Book Review: Because Nonprofits are Messy

The full title of this great book is… Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits are Messy .

9781119293064.pdfJoan Garry, has been called the Dear Abby of the nonprofit world and she’s the kind of author I enjoy reading. She’s down-to-earth; a skillful raconteur; humorous and wise.  She also doesn’t need to use catchy metaphors (like a hedgehog, or cheese) to write a worthwhile and practical book on nonprofit leadership.

Even the chapter titles make me want to read more:

Chapter 1 The Superpowers of Nonprofit Leadership
Chapter 2: You’ve Got to Get Me at Hello
Chapter 3: Co-Pilots in a Twin-Engine Plane
Chapter 4: The Key Is Not in the Answers. It’s in the Questions
Chapter 5: You Can Do This
Chapter 6: Managing the Paid and the Unpaid (Or, I Came to Change the World, Not Conduct Evaluations)
Chapter 7: When It Hits the Fan
Chapter 8: Hello, I Must Be Going (Or Navigating Leadership Transitions)
Chapter 9: You Are the Champions

And here is a sample of her unique writing style and perspective:

“Because nonprofits are messy. It’s inherent in the formula of the unique beast we call a 501(C)(3).

A + B+ C+ a big dose of intense passion = MESSY

    1. A poorly paid and overworked group (staff) that…
    2. Relies on the efforts of people who get paid nothing (volunteers) and are overseen by…
    3. Another group of volunteers who get paid nothing and are supposed to give and get lots of money (board).”

I admit, I have not yet read this book cover-to-cover, but what I have read has been spot-on and I’m very comfortable recommending it. You can find it in the ACPL catalog here.  We have two copies on the shelves in the PCNRC, let me know if you enjoyed reading it as much as I have.  Marilynn

A Fundraiser’s Journey

Kelly Updike

Have you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey? Although it debuted nearly 30 years ago, it is considered an important book on leadership today.

I still have my 1990 paperback edition that contains multi-colored highlighted and underlined phrases. But it’s been a long time since I’ve read it and it took me a while to find my copy. I went looking for it after having coffee with Jonathan Busarow, executive artistic director of the fabulous Fort Wayne Children’s Choir.

When I asked Jonathan for some fundraising advice, he mentioned that board engagement is key. Board members are the connectors that staffers need. “They don’t have to do the asking,” he said, “but their role is to help the organization.”

Jonathan said this is just like the Abundance Mentality from 7 Habits. “There are plenty of people to serve, it’s not the Scarcity Mentality. It’s freeing, actually,” he said.

I nodded my head in agreement but later had to look up what Jonathan was talking about.

The Abundance Mentality means there is plenty out there for everybody. Covey wrote, “It recognizes the unlimited possibilities for positive interactive growth and development.”

This trait is part of the Win/Win Habit. According to Covey (and Jonathan), if you look at others through the Abundance Mentality, you will genuinely value their differences and be happy for their success; this leads to sincere understanding and cooperative solutions that are better than if you had done the work alone. I like how Jonathan has connected this to board engagement and fundraising.

Thanks to Jonathan, I will continue to ask my board members to be involved in fundraising. And to re-re-re-re-read 7 Habits.


The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

New Books on Leadership and Development

workbookThe Fruition Coalition Board Development Workbook demystifies the processes of board recruitment, onboarding, and succession so that all organizations are able to successfully cultivate dedicated, educated, energized, and organized board members. This book can be used by executive directors, board officers, and individual members of the board of directors to explore and clarify the many aspects of organizational leadership and governance. It can be used as a mechanism to provoke discussion and as a guideline for organization and planning. This book provides comprehensive information, yet is flexible enough to be applicable to nonprofit organizations and boards of directors of all sizes and types.


leadershipValuable insights gleaned from the stories of global Leaders throughout history are the backdrop for behaviorist and brain expert Lynette Louise as she busts Leadership myths and uncovers The Seven Senses of Leadership. With clearly explained brain science Lynette shares solid advice on building and/or refining your Leadership Sensibilities. Unique and brilliant, The Seven Senses of Leadership: The Brain Broad’s Guide to Leadership Sensibilities, helps readers discover, recognize and perfect their Leadership Sensibilities while also giving them the tools and expertise to choose their own Leaders with educated purpose.


leadWritten for new and experienced social services managers and supervisors alike, Responsive Leadership in Social Services by Stephen de Groot provides the practical tools, strategies, and insights to inspire, motivate, and engage employees and staff. Along with over 100 strategies and two simple tools–the Key Performance Motivators Scale (KPMS) and the Preferred Leadership Profile (PLP)–a wealth of practice wisdom, scholarship, and evidence-based research is presented to demonstrate the role of effective leadership and how it achieves positive client outcomes.


leanLean is not an acronym. It’s the name for a method used to streamline. Nonprofit organizations have unique challenges. We all know the first one: the reliance on donations and outside funding. This funding can fluctuate depending on the mood of the economy. In the recession of 2008, funds shrunk, some dried up, and many nonprofit organizations were forced to cut mission-critical programs. It still happens today. Lean provides an alternative. The second challenge is hardly recognized: although staff and volunteers are valued for their passion, there is a long-held belief that this is sufficient to run an organization. But not in today’s climate. Passion is great, but complemented with “management acumen”…that’s even greater. Management acumen isn’t just for managers…it’s for everyone. It really means ‘know-how’…know-how about solving a problem, know-how about seeing the big picture, know-how about what tool to use. Lean builds management acumen by using improvement teams made up of ordinary workers who know the problems first-hand, and now they have a forum and know-how to solve them.


New Book: Seven Keys to Successful Mentoring

Books are beginning to arrive from our recent order, and we’ll be reviewing them here over the next few weeks. 7keys-to-successful-mentoring

Seven Keys to Successful Mentoring by E. Wayne Hart is one of several books in the Ideas Into Action Series for managers and executives.  It is a small volume with a mere thirty-two pages, but it uses them efficiently.  The book is in a format I very much like – it is much like a manual with one to two pages per topic, with bulleted points and lists of questions it gets right to the point.  It is also a very colorful volume in this new edition!

What you’ll find inside:

  • What is mentoring?
  • The importance of mentoring
  • What mentors do
    • Develop & manage the mentoring relationship
    • Survey
    • Sponsor
    • Guide & counsel
    • Teach
    • Model
    • Motivate & inspire
  • Final thoughts

Summary: Continue reading

Training The New Breed of Skill Based Volunteers

Training The New Breed of Skill Based Volunteers … who perhaps think that you can’t teach them anything!

Thomas W. McKee has tackled this problem with a great book, The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer (Group Publishing). The New Breed details the new cultural shift in volunteer management and also includes valuable, applicable resources for leaders.

A new volunteer is like a new employee and training is vital. A number of retired baby-boomers come to us from professions such as teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, or professors. And another hot prospective volunteer today is the young, single professional, right out of college, who is eager to help us. You get the picture. But then we ask this professional to attend the agency orientation and training program. This requires a trainer who may find his audience “less than enthusiastic” about this required training.

In this day and age we find that the motivation for learning has a short window. People learn what they want to learn. If learning is forced on us, even if we master it temporarily (for example, by cramming for a driver’s test), it is soon forgotten. One study found that the half-life of knowledge learned in an MBA course was about six weeks. Many folks attend classes merely to earn an accreditation or fulfill a requirement. That is an advantage that we have as volunteer managers. Volunteers are volunteering because they have a passion about a mission to change their world and for the most part are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen-including training. Continue reading

New Books

with booksIs this a slower time of the year for you? Need something new to read? Either way we have some options for you! Below is a sampling of the new books available to check out in the PCNRC’s collection. Consider it our holiday gift to you.

If you read one of these books, please let us know. We would like to get your thoughts and pass it along to other readers.

