How can your nonprofit staff maximize LinkedIn?
Farra Trompeter, co-director, welcomes Tania Bhattacharyya, founder of Lumos Marketing, to discuss maximizing LinkedIn for nonprofit staff and the power of personal branding. Get tips for how your organization can use LinkedIn more strategically, including the importance of sharing compelling stories on LinkedIn.
Farra Trompeter: Welcome to The Smart Communications Podcast. This is Farra Trompeter, co-director and worker-owner at Big Duck. Today we’re going to ask the question, “How can your nonprofit staff maximize LinkedIn?” And I’m very excited to be joined by Tania Bhattacharyya. Tania, who uses she/her,hers pronouns, is the founder of Lumos Marketing, a thought leadership consultancy for social impact entrepreneurs ready to stand out as they stand up for their mission. She “coachsults,” a word that I’ve just learned about, with a hybrid approach, offering personal brand messaging strategy for LinkedIn with coaching to dismantle imposter syndrome. She also hosts the podcast, The Campfire Circle, which explores the idea of replacing the boardroom table as the ultimate space for leadership with a campfire circle, a place to share our stories, build inclusive community, and spark visionary ideas. Tania, welcome to the show.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Thank you so much for having me, Farra. This is going to be a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of this podcast, so excited to be here.
Farra Trompeter: Oh, well, and likewise. I wish we were actually in front of a campfire with some s’mores, but I have that in my mind now.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yes, me too. Let’s just like manifest that. Let’s pretend we’re there.
Farra Trompeter: Manifest the chocolate and the marshmallows and the graham crackers.
Farra Trompeter: So before we actually get into the topic, I would love it if you could just talk to us a little bit more about your own journey, especially as it relates to the nonprofit sector, the world of nonprofit communications and engagement, and all that fun stuff.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yeah, I would love to, and I love this question because so often I’m supporting people with their stories. I sometimes forget to, not forget, but I don’t always get to share mine. So thank you for that ask.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Well, I like to say that I was really raised in the nonprofit field. I started working as a nonprofit development coordinator right out of college and ended up growing in that company and becoming an executive director. And we were a relatively smaller nonprofit, a relatively small shop. And so we didn’t necessarily have the funds for a big PR firm all the time. And we didn’t necessarily have all of the resources that we always needed to have these big splashy communications campaigns. Yet, there were incredible stories that needed to be shared. Days would start early in the morning with an amazing donor call sometimes. They’d end at 7:00 PM with a fantastic grant reception and women coming together to share their recovery journey with other patients.
Tania Bhattacharyya: And so days were busy, right? And yet they were so full of stories that needed to be shared. And so I really kind of began my own journey around thought leadership, communications, personal branding as an ED myself, as I would challenge myself to share one interesting story per week on LinkedIn, right? Didn’t have a PR firm at the time, didn’t have a lot of these other things, but I could share one interesting story per week. The reality is I was faced with 20 interesting stories every day that were happening. I just had to pick one per week and share it. And at the same time, I would start to send a few messages to some potential supporters or past supporters, maybe some corporate sponsors that we had in the past. Or I would leave a thoughtful comment on a local sort of business influencer’s post. And it felt, Farra, very inconsequential at first. It felt like nothing was happening. It felt like I could have spent that 20 minutes doing something else. But after, I don’t know, a month, 90 days for sure, six months, definitely, things changed.
Tania Bhattacharyya: You know, I started being invited to organic PR opportunities without having to pitch. Local corporate CSR leaders started reaching out about how they could get involved. We got organic referrals for our behavioral healthcare organization from interventionists and local therapists just through being top of mind, right on LinkedIn. And so what I learned from that experience is that people might be lurking on LinkedIn, but they’re learning from you. They’re building trust in your solution. And out of all the social media platforms that I can think of, LinkedIn is a place where there’s movers, there’s shakers, there’s power brokers, there’s amplifiers just kind of on there. They might not be posting, they might be silent, but they’re on there. And more than anything from the story, that practice, that consistency, that discipline of sharing one interesting story per week and giving ourself the grace to come up with one original thought, makes us better storytellers. It makes us better nonprofit professionals. It lets our best innovative thinking emerge. And I think that innovative thinking is so necessary for us nonprofit staff as we begin to imagine a dreamy more just future, which is really what we’re all trying to do in this space.
