Category Archives: Communications & Marketing

LinkedIn for nonprofits

Many nonprofit professionals have joined LinkedIn for the usual reasons–we heard it was good for introductions, job searching, and researching colleagues.

But most of us don’t do more than fill out a brief profile and forget about it, until the next alert, the next request for an incoming “connection.”

A recent Best Practices Guide to LinkedIn for nonprofits describes services and features of interest and how it can be used as much more than a place to post our resumes.

For starters, did you know you can create a company page at no cost? More than 101,000 organizations have a LinkedIn page that they use to attract followers and communicate important and timely information about their work.

Once set up in the network, nonprofits can link to or start common interest groups. With the Groups feature, users host content, share resources, start discussions, and alert others to services, programs, and events. For example, the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) uses their Group to host content and agenda discussions related to its annual conference for presenters and attendees. When you start or join a LinkedIn Group, you can find news and discussions by topic, play an active role in discussions by commenting on content, and follow influential people and their group activity.

Another LinkedIn feature—the Skills page—can help nonprofits find and share information on professional expertise. For instance, nonprofits use the Skills page to find consultants or contractors with specific experience and knowledge. By searching for a skill, you can identify members with additional related skills, as well as Groups and discussion focused on those areas of expertise.

Active LinkedIn users are likely to use the Status feature to share information. With Status you can post articles, make announcements, recruit survey participants, market new programs, ask questions, etc. This is networking in the nonprofit sense–positioning your organization, building leadership in your network, engaging users in issues and causes.

The Best Practices Guide also describes numerous ways that nonprofits conduct hiring activities using the LinkedIn Jobs and Recruiter features. Jobs lets users post and circulate opportunities, and Recruiter enables users to put in parameters and run searches to find their own candidate lists. Many national organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Sick Kids Foundation use the feature to recruit candidates, manage the application process, and coordinate internal hiring activities. Recruiter is also a handy tool for conducting Board searches.

The Career Page, a sub-feature of the Company Page, is another LinkedIn tool that many companies use for recruiting staff and volunteers. Members use the feature to develop targeted pages that can help candidates better understand the organization, its culture, recent direction, and career opportunities.

Check out the Best Practices Guide here. It’ll remind you  to revisit your own outdated or incomplete profile and inspire you to LinkIn your nonprofit.

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Ten ways to build your nonprofit’s public speaking capacity

We pay a lot of attention to our nonprofits’ online voices these days, but are we neglecting an older and more essential form of communication?

Public speaking skills are overlooked as a core capacity in many organizations. All nonprofits need good in-person communicators, whether they present at national conferences, provide community talks, call on funders, or meet with partners and clients. Unfortunately we tend to think good public speakers are born that way, and hope we get lucky enough to hire or work with them.

Many books and classes teach the principles of effective public speaking, but there’s little guidance for nonprofit leaders who want to build it as a competency across their organization. Most of us are left on our own when we “have to speak” in public. And most of us wait until the last minute, whip out a quick Powerpoint, and suffer through.

But what if nonprofit leaders matched their nonprofits’ important work and impressive outcomes with a commitment to continuous learning and building of presentation skills? Below we suggest some ways to do this:

1. View public speaking as teamwork, even if it’s a solo job.
Assemble a group to brainstorm about stories and concepts that will interest people and presentation content and themes. Make sure that less-experienced staff works with senior staff as a learning experience. Likewise, senior staff can benefit by rehearsing in front of those who are newer to the topic and issues and may be more like a general audience.

2. Develop scripts.
Create scripts that describe your organization, its impact, key programs, and related issues. These can serve as templates and be adapted for specific audiences and events.  Develop boilerplate presentation aids, like Powerpoint slideshows, to accompany your scripts.

3. Rehearse.
Rehearse early and often. Set specific times for staff to present in front of colleagues, or bring in peers, Board members, or others to serve as mock audiences. Rehearsals should be “dress rehearsals” that simulate the event conditions, such as time, equipment, question and answer sessions, etc.

4. Use video.
Use a video recorder to tape and review presentations. Hearing and seeing yourself speak is a tremendous eye opener.  You’ll have a different perspective on what you sound like to others and your unique body language.

5. Learn PowerPoint.
There are rare people who can give a compelling presentation with no slideshow, but most of us need at least a few slides and most audiences expect them. Make sure everyone in your organization is comfortable with Powerpoint (including navigating forward and backward and clicking on hyperlinks.) There are many other software tools you can use as well, but Powerpoint is “spoken” across almost all venues and audiences. Invest the time to develop a slideshow that enhances, rather than overwhelms or distracts from, a presentation.

6. Buy good equipment and train people to use it smoothly.
How many presentations have you been to where the speaker spends five minutes or more trying to get the equipment working properly? You can’t always use your own remote or electronic pointer, but whenever possible use trusted equipment and make sure speakers are trained to use it.

7. Invest in training.
Look for public speaking workshops and courses. Skills like eye contact and body language, voice control, storytelling, and the “power close” can all be taught and practiced. They can be especially helpful for those who have been giving presentations for a long time and may have developed bad habits.

8. Hire a coach.
A coach can be well worth the investment to help staff become confident and effective public speakers. The one-on-one feedback can be immeasurably helpful at both the psychological level (e.g., confidence) and the physical (e.g., voice control.)

9. Join Toastmasters.
There are many Toastmasters clubs in the Mid-South. Members meet on a regular basis to present, listen, and evaluate each other’s presentations. These learn-by-doing workshops are a popular way for participants to hone their speaking and leadership skills in an encouraging atmosphere.  Nonprofit leaders can help their employees find a good fit and pay the membership dues.

10. Create opportunities to speak.
So many of us dread public speaking and only give presentations when asked. But if we invest in collaboration, training, coaching, and technology to build capacity, we’ll improve our skills and find it more enjoyable. The only way to get better is to practice. Look around your community for volunteer, business, religious, senior, and other types of groups that host or sponsor presenters or panels.  You never know what else they could lead to.

Are presentation skills a core capacity in your organization? Leave a comment–we’d love to know how you practice public speaking or help employees improve their skills. We’re interested in great books and videos or local classes and coaching resources for public speaking too.