Posts Tagged ‘networking’

Build your best LinkedIn profile with the “Brandraising” approach

LinkedIn is all about connecting with others who share commonality. This, of course, can be said of all social networks, but if you want to maximize your professional network, building a personal brand is essential.

Most nonprofit leaders make the mistake of waiting to build a profile when they need it, but the best time to build a profile is now. Additionally, it should be an ongoing “campaign” of networking so when you need a specific connection, your network is ready and waiting. Tommy Spaulding, author of It’s Not Just Who You Know, calls it “netgiving” rather than networking. This is a terrific approach to building your LinkedIn profile. Try reaching out to your initial contacts by looking for ways you can help others, rather than the “connect-with-me-because-I-need-you” approach.

How do we effectively build a brand? Let’s consult Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications. Durham’s definition of “brandraising” is a great way to get in the right frame of mind for building your profile.  I’ll customize her organizational definition for the purpose of profile-building: Brandraising is the process of developing a clear, cohesive identity and communications system that supports your goals and makes it easier to express your purpose effectively and consistently.

Here are seven steps to building a better profile:

1.       Picture your contacts in the room. Picture yourself in a meeting and introduce yourself similarly on LinkedIn. Sarah Durham talks about “audience-centric communications” in her book. The same rules apply here. Write in your voice as if you were talking directly to someone in the room. Don’t cut and paste your resume.

2.       What is your tagline? The line of text under your name is the first thing people see in your profile. It follows your name in search hit lists. It’s your brand. Try to distill your professional personality into a more eye-catching phrase. Durham recommends making a short list of organizations similar to yours and, if your tagline could apply to them as well, keep working at it until it’s specific to your nonprofit. The same rule can be applied to your tagline on LinkedIn.

3.       Make your summary section work for you. Put yourself back into the meeting room and think about your elevator pitch when you introduce yourself. This blurb goes in the summary box to engage your readers. You have five to 10 seconds to capture your reader’s attention. Durham discusses the importance of developing a messaging platform in the identity level of her brandraising model. The messaging that you create about yourself should include an introduction, key messages about you and, of course, the elevator pitch. Use elements of the messaging platform throughout your profile to build a more impactful impression.

4.       Specialties = SEO. Think of the Specialties field as your personal search engine optimizer, a way to refine the ways people find and remember you. This is where your social sector buzzwords belong. Personal values you bring to your professional performance and humor or passion always add more personalization. Durham explains a fun exercise in her book when you need to isolate the personality of your brand: Ask what mascot could represent you. When you land on the answer, think of words that describe that mascot. These words will help you pinpoint what personality you want to convey in your profile.

5.       Chunking copy helps. When you explain your experience, break down each company or nonprofit you’ve worked for into visual segments or chunks with a short description about what the company does. Make it easy to read and consistently formatted.

6.       Improve your Google page rank. Pat your own back and others’. Get recommendations from colleagues, clients and employers who can speak credibly about your abilities or performance. Think quality over quantity. According to Durham, your messaging platform is shared with board members and staff so everyone is consistently sharing the same message about your organization, thereby building a consistent and more powerful brand. In the case of your LinkedIn profile, your connections are your message carriers so make sure your tagline, summary and additional information fields portray your brand (and personality). Chances are they will reference your profile to make the recommendation.

7.       Build your unique brand. Use the Additional Information section to round out your profile with a few key interests. Add websites that showcase your abilities or passions. Then edit the default “My Website” label to encourage click-throughs (you get Google page rankings for those, raising your visibility). If you belong to a trade association or interest group, help other members find you by naming that group. Awards, recognition by peers, customers and employers add prestige without bragging by listing them here. This strategy looks much like what Durham might call your “experiential level” of brandraising, because this level is where your potential supporters or, in this case, connections may find you. Try to optimize the number of channels in which you can reach people by referencing your affiliations and acknowledgements.

Last but not least, make sure your LinkedIn profile link is on your email signature, website and blog. Now, start “netgiving.”

See also:

Married to the Brand

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Marketing Series–Volume One: Building a Persuasive Case, Seven Transformative Branding Principles, Multi-faceted Strategies and Bonding with Brands for Life

Image credits:,

Leave a reply

Put donors and prospects at ease by honing the fine art of small talk

Working in the nonprofit sector means attending many business-related social events, especially fundraisers. And a big part of a nonprofit executive’s job is talking to others about the organization’s mission and programs. However, despite the fact that nonprofit executives know their organization inside and out, and feel passionate about their mission and programs, some still have trouble conveying that passion to others, simply because they lack strong conversational skills.

Contrary to popular belief, the ability to talk easily with others is a learned skill, not a personality trait. And acquiring this skill will help you develop rapport with people and leave a positive impression that lasts longer than an exchange of business cards. Here are a few tips nonprofit executives can use to improve their small-talk skills:

Be the first to say hello. If you wait for others to approach you, you may wait all night. Also, when you say hello first,you determine what the conversation will be about, making it easier to talk about things you know and about which you feel comfortable.

Introduce yourself. Act as if you’re the host and introduce new arrivals to your conversational partner or partners.

Smile first and always shake hands when you meet anyone. This puts others at ease and makes you appear confident.

Take your time during introductions. Make an extra effort to remember names, and use them frequently in the conversation.

Maintain eye contact. Many people in a group of three or more people look around in the hope that others will maintain eye contact on your behalf. But people don’t feel listened to if you’re not looking at them.

Get somebody to talk about why they’re attending the event, and you are on your way to engaging them in conversation.

Show an interest in every person. The more interest you show, the wiser and more attractive you become to others.

Listen carefully for information that can keep the conversation going.

Remember: People want to be with people who make them feel special, not people who are “special.” Take responsibility in helping people you talk to feel as if they’re the only person in the room.

