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Linking Partners via Linkedin

  • Partnerships between local charities, businesses and larger organisations can have mutual benefits for all parties involved, but many local groups tell us they have a hard time making these partnerships a reality. Networking and finding the right people to engage with is crucial - whether your organisation is looking to secure extra funding, co-operate on service delivery or even pool resources. 

    Have you ever been asked for a specific name when phoning an organisation, rather than being able to be put through to a department, or a secretary of a Manager?

    It was something I constantly encountered and fell foul of working in my first Business Development job, before I discovered Linkedin. Now it’s a piece of cake to find out exactly who I need to speak to within a department of a company. I’ve even found tricks to use Linkedin for more than just searching for a name. There’s a kind of art to using the social media site and a respectability within business, which allows us to use it for networking.

    In this blog I’m going to share some of my Linkedin tricks, so you and your group can also benefit.

    I should start off by saying, that not everyone needs a Premium, paid for account, to make the most of Linkedin. Actually, very few people do. Despite what looks like an all singing all dancing resource, for many small charities and community groups with limited finances, a standard account will more than do.

    1. Numbers count 

    One of the useful things to look for in a well networked contact is the number of connections they have. This will always show as “500+” on their profile, if you’re not connected. Connecting with these people can give you access to a huge range of people with expertise and knowledge that can really benefit your group.

    2. Building your network 

    Connecting with one individual enables you to easily link with their colleagues, board members and other people with a close relationship to that company. Once you have this initial contact all of these other people become “2nd degree contacts”. As a result, you end up getting a branching effect, that after a while turns into a much wider network.

    3. The higher the better?

    It is worth noting that the most senior members of an organisation are not always the decision makers. However, being linked to a Chairman, or CEO means you’re far more likely to be accepted as a Connection by those who are.

    4. Board members are frequently members of multiple boards

    Linkedin can also be useful for approaching those senior members of an organisation. Establishing these links makes it far easier to ask them to support your cause, financially or otherwise at a later date. Board members are frequently members of multiple boards. Linking with these individuals will therefore give you access to numerous useful contacts across different organisations.

    5. Groups

    Another excellent way to build your network, is to join relevant groups. In my experience, once you are in a group, speculative requests to connect are far more positively received. Moreover, using your group as a means to publish posts is a great way to become better known.

    6. The all important Profile

    This brings me onto your profile itself. People will want to see if you could be a valuable connection to them. For this reason it's advisable to use the mantra of - if you wouldn’t put it on your CV, don’t put it on your profile. The same goes for your picture. Make it professional and explain what you’ve done in other roles, rather than just listing them. While I wouldn’t advocate putting every job you’ve ever had on your profile, a wide range of roles does help to link you to others. For some 2nd degree contacts and other wider contacts, your “Done Business With” drop down tab will allow you to send an invitation.

    7. Sharing works for everyone

    One of the areas people often feel hesitant about is adding a connection who could be considered competition, be it for funding or clients. Don’t be! Generally speaking, while they will have access to your connections, you will also have access to theirs and that could be very valuable. Particularly in the charitable and voluntary sector, people often share knowledge. A partnership that could be useful to you, may already have been developed by a competitor who couldn’t make use of it themselves. Information sharing is useful to all of us.

    Of course all of this comes with a very large caveat that a partnership can never be purely online. What Linkedin does best is let you know a little about the person you want to speak to. Even if you’re simply looking up a job title on Google, putting in Linkedin at the end of your search could really help. Sometimes my first point of call is simply to search for a company in a geographical area to get an understanding of its structure and personnel.

    However you use Linkedin, it is a great thing to have in your networking armoury.