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How One Nonprofit Strengthened Donor Stewardship and Built a Community of Changemakers Using LinkedIn

If you ask most nonprofits “What is donor stewardship?” you’ll likely hear that it’s about growing a donor’s relationship with your organization, increasing donor engagement, and encouraging future donations. Ashoka has a different answer.

The nonprofit, which builds and cultivates a network of leading social entrepreneurs to address social, cultural, and environmental challenges, doesn’t like to use the word “donors” at all. 

“We don’t think of donors as donors, nor do we call them donors,” explains Marie Ringler, a Global Leadership Group Member at Ashoka. “Instead, we treat all members of our community as whole persons. They are changemakers in their own right.”

Following its “Everyone a Changemaker” approach, Ashoka uses LinkedIn Sales Navigator to better understand how potential changemakers can contribute to the organization’s mission.

“Since using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, we have identified multiple new actors that we have invited into our community as funding partners, potential future Ashoka Fellows, and potential future staff members,” Marie says. “We engage them all as co-leaders for our movement.”

Here’s how Ashoka has built a powerful and engaged community of changemakers through LinkedIn. 

Improve donor stewardship by understanding donors

A key element of donor stewardship is getting to know your donors better. These efforts can start even before a person first gives to your organization. After all, if a person already has a strong connection to your nonprofit’s mission and values, there’s a strong chance they’ll become a long-term supporter. 

“LinkedIn Sales Navigator offers deeper insight into the work, passion, and ideas of individuals on LinkedIn and allows us to better understand how people are already connected to us and our network,” Marie says. “It’s a hugely valuable tool.”

Ashoka’s donor engagement cycle is highly focused on helping people understand how they can be changemakers. Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, the organization is able to find people with the capacity to make a big difference, leading to more productive and meaningful conversations down the line.

“One of the key questions we ask of every community member is whether they are entrepreneurs and changemakers,” Marie says. “Do they have a history of starting things and creating a positive new reality? LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows us to search for this criterion with more efficiency and identify these people faster.”

Ashoka has found LinkedIn Sales Navigator especially valuable when developing relationships with large corporate partners, where the best path forward isn’t always clear. 

“We’ve been able to gain a wider view of the potential stakeholders and bottlenecks, which allowed us to pivot accordingly,” Marie says. “We partnered on win-win opportunities we didn’t know were possible.”

Establish trust to drive donor engagement

Trust is also a key ingredient in successful donor stewardship and engagement efforts. Since Ashoka is attempting to achieve high-stakes outcomes — like systems change — with its changemaker community, establishing trust-based relationships that allow for fearless innovation is critical. 

“Trust requires approaching everyone consistently as a full person,” Marie says. “It means listening more than talking — showing up authentically and inviting people on a shared journey of learning and co-creation. Seeing them not only for what they do, but also who they are.”

Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Ashoka is able to gain a deeper understanding of its changemakers and have rich conversations with them on a trusted, professional platform: LinkedIn. 

“LinkedIn Sales Navigator provides a trusted space,” Marie says. “I love that we can engage LinkedIn members in a way that is more direct and insightful than we could otherwise.  

Elevate your donor stewardship and cultivation efforts

With more than 850 million global members, the people your nonprofit wants to connect with are on LinkedIn — and Sales Navigator can help you find them. 

“If you have a clear idea of who you are looking for, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is for you,” Marie says.

To learn more about LinkedIn Sales Navigator and how it can help your nonprofit with donor stewardship and cultivation, contact our team