Farra Trompeter: Yeah, I love that. Now let’s talk about LinkedIn. As you were bringing up. It is actually the oldest and most consistent social network I’ve personally been on. I did some searching, figured out I joined LinkedIn on March 27th, 2005.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Wow.
Farra Trompeter: Almost 20 years ago and was actually about two years after it was founded. It was founded in 2003. And I think most people associate LinkedIn with networking, job searching, hiring, but it really has been emerging as more of a community platform and a place for thought leadership in recent years. I see that some organizations are actually getting more engagement per post on LinkedIn than they are on things like Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. And I’m just curious, just zooming all the way out, how can nonprofit leaders use LinkedIn to stand out and who is a nonprofit leader?
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yeah, I’ll answer the second question first. I think everyone in the nonprofit space is a nonprofit leader, right? I want to be very clear about that because oftentimes an opportunity that’s missed is only when the ED is the one who is a face of the organization. When, in fact, you know, everybody at that organization makes up the ecosystem of that org. So how can you encourage your staff to begin sharing their own innovative thoughts, their perspectives? Because the reality is each of your staff is connected to a whole sphere of influence and a whole group of people that could come in and begin to support and roll up their sleeves and help you make shifts happen. If they just got enrolled into your mission and your vision and the why behind your organization.
Farra Trompeter: I love it. I do agree. I often ask the question, “Who’s the best spokesperson for your organization?” People often will say the ED or the board chair. And I’m like, no, the best spokesperson is everyone who works there, the whole staff.
Tania Bhattacharyya: That’s it.
Farra Trompeter: So I share that. But we’ll zoom all the way out, which is really how can nonprofit leaders, as you said, perhaps everyone on staff, but how can nonprofits use LinkedIn to stand out?
Tania Bhattacharyya: One of the first things, and this sounds so easy, you might be like, really that’s your answer, is to start showing up. And the reason for that is compared to other social media platforms, and you’re right that LinkedIn is like ancient, in a great way. Like it’s stable, it’s sustainable, it’s going to be there. It’s actually older than MySpace if you can believe it or not.
Farra Trompeter: I remember when Tom was everyone’s friend on MySpace.
Tania Bhattacharyya: I kind of miss MySpace, but LinkedIn is still around, still kicking, and even though it’s been around for so long, less than 3% of active LinkedIn users actually post regularly. Like I said before, there’s a lot of lurkers I guess. And that means there’s a huge opportunity to organically stand out on LinkedIn just by showing up and sharing the stories that maybe you’re already sharing in your email marketing, that you’re already sharing to your donors, that you’re already sharing at your galas and your breakfasts and stuff like that. Take those and write a 300-word story out of that and start to share it, and see who starts to come to the, because that’s the other thing. Sharing content is one thing, but the second piece of that, and this happens organically, is you start to build community around your content. People start to show up and raise their hand and say, oh my gosh, that’s so interesting.
Tania Bhattacharyya: And that might be a like, that might be a comment, or it might be the next time that you are at a community networking gathering for, I don’t know, your local AFP chapter or whatever the case may be. And somebody comes up to you and says, “Oh my gosh, that story that you shared about the family that you helped, that really touched my heart because I personally have been in a situation like that.” And you’re like, “What? I didn’t even know you were on LinkedIn. Like you read that?” And that just starts to happen and you build personal relationship in a way that you didn’t even think was possible in a digital capacity. But that magic only becomes unveiled as you begin to share and know that maybe sometimes your first couple of posts are not going to get a ton of engagement. Maybe a couple of people will like it and that’s okay because the act of trust-building is invisible. And we have to trust the process that as we share these stories, the right people are leaning in and becoming enrolled in your mission and your vision.
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Farra Trompeter: You were just sharing the ideas of stories of impact with our beneficiaries, and I know there’s a whole other thread we could have about making sure those stories come from a place of dignity.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yes.
Farra Trompeter: That folks, perhaps, are compensated for those stories depending on who they are. But I’m curious, beyond just stories of beneficiaries, what other kinds of stories could organizations share?
Tania Bhattacharyya: That’s a great question. So one of my favorite things to have nonprofit leaders do is to actually share stories where they are talking about their own collaborations in the field. We all know and love Vu Le. And he wrote that article about the Nonprofit Hunger Games. And so, I read that when I was still in the nonprofit world, and I really took that to heart and I was like, gosh, am I participating in the Nonprofit Hunger Games? And if so, how can I deeply partner with other organizations that are local to me or not local to me, but that we have aligned visions, and if we worked together, we could make that vision happen more readily? So for example, I worked for a women’s addiction treatment program. There was a local organization that was a women’s domestic violence shelter. And so we partnered together on many things.
Tania Bhattacharyya: I remember doing LinkedIn posts talking about the different stages of our partnership, sharing pictures for when we would get together, and just have rich deep conversations about the work that we did. And I would share those behind-the-scenes things that honestly, that we’re doing all the time, but that we’re not necessarily putting up on LinkedIn. And what happens is as we share those stories and maybe tag those other nonprofits and tag the individuals we’re meeting there, whether they’re board members or other leaders in the staff, the magical LinkedIn algorithm starts to work in our favor because it works like a matrix and continuously puts us in front of related people and second-degree connections. So that LinkedIn post would get me in front of the people that my colleague from another organization was connected to and who maybe has a heart for our work and could become a supporter. I have a resource, it’s a resource of 14 LinkedIn prompts that you can use to build your thought leadership, your visibility, your influence. And I know you’re going to put that in the show notes, which is great. But that actually has 14 ideas for different types of content that you can do to really stand out and show up on LinkedIn. And that’s one of them. It’s really amplify others in collaborations.
Farra Trompeter: Yeah, I love that. And I think amplifying others is a nice way to also try to fight back against the Nonprofit Hunger Games and not make it all about yourself, but also highlight and celebrate your peers and your partners.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yeah.
Farra Trompeter: But we will definitely link to your post around 14 free LinkedIn prompts for thought leadership. We’ll link to Vu’s article and the Nonprofit Hunger Games. And yes, fan of both resources. So happy to share that. Go to bigduck.com/insights for the transcript if you are listening out there.
Farra Trompeter: You talked a little bit before about the idea of personal branding. And years ago, this might actually be over 10 years ago, I used to host a lot of trainings, webinars, conversations around managing your personal and professional brand and social media. And we would talk about where there’s overlap? Where there’s separation? And there used to be a lot of concern about where to draw the line. Uh, you know, years ago there were people who would have two different profiles on Facebook, which Facebook eventually cracked down upon.
Farra Trompeter: These days I’m hearing less questions about “What do I do… personal or professional?” I think people have gotten a little more clear on where to share and how to conduct themselves on social media. Now that I hear questions around, well actually, if we really build up our executive director’s brand and relationships through let’s say LinkedIn or another channel, or we really are our development director, our comms director, our program director, whoever the staff person is, they hold all these relationships and we’re putting them out there. What happens when that person leaves? What happens if everyone knows Tania? Now all of a sudden Tania doesn’t work at our organization anymore. And all those people who had the heart and the love for the work, how do we hold onto those folks? So I’m curious if you ever hear those kind of concerns around, well, I’m worried about building whoever our leader’s brand is, whoever that may be for the organization, what happens when they leave and move on? And how do you respond to those concerns?
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yeah, I’m so glad you asked that question. What I would say to that is nonprofits and teams and cultures really are fluid, and you could invest a lot of time and resources into an ED’S brand and they leave in a year. But here’s the thing about that, change happens anyway. Change is around all the time. And so wouldn’t you want to boost up their visibility, their influence, their change-making capacity while they’re flying the banner of the organization, and bring in relationships and resources as a result?
