7 Books Nonprofit Professionals Must Read

4 min
arms with a pink watch holding a book and holding a cup of coffee

Book-lovers of the nonprofit world, unite! Even seasoned fundraisers and nonprofit professionals need to learn new skills and hear new perspectives. That’s where nonprofit management books come in—or simply great management books!

To gather a list of must-read books, we asked around the Classy office to see what people were reading on fundraising, nonprofit management, and social enterprise and we received some great suggestions.

Below you’ll find a list of nonprofit management books (and a few others!); they cover things like social media, teamwork, microlending, and storytelling.

Free Download: The Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling

The following books ask you to rethink your assumptions and act on your best ideas. Let us know your favorites in the comments below.

7 Must-Read Books for Nonprofits

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

This book is not just a discussion of how to empower people living in poverty to become financially self-sufficient. It is also a poignant memoir from the author, who left a job in credit analysis at Chase Manhattan Bank to pursue humanitarian work. Jacqueline Novogratz has worked as a consultant for UNICEF and started the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital fund that invests in ideas and companies leading the way in the struggle against poverty. The Blue Sweater uses stories and characters from her travels to show the need for a new approach to abolishing poverty.

The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter, Allison Fine, and Randi Zuckerberg

“URGENT! Read this book. Take notes. Take action. If you work for a nonprofit, you don’t have to do every single thing these seasoned authors have to share, but you certainly have to know what you’re missing.” —Seth Godin

Penned by two successful bloggers and the former Director of Market Development of Facebook, this book is a guide for nonprofits looking to incorporate social media.

The authors trace the evolution of nonprofit communications and debunk the social media myths that are holding organizations back. Using real-world examples, The Networked Nonprofit shows how nonprofits can succeed in the ever-changing world of social media.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

The title of this book sums it up pretty well. The author and his research team identified a diverse group of companies that made the jump from average to outstanding. Furthermore, Collins was interested in companies who showed sustained growth for at least fifteen years after the leap. The team found that the companies shared seven characteristics, often relating to the motivation and discipline of its employees.

This book doesn’t promise quick earth-shattering breakthroughs, but rather lays out the long-term, under-the-radar efforts that can help build a strong and successful organization.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Written as a business fable (Aesop for the office?), this book identifies the insecurities and flaws that can spell disaster not only for the corporate world, but for all kinds of teams. Patrick Lencioni teaches through the story of a fictional Silicon Valley company where interpersonal problems between executives threaten the entire business.

But don’t worry about having to read between the lines for real leadership advice, at the end Lencioni goes more in depth on the five dysfunctions holding your team back and how to fix them.

Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up For Itself and Really Change the World by Dan Pallotta

Dan Pallotta is a titan of the charity event industry, creating fundraisers such as the AIDS Rides and 3 Day Walk for Breast Cancer. But he says that the public perception of charities and how they should be run is keeping nonprofits from solving large-scale problems like hunger and poverty.

In Charity Case, Pallotta explains what actions the nonprofit sector must take to change the conversation, including legal steps against defamation and ending the cycle that keeps organizations small and cash-strapped.

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant

Have you ever wondered what makes high-impact organizations so outstanding? The authors of this book didn’t just wonder, they spent years studying twelve powerhouse nonprofits to figure out just what they were doing right. And the answers may surprise you. They identified six practices that can be used by nonprofits of any size.

Read this book if you want to know why you need to work with for-profits instead of against them and why you need to cultivate a nonprofit network toward the common good. The six practices are explained through real stories from organizations like Feeding America and Habitat for Humanity.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

“Anyone interested in influencing others—to buy, to vote, to learn, to diet, to give to charity or to start a revolution—can learn from this book.” – Washington Post

At Classy, we love storytelling, and not just because it’s fun. People have been communicating through stories for centuries, yet it remains an incredibly effective way to spark interest and mobilize action.

This book by the Heath brothers teaches you how to make your ideas and stories unforgettable. Drawing on urban legends, personal stories, and advertisements, they identify the qualities that make some ideas stick. Use the advice in this book to make sure your cause and ideas grab people’s attention and never let go.


Reading books as a team can be a great way to grow together and get buy-in for trying to new tactics. For additional ideas, check out our post on nonprofit book club ideas.

Read Next: Nonprofit Book Club Ideas


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