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The Best 10 Books on Nonprofit Fundraising and Governance

Stack of books against a yellow background next to the words: 10 Best Nonprofit Fundraising & Board Governance Books
Alyce Lee Stansbury

When it comes to the best books about nonprofit fundraising and governance, these 10 resources stand the test of time and should be on every leader’s bookshelf or e-reader.

10 Nonprofit Fundraising and Governance Books to Add to Your Must-Read List 

1. “Ten Responsibilities of a Nonprofit Board” by BoardSource

This short book outlines the primary responsibilities of nonprofit board service. In the most recent edition, the role of advocacy has been added. This list of 10 responsibilities should be the basis for all nonprofit board service. It can also be used to generate thoughtful discussions among board members about what it means to serve on a high-performing board and nurture a culture of engagement and meaningful participation.

2. “Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift” by Jerold Panas

Written by a fundraising icon who passed away in 2018, this book is the quintessential guide to taking the fear out of asking, especially for larger gifts. This book recognizes and celebrates the joy of giving which should be at the heart of every ask and every gift.

READ NEXT: Getting to Yes: Build a Major Gift Plan that Works

3. “Mega Gifts” by Jerold Panas

In another of his best-selling books, Panas interviewed 50 people who each made a single gift of $1 million or more to one organization. These interviews reveal volumes about what donors care about most and how nonprofits can and must earn the right to ask. This book is helpful for fundraising staff and executive directors to help them understand donor motivations that inspire people to make big gifts. Hint: They do not include solving your organization’s need for money.

4. “Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (Second Edition)” by Henry “Hank” Rosso

Mr. Rosso, another icon and legend in the field, wrote my favorite definition of fundraising: “The gentle art of teaching people the joy of giving.” The second edition includes updates on various aspects of the fundraising process that are built on Rosso’s founding principles. As long as I have been in the fundraising business, I still return to this book for descriptions and explanations of the art and science of fundraising.

5. “Donor-Centered Fundraising (Second Edition)” by Penelope Burk

This book is the result of robust research conducted by Penelope Burk and her firm to learn what donors want and need from the charities they support. It is extremely valuable to hear this information from the donor’s point of view. I have met Penelope and heard her speak many times. I agree with Penelope’s assertion, supported by her research, that the better job nonprofits do of communicating with donors before asking again, the more likely they will be to continue to give.

6. “Good to Great for the Social Sector” by Jim Collins

As Jim says, the good-to-great concept is not about business but about what separates great from good. In this slim volume, he applies the principles to the nonprofit sector and includes examples and diagrams to make his points. This is a helpful read for staff and volunteer leaders alike.

7. “Conducting a Successful Fundraising Program” by Kent Dove

I used Dove’s book as the textbook for a graduate-level course in fundraising I taught for many years at Florida State University. The back section of the book is full of examples that demonstrate how to apply the principles outlined in the text. It is also a great reference for executive directors and experienced development staff for tried and true fundraising principles and techniques. This book is terrific for people who are new to fundraising.

8. “How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money” by Tom Ahern

This easy-to-read book features short lessons for writing more effective fundraising communications. These lessons apply to the case for support, direct mail, email, newsletters and any other kind of donor communication.

READ NEXT: 7 Secrets to Successful Fundraising Appeals

9. “Endowment Building” by Diana S. Newman

To learn more about endowment fundraising, I always recommend this book which is part of the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Fund Development Series of Nonprofit Essentials. Before starting my consulting business, I spent three years in the community foundation field and learned so much about endowments. Diana’s book will help you and your organization learn how to establish, build, invest, manage and grow an endowment fund for long-term financial sustainability.

10. “Management Library” by Carter McNamara

This is a free online management library available at managementhelp.org. It is chock-full of templates, articles, checklists and documents addressing all areas of nonprofit management. Many of the authors above are included in this database of online resources.

READ NEXT: 11 Books Every Nonprofit Leader Should Read

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From grant writing and fundraising to board governance and leadership, the Nonprofit Leadership Center offers nearly 100 nonprofit training courses and learning opportunities each year, including virtual events. 

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Alyce Lee Stansbury

CFRE

Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, is a 30-year fundraising veteran and seasoned advisor in nonprofit management and board development. She has raised millions of dollars and helped her clients grow fundraising results by more than 200% and exceed campaign goals by 45%.

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Nonprofits entrust their boards to make the most critical organizational decisions. Yet research shows that nearly half of nonprofit CEOs don’t feel their boards have the right members to establish trust with the communities they serve. The Certificate in Board Governance is a two-part series that teaches the fundamental nonprofit governance concepts every leader should understand and practice.

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