Financial Management

Budgeting and Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations: Using Money to Drive Mission Success

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability


199 Fun and Effective Fundraising Events for Nonprofit Organizations

Ask Without Fear!: A Simple Guide to Connecting Donors with What Matters Most


Meeting the Job Challenges of Nonprofit Leaders: A Field book on Strategies and Action

Successful Nonprofits Build Supercharged Boards

Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide for Dynamic Times


SPIKE You Brand ROI: How to Maximize Reputation and Get Results

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money

Connected Causes: Online Marketing Strategies For Nonprofit Organizations


How to Turn Your Words Into Money: The Master Fundraiser’s Guide to Persuasive Writing

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content


The Art of Membership: How to Attract, Retain, and Cement Member Loyalty

Managing Human Resources For Nonprofits

One Direction and Donor Retention: The Direction Connection

This past weekend I saw One Direction in concert. Yes, I am 22 and no, I am not ashamed to admit that I loved every second of it. One DNow you may be wondering what my concert experience could possibly have to do with nonprofits. Well, I couldn’t help but look around the almost filled Lucas Oil Stadium and think about the incredible support this band has from its fans and how that relationship is similar to the relationship between donors and nonprofit organizations. The ways in which One Direction retains their fans is mirrored in the way that nonprofits can retain and build meaningful relationships with donors. (Note – I am not speaking as a fanatical fan but as someone who has written a research paper on the relationship between the band and their fans.)

Thank You’s

One Direction wouldn’t be the global phenomenon that they are today without the support of their fans. The band knows this and take the time to thank their fans. During the concert, each of the four members took the time to say thank you. And certainly not every fan deserved it (apparently not every person listened to the band’s plea “please don’t throw things at us”). Donors and the people who support your organization always deserve a thank-you. It never hurts to say it. No one likes going to a concert that they’ve paid a substantial amount of money to attend without receiving any acknowledgment or thanks from the performer. Support from the audience, whether fans or donors, is necessary and should always be acknowledged.


I’ve recently read a few blog posts about fundraising where the respective authors stress the fact that money shouldn’t be the main focus when fundraising. One author, Simone Joyaux, likens the fundraising journey to storytelling. “Fundraising and fundraisers are story listeners and storytellers. We fundraisers listen to stories about clients, those who are served…Then, you and I retell those client stories. And we invite those clients to tell those stories in their own voices. Now, you and I should also be listening to donor stories. Because donors are the real heroes of all fundraising stories”.

I think this is a neat way to look at fundraising. Joyaux talks about how organizations can get wrapped up in telling of their accomplishments and lose sight of the donors’ involvement in the story. If a donor feels like a part of your organization’s journey and believes in the stories you tell and the work you do, they will be all more willing to add their own story and their support to your organization’s journey.

One Direction has constantly placed their fans at the center of their story (constantly saying “None of this would be possible without you”) and it would be beneficial for organizations to do the same with donors. Why? Because winning the hearts and minds of donors is a better long term investment than just winning their wallets.


What makes One Direction’s fan base stand out? Their activism. The typical fan isn’t one who sits idly by but is one who is constantly engaged and active in the One Directionsphere. For example, in May the fan base launched a campaign to make a recent song shoot to Number 1 on the charts and get it played on the radio as a single. In the band’s early years, pressure from the fans was instrumental in getting the band’s single “What Makes You Beautiful” played on the radio and played in the U.S.

The ability to launch such campaigns is aided mainly by the use of social media, which both connects the band to the fans and the fans to each other. It’s a worldwide network of support. Finding ways in which donors can connect to your organization and connect to each other can build comradery or a sense of belonging. You can’t build a meaningful or strong relationship with someone if you don’t connect and communicate with them.

I know that organizations can’t rely on good looks, talent, and charm to bring in 75 million a year, but I think there are still some valuable lessons to be drawn from how One Direction maintains their fan base, such as

  • Maintain the integrity of the organization
  • Say thank-you
  • Allow donors and their stories to be a part of your organization’s fundraising
  • Stay connected to your donors and connect your donors to each other.

If you are looking for resources on donors and fundraising, here are a few:

Donor Books 1         Donor Books 2         

Also, a link to Part 1 of Simone Joyaux’s article: “Fundraising Isn’t About Money…Neither is Giving”