LinkedIn's Volunteer Stampede: 600,000 People On A Mission

Posted: Jan 16 2014, 8:46am CST | by


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LinkedIn's Volunteer Stampede: 600,000 People On A Mission
Photo Credit: Forbes

Is LinkedIn tip-toeing into the world of volunteer service — or could it touch off  a bigger stampede than people realize? After chatting this week with Meg Garlinghouse, head of the LinkedIn for Good program, I’m convinced that over the next two years, her company could shake up nonprofit leadership in surprising ways.

The initiative to watch is LinkedIn’s new “volunteer marketplace,” which was announced Wednesday, Jan. 15. LinkedIn is making it much easier for its 259 million members to indicate a desire to join nonprofit boards or do other civic work on an unpaid basis. In turn, LinkedIn is providing nonprofits with new tools and sharply discounted job-listing rates to help them find whatever specialists they might need.

A few hours after LinkedIn’s official roll-out, this new marketplace had attracted job postings from  a smattering of arts, education and other charitable groups. By my tally, the social-networking site listed a modest 339 openings for board members, volunteer graphic designers and the like. But that early trickle of volunteer demand may not be the right number to watch. What’s far more intriguing is LinkedIn’s reservoir of 600,000 members who say on their official profiles that they are ready to do more volunteer work if they can just find the right opportunity.

Garlinghouse — who has been involved in socially minded projects since her Peace Corps days in the early 1990s — marvels at this huge imbalance between supply and demand for volunteer work. “We’ve always been hearing that the world has too many problems, and too few people willing to do anything about it,” she says. “Actually, it looks as if the opposite is the case here.”

Over the next few months, Garlinghouse will try to create more awareness of LinkedIn’s vast army of wannabe volunteers. That’s a first step toward getting supply and demand in balance — so that more nonprofits  tap into LinkedIn’s member pool of leaders and skilled specialists who are ready to help, free of charge.

Eventually, Garlinghouse says, she wants LinkedIn’s listings of high-skill volunteer openings to reach about 10,000 on any given day. That’s a big goal, amounting to more than a 20-fold leap from current levels.

How committed is LinkedIn toward this goal? A big clue can be seen in the company’s blog post announcing the volunteer-marketplace program. Ordinarily, such posts carry the signature of individual LinkedIn project managers. This one, however, was introduced by LinkedIn’s co-founder, chairman and largest shareholder, Reid Hoffman. (He was worth about $4.4 billion last September, if you’re keeping score.)

It’s only the third signed blog post by Hoffman since 2008, when he installed Jeff Weiner as chief executive of LinkedIn, with day-to-day control of the company. And Hoffman isn’t the least bit timid in how he positions this new initiative. “Volunteering is good for your career,” he declares, adding: “Talent is as critical to the nonprofit sector as it is to the for-profit sector.”

Source: Forbes

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