Identify Alumni Board Members with LinkedIn’s Best Kept Secret

I regularly see questions about how to identify alumni leaders for a school’s board, regional clubs, and other initiatives pop up in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education LinkedIn group and similar channels.

Here’s a recent one from the CASE group:

“I have a few openings at some of my most important clubs. I’ve tried reaching out to as many folks as possible seeking new leaders, but haven’t turned up a credible leader yet. Anyone tried anything creative that they’d like to share?”

– Casey Privette, UNC Alumni Association

Casey and other Advancement professionals could alleviate their pain with a new LinkedIn initiative:  In September 2013, LinkedIn announced the ability for members to signal their interest in volunteering or serving on a nonprofit board on their LinkedIn Profiles. This month, LinkedIn announced that more than 1 million members have indicated their interest.


This is the digital version of LinkedIn members raising their hands and saying, “Pick me, pick me!” The best part is that these fields are searchable—for free—via LinkedIn Advanced Search.

Meg Garlinghouse and her team at LinkedIn For Good are continuing to invest in ways to support nonprofits, and some of these tools can be used for higher education specifically. I’d like to share a dead simple way to put LinkedIn to use to help answer Casey’s question.

Here is a six step process Casey could use to identify the important club leaders he’s looking for now and to find his next board member or annual fund volunteer in the future.

6 Steps to Find Your Next Alumni Board Member on LinkedIn

Step 1:  Select “Advanced Search” to the right of the main search box.

Step 2:  Enter “UNC” in the “School” field on the left side of the page.

Step 3:  Select “3rd + Everyone Else” under the “Relationship” field.

This expands the search to the entire UNC community on LinkedIn, which is approximately 120,000 alumni.

Step 4:  Select “Board Service” under the “Nonprofit Interests” field.

This results in over 900 alumni who’ve already expressly indicated a desire to serve on a nonprofit board.

Step 5:  Further narrow your search by geography, industry or another attribute.

In this case, I’ve assumed Casey is looking to strengthen regional leadership in Chicago and London, but I could have chosen anywhere in the world. Neither city is a major market for UNC, yet we have quickly identified 18 alumni who’ve expressed interest in board leadership.

Step 6:  Reach out! You’ve got nothing to lose.

I can’t guarantee that these people are the right board members for your organization. But I can guarantee that in less than 30 seconds we narrowed down a list of 120,000 alumni to 18 candidates worthy of consideration.

LinkedIn is a wealth of opportunity for Alumni Relations and Development professionals and nonprofits more broadly. The ways you can slice and dice on LinkedIn are endless. We suggest getting familiar with LinkedIn’s advanced features and identifying quick wins like this example of regional board member identification. We’ll make sure to cover updates right here on our blog.

Interested in learning more? Click here to download our LinkedIn Checklist for Advancement.

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