More books are directed to nonprofits

NONPROFITS INC.

November 14, 1994|By LESTER A. PICKER

Have you noticed the proliferation of books targeting the nonprofit sector recently? Over the past few years, a number of mainstream business publishers have entered the fray, competing with such venerable nonprofit-sector publishers as Jossey-Bass.

Three years ago, when I wrote a chapter on corporate philanthropy for John Wiley and Sons' "The Nonprofit Management Handbook," it was on the forward edge of the wave of commercial publishers rushing to fill a perceived niche. Now, the stalwart publishers of the industry are coming back strong.

Two cases in point recently arrived on my desk, both from Jossey-Bass publishers (San Francisco: 415-433-1740). The first is a welcome but uneven work titled "Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation," edited by Joseph Wholey, Harry Hatry and Kathryn Newcomer.

Followers of this column already know how quickly I can climb on the soapbox of program evaluation. It should be an integral component of any program development, if for no other reason than to bolster an organization's requests for external support. Unfortunately, rigorous evaluation is often not practiced or is not done well.

Jossey-Bass' "Handbook" seeks to remedy that situation with a comprehensive series of essays by practitioners. Now, don't get me wrong, reading through this tome would be the most effective sleeping aid yet devised by humans. But if you are a nonprofit employee or volunteer, and you recognize the need for evaluation programs, then this book contains the basic elements needed to get the job done.

Sections include evaluation design, data collection procedures, data analysis and planning and managing the evaluation process. Some chapters are, of course, stronger than others. I particularly liked the hands-on chapters dealing with planning and managing the evaluation process. Experienced evaluators will appreciate the step-by-step hints for project management and reporting of results for maximum effect. Like any handbook, this one suffers from the lack of uniform writing and philosophical direction, other than the editors' choice and placement of chapters.

The second work by Jossey-Bass has the long-winded title of "The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management." It has a page-count to match. In some 650 pages, editor Robert D. Herman has assembled well-known practitioners, each of whom imparts a good deal of wisdom to readers.

For example, Nancy Axelrod, the highly regarded head of the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, has a chapter on board leadership. Lester Salamon, head of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, gives us an overview of the sector. Charles Tremper, an expert on insurance issues who has addressed Baltimore audiences before, tackles the risk management issue.

The leadership and management "Handbook" is a great way for executives to brush up on arcane points with which they may not be familiar. Likewise, people contemplating entering the nonprofit work force would do well to use handbooks like this as a guide. Each chapter includes references.

The book is divided into major sections, which include an overview of the sector in the context of social, legal, historical and international settings. While much of this is interesting to researchers, it may be of peripheral interest to most practitioners. With the second major section, leadership issues, the book comes into its own, touching on key areas such as board and executive development.

Later sections examine day-to-day operations, developing and managing financial resources and, finally and most importantly, managing people. This latter section covers the basics of volunteer management, paid employees, employee benefit programs and training issues.

Les Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at The Brokerage, 34 Market Place, Suite 331, Baltimore, Md. 21202; (410) 783-5100

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