give to people.

By building true relationships on LinkedIn, by having real conversations and by putting content out there that shows your personality mixed in with content that adds value to your network, that's when you really start to build a brand that can be beneficial, both for the employee, but also for the organizations that they work for.

Josh:

That's awesome. I love that, and I love the part about having your nonprofit or your businesses, social media policy, being the spirit of empowering, not the spirit of restricting.

I think that is just huge for every organization. I know it's scary to even think that way, but it really does release people to go live out your organization's culture and brand in an authentic way.

That, at the end of the day, is a net positive for your team.

Anthony:

Absolutely.

When I was at Ducks Unlimited, as I was over the digital marketing department, I put in a pilot program in place a couple of years ago where I had a meeting with my team and I said, "Okay, look, there's a lot of opportunity on LinkedIn. I want us as a team to start using the platform to show what we're doing behind the scenes."

I wanted to post content that showed who we were, showed our organizational culture, our values. I encouraged my team to talk about projects that they were working on, to show behind the scenes type of content.

Things that people would connect with because I wanted people to see what we were putting out there.

I wanted them to want to come work for our organization, and I wanted them to want to come work for my team through the content that they saw us putting out on LinkedIn. Because, again, most organizations, most teams aren't doing that.

They're just using it to post jobs, they're just using it to put out the latest press release. That's, again, that's not what people connect with at the end of the day.

→ Check out our ultimate guide to nonprofit branding and learn more about how to set your nonprofit up for success!

The positive effects of LinkedIn for nonprofits

The effects of LinkedIn for nonprofits

Josh:

Yeah, so tell us, what are some of the challenges that you had to face and overcome during this time and implementing this at Ducks Unlimited?

Anthony:

Well, one of the things is you're always going to have employees who are more social media savvy than others.

Some employees are naturally going to embrace that, and they're going to look at it as an opportunity to build their brand. Where others just simply aren't.

I think one of the things you have to understand when you start a policy like this or a program is just give your staff the tools and encouragement and the incentives to be active.

But it's certainly not something you can force. Because you can tell when someone's putting out content that feels forced versus what feels natural.

Josh:

Yes.

Anthony:

So really just giving employees the flexibility there. I think for a lot of organizations, one of the challenges is just simply understanding the value and the potential.

Because the return on that investment isn't immediate and it's not always clear, and it needs to be looked at as a long-term effort.

Because it does take time to build those relationships, and I think for a lot of people, a lot of leaders in today's world, especially when times are tough and the economy may be rough, it's hard to justify spending that time and effort on something that has such a long-term potential return. But that's certainly one of the challenges.

Josh:

Looking back now, what are the positive effects and results from implementing this at Ducks Unlimited?

What can other organizations expect from doing this? Just one positive effect I saw for Ducks Unlimited was you were putting the Ducks Unlimited brand in front of thousands of people a week on LinkedIn.

Who may have a loose affiliation with Ducks Unlimited, may know nothing about the organization, but there you were in the mixed presenting the name of your nonprofit to all these people.

So speak to us about positive effects and results that people in organizations can expect?

Anthony:

Yeah, and there's a lot, I would say, there's three really big ones.

First of all, it's really engaging with your donors, both current donors and potential donors. Because they're on LinkedIn, they may not be posting, but they're scrolling through the content every day.

It's a great opportunity, as you just mentioned, to connect and build relationships on a very real human level. That's one.

Another benefit is building relationships with potential corporate partners, with foundations. There's a lot of organizations, obviously, that are active on LinkedIn, that your organization can benefit from engaging.

Then third, I know a lot of organizations, both in the for profit and nonprofit sector are bleeding talent right now, so it's a great opportunity to show you the culture of your organizations, to recruit talent, but also retain the people who are working in your organization currently.

Josh:

That's awesome.

What would you say to those who are maybe on the fence listening to this?

They have concerns about changing their social media policy from a spirit of restriction to a spirit of empowerment. Who are maybe afraid of letting their leaders loose on LinkedIn. What would you say to those who have concerns?

Anthony:

Well, my biggest statement there is now is the time to be active on LinkedIn.

I refer to this as the good old days of LinkedIn because, as I mentioned earlier, less than 1% of the user base is actually posting content. When you think about that in context of other social networks, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, those networks are so oversaturated with content that unless you're paying for ads, you're not being seen at any level of scale.

But that's not the case with LinkedIn today. Now is the time to be active and really take advantage of that massive organic reach.

I'll share a story with you. I was recently talking with a company. It was a recruiting company who was asking for some help with their LinkedIn presence. In the discovery call, they shared with me that their company page had about 14,000 followers, which is a fantastic number. It's a great number to be proud of, and they were very proud of it.

But as I was putting the proposal together, I went through and I looked and of the 30 employees in their organization, I added up all the connections in their network and they had a total number of 123,000 people who were connected to those 30 employees.

Josh:

Wow.

Anthony:

They really thought that the reach of their brand was the 14,000 people who followed their company page. But, in reality, it was well over 120,000 people.

That's how you need to look at the opportunity and the potential reach for your brand and for your organization's mission on LinkedIn. It's through the voices of the employees.

→ Learn how to plan a fundraising gala from our interview with Michael Swetz!

Closing thoughts

closing thoughts on LinkedIn for nonprofits

Josh:

Yeah, I love that.

Thinking of nonprofits, think about your board, do you have 5, 10, 15 people on your board? What does their LinkedIn network look like? Just so much opportunity with LinkedIn in 2022.

I really hope our listeners will take this and run with it. Just huge opportunity.

Anthony, thanks so much for coming on.

Where can our listeners learn more about you and your work?

Anthony:

Sure. I really appreciate you having me on today, Josh.

They can find me online, obviously, at LinkedIn or find me at anthonyjonesconsulting.com.

Josh:

Awesome. Thanks, Anthony.

Anthony:

Thanks, Josh.

Josh:

Hey, thanks for listening.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others or leave us a rating and review.

To read show notes and resources mentioned in this episode, visit anedot.com/bigideas.

Again, that's A-N-E-D-O-T.com/bigideas.

We'll see you next time.

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