An unlikely summer reading list for nonprofit leaders

Summer reading for nonprofit leaders and fundraisersSummer can be a great time to catch up on some reading. "Catch up" may be relative term. Summer doesn't really slow down anymore, does it?

But as those of you in the Northern Hemisphere experience the change in pace that summer brings, here are some books I recommend you consider adding to your summer reading list:

  • Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by the Disney Institute with Theodore Kinni

    It's no secret that I'm a Disney fan. I grew up going to the parks and still go every few years. While they don't hit "magical" service every time, they are far more consistent than most placess. With nonprofits losing more than 70% of donors after the first gift, we have lots to learn!

    What I really loved about this book was a blend of tools Disney uses, concepts they teach, and very practical examples of what Disney does to bring customer service magic. More importantly, it includes examples of how other companies have implemented Disney principles into their own culture. These make it easy for you to figure out how to implement them into your own nonprofit.

  • To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Dan Pink

    My colleagues at Graham-Pelton just finished reading this book together because there is so much in it for fundraising. From the reluctant board member who's finding out they need to fundraise to the seasoned professional, Pink has advice and inspiration for everyone.

    What makes this book stand out, besides it's incredibly readable style, is the research Pink did in writing this book. He pulls data from government labor statistics, company sales, social research, and his own surveys to redefine sales and turn traditional "conventional wisdom" about sales on its head! He even uses fundraising examples, including how one group got a 50% bump in alumni fundraising by simply reading stories!

    Plus, Pink packs each section with helpful exercises to get you and your team actually using the data he writes about. I found myself having to stop reading to jot down notes to myself and have been sharing his tactics with my "Fundraising Kickers" and coaching clients!

  • Grimm's Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm

    The best nonprofit fundraisers are storytellers. And while you can read books on how to tell stories, learn from storytelling seminars, and go to nonprofit storytelling conferences, some of the best lessons come from reading stories themselves.

    I just finished reading the Grimm brother's collection for my very first time. Even if you find them somewhat shallow or sexist, these stories have resonated with people over the centuries and across cultures. So they're worth learning from. You'll even recognize the roots of some of your favorites contemporary stories in these tales!

    Read them (or listen to an audio version) and let me know how you think they'll affect your nonprofit's stories.

Those are my recommendations. It's unlikely because they aren't "traditional" nonprofit books. One is even a work of fiction! But I'm convinced these will help you raise more money in the coming months.

Make the time for summer reading

Leaders are readers. As a nonprofit leader, you need to expose yourself to new ideas. No matter how busy you are, and how out of control you feel, you can make time to read even a few minutes a day. (If you need help figuring out when, ask in the comments.)

Those are my recommendations. What books would you add to this list?

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. I just finished "Closer by the Mile" a book about the founding of the Pan-Mass Challenge. (For those who aren't familiar the Pan-Mass Challenge is a huge fundraising cycling event that raises millions for Dana-Farber to fight cancer.)

    It was interesting to read the roots and growing pains for an event that has gone on to set the standard others in peer-to-peer fundraising look up to!

What would you add?