January 15, 2016

Recommended Reading from Our Community Members

The question “What resources have you read that you would recommend to other nonprofit leaders?” sparked discussions from many nonprofit leaders across our LinkedIn communities. In this article we share a number of their comments and a link to our Amazon.com bookstore where you can find a full list of recommended books from this newsletter.

At the end of 2011, we asked members of our LinkedIn communities “What resources have you read that you would recommend to other nonprofit leaders?” The question sparked discussions across our communities in which leaders shared many books and articles that they’ve found helpful in their work and their development as nonprofit leaders. Below we share a number of comments from the communities; we also share from our communities a list of recommended resources in the Bridgespan Amazon.com bookstore.

Marilyn, Professional, Interim Executive Management
There are so many great articles available and reading even just the best ones is a challenge. However, if a nonprofit leader has time for only one book, it has to be Nonprofit Sustainability by Jeanne Bell [Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman]. The executive director for CompassPoint, Bell addresses not just how to implement a strategic plan between retreats, but how to make informed and evidence-based strategic management decisions day-to-day. Very practical and insightful book.

Roger, President/Executive Director
One of the most inspiring books for me was Transforming Leadership by James MacGregor Burns. Burns does an excellent job of illustrating the differences between transactional leadership and transformational leadership—basically how one is really more just managing and the other is truly leading. One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows: "When you empower people, you don’t just empower them to agree with you…Leaders cannot empower people unless they have the moral courage to be honest and sincere in their intention to change the power relationship that they have with their followers.” (Burns, 2003). This book really focuses on what is truly important in any organization... not the mission... not the product or services they provide... but the people who make up the organization, without whom no mission, product, or service would be possible. It changed my outlook on leadership.

Diane, Board Member
The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey, published by Free Press, is a must read. Covey draws a line connecting organizations with high trust to high productivity, low trust to low productivity. Building upon trust, especially in today's segmented and somewhat skeptic society has shown how to build on brand and strengthen relationships. Using tools in this book has helped me become stronger as a CEO and with my donor relationships.

Paul, Nonprofit Leader
Two great books I keep close by are The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. (By the way, check out Ben Zander's talks on TED.) The second book is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. Both books are my manuals for effective team building, both staff and board. My senior staff enjoyed the books also, which was a bonus for me!

Kerith, Executive Director
Depending on your specific fundraising needs, anything by Mal Warwick (malwarwick.com/learning-resources/publications.html). I've read excerpts of Fundraising When Money Is Tight and the entirety of Ten Steps to Fundraising Success. Mal is simply the best.

Liam, CEO
I think the best book I have read recently in The Art of the Turnaround by Michael Kaiser. Many arts organizations today find themselves in financial difficulties because of economic constraints inherent in the industry.
What, then, does it take to create and maintain a healthy arts organization? Michael M. Kaiser has revived four major arts organizations: the Kansas City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, and London's Royal Opera House. In The Art of the Turnaround he shares with readers his ten basic rules for bringing financially distressed arts organizations back to life and keeping them strong. These rules cover the requirements for successful leadership, the pitfalls of cost cutting, the necessity of extending the programming calendar, the centrality of effective marketing and fund raising, and the importance of focusing on the present with a positive public message.

In chapters organized chronologically, Kaiser brings his ten rules vividly to life in discussions of the four arts organizations he is credited with saving. The book concludes with a chapter on his experiences at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, an arts organization that needed an artistic turnaround when he became the president in 2001, and that today exemplifies in practice many of the ten rules he discusses throughout his book.

Susan, Business Leader
There are actually two that I would recommend: one is a short work by Jim Collins entitled Good to Great and the Social Sectors, focusing on a culture of discipline. The second is a book called Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance & Leadership Success written by Doug Lennick and Fred Keil, PhD; this focuses on having alignment as a leader with principles, values, and beliefs. Doug is a great speaker and writes in a very straightforward manner.

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