Summer's already upon us. By now, most non-profit managers are heavy into self-flagellation, steeling themselves for their annual two weeks off from the stresses and strains of the job. My advice is to get as physically and emotionally far away as you possibly can. Leave all paperwork, reports and professional reading behind. Don't reveal your location or telephone number.
For the two of you who will follow my advice, thanks.
For the rest of you overworked and underpaid achievers, another thanks. Every day, behind the scenes, I see how your commitment to bettering our society exacts its toll. So, if you're heading for the beach or the mountains and want to take something along other than Tom Clancy's latest thriller, here's a potpourri of reading and listening you might want to consider (and one you definitely won't).
"Building An Effective Nonprofit Board" (Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco 94104; also available from The National Center for Nonprofit Boards, Washington: $19.95). This two-volume audiocassette is one of those small treasures that one finds all too rarely. Developed by The National Center for Nonprofit Boards, it is nicely narrated and includes insights and suggestions from leading experts such as Nancy Axelrod, executive director of the center.
If you listen to it on the beach, you will find yourself nodding in agreement every few minutes. Better yet, play it through your stereo earphones on the way to your vacation destination -- especially if you have teen-agers in the car. Topics covered include recruiting board members, developing good relationships between the board, staff and the chief executive, improving board skills, and tips and keys to board success.
"The Board Member's Guide to Fund Raising" by Fisher Howe (Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco; also available from The Center for Nonprofit Boards, Washington, DC: $22.95). For anyone who is on, works with, or reports to a non-profit board of directors, this book is indispensable. It is a well-written, easy to read, logically presented overview of a board member's fund-raising responsibilities. Mr. Howe distills years of experience working with boards into this pleasant, informative, nuts-and-bolts book. It's a must for any serious member of a non-profit board.
And for those board members who aren't serious enough, the book will either raise their sights or help them understand why they should step down.
"Getting Publicity: A Do-It-Yourself Guide for Small Business and Non-Profit Groups" by Tana Fletcher and Julia Rockler (Self-Counsel Press, Bellingham, Washington: $12.95). Two Maryland authors, experts on media and communications, have teamed up to offer small businesses and non-profits a practical, hands-on, no-nonsense guide to publicity. I found the for-profit/non-profit juxtaposition well done and a step forward in helping non-profits compete in the media battlefield.
My only criticism of this helpful guide is that the authors should expand its scope to include the broader area of marketing. Publicity plans are ineffective and even counterproductive in the absence of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
"The Corporate Contributions Handbook," James P. Shannon, Editor (Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco; also available from The Council on Foundations, Washington: $35.00). No matter which side of the fence you are on -- requesting or giving -- this handbook is full of informative, useful information distributed throughout 25 thoughtful chapters. Contributors are well-known in the field of corporate philanthropy. The book is intended for those involved in corporate giving, but it also offers insights into the process for non-profits requesting contributions.
"Successful Grant Writing Tips -- The Manual" by Beverly A. Browning (Grant$line Inc., Burton, MI: $29.95). In the preface to this amateurish, self-published work, the author acknowledges that it is intended for the novice grants writer. I agree. Anyone with any experience whatsoever would do better shelling out their money for other reference works. I'd even recommend that novice writers consult more comprehensive works such as "The New Grants Planner" by Public Management Institute.
The author, a grants writer and workshop promoter, makes sweeping generalizations that ill serve the novice grant seeker. However, given the fact that she claims to have won millions in education grant awards, who am I to complain?
Here's hoping you enjoy your summer reading, gain some new perspectives, and return to the job refreshed.
Les Picker, a consultant in the field of philanthropy, works with charitable organizations and for-profit companies.