I don’t know about you, but I love to read. I will read almost anything – professional development, murder mysteries, historical fiction, or even YA. (Yes… there is no shame here. Love a good YA book.) I love the way books provide an escape and expand your world a little bit further each time you pick one up. And what I’ve found this year (when I’ve read many more books than I ever have before!) is that sometimes the lessons you are looking for are in the most unexpected places.
There are many fundraising books out there that can help nonprofit professionals succeed in their role. But today, I want to shine a light on three non-fundraising books that will help you become a better fundraiser in unexpected ways.
The books I’ve laid out below stuck with me after I read them. I hope they – and the lessons I gleaned from them – will help you, too!
Atomic Habits will flip everything you think you know about goal setting in your work and your life on its head. Achieving lasting, impactful change doesn’t require HUGE shifts in your routines – it requires small, consistent actions. Clear walks readers through a straightforward process for building good, and releasing bad, habits. And, most importantly, along the way he shows us examples of people who have made momentous changes in their life and their work. Simply by putting in place small changes to their daily routines.
Atomic Habits will cause you to do a double take on your planning and goal setting. Yes, a fundraising plan is key to your work, but after reading this book, you may alter how you put that plan into action. It isn’t about the goals you set in place, but the systems you work within to get to where you want to go.
Clear’s systems are all about aligning your choices and your actions with your individual identity. Even if that identity is the goal you are working toward, to get a habit to stick you must adopt it internally from the outset. The key, though, is to make that identity who you are today – from this moment forward. Not “I want to be a healthy person” — “I am a healthy person”. When your habits are then aligned to your identity, your internal monologues will naturally lead you in your decision making toward your big goals. And as a bonus, all these little choices along the way provide you tiny wins to keep your momentum up.
Rather than describing your work to yourself as “I have to call donors today to hopefully get more donations before the end of year”, try saying to yourself “I am a person who values the relationships I’ve built with my donors, and to honor those relationships I keep them up to speed with how our organization is doing regularly.” The shift is small – but key!
Especially for the female fundraisers in the room, this book radiates confidence and encouragement. Saujani describes her experiences with bravery and how over the past several years she has built a bravery mindset, which in part helped push her to found Girls Who Code. She walks through how from a young age girls are primed to aim for perfection rather than courage, and how that engrained behavior doesn’t support women in their professional lives. She then takes the reader through a process to help them consider how they can reframe their thinking and life focus from perfection to bravery.
Anyone can create a bravery mindset and get better at responding to failure. Saujani shows that there is no “bravery gene.” While some personality types might be more open to risk and adventure, bravery and courage is something anyone can build. The “secret ingredient” is putting forth consistent effort and a positive mindset. From (time-limited) wallowing in failures, to daily bravery challenges, and finding a supportive network to cheer you on, Saujani offers concrete, attainable strategies to strengthen your bravery muscle.
Push your limits a bit! The beauty here is that you can do something outside of work, and you’ll still feel the benefit in your day job. Commit to one small brave task a day. This may be signing up for a cooking class, phone banking for a cause you care about, or learning a new language. Commit, reflect, and then celebrate yourself! Sprinkling in “things you aren’t good at” can help you have fun, loosen up, and even surprise yourself with new skills. You’ll bring that energy back into your fundraising work with more creativity and more excitement for your day to day (and the knowledge that you can tackle anything!)
This book will make you rethink how your nonprofit should communicate its value and message to leave a lasting impact on your audience. This book demystifies HOW to create a compelling message that people will remember. Or, as the authors like to define it, how to create a message that “sticks.”
In fundraising, we all know storytelling is key to our work. But do you know what makes a good, lasting story? By looking at everything from urban legends to fables and anecdotes from many industries and walks of life, the authors highlight what constitutes a good story. (Here’s a primer: good stories are: simple – unexpected – credible – concrete – emotional.) They provide examples of how you can use these attributes to improve the stories you tell throughout your day to day life. You’ll walk away from this book ready to tackle big problems with creativity and simplicity.
This book is so full of useful communication strategies and advice, it’s hard to choose. But the final takeaway of the book is this: normal people in normal situations (without in-depth training!), can make a profound difference with their “sticky” ideas. In fact, there are several examples highlighted in the book where novices do much better than experts at crafting worthwhile messages. Rather than needing in-depth knowledge, all you need is consistency and a keen eye. Commit to considering the attributes of a good story – and looking at your own stories with fresh eyes to identify where they may be falling short.
Take some time to study the fundraising appeals that strike you. How can you emulate them in your own organization?
How can you make your message:
Mindset and consistency are everything.
These three books tell us a lot about where our focus should be. Spend the time working on your mindset, and committing to consistency in the areas that matter most. You’ll make it much farther than setting forth big goals that have us destined to falter or fail.
A free guide to customizing your message for different audiences. Whether its individuals, corporations, or grant funders - we have you covered!
Share your story with the right person at the right time in the right way to better connect with your audience and further your mission.
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