September 18, 2012

LinkedIn Offers Tool to Help Charities Recruit Board Members

LinkedIn, the professional networking site, has announced a free new service called Board Connect to help charities recruit board members who have much-needed skills.

LinkedIn offers charities a place to post detailed information about their organization and the professional and volunteer connections of its board members and other leaders.

Through Board Connect, groups can then search LinkedIn for potential new board members by listing skills that would be helpful, such as an accounting or legal background,  job title, nonprofit affiliations, and other characteristics. Board Connect returns a list of people who meet those criteria and have connections to one or more board members or staff members at the nonprofit.

To be eligible for the service, an official from each charity must complete a short questionnaire, provide proof of the organization’s tax-exempt status, and participate in a 45-minute Webcast that describes how to use Board Connect.

Before it created Board Connect, LinkedIn officials held 20 focus groups with charities and others, conducted a survey of its members, and recruited four organizations to test the idea: Charter Board Partners, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund, and Teach for America.

Board Connect is an effort to “build in philanthropic impact for LinkedIn,” said Reid Hoffman, the company’s co-founder, who announced the new service at the annual conference of BoardSource, which works to strengthen charity boards. With more than 175 million people now using LinkedIn to detail their professional expertise, Mr. Hoffman said, the company is in a good position to help charities find qualified trustees.