Play the conversation game. When someone asks, “How’s business?” and “What’s going on?”, answer with more than “Pretty good”or “Not much.” Tell more about yourself so that others can learn more about you.

Be cautious when asking business and personal questions.Don’t open a conversation with “How’s your job going at _____?” What if that person just got fired or laid off? Questions like “What do you do?”, “Are you married?”, “Do you have children?” and “Where are you from?” lead to dead-end conversations. Be careful when you’re asking about an acquaintance’s spouse or special friend—you could regret it.

Be aware of body language. Nervous or ill-at-ease people make others uncomfortable. Act confident and comfortable, even when you’re not.

Be prepared. Spend a few minutes before an anticipated event preparing to talk easily about three topics. They will come in handy when you find yourself in the middle of an awkward moment—or while seated at a table of eight where everyone is playing with their food.

Show an interest in conversational partner’s opinion, too.You’re not the only person who has opinions about funding the space program or what will happen to the stock market.

Stop conversation monopolists in their tracks. If possible,wait for the person to take a breath or to pause, then break in with a comment about their topic. Immediately redirect the conversation in the direction you wish it to go.

Be prepared with exit lines. You need to move around and meet others.

Don’t melt from conversations. Make a positive impression by shaking hands and saying goodbye as you leave.

With practice, you can learn how to make the most of meetings, fundraisers and other networking events. You’ll learn to appreciate, rather than dread, networking events.

See also:

The Fine Art of Small Talk

The Fine Art of Big Talk

It’s Not Just Who You Know: Transform Your Life (and Your Organization) by Turning Colleagues and Contacts Into Lasting, Genuine Relationships

Image credit:,,,

Leave a reply

Trista Harris on “How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar” (Audio)

A few weeks ago we featured an article by Trista Harris on how to build your nonprofit network. We also wanted to interview her as part of our book preview series that showcases intriguing leadership and nonprofit texts and their authors. Her book, coauthored with Rosetta Thurman, is aptly titled How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar. It focuses on how to accelerate your nonprofit career and find your dream nonprofit job. She delves deeper into her wealth of helpful suggestions in this interview. Listen to her interview here.

Here’s a taste of the interview:

Trista Harris:

In our book, it has all the sort of things they don’t teach you when you’re in school about nonprofits: how to brand yourself, how to develop a career path, how to network and how to really strengthen your career. Rosetta and I decided to write the book because it was all the advice we wish we had when we first started our jobs. It feels like sometimes in nonprofits you don’t have that clear career path that you sometimes have in the for-profit sector. It feels like there are secrets on how to move forward and what it takes to be successful. We just wanted those things to be really clear so that people both stayed in the sector and really thrived when they were there.

Listen to more…

See also:

Trista Harris’ article, “Build your nonprofit network”

Match: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time

Leave a reply

Build your nonprofit network

You’ve heard this many times before. The key to getting your dream nonprofit job or even to be effective in your current position is network, network and network some more. You’ve heard it so many times because it’s true. Before Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, nonprofit leaders actually made connections face-to-face most of the time. These days, technology has made communication much less time-consuming; however, the old-fashioned ways of networking still hold true.

Here are a few ways to build your network:

Attend nonprofit conferences

Nonprofit conferences are the mecca of networking. You get to learn from some of the top leaders in the field as well as build relationships with others in the sector. Of course, conference attendance can get a little pricey, but having the opportunity to meet hundreds of nonprofit professionals in one place is usually worth it. You will meet your peers as well as experienced nonprofit leaders who could be your next bosses! If paying the registration fee is an issue, many conferences will allow you to attend for free if you volunteer the day of the conference to manage registrations, cover it on social media or take pictures. A list of great nonprofit conferences is available here.

Join professional associations

Professional associations are great places to learn more about your field, flex your leadership muscles and build your professional network. Membership fees can be expensive, but sometimes your employer can pay for them or if you are still in school, you can get a student rate. Some examples of nonprofit associations can be found here.

Go talk to people

A great way to expand your network is to set up informational interviews with people who have jobs you may be interested in or work at organizations you admire. An informational interview means you are seeking advice rather than interviewing for a specific job.

When you are setting up informational interviews, let the interview subjects know who you are and what you would like to learn from them. Have three questions available and give those to the person beforehand. Some examples:

• I’d like to move into your sector and have heard you are well-connected. Can you refer me to 2-3 other people?

• I want to work for an organization like yours someday. What do you look for when you are hiring?

• I am thinking about a specific graduate school program. Do you think this type of program would be useful for your type of work?

The person you are meeting with is not a mind reader so tell him/her exactly what you are looking for and there will be less chance of being disappointed. Be prepared to get everything you need in a half hour and count any extra time as a gift.

Build a frankenmentor

It is almost impossible to find a long-term mentor who can advise you in every aspect of your career. What is more realistic and what I have done for most of my career is find a varied network of support. I have a variety of roles in my position as president of the Minnesota Council on Foundations: recruiter, manager, strategic planner, chief networker, spokesperson and administrator. I have found many amazing women and men with experiences in each of these roles and have relied on them to give me good advice and lots of encouragement as I chart new paths and try new ideas out. For me, there has never been just one great mentor. My mentors are in lots of different fields and have a variety of experiences. Most wouldn’t call themselves my mentor if you asked them but they have always been available when I have needed help.

Your network is your greatest tool when it comes to preparing for the next step in your career. Your network will help you identify positions, give you the courage to apply, and be your best inside and outside advocates to get you that position. Your network can also be a source of support for challenging situations or give advice and support about how to balance it all. Take some time to build your professional network.

Leave a reply

Welcome! Please provide your log-in information below.
Forget your password?
Enter your email or user name and your log-in information will be sent to the email on file.