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A Well-Informed Leader – What Nonprofit Leaders Are Reading

Posted Jun 21, 2012 08:55 AM
Our days are long and filled with one challenge after another. It is tough to carve out time to read. So, many of us limit our reading to our field or mission. However reading outside of your field can help you develop this intellectual bandwidth. Click through to read some of our favorite recommendations.

Thanks to Liz Heath of Sound Nonprofits who asked nonprofit leaders what they are reading. We have added some of our favorite books, newsletters, magazines, blogs and podcasts.

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.   But staying on top of your field requires that you keep up to date. 


Reading and listening to podcasts can help us interpret our environment and better analyze the context for key decisions.  The concept of "generative" discussions (using in the Governance as Leadership by Dick Chait, Bill Ryan, and Barbara Taylor) uses this idea of "sense-making" – making sense of what we know - as a key tool for leadership.  The more we know, the more sense-making we can do of all the information that is flooding in each day.

Publications & Newsletters

So, with limited time for reading what are your favorite magazines and newsletters?  We asked this question of nonprofit leaders throughout the country and received many suggestions.

Well Informed Leader Chart


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

Blog Favorites

Recommended Books


Don’t have time to read but want something to listen to instead? Try podcasts!  Podcasts are great to listen to at your desk, in the car, or on public transportation if you have a long way to commute.

  • Nonprofit Radio Show – Sunshine for Small Nonprofits - Loaded with practical advice and insights prepared with Nancy Bacon's special flair for presenting and breaking down information so it really sticks with you.
  • Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio: A weekly podcast that explores a wide range of nonprofit-specific topics
  • The Impact Podcast: Social impact stories, interviews, reflections to help your reach your impact potential
  • Inspiring Social Entrepreneurs: Interviews with successful social entrepreneurs and changemakers who are building a better world
  • Changemaker: Social good startup stories, inspiring life lessons, and unexpected ideas
  • Tiny Spark: Investigates philanthropy, nonprofits, and for-profit social good initiatives
  • Business of Giving: Hear from philanthropists, corporate CEOs, nonprofit luminaries, celebrity ambassadors, government officials, and social entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of the transformative changes that are occurring around the world
  • Nonprofit Leadership Podcast: Real stories from real leaders making a difference today
  • The Classy Podcast: Tells the stories of today's leading founders and executives in the social sector
  • Fundraising is Beautiful: Learn to appreciate the power and beauty of fundraising
  • The Fundraising Authority: Learn new tips, tools, and strategies for fundraising through conversations with the best authors, consultants and leaders in nonprofit fundraising
  • GrantSpace’s on-demand podcasts: Scroll through GrantSpace’s list of free podcasts that cover a wide range of philanthropy-focused topics
  • Nonprofits Are Messy: Joan Garry chats with esteemed nonprofit leaders and thinkers
  • Futures in Fundraising: An interview-based podcast that focuses on careers in fundraising and development
  • The Nonprofit Ally: Listen to interviews with nonprofit directors, consultants, grant writers, and fundraisers. Get practical tips and advice from experts in nonprofit development
  • Cause Talk Radio: Interviews with top industry experts on their initiatives that successfully combine cause and commerce
  • Rise & Engage: A filters-off series for nonprofit professionals hosted by straight-shooting Blackbaud experts
  • Successful Nonprofits: For nonprofit professionals and board members
  • The Good Journey Pod: Hear thought leaders, philanthropists, and innovators who are shaping the world of “good” share stories from their journey to help you along yours

Graphic novel anyone?

When we are learning, many of us limit our focus 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. So consider stepping out of the nonprofit sector for some of your reading.

Your turn

Please email if you have favorite items that should be on this list.