Who has time to read?
Our days are long and filled with one challenge after another. It's tough to carve out time to read. So, many of us limit our reading to our field or mission.
Consider this quote from a nonprofit leader: “I believe, strongly, that intellectual bandwidth is key to creativity and adaptability, which are crucial to any leadership position.” Reading outside of your field can help you develop this intellectual bandwidth.
Another perspective comes from the concept of "generative" governance, the focus of Governance as Leadership by Dick Chait, Bill Ryan, and Barbara Taylor. Generative governance is defined as "sense-making" – making sense of what we know. The more we know (and reading is one way to know more), the more sense-making we can do.
What to read
So, what are good things to read? We asked this question of nonprofit leaders throughout the country and received many suggestions.
Only three publications were read by 50% of the respondents. The three top hits were Blue Avocado, the BoardSource newsletter, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Here are some of the other publications that nonprofit leaders recommended:
- Stanford Social Innovation Review
- Harvard Business Review
- The Nonprofit Quarterly (the quarterly magazine and/or the daily "Newswire")
- Advancing Philanthropy (AFP member publication)
- Nonprofit Online News
- LaPiana Consulting Alerts
- Charity Channel
- Claxon's Blog from Erica Mills
- PhilanTopic from Philanthropy News Digest
- Nonprofit With Balls from Vu Le
- Clairification from Claire Axelrad
- Beth's Blog from Beth Kanter
- Getting Attention from Nancy Schwartz
- Have Fun Do Good from Britt Bravo
- CharityLawyer Blog from Carter Law Group, P.C.
- Nonprofit Law Blog from NEO Law Group
- La Piana Consulting's Blog
- from Dr. Debra Beck Project
- Nonprofit Management from Dr. Eugene Fram
- ...and of course, The Commons, 501 Commons' blog
Books to read
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
- First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
- Good to Great and Good to Great and the Social Sectors by Jim Collins
- Governance as Leadership by Richard Chait, et al.
- Keeping Good People by Roger E. Herman
- Leading Change by John P. Kotter
- Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
- The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution by David La Piana
- Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant
- Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta
Graphic novel anyone?
Consider stepping out of the nonprofit sector for some of your reading. A favorite is the Harvard Business Review Morning Advantage. Like the NPQ Newswire, this is a "scan" publication – their purpose is to provide a "daily scouting report on provocative ideas for business." You'll find at least three articles a week that have implications for the nonprofit sector. And it only takes a few minutes – unless you dive into one of the articles, of course.
One edition yielded this: When Warren Buffett’s partner, Charlie Munger, was a young attorney, he hit on a way to make sure he went to bed every night a little wiser than he’d woken up. Whenever his legal work was not sufficiently stimulating, he says, "I would sell the best hour of the day to myself." That is, he'd spend a prime, midday, billable hour doing something for himself.
"Only after I’d used my best hour improving myself would I sell my time to my professional clients."
What, exactly, was he doing in that hour? Both he and Buffett, he says, preferred reading at their desks.
Do you have a favorite resource you'd like to share? Email your recommendation to our Information & Referral Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.