A reading list for ambitious nonprofiteers

You’re trapped for two weeks on a desert island. (Your choice: could be a “dessert” island.) You have plenty to eat. Ample suntan lotion and salt-water shampoo. A chest of good booze washed up alongside you. And you’re desperate to break out of the fundraising pack & “advance your career” (i.e., make serious money for a change).

A summer reading list for ambitious nonprofiteers

If, like me, you subscribe to The Agitator, you’ve already seen these book recommendations. If you DON’T subscribe to The Agitator, here’s the kind of deep dive you miss daily.

Nick Ellinger recommended about 50 books he felt were worth the effort. Stuff like:

  • Adam Alter’s Drunk Tank Pink. The hidden cues that change our behavior (like painting drunk tanks pink to pacify large drunk men).
  • Dave Barry’s Big Trouble. It’s funny. He visits Canada.
  • Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code. Is your nonprofit’s current culture helping reach your mission (or sabotaging that effort)?

And then the comments ping-ponged in: Recommendations for other books, from equally passionate lifelong learners in the nonprofit world.

  • From me, within seconds: The Choice Factory, by Richard Shotton. “I drag my dog-eared, overly high-lighted, notes-in-the-margin copy with me on every flight now. I broke its spine. It is 100% about exploiting (yes, exploiting) the cognitive biases built into the typical human brain, with real-life examples, almost none of which originate in fundraising (i.e., you’re looking @ a HUGE new opportunity for our world).”
  • Margot O’Leary: Radical Candor by Kim Malone Scott. Subtitle: “Be a kick-ass boss…without losing your humanity.” [Hint: Perfect birthday gift?] “A must read for anyone in a management role. The nonprofit world is plagued by turnover, so often due to poor management. The cost to any organization is sky high ultimately, impeding the ability to advance its mission. Highly recommended.”
  • Terry Graves: “Just finished The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist – author writes about the complex issue of money and our relationship with it.” You’re asking for it. They’re giving it away. Yes, there are money issues. Can we get real?
  • Brandon Palmer:The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a must-read IMO. The text provides a framework for using the agile methodology (and making business decisions). This framework can be applied to fundraising and non-profits in interesting ways. There is value for all fundraising organizations, especially when it comes to time management, making decisions as a group, and collaboration. There is also a lot to absorb on how to collaborate across departments, skill areas, and skill level – all are sources of tension.”
  • Simone Joyaux: “MUST READS! Sherry Turkle: ALONE TOGETHER ¶ Shankar Vedantam: THE HIDDEN BRAIN ¶ Greg McKeown: ESSENTIALISM
  • Pam Grow: The Ultimate Sales Letter: Boost Your Sales with Powerful Sales Letters, Based on Madison Avenue Techniques, Dan Kennedy. “I wrote my first appeal letter using this book. No one is better than Dan at getting into the head of your customer/donor.”

And that’s just the tip of the reading iceberg. Join The Agitator’s very special community. Stay current with the best thinking in our crazy world.

PS: The amazing Lisa Sargent just compiled for SOFII “The (almost) complete reading list for fundraisers.” It stretches for miles. It includes advertising books, persuasion and behavioral science, free tutorials, even OTHER lists. If you were starting a library for a university degree in fundraising communications, this would be your list.

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