My library card. 

We were on a staff retreat and the facilitator had asked us all to produce one thing that was on our persons or in our pocketbooks or wallets that was meaningful to us. She asked us each to share with the rest of the group what item we had chosen and why it was important to us.

Others on the staff had chosen their wedding rings, pictures of their children, lockets or charm bracelets passed down from grandmothers. I felt a little sheepish and silly, like I hadn’t really gotten the point of the exercise, when it was my time to share because I had picked…my library card.

I’ve always loved a good story and still do—friend me on Goodreads and share your favorite fiction recommendations. I am always looking for a good book recommendation.

So I don’t exactly need an excuse to read a good book, but having one is helpful. This weekend, we all have a great excuse.  Sunday, September 6 is Read a Book Day. This national holiday was started by a librarian, who, I’m sure, would have been very pleased to see me plunder my pocketbook to produce my library card as something on my person that was valuable and meaningful to me.

I have recommended some great books to you all on this blog before, but here are a few books more good books of special interest to those working in the nonprofit sector that I’d like for you to consider picking up for a good read on September 6th:

(1) Smith, Paul. 2012.  Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince and Inspire.

I love this book and can’t say enough good things about it. Because of the focus on storytelling (in my opinion, long-overdue) in nonprofit fundraising, a couple of months ago, I shopped for and purchased several books on storytelling. Many of those books were good, pleasant reads. This was one was exceptional.

The book covers a lot of ground. The book argues that stories are the only truly respectful way to lead, educate, inspire, and motivate change. Paul Smith outlines 21 leadership challenges and recommends different types of stories that will help leaders guide organizations through those challenges. He argues that at the beginning of a work project, employees may be laying bricks, but by the end, they should understand that they are building a cathedral.

His book helps you know how to tell your own story. It covers the elements of story—metaphors, emotion, realism, surprise, style, and your audience. Lead with a Story offers more than a 100 stories, some which can be retold as is and others which can be modified and used to tell your organization’s stories. Great choice for September 6th.

Susan Schaefer,CFRE and Bob Wittig, MBA. 2015. Nonprofit Board Service for the Genius.

This book, unlike so many others, is written for board members, not for those of us who are nonprofit professionals. It’s incredibly accessible and jargon-free. It’s relaxed and approachable, warm, friendly, and fun.

The goal of the book is to paint a realistic and complete picture to potential board members of what board service entails. It helps potential board members understand what they’re getting into.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is community leaders take whichever invitations to serve they’re issued without really thinking about their passions and where their true interests lie. We all know the result of that:  we get lukewarm board members or members that don’t complete their six year terms.  Nonprofit Board Service emphasizes that people interested in board service should look for and find those causes to serve that they are really passionate about and care about. It cautions them that passion for the cause will help them when times are difficult.

As a resource, the book includes some templates, sample policies and tools such as sample:

  • Whistle Blower Protection Policy
  • Document Retention Policy
  • Conflict of Interest Policy
  • Executive Director Evaluation.

There is a discussion of Board evaluations, but, unfortunately, no sample board evaluation which would have been nice, but what is here is great!

Altogether a very lively, fun handbook written for board members themselves which will be much appreciated by nonprofit managers. Forget having to write your own handbooks. Use this one instead!

Morgridge, Carrie.  2015. Every Gift Matters: How Your Passion Can Change the World 

Finding the cause that you are most passionate about is also an important part of this book written by Carrie Morgridge. She argues that it is important to know which cause you truly care about and want to further to give of your time and also to give of your money. Morgridge, the VP of the Morgridge Family Foundation, along with her husband, have given away millions. Unlike many foundations, they have become very personally involved through their giving, with the organizations to which they have given. The book encourages people to give, arguing that even small gifts can, collectively, make a big difference. Morgridge’s argument also focuses on how the gift transforms the giver.

If you’re wondering why my library card has always been a big deal to me: I think there are several reasons, only one of which is that I love to read. In my family, my mother made us learn to write our names before we could have our first library card. When we received our first library card, it was a celebration of an accomplishment. We used to walk to the library together–my mom, my two brothers, and I–in the small town we lived in. We went weekly. I can remember finding a comfortable place on the floor to read Paddington Bear books and Lyle, Lyle Crocodile books and many others. I have many good memories of those trips to the library which were family outings. I’ve loved libraries ever since. I hope computers and the internet never completely replace them. They’re the real Magic Kingdoms to me.

National Read a Book Day was especially designed to encourage children to read and to promote literacy, but why should kids have all the fun? So when you go digging through you pocketbooks or wallets—not for those awkward team-building staff retreat exercises, but because you have a long weekend coming up and you might have some extra time (and a good excuse) to read, find your library cards, head to your local library, and look for one or more of these three good books.  Happy reading!


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