When I first started working in the nonprofit sector I did what anyone would do who finds themselves in a strange land with no one to guide them; I starting reading up on the subject. Having spent over a decade in Corporate America I had read just about all the books that they throw at you. Some are very good and helpful and others really suck. The problem I have run into with nonprofit literature is that I have yet to find any books that really rock my world. None of them seem to challenge the status quo and none of them really give you any insight that is outside of good old common sense. 

Then I started going through all the great business books that have really made an impression on me and I realized that 95% of the content is applicable to the nonprofit and philanthropic world. The gems contained inside of these books need to be harvested and adapted by the nonprofit sector. Anyone armed with this knowledge will have the upper hand in everything they do whether it be fundraising, presenting to potential donors, or just running a lean organization so you can stretch the monies you do get. Don't reinvent the wheel. Dive inside what the business world has already done and pillage away!


 
Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki
There is no doubt I have a huge guy crush on Guy Kawasaki. The guy is a straight up stud. Many moons ago I was recommended his book by my pastor of all people and I am so glad that I picked it up. This is no small book but when you are done reading it you feel like you just got a crash course in how to run a start-up all for the low price of $18.38. Guy does an amazing job of striking the right balance between theory and practice. The best part is that all of his tactics have been proven over and again in that scary place we know as "the real world." Just to give you a taste there are chapters like The Art of Executive Summary, The Art of Blogging, and The Art of Creating a Community. Just from these chapter titles you should be able to gather that most of this stuff applies to the nonprofit world as well as the business sector.  

 

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, And Join The New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
The first time this book was recommended to me I was very skeptical about it just based on the cover. It looks like one of those very cheesy "get rich quick" products that you would see late night on the infomercial channel. Boy could I have been further from the truth. This book is the swiss army knife of tools that will help you in all aspects of your life both work wise and personal wise. Someone who is running an organization without reading this book is like forgetting to take water purification tablets into the Congo; you are just asking for trouble!

Just to show you how deep Tim Ferriss goes I got an email a couple weeks ago from a nonprofit I have been working with. The nice lady told me that her son and his friend had developed a super amazing new keyboard designed just for the medical community. She asked me if I knew of any companies that they could hire to actually manufacture the prototype. Of course I didn't know anyone because seriously, how often do you get asked a question like that? So I picked up my copy of 4 Hour Work Week and sure enough, it was in there. I sent it over along with a link to Tim's blog. The son was so excited because no one that he met could help him and he didn't even know where to start. If MacGyver was an entrepreneur he would have co-written this book with Tim Ferriss.




Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
Rarely does someone have an idea that can actually be implemented to change part of the world. Even more rare is for someone to take that idea and turn it into a profit making business to fund the world changing that is going on. Ladies & Gents I give you Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes. This book is the story of serial entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie and how he came up with the idea for TOMS Shoes. Because Blake came from a start-up background he was very familiar with the tools he needed to carry out his grand task. Blake is blurring the line between for-profit business and the nonprofit world. Anyone that is thinking of starting an organization to change the world needs to stop and see if his model applies to them too. Pick up this book and enjoy the ride. 



 
 

Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin
If you are a nonprofit you are leading a tribe. It may be a tribe to change education, to help veterans, to assist the homeless or to save the enviorment. Whatever cause you are fighting for there are people out there just like you. Seth Godin tells you how to find and engage them. This book is small and you will fly through it. When you are done you will know how to galvanize the tribe you are seeking to lead to change the world. It is as simple as that.