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What are the top books nonprofit managers should read?

The world of nonprofit management can be a difficult one. While many nonprofit organizations have the same obstacles and challenges their for-profit counterparts contend with, many are in a constant state of seeking new donors and keeping their current ones informed and inspired in order to make their mission a reality. Even at the organizational level, there may be difficulties as donor-expectations would be for a higher level of resources to be spent on programming or output while the cost of administration, although harder to justify to some, means keeping quality leadership in place to help the organization grow over time.

The best way that a nonprofit professional can be equipped for a career in nonprofit work is to acquire a quality education, including undergraduate degrees and on-campus and online Master’s in Nonprofit Management, from a top shelf university and couple that training with experience in the field. A good education will include a solid curriculum delivered by a seasoned staff of experts in the field and networking opportunities that will make the student’s business world as large as possible and set him up for partnership opportunities in the future.

Another major investment to our growth and leadership are books, as Cath Crowley notes in Words in Deep Blue, “we are the books we read and the things we love.” As it is commonly known, the books we read have a huge impact on our perspective and mental performance. It is with that truth in mind that we present three titles that every nonprofit manager should read.

1. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Sinek is an author and motivational speaker who has enjoyed recent success with his popular Ted Talks segment. As the title suggests, the crux of this book deals with the philosophical need for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations to start with the “why” of who they are and then proceed to the “what” and “how” of what they do based on their identity. This is innovative, as Sinek argues, because many in business erroneously begin with the exterior and move inside from there. Nonprofit managers can benefit from the author’s suggestions as the need to communicate well with donors and potential donors is such an important part of a nonprofit organization’s success.

2. The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun. As the story goes, entrepreneur and philanthropist Adam Braun travelled the globe asking locals in every country what they wanted more than anything. When a young man begging on the dusty roads in India told Braun he wanted a pencil, Braun and his family were inspired to begin their nonprofit organization: Pencils of Promise. The author works to inspire the reader to be grateful for their circumstances and seize every opportunity to make the world a better place. Though low on technical and practical instruction, this book is highly motivational and inspiring.

3. The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz. Structured as a memoir, this poignant book weaves stories of real-life characters working to better themselves and rise out of poverty with the author’s own story of self-discovery. Novogratz tells her personal story of leaving a lucrative career in finance to commit herself to humanitarian endeavors, consulting for UNICEF, and pioneering the Acumen Fund. The lofty goals of the book not only deal with serving our fellow man, they hope to inspire the total abolition of poverty from the earth.

A good story is still the most effective and powerful way we as a society inform and inspire each other onto greatness. These are just three titles that combine relevant ideas with a narrative that can encourage a nonprofit manager in many ways.

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