15 Books that Could Change Your Life — What’s Yours?

When I recently asked nonprofit experts in a range of fields—from fundraising to advocacy—to share the one book that has most influenced their professional lives, I had no idea what I’d hear back. So I was thrilled to hear so many passionate stories about books that have made a huge difference in these folks’ lives.

I’m sure that you, like me, are reading all the time–blogs, Facebook, e-newsletters and yes, books. But what I heard from my colleagues (and know myself) is that reading a book is something different. That the fact of immersing oneself in a work that is longer, richer and frequently read in a distinct format (be that hard copy or an e-reader) is a unique experience. That this immersion outside the day to day is highly engaging, energizing and refreshing on both creative and intellectual fronts.

With that possibility in mind, consider these top picks for your reading list (Amazon links). They could change your life:

Improving the Way You Work

1) Orbiting the Giant Hairball, by Gordon Mackenzie. Orbiting inspired Tobi Johnson to find a working environment where she can make an impact and change the world in a concrete way, and guides Jeff Brooks in solving conundrums and dealing with the frustrations he faces daily in his fundraising work.


2) Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, by Peter Sims, touts that low-risk actions–taken to discover, develop, and test an idea–are the most productive path to take. When marketer Kivi Leroux Miller found Little Bets, she found validation for the approach she has always taken and inspiration to continue “finding problems and solving them as you go.”


3) Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin. Godin’s assertion that lasting and substantive change can be best effected by a tribe: a group of people connected to each other, to a leader and to an idea motivates fundraiser John Lepp to do the two things he feared the most—lead and challenge the status quo.


4) Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland, is a great aid in developing your vision and increasing your confidence, says communicator Denise Gravelines.



Understanding and Engaging Your Audiences

5) How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie—the classic primer to understanding, and using your understanding of, human psychology—is fundraiser Pamela Grow’s core guide to more effective relationships, and fundraising.



6) Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug, steers web designers (and other communicators) to understand their audience’s point of view and user experience, and then to design websites to that experience, making it as easy as possible for users to do what your organization wants them to do. Online communicators Kira Marchenese and Eve Simon have both integrated Krug’s guidance in their website and social media work.


7) Influence, by Robert Cialdini, is the classic primer on the art of persuasion, says Katya Andresen, author of Robin Hood Marketing. It’s one of the five books Katya recommends as core guides to understanding people, which she calls the “first step to lasting social change.”



The One Book Every Nonprofit Marketer Should Read

8) Robin Hood Marketing, by Katya Andresen, helped Zan McColloch-Lussier understand how his nonprofit could make the leap from doing a fine job at communicating to effectively engaging its audiences and inspiring action for its mission.



9) Strategic Marketing for NonProfit Organizations, by Alan Andreasen and Philip Kotler, opened Joanne Fritz’ (nonprofit blogger for About.com) eyes to the critical role marketing has for nonprofits. “I learned that marketing did not equal ‘selling’ but, as Kotler explains, ‘Marketing and selling are almost opposites. Hard sell marketing is a contradiction…Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make. Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customers become better off. The marketer’s watchwords are quality, service, and value,’” she writes.


10) Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, is nonprofit social media superstar Beth Kanter’s pick for a game-changing guide to do using content to advance your mission without exhausting your team.




11) Marketing Management, by Philip Kotler, radically changed my perspective on marketing from serving a support function to an interconnected system of actions—from research to measurement—embedded in every program from the earliest planning on.


Building Movements and Communities

12) Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest, by Peter Block, shaped fundraiser Gayle Gifford’s perspective on her relationship to the organizations she works with, and community or organization-building overall: leadership as stewardship.



13) Building Communities from the Inside Out, by John Kretzman and John McKnight, strongly influenced Jen Austin’s community-building outlook and consulting practice. The core take away is that everyone in society has something to contribute and that by recognizing and tapping into the unique skills of individuals, and working collectively, we can progress in ways rarely imagined.


Career Changers

14) Relationship Fundraising, by Ken Burnett, showed Fundraising Detective Craig Linton what a fulfilling, stimulating and enjoyable career fundraising could be (and still is).




15) How to Become a Grant Writing Consultant, by Bev Browning, steered grant writer Betsy Baker in the right direction at a tough time.




Most Reading is Good Reading, and Good Reading is the Key to Good Writing

Grant writer Jake Seliger’s recommendation goes way beyond one book. Jake sees good writing as strongly linked to reading as the source of ideas, rhythms, structure and vocabulary. He relies on reading to hone his grant writing skills on an ongoing basis.


Get More from Conference Participation

Guest blogger, Caroline Avakian is the founder & CEO of SourceRise, a social enterprise connecting journalists to nonprofit subject matter experts and sources, and managing partner of  Socialbrite, a social media for nonprofits consultancy and digital learning hub.

Conference season is ongoing these days. So I was particularly pleased when, at the recent, Harvard Social Enterprise Conference, keynote speaker and Echoing Green president, Cheryl Dorsey, shared some valuable hints to us attendees on conference participation best practices.