Tania Bhattacharyya: Actually, you know what, this is how I’ll answer this. So this actually happened to me at my last organization. We spent significant amounts of time building up our ED. She happened to also be like my mentor and like a second mother to me, too. And she left. She left to another organization across the country. But, during the succession planning process, she was able to pass off some of those important relationships that she had made by building her brand, by sharing authentic posts, by showing up as a face of the organization. And the process of her transition was very transparent. It was very public. That was wrapped into her thought leadership, not her thought leadership, but into the materials that we were posting on her behalf, on her LinkedIn. So the community knew that she was transitioning out and her successor was able to really use that brand capital as a jumping-off point, and inherit part of that audience as she took on the helm.
Tania Bhattacharyya: The last thing that I’ll say about this is people leave organizations all the time, but their heart is still tied to the mission. Their heart is still tied to the organization. They’re still passionate about it. And so having people who are so tied to the organization, even if they’re no longer officially collecting a paycheck, is always a good thing. Because people still know me as somebody who can help them place a loved one, a wife, a daughter, a sister, into addiction treatment.
Tania Bhattacharyya: They still know me for that, even though I haven’t been a part of that organization technically like collecting a paycheck for three years now. And the thing is if they reach out to me and say, “Oh my gosh, I need this help. Do you know anyone?” I’m still going to help them. And I think that the people who are attracted to the nonprofit field are kind of that way. They’re never just going to be like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t help you anymore.” They’re going to make sure that they still get tied back to your organization even if they’re no longer there. How does that land with you?
Farra Trompeter: Yeah, I mean part of what I’m picking up from what you’re putting down here is first of all, this part of succession planning, which we have a podcast I did with Amy Sample Ward on that topic, so we’ll also link to that one, but it’s also about relationship building, including with your former staff and almost thinking about them as alumni. Continuing to engage them, continuing to use them as champions and ambassadors of your work.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yeah.
Farra Trompeter: And that they may naturally do that, but maybe even periodically asking them if they can share something so that if they still have an affinity to the organization, you left on good terms, they left on good terms.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Right.
Farra Trompeter: Continue to build that relationship. So I appreciate you bringing that up.
Tania Bhattacharyya: You said that perfectly. I think past staff are a great kind of category, if you will, of folks that we can continuously keep up to date. Because they know the organization so well. Yeah, you said that perfectly. I’m just going to let that be a mic-drop moment and stop talking.
Farra Trompeter: Well, you’ve shared some great examples so far, but I want to just kind of bring it home for folks. Can you think of an example of a nonprofit leader or an organization that you’ve worked with that’s really maximizing their LinkedIn presence and community? And I just want folks to get kind of an image of what it looks like in action.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Oh my gosh, there are a lot of people that I could say here. And the first person that comes to mind probably, because I just was on a little coworking call with her like an hour ago. Well, there are many reasons why I’m going to pick her because she’s awesome, too. But my past client, Alison Edwards, she is the CEO of a nonprofit here in my hometown of Orange County called OC Human Relations. And they are working to eliminate overtime, it’s a long-term goal, of course, but to eliminate prejudice and tolerance and discrimination here in our hometown. And she comes up for me, too, because when we first started working together and she was thinking about utilizing LinkedIn in a different way, she was like, “Can you help me share insights on LinkedIn and get visible on LinkedIn even if I’d rather delete LinkedIn?” And that question always sticks to mind for me.
Tania Bhattacharyya: I think a lot of EDs and leaders, in general, are in that position. It’s one of those things that’s on our to-do list forever and we just may or may not ever get to it in the busyness of our day. But the answer is yes. I think social change leaders are on the front lines of their mission. And so I have a strategy called “Lazy on LinkedIn,” which is really designed for nonprofit staff. And one of the things that Ali told me, and if you go to her profile on LinkedIn, it’s Alison Edwards, you’ll see examples of how she really is dedicating time and posts and energy to not just talking about her nonprofit, but also identifying her own personal, passionate issue within the larger ecosystem of their mission, which happens to be ensuring fair wages for nonprofit staff. And she’s done quite a few posts and thought leadership pieces about how working at a nonprofit shouldn’t mean that leaders should have to settle for less in their quality of life.
