January 15, 2014; The Next Web

LinkedIn’s new volunteer marketplace at volunteer.linkedin.com launched yesterday with searchable postings for unpaid volunteer positions around the world. More than 330 of the initial postings were for positions at U.S.-based, 501(c)(3) organizations, with 22 of the postings for positions in the United Kingdom.

Potential volunteers can search for opportunities based on keywords, organization, position title, and location. Volunteers can even “Apply Now” for positions.

Volunteering matters, argues LinkedIn. The company indicates on its website that “forty-one percent of LinkedIn hiring managers consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience when evaluating candidates” and “unemployed people who volunteer are 27 percent more likely to be hired than people who do not volunteer.”

The focus, it appears, may be on professional-level volunteer activities. LinkedIn offers instructions to potential volunteers to signal on their personal profile openness to volunteer opportunities. One can signal availability either for board service or for pro-bono consulting. Likewise, nonprofits can post positions for board members with specific expertise. For example, the United Way of San Luis Obispo County is currently looking for a board member with fundraising expertise.

Nonprofits pay a “nominal fee” for posting volunteer positions. “Yes, we are charging a nominal fee to help with quality and fraud control when you post,” a LinkedIn spokesperson told Ingrid Lunden of TechCrunch. “We are investing all revenue directly back to the nonprofit sector, to increase the liquidity of the postings.”

A number of the initial postings have been populated from other volunteer matching websites. For example, as of yesterday afternoon, the Taproot Foundation had posted 92 positions, CatchAFire had posted 58, and VolunteerMatch had posted 7. This appears to be a strategic effort, but we wonder what relationship has been struck with the excellent Idealist.org, which is now the go-to site for many prospective volunteers and organizations in need of them.

Early nonprofit adopters include a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, such as:

  • San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, San Diego, CA
  • Care Village, Los Angeles, CA
  • East Valley, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Chandler, AZ
  • Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri, Inc., Kansas City, MO

As with for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations have long had the option of setting up LinkedIn company profiles, and given this new development, these profiles may become even more useful. LinkedIn profiles allow the nonprofit to upload a photo and to provide background information on their mission and programs. LinkedIn members—and now potential volunteers—can follow nonprofit profiles and get updates in via the news stream.

Some nonprofits argue that setting up social media profiles in general, and on LinkedIn in particular, can be time-consuming and divert staff away from “real work.” This may be true; however, one benefit of profiles to the nonprofit is that it becomes easy to identify who is in your network. As with other LinkedIn functions, the volunteer marketplace allows nonprofits to see what other members are 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-degree connections. This, of course, will appeal to prospecting development directors and volunteer administrators.

Volunteers that are matched to nonprofits via LinkedIn postings bring the same risks as would be encountered anywhere. Volunteers need to be screened before placement, especially when the work includes contact with high-risk populations.—Jennifer Amanda Jones