Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Friday, April 24, 2015

Did LinkedIn help nonprofits & leave nonprofit professionals behind?

Some time back I blogged about LinkedIn's (then new) Board Connect Service as a great new resource for nonprofit organizations. In the couple of years since, LinkedIn has built upon and expanded their vision of "LinkedIn for Good" and their offerings to nonprofits. I have taken part in a couple of free nonprofit technology trainings provided by LinkedIn and have enjoyed meeting their enthusiastic and caring team.

One of the great nonprofit tools they have is being able to search for professionals who are interested in volunteering or board leadership opportunities by their job skills, education, location, industry, and a host of other factors. Related to that, nonprofits can also use LinkedIn's job posting function to advertise for volunteers at 90% discounts.

As great as that is, and as much as I recommend the organizations I work with check that out, that's also the source of a potential problem.

It has recently been pointed out to me that these volunteer listings appear along with regular employment opportunities when LinkedIn members conduct a search.

On the plus side - and I'm sure this is why it was designed this way - it puts your volunteer listings alongside in front of job hunters who have not previously thought about volunteering. It grabs their attention and presents them with an opportunity they might otherwise have missed.

On the down side, for those of us who are nonprofit professionals, and who may be looking for (paid) career opportunities, it has made LinkedIn nearly useless as a job hunting tool. Simply put, the number of volunteer opportunities that come up in any search so greatly outnumber the (real) jobs that weeding through them all is a frustrating mess.

After learning of this problem I did a few test searches, from broad searches to highly filtered narrow ones. Each time I was overwhelmed with volunteer positions. In most of the searches I was finding only a handful of paid jobs for each 100 volunteer listings.

Using their advanced search tools, I was able to choose only jobs for experience levels of "mid-senior," "executive," and "director." While that dramatically cut down the total number of results, it still included volunteer opportunities.

To narrow my search to what should have only been paid opportunities, I searched for "Industry: Nonprofit," "Function: Consulting," and "Location: within 50 miles." Of the 146 results, there were only 4 paid jobs, and they were all listed on the final page of results. Of the four jobs, one was listed as being in Beirut, Lebanon... a little greater than 50 miles from my zip code.

It seems that with all their zeal for helping nonprofit causes, LinkedIn has neglected to take into account that it takes professionals who are dedicated full-time to those causes to make the organizations function.

Two suggestions:

1 - LinkedIn should make it easy to filter out volunteer opportunities. Yes, they do offer the ability to filter listings by salary range, but that is a premium feature to paid members only ($29.99/month), perhaps out of the budget for many nonprofit staff.

2 - LinkedIn could expand their LinkedIn for Good efforts by offering discounts to nonprofits on regular job ads as well. Perhaps not the same 90% they discount for volunteer opportunities, but something close to it. I know there are nonprofits hiring that I'm not seeing in my search results. Price is a factor.

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