Friday, July 3, 2009

A few of my favorite nonprofit reads

If you follow me on Twitter (I'm @npmaven), you know that I've been tweeting several of my favorite summer nonprofit reads for the past several weeks. Today, as a small holiday gift to readers of this blog, I offer up a summary of some of those favorites.

Since it provided the foundation of my dissertation -- and has kept me pondering the possible in nonprofit board work -- the title at the top of my list goes to Chait, Ryan and Taylor's Governance as Leadership. The authors introduce a model of nonprofit governance that I find fascinating and exciting as both a board member and a consultant. Their model focuses on three modes of governance: fiduciary, strategic, and generative. Most of us are intimately acquainted with the fiduciary parts of our job. Many of us give a good effort trying to carve out time for the strategic work (and find it exciting when we do). Generative governance, the topic of my dissertation, truly has the potential to transform board work. It's a "must read" for nonprofit boards and staff.

Culture of Inquiry: Healthy Debate in the Boardroom also had a strong presence in my dissertation. This brief, accessible book from BoardSource offers up a vision of a board environment in which curiosity is encouraged and where divergent views are welcomed as opportunities to seek creative solutions to emerging issues. In my experience, such a culture is not as easy to create as it should be; but it is possible and it is effective in helping boards fulfill their governance potential.

Don't let the cheesy subtitle ("8 Ways to Grow a Nonprofit that Builds Buzz, Delights Donors, and Energizes Employees") sway you away from reading the third book on my list, The Charismatic Organization. Board members and managers alike will find ideas that resonate in the eight focal points described. Four in particular -- "Mission Motivation," "Active Outreach," "Meaningful Involvement," and "Data-Driven Decision-Making" -- should resonate for boards exploring ways to enhance their effectiveness as a leadership body.

It's hard to avoid discussions about generational differences in work and life lately, particularly comparisons between "Baby Boomers" and "Generation Y" or "Millennials." The best nonprofit-focused work exploring ways to bridge the divide to benefit our organizations is Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership. The authors discuss the varying needs and motivations of individuals drawn to nonprofit work from different life phases. They also offer strategies for appreciating their diverse talents and drives and bringing them to a common purpose: fulfilling your mission.

If your organization isn't actively engaged in reaching your audiences via social media -- or at least actively exploring ways to do that to move you closer to your mission -- now is the time do do so. If your board isn't part of that discussion, thinking strategically about taking advantage of new paths to outreach, it should be. Allison Fine's Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age is a good starting point.

Speaking of social media, a terrific board resource that I met on Facebook, Hildy Gottlieb, has written my favorite book on that perpetually terrifying topic: board members' fund-raising responsibilities. That title, FriendRaising: Community Engagement Strategies, is chock full of practical, fun, non-intimidating contributions that fit a range of board member comfort levels with their fund-raising role.

Finally, I offer up an oldie but a goodie, The Seven Faces of Philanthropy: A New Approach to Cultivating Major Donors. As the name suggests, this book outlines seven giving personalities that emerged in research targeting major gift donors. I've always believed that, while some of the specifics described reflect that limited focus, the bigger picture -- the donor personalities themselves -- actually can be used to describe and understand giving of both time (volunteers) and giving at all levels.

1 comment:

Debra said...

Another book I'd like to add to the list: Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits. Actually, this one should have been on the original list -- very thought-provoking and forward-thinking. Direct link to publisher info is here: