Case study: Nonprofits can find great volunteers on LinkedIn

I regularly teach LinkedIn to nonprofit organizations and coach the nonprofiteers (as I like to call them), who work so hard making a difference for others.

Often they do not fully appreciate the power and value of LinkedIn to bring their own personal brand, and their organization’s brand, to the forefront–making a difference for themselves, too.

How can you improve your presence and advance your mission to the business community? And then would the right volunteers be attracted to you? Read on.

First, be sure your personal and “company” LinkedIn profiles are not dull and lifeless and the reader can relate well to your, or your organization’s, brand presence on LinkedIn.

In doing so you make the reader want to further learn about your mission and its message, understand your organizations is filling a need, donate their time or money to you, and refer you to others who might also help.

If you are not capturing their attention, they go on to the next competing nonprofit that attracts them more. Thus, the need to stand up and stand out on LinkedIn is especially important when seeking volunteers, staff, corporate sponsors, and board members.

In this case study let’s concentrate on volunteers. They can be hard to find, especially when you seek certain skills or credentials. They are unpaid, yet motivated by various reasons, and must be chosen as appropriate to the situation.

So where do you go to find these volunteers in the business market? The best place by far, in my experience, is LinkedIn, as United Way of Westchester Putnam (UWWP) did, with panache.

I want to walk you through a series of LinkedIn updates by colleague Shannon Cobb, UWWP’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communication ( From her title you would expect her to know how to optimize all social media. But it’s not just what she said on LinkedIn, but how she opened up a personal conversation with her network.

In her initial LinkedIn message to her connections, Shannon appealed to them to spread her need for volunteers and interns for upcoming projects at UWWP, and each volunteer/intern position is well described (plus a shout-out for an opening at an organization they support):

As the responses begin to come in, my nonprofit clients find it may take some additional time for the initial request to “marinate” and distribute widely via the LinkedIn network. In this busy season of organizing the myriad details of nonprofit galas and planning for summer fundraising outings, the message may sit in readers’ inboxes until there is a lull in activity.

And they did roll in! In a subsequent LinkedIn message to the same population a little over 3 weeks later, Shannon updated her connections, and thanked them for the success she had in obtaining 7 qualified volunteers, and never missing an opportunity, she asked for additional help in sourcing corporate sponsorships for UWWP (and where else would it be better to do this than LinkedIn?):

Smart work on Shannon’s part. Too often requests for help are clinical and hat-in-hand. That’s an immediate turn-off. Or the writer fails to thank and update the readers with the status of the most recent request.

Look at how Shannon is working her network: updating with successes, asking for additional help and being friendly and professional in her wording and upbeat in her tone. If you knew her personally, you would not be surprised.

So I reached out to her via LinkedIn to offer to make this an educational experience for my nonprofiteer audience. I asked her, via LinkedIn message:

Her warm, fast reply:

So there you have a chronology of another successful use of LinkedIn to source talented, capable volunteers you might not normally access.

I know you can glean some great take-aways from this.

I especially like UWWP’s ability to absorb encore-careerists, Shannon’s approach to vetting a connection request, and her using tags to aggregate her LinkedIn connections for later communications.

Don’t stop there, there is so much more to LinkedIn that nonprofits can do better. Here’s a great place to start: And if you need more TLC, I walk my clients through the right ways to use LinkedIn for their own branding purposes. Just ask.


Originally posted to LinkedIn by Marc Halpert

Marc W. Halpert (CLAS ’77) is a “multi-preneur,” having started 3 companies, all of which he continues to operate. His third company “Connect2Collaborate” spreads his LinkedIn and networking evangelism worldwide to train and coach others to better explain their brand and positioning on their LinkedIn profile pages.


Thoughts on “Case study: Nonprofits can find great volunteers on LinkedIn

    Thank-you. Very helpful post. I will share this with my non-profit friends.


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