Tania Bhattacharyya: And what she’s doing as an ED is to try aligning their values with their actual pay and encouraging their funders and really doing an open call for support to stakeholders, local corporate donors, funders, to really support them in providing general operational dollars so they can fund their staff equitably. And this is long-term work, right? Like we worked together a year ago and now she’s saying that as she goes to community events, people that she meets in real life are starting to bring up what she has shared to have deeper conversations. So that just goes to show people are listening even if you don’t think they are. And they will bring it up to you the next time they see you in person.
Farra Trompeter: That’s great. And I will be sure to follow her, too.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yes.
Farra Trompeter: So before we wrap it up, just curious if you have any other tips that you’d like to share for folks about how they can really take their use of LinkedIn to the next level? I know you mentioned “Lazy on LinkedIn,” I know that’s a hashtag that you use in some of your posts, so maybe you can talk about what “Lazy on LinkedIn” looks like in action or any other tips.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Yeah, let’s talk about “Lazy on LinkedIn.” And right off the bat, lazy is kind of tongue-in-cheek. I laugh about it. I love alliteration, so it’s got to be “Lazy on LinkedIn,” but nobody that’s listening to this podcast is lazy. We are all working our tuchuses off to create change and maybe life first is a better term. But I call this strategy “Lazy on LinkedIn” because especially as I was an ED, it’s a little bit more now, but I just committed to spending one intentional hour on LinkedIn. And I think that’s doable even for the busiest founders, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit staff, who really need to spend more time managing change, working with donors, supporting the people that they serve, than writing content. And what “Lazy on LinkedIn” is about is doing the things that are actually going to move the needle, that drive relationships forward, not getting stuck endlessly scrolling or et cetera, et cetera.
Tania Bhattacharyya: And so if you’re listening to this right now, can you schedule one recurring hour and maybe start with 30 minutes, right? Start where you are, on your Outlook calendar, that’s just for LinkedIn. And can you bravely spend that time sharing one story from your social impact work? And that could be any story. Can you start to engage with the people who are then engaging with your content? Can you do a search for your next corporate donor, for your next board member, for your next referral source? And can you start to build a relationship with them? And it will start off feeling very slow and it will start off feeling inconsequential. If it feels that way, congratulations, you’re doing it right, but keep going. And I guarantee in a month, in 90 days, you’re gonna start to build relationships that lead to your next six-figure gift that leads to just magical things like this ecosystem of support. So you can do it. And LinkedIn is a powerful tool to really democratize thought leadership, visibility, influence, and all that kind of good stuff.
Farra Trompeter: Right.
Farra Trompeter: Well, if you’re out there listening and you’d like to connect with Tania, you can find her on LinkedIn, at Tania Bhattacharyya, TANIA-BHATTACHARYYA. You can also follow the link on our show notes. And you can learn more about her company, Lumos Marketing, at lumosmarketing.co. That’s lumosmarketing.co. And listen to her podcast, The Campfire Circle on all of the major platforms. Tania, before we go, ayou can find her on LinkedIn, at Tania Bhattacharyyanything else you’d like to share?
Tania Bhattacharyya: Just that this was such a phenomenal experience. I loved chatting with you. You asked some really fabulous questions, and I just want to thank you for the opportunity.
Farra Trompeter: Truly my pleasure, and happy to lift you up and lift up your work and really helpful resources to our friends and listeners out there. So thank you for joining us.
Tania Bhattacharyya: Absolutely.
Farra Trompeter: All right everyone, have a great rest of your day. Go spend five more minutes on LinkedIn today, if not a half hour this week.
This podcast has been sponsored by UncommonGood