I find LinkedIn an extremely useful resource and would like more people to see why it is so helpful. Here are 5 tips for charities and those who work at/volunteer for them, for using this amazing, free site:
1- Like other forms of social media, LinkedIn is both a great way to learn new information and also to share your own news and discoveries. For example, some people on LinkedIn post links to charity sector articles that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. At other times I find useful information from people outside the sector- which is important to foster cross-sector working and to stop ourselves becoming stale. If you post things yourself, the responses people give can provide new insights into your work and challenge some of your assumptions (and, unlike some other platforms, on LinkedIn people are normally very polite!).
2- Networking and collaboration are key to running a successful charity. No matter how clever you are, skilled-up you are or experienced you are, no matter how good the core people in your charity are, or how stunning your Board of Trustees, everyone needs to reach outside the organisation to new people and potential supporters. Collaborating helps you to fulfil your charity’s mission and to bring the greatest benefit to those you are striving to help. LinkedIn helps you to find people who you think you should meet, to learn a bit about their background before you meet them and to stay in touch with them over time. It also helps you to notice when you have shared connections that can introduce you or recommend you to each other.
3- Groups are an often overlooked part of LinkedIn that I find immensely valuable. There are two main ways to use groups. The first is to contribute to other people’s groups- there are groups on an immense range of charity topics, from volunteering to communications to finance. Even just writing supportive comments on things that others post and sharing their insights with your own networks is helpful and helps strengthen the sector as a whole. The second, if you can’t find a group which focuses on the area you most care about, is to set one up yourself. When I did this I found it the most rewarding thing to sit back and see people who care about charities helping each other, and the list of people who joined the group have proved an excellent starting point for helping me build my own networks in my area of interest.
4- Building your career through understanding how others built theirs. This is my personal favourite thing about LinkedIn. When you are near the beginning of your career, changing your career or doubtful about your career, (all three of which I was not that long ago), it can feel like where you want to be is a million miles away from where you are. Let’s say you want to be Head of Comms at a charity. Even if you are lucky enough to meet a Head of Comms in real life, unless you have a lot of time to chat to them you are not going to see their own torturous career path- you imagine their job history to be a direct and trouble-free line to their current stellar role. On LinkedIn you can see things like that they, like you, did an entirely unrelated degree, worked in a entirely different sector for a while etc., and it gives you hopes that with some effort and a fair wind you can get to wherever you want to.
5- Getting an overview of the sector. People who support charities are often incredibly busy. If working for a charity is your full-time job, you are probably working 25 hours a day to cope. If you work in another sector but volunteer for a charity you will be similarly busy. It can therefore be difficult to get a good overview of the sector. LinkedIn allows you to understand just how diverse it is- made up of giant charities and tiny charities, people who provide services for charities, specialists in every conceivable area, international experts and the like. I have found it so useful in understand where to look for help, how to signpost others to opportunities and how to develop my skills. It has also shown me areas in which the sector needs to communicate with itself or with the outside world more effectively.