September 17, 2012; Source: LinkedIn Blog

This week, LinkedIn launched Board Connect, a program that allows nonprofit organizations to identify and recruit potential board members. Notably, LinkedIn is rolling out Board Connect to a limited group of nonprofits working in the fields of social entrepreneurship and education leadership. These two fields have garnered a lot of attention in the nonprofit arena recently and were likely chosen by Linkedn as Board Connect’s initial nonprofit focus to make sure that the platform is a success.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice that anyone can receive when starting a nonprofit organization is to put into place a board of directors that will bring an ideal set of skills and expert knowledge to the organization. Board members – beyond merely acting as a sounding board for the executive director –should be chosen to create a strategic plan and set both short- and long-term goals for the nonprofit. A well-constituted board may have an accountant, lawyer, seasoned business or nonprofit manager, community members, or individuals with expertise in the field that is the subject of the nonprofit’s mission – and hopefully all with deep pockets or a talent for fundraising.

Finding talented people with the enthusiasm and desire to serve on a nonprofit board is no easy task. LinkedIn’s Board Connect would certainly make this tough job an easier one. LinkedIn has the full weight and power of a popular professional social network behind it. Colleagues can vouch for each other or recruit within certain circles of a similar skill set or particular expertise. Such connectivity may run the risk of limiting one’s board recruitment to “those in the know,” thereby excluding possible strong candidates who are not on LinkedIn (e.g., senior citizens as well as individuals who are in the nonprofit’s target service population).

Of course, a nonprofit can widen the pool of board member candidates by also using run-of-the-mill recruiting tools that don’t involve online networking. How do you find nonprofit board members? Will you be logging on to LinkedIn’s Board Connect when it becomes available to more nonprofits? –Alicia E. Plerhoples