Here are the helpful tips I learned—all easy to manage but packing a big punch. Bet that you’’ll be glad you set these in motion when you return from your next conference.

1. Start with the end in mind

What are the top three things you want to get out of this conference? Whether it’s meeting a particular attendee or speaker or gaining a better understanding of how to create a social media strategy for your nonprofit, the more specific you are, the likelier you are to walk out of that conference feeling satisfied and accomplished.

Also, something that stood out to me as being really powerful was that Cheryl mentioned being conscious of not only meeting those who can help you, but those who you can help as well. They are equally important.

2. Use your business cards to their fullest potential

In the flurry of meet and greets, it is likely you get home and don’t remember half of who those cards are from. To remedy this, think of one actionable item for each person you meet. Then write it on their business card before you walk out of the room.

3. Lessons learned

Take a minute and write down the three things you learned after each conference session you attend. It will all seem like less of a blur once you get back home and you’ll be able to take action on the items that really stood out.

What are some of your favorite conference-going tips and tricks?

Asana—Streamline the Work Behind Your Work (Nonprofit Blog Carnival)

Guest blogger, Leili Khalessi is the Marketing and Communications Manager for RedRover, a national animal welfare organization. She’s also on the board for The Yoga Seed Collective and couldn’t help but make a few yoga-related puns below.

Thanks to Leili for contributing this stirring post  to this month’s blog carnival—The Work Behind Your Work . There’s still time for yours—Deadline Friday April 25.

As nonprofit communicators, we all know what it’s like to try to find balance in our work despite competing priorities, multiple teams and never-ending deadlines. Never have I felt so “at home” professionally than at the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#14NTC), where I attended a session on “The Work Behind The Work” with Sarah Durham (founder of Big Duck), Stephanie Bowen (most recently with KaBOOM) and Nancy Schwartz. Across the room full of do-gooder marketers, it was clear that while we’d all happily bend over backward for the organizations we support, we were eager to learn from each other’s ways to zen.

I shared my favorite (free!*) tool for project management: Asana (www.asana.com). Asana is a web-based task manager designed to enable individuals and teams to plan and manage projects without email.

Yoga practitioners will recognize the word “asana” as referring to yoga postures – so it’s no surprise that this flexible app keeps RedRover’s communications work meditatively calm yet groovin’ in the flow. Here’s why we use it:

  • Project manager’s paradise: For me, lists = bliss. Asana gives me a place to lay out tactical plans with due dates and assignees for each task. The app structures the organization into teams, then projects, then tasks and subtasks. You can drag to re-order your tasks to customize your workflow by timeline or priority. As a manager, using Asana has only made it easier to communicate priorities downward, dog.
  • A process for every project: Creating our own templates in Asana enabled us to take the guesswork out of the work. Our editorial process, steps for creating an e-newsletter, and marketing campaign planners are all examples of project templates that live in Asana. Yes, live – all team members are encouraged to constantly refine and update our processes within Asana so that we’re always improving.
  • Less email: Yes, thank goodness! Project participants can leave comments on tasks, tag other team members and even attach documents from Dropbox and Google Drive. No more wading through long threads of messages – our project communications are much more direct through Asana.

*Asana is free for teams of up to 15 members, with unlimited projects and tasks. It’s worth trying out, even as an individual if you don’t want to involve other team members.

Start by putting your to-do list into Asana, or try setting up a routine project into the app to get a feel for how it works.

How to Keep Your Nonprofit Marketing Skills Sharp and Your Interest High — From Colleagues in the Field

How do you keep your nonprofit marketing skills and interests fresh, when we’re all fighting against not enough time and money? That’s what I asked colleagues to share in this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants.

The Big Top is here at Getting Attention this week (call me Ringmistress), and your peers have some great professional learning strategies to share:

Marc Sirkin of NPMarketing Blog takes a three-fold path to professional learning, built on a foundation of love of learning and reading, willingness to try new things and sheer curiosity.

Beth Kanter at Beth’s Blog is a passionate continual learner who pursues learning with a discipline I’ve rarely seen (she dedicates 30 minutes daily to learning). Her learning strategies include searching for, digesting, capturing and organizing perspectives and data online (blogs plus) — an activity which in itself enables Beth to process new ideas (much as taking notes in the classroom did for me as a student) — and getting to face-to-face meetings (mostly vlogger and blogger meet ups) on a regular basis.

Kivi Miller at Nonprofit Communications learns most when she teaches — as a speaker, writer or trainer.

Kerri Karvetski of KK’s Blog counts on LinkedIn as a powerful network to query on the challenges you’re facing or the best way to pursue your new communications goal (she’s right on target here, what a creative strategy for learning),  reading cutting -edge blogs (live conference and campaign blogs and wikis) and volunteering to keep learning and invested.

And finally, yours truly recommends writing (all the time, all media, all topics), nurturing a community of peers as a network (mine’s a combo of offline and online, folks in the field and in related fields),  getting away from the desk to face-to-face meetings (irreplaceable) and finding your nonprofit marketing muse.