Book Review – Donor Centered Leadership

I’ve been a huge fan of Penelope Burk since I first heard her speak not long after I arrived in the Canadian fundraising world. She was presenting to the Toronto AFP chapter her research on thanking donors and the impact of gratitude on donor retention (which became the landmark book, “Donor Centered Fundraising“).

Penelope is a great speaker and I was excited to hear her speak a year or two ago about her emerging new research on “Donor Centered Leadership.” The new book builds on her previous work, since her focus is how to build a functioning team that keeps the donor front-of-mind, which strengthens donor confidence and engagement. Early on she notes:

One out of every two donors who made charitable gifts in 2011 said they could have given more, but that they held back, waiting for nonprofits to get it right.

If that isn’t enough to make you sit up and evaluate the importance of good leadership, reduced turn over, and a strengthened profession, I don’t know what will. And, if you think this is a book only addresses hiring and retaining fundraisers, you are in for a surprise.

Donor-centered-leadershipThrough five years of research with more than 12,000 fundraisers, leadership volunteers and donors, Penelope dives into the real (seen and hidden) costs of staff turnover (or the desire for greater career mobility and/or compensation), the change in the fundraising landscape (“unfortunately the fundraising system that is in place today is better at making money than profit”), and how to attract, hire and hold on to good great talent (oodles of smart advice, including internal promotions, succession planning and keeping good talent engaged and happy).

This book will add to your understanding of the current issues (some call it a crisis) facing our profession, it will help you learn where to focus your energies in your daily work and strategic planning and help you to create a better team.

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Mega Gifts – Book Review

Mega Gifts  – Book Review

MegaGiftsBefore the holidays I read Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them by Jerold Panas. (I reviewed another excellent book by this author, Power Questions.)


First, two words came up repeatedly. Joy and Listen. Whatever area of fundraising you practice, keep them top of mind.

The joy your donors feel when they give.

How important as a fundraiser that it is for you to listen.

I put the book down many times to reflect on what I just read. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I gave it as a gift to each of my colleagues. Now we will have a shared reference and reinforcement with our own experiences as individual fundraisers for our nascent team. (As Seth Godin noted: “When the team has a reference, a shared vocabulary and a new standard, you raise the bar for each other.”)

Jerry’s style is easy to read. He talks about his experiences over an amazing career of fundraising and consulting. He then interviews mega donors themselves to drill down, uncover and polish these golden nuggets. He uses specific examples of philanthropists who have changed the world or a corner of it through giving, using their own words and examples of gift commitments.

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The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications – Book Review

The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications – Book Review

Today I have a guest post from my friend and colleague Rory Green! A fundraising book review as well; since I’m a fan on life-long learning, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. And thanks again to Rory for taking time from her schedule to share her take on this book.

Jeff Brooks IrresisibeBook Review: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications: Real-World, Field-tested Strategies for Raising More Money

Recently in Toronto at AFP Congress, I heard Tom Ahern speak about writing fundraising copy. Tom gave the book – “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications: Real-World, Field-tested Strategies for Raising More Money” by Jeff Brooks – a big thumbs up in his presentation. Tom encouraged us all to rush out and buy it – and buy it I did.

Jeff runs one of my favourite tough-love Fundraising blogs Future Fundraising Now. I had high hopes for this book and it didn’t disappoint.

First, let me warn you: this book might offend you. It is unapologetic about the claims it makes, and the myths it dispels. Luckily these claims are backed up by years (and YEARS) of research and testing. Jeff’s theories and ideas are all based on tested donor behaviour – what donors DO not what they SAY.

This short, well written, and helpful book is a powerful call to action to do fundraising well. It makes a passionate case for why we should love and treasure our profession.

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Power Questions – Book Review

Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas

I just finished an excellent book, “Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others” by Jerold Panas and Andrew Sobel. I highly recommend this book to fundraisers, board members and others who want to build stronger relationships with donors, prospects and volunteers.

I saw this book at the airport when I had a very long layover – and was delighted to find it. Jerry Panas is a giant in the field of fundraising and although this book was in the business section, I say it is a must-read for fundraisers.

Fundraisers working with individuals – whether they are board members, donors, ambassadors or colleagues – need to learn and hone the skill of asking leading questions and listening.

Each chapter begins with a story or dilemma which leads to The Question. Then there are suggestions on how to use The Question, variations and follow-up questions. It is a great primer for people new in the field, or for those who have been using these types of questions, but would like to have additional examples.

I’ll give you the flavor of the chapters (there are 35 in all, with an additional 293 questions at the back) without totally giving away the book. One chapter discusses the challenge of over-preparing for a meeting, and then building little actual rapport while explaining how wonderful the organization is. His suggested question for these types of situations if someone says, “tell me about your company.” “What would you like to know about us?

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The Thank You Economy – Book Review

I just finished re-reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s excellent book, “The Thank You Economy.”

This book is perfect reading for the fundraising professional. Gary nails why on page one of chapter one: “In fact, no relationships should be taken for granted. They are what life is about, the whole point.”

Gary’s book geared to people interested improving their business and how social media can improve their business relationships, but nearly every page touches on the importance of relationships and how they were, are and will be the most important connections we have. He talks about how what he terms “The Thank You Economy” strengthens relationships of all types.

I grabbed the book as I walked out the door on my way to Nashville. I was thinking about the principles he discusses in the wake of the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle. Also, I believe that appreciation is the root of sustaining donor support over a lifetime and there are so many principles we forget in the rush of going about our work. The book is the perfect size to digest in a cross-country flight.

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