Why Don’t (Many) Development Leaders Embrace LinkedIn?

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Nearly 9 out of every 10 business executives use LinkedIn “often” or “very often” according to BusinessNewsDaily. LinkedIn unquestionably has become the leading professional network and is viewed by many in business as an essential tool in hiring, networking, and building and strengthening the corporation’s brand.

Yet many leaders in university advancement don’t seem to place a high value on LinkedIn, at least if their number of connections is an indication of the degree to which they have embraced this social media platform.

We examined the LinkedIn profiles of the Chief Advancement Officers at the top 30 colleges in Forbes’ “America’s Top Colleges” list (at three of the 30 colleges there is a vacancy or we could not identify the CAO). While six of the CAOs at those institutions have 500+ connections, the average number of connections among the group is just 256. Five of the CAOs have fewer than 150 connections, one has 12, one has just 6, and one has no LinkedIn profile at all!

Several of the profiles are cursory at best, with only a bare minimum of personal and professional accomplishments listed, and at least one does not even list the individual’s current title in the profile heading.

Are the aims and objectives of corporate leaders really that different from leaders in university advancement? Or put differently, what do corporate execs understand that CAOs have not yet figured out? Why should VPs in Advancement have a strong LinkedIn presence?

A well-crafted and professional profile can tactically position the CAO and other members of the college’s senior leadership team. It can help to leverage and reinforce the college’s key strategic messages. But even the most complete and thoughtful profile cannot get noticed if the individual profiled has a meager handful of connections. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to see it fall, does it make any noise?

A robust LinkedIn presence can help the CAO advance the college and its overall development objectives by:
  • Helping to show the personalities behind the college’s brand
  • Clearly demonstrating the professional accomplishments of its leaders
  • Engaging and communicating with prospects and other constituents
  • Complementing traditional networking and other face-to-face activities
  • Gaining vital knowledge about potential hires
  • Identifying prospects’ interests that the CAO can then respond to on a more personal level

LinkedIn can also make it easier for constituents to nurture relationships with the CAO and vice versa. One VP said, “I want to make it easy to be found when people look for me by name and for my contact info. Alumni don’t want to be hassled with our clumsy mobile websites to find an email or phone number.”

And finally, there are the CAO’s colleagues, many of whom are likely younger and possibly more tech savvy and more engaged in social and professional media. Erik Sass of Social Media and Marketing Daily wrote about “a survey by BRANDfog which asked corporate employees for their views on their bosses’ use—or failure to use—social media. 82% (of respondents) said they were ‘more likely’ or ‘much more likely’ to trust a company whose CEO and top execs use social media; and 78% said they would prefer to work for a company whose leadership is active on social media.”

I suspect that advancement employees are no different in their feelings.

It’s time for CAOs to join with their corporate counterparts in fully embracing the power and benefits of LinkedIn. Even if your CAO isn’t fully utilizing LinkedIn, there are great ways for gift officers to use LinkedIn to great effect. For a few simple steps to build and improve your profile, read our LinkedIn Checklist for Advancement.

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