LinkedIn announced Board Connect, resources that helps nonprofits transform themselves into networked nonprofits by finding and recruiting board members using a networked approach. Leveraging their own networks as well as their board members’ networks, nonprofit leaders now have free access to a premium LinkedIn feature that lets them search for and connect with professionals who meet the needs of their organization on LinkedIn.
The idea is simple, but powerful. You and your board look at your professional networks and connections on LinkedIn. Board Connect lets you zero in on the right candidates with the right networks and knowledge for your nonprofit. You can contact them through LinkedIn and the interface has tools to manage your search.
If you have ever served on a board or if you are an executive director who has had to manage their boards, you know that adding new board members isn’t always an easy process. Typically, there is a discussion like “We need someone who has x skill.” Then everyone goes through their mental Rolodex and that process is repeating. Then comes the screen process that sometimes can take the skills of an investigative reporter. Board Connect changes all that.
Using Board Connect on LinkedIn allows you see past first connections on LinkedIn, check out a potential candidate’s knowledge and their connections. It streamlines the process. But, if all board members add their networks, this produces a richer set of potential candidates. And, remember, you are not just adding a board member, you are also adding their network.
As part of the board connect program, nonprofits get free access to a Talent Finder account (valued at $1000/annually), an exclusive LinkedIn education webcast (with tools and tips to use the account), and membership to the Board Connect Group on LinkedIn. You can sign up here.
But don’t be a fool with a tool. In a recent interview with with Alnoor Ebrahim, associate professor and faculty chair of the “Governing for Nonprofit Excellence” executive program at Harvard Business School, on Forbes online blog, he suggests that nonprofits should be looking for tough love from its board members. Nonprofits need board members who are willing to take their organization’s leadership to task, to ask tough questions about performance, and to keep the organization focused on mission. It’s also important that the Senior Management view the board as a place to get critical and unvarnished guidance, to say “Here’s a problem that’s keeping me up at night. Can you help me think through it?” That’s something that a LinkedIn profile alone won’t necessarily tell you, making the screening process all the more important.
Your organization may also need to educate leadership that this LinkedIn can be a valuable strategic tool for governance, recruiting staff, and connecting with donors. Here’s some steps.
Here’s my curated list of resources about how Networked Nonprofits Can Use LinkedIn for additional tactics and examples for nonprofits. Also see this interview with Meg Garlinghouse on Forbes.
Has your organization used LinkedIn to develop its board or part of an organizational networking strategy that leverages professional networks of staff and board? Share your story in the comments.