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Social Networks For Social Good?

If you're a non-profit organization looking to get your message out, professional social network LinkedIn and its 11 million members might soon be the way to go.

Thursday, the Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn will officially launch LinkedIn For Good, a companion site aimed at raising awareness and funds for nonprofit organizations around the world.

In an early beta test, the group Doctor's Without Borders, an independent international medical humanitarian organization and winner of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, has raised over $23,000 from donors via LinkedIn.

Other launch partners for LinkedIn for Good include: the American Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund, and microfinance organizations, Unitus and Kiva.

"While professionals tend to have the means to give, we don't always have the time to seek out and research organizations," said Reid Hoffman, chairman and president of products at LinkedIn, in a statement. "By allowing professionals to share the causes they care about with each other, we hope that this program serves as a stimulus for philanthropic giving."

LinkedIn for Good offers nonprofit organizations a page on the LinkedIn site as well as free "badges," a kind of digital bumper sticker that LinkedIn members may place on their profile to promote the causes they care about to their network. In addition, the program offers registered nonprofits free job listings to build their organizational capacity.

The project got its start late last year after LinkedIn set up a blog in the company to help foster new ideas and better communication between departments, explained David Sanford, product and business analyst at LinkedIn. "Many of us got to discussing how to best leverage this powerful platform for social good," Sanford told internetnews.com.

While social networks are often focused on self expression or advancing one's careers, Sanford said the charitable aspect fits well.

"Charitable causes and organizations people care about are part of their professional identity," he said. "This is a way to build bridges to these organizations and perhaps help them find advisers or contributors."