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The Little-Known LinkedIn Search That Will Ignite Your Donor Research

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on Jan 11, 2016 10:00:00 AM

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LinkedIn is severely misunderstood and underestimated donor research tool by many fundraisers.

Even those that use it often don’t take full advantage of its many useful tools.

In fact, there’s a simple little search you can do on LinkedIn that can give you the perfect outreach point for thousands of potential donors that I’m shocked isn’t talked about more in development circles.

I often mention this trick in webinars and it seems like less than half of fundraisers, even those familiar with LinkedIn, even know it exists.

Ready for it?

The “Nonprofit Interests” Search

LinkedIn allows users to append all sorts of tags, interests, and accomplishments to their profiles. Users can indicate the kind of professional opportunities they’re seeking, along with the nonprofit opportunities they’d be interested in.

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Check it out:

First, click on “Advanced” next to the search bar on your home page.

 linkedin for donor research

On the advanced search tab, go to the bottom of the second column and click “Nonprofit Interests.” Finally, click on either “Skilled Volunteering” or “Board Service” (or both).


Click search and boom! You’ve got people in your network and beyond who have indicated they’re interested in nonprofit service. You can narrow your results using the other advanced search features like company, location, job title, and more.

Now, there are some limitations.

First, there are only those two categories available, and this does leave things pretty broad. Skilled volunteering covers a lot of ground.

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There’s also the very strong possibility that a person added this interest to their profile without giving it much thought. They might have zero nonprofit or volunteer experience. One of LinkedIn’s strengths is their onboarding process. They make it super easy to add details to and update your profile. They’ve even gamified it.

LinkedIn Profile | Donor Research

(See? My profile strength is “All Star” level. No big deal.)

Because it's so easy to add, a lot of people have done it. Just how many? Ben Tannenbaum from The Community Corp, a nonprofit that pairs tech talent with skilled volunteering opportunities has the stats:

“LinkedIn has made it easy to identify potential volunteers’ skill sets and passions. Over 4 million LinkedIn users have expressed interest in skills-based volunteering. 72% were millennials.”

So it’s entirely likely that your donor prospect added this to their profile and forgot about it entirely.

But, this could be advantageous to you...

The Outreach Hook

One of the biggest challenges for fundraisers is finding an “inclination” point for someone to get involved with their organization. Once you’ve got that “hook” for the initial outreach and engagement opportunity, major gift officers can start to work their magic on a prospect to increase their level of engagement.

And the “Nonprofit Interests” tag on their LinkedIn profile could be just the thing you need.

It would be hard for someone to say “sorry, not interested” in a skilled volunteering opportunity (provided the opportunity actually matches their skills) if they’ve indicated on their profile that they’re interested in or seeking volunteer opportunities.

Your initial outreach can be as simple as this:

“Hey Frank,

I was checking out a mutual friend of our’s (Ben Lamson) LinkedIn when I came across your profile. I noticed you had indicated you’re interested in some skilled volunteering opportunities.

I work with an organization that does environmental work in our area, and we’re actually in need of some advice for a particular project that I think you’d have some great input on.

Could I take you out for coffee next week and tell you about it?”


So while a nonprofit interest indicated on a LinkedIn profile may not be a guaranteed win for you, it at least allows you a great way to get a conversation going. Best of all, it's a free resource! And if you don't think your donors are on LinkedIn, think again. LinkedIn's 300 million users puts it in the upper echelon of social media sites, and it skews to a slightly older demographic of user.

Plus, skilled volunteering presents a huge opportunity to engage supporters in a meaningful way that benefits volunteers and the organization. Here's Ben again:

“Setting expectations is key to success. Nonprofits should always mutually agree upon project scope, timing, and distinct project deliverables with volunteers, just as they would with a contracted vendor.”

Got a donor or new prospect you've been itching to get in touch with? Hop on over to LinkedIn and do a search for nonprofit interests!

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Topics: social media, donor research

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