Three books that changed the way I fundraise

I cut my teeth in a one-person fundraising shop, and books were a lifeline for me.

No matter what the topic – direct mail, capital campaigns, major gifts, board or organizational development – there was a great book out there that played an important role in helping me grow into a well-rounded and well-informed fundraiser.

As I approach my 22nd anniversary (eep!) of joining the non-profit sector, I’ve been reflecting on the urgent need for each of us to continue our personal and professional development as fundraisers and non-profit leaders.

Even if you consider yourself an established expert in your field of practice – actually, ESPECIALLY if you consider yourself an established expert in your field of practice! – we all need to make a commitment to being lifelong learners.

Our donors, our organizations, our missions, and our great work depend on it!

Here, in no particular order, are three books that have influenced the way I work and fundraise.

Strategic Fund Development, by Simone P. Joyaux

If I had to name one fundraising book I’d take to a desert island, this would be it.

Packed with wise advice, excellent fundraising plan samples, and practical tools, this is a book that needs to be in every non-profit leader’s library.

It's this book that first taught me one of the most important principles of being a great fundraiser, applicable to shops of all sizes, at all stages of development.

To be a truly effective fundraiser, you need to be an organizational development specialist – because most fundraising problems aren’t actually fundraising problems.

Also, if you haven’t visited Simone’s website, her Learning Center is jam-packed with wonderful free resources and PDF downloads – happy reading!

Real Happiness at Work, by Sharon Salzberg

What the heck does mindfulness have to do with effective fundraising?

Well – pretty much everything!

Salzberg’s brilliant book gives you tools to cultivate the attributes that all great fundraisers share – the ability to focus and concentrate, the importance of empathy and compassion, and the role of integrity and authenticity at work.

And since this book isn’t fundraising specific, the ideas and practices can be effectively applied to all areas of your life – from having more meaningful meetings with your major donors, to having a challenging conversation with a family member.

How to Write Successful Fundraising Appeals, by Mal Warwick

When I cracked my first copy of this book, it was still called How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters, and digital fundraising was just a twinkle in our collective fundraising eye.

While this practical, how-to gem of a book has been revised to reflect the realities of our multi-channel world, the heart of this book hasn’t changed – it teaches you, step-by-step, how to craft a mighty fine fundraising appeal.

If you’re at a small shop doing any of your own direct marketing writing in-house, you need to read this book. It'll walk you through every step you'll need to craft an effective appeal, as well as providing loads of real world examples of successful appeals from a wide range of different organizations.

So, what are you reading right now? And what books have had an impact on your life, and the way that you work and fundraise?

Please share books that have changed the way you fundraise in the comments below - I’ll include your suggestions in a future post (please include your full name, as I'd love to credit you for your recommendation!).

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraiser who has been helping great causes like yours build and grow successful fundraising programs since 1995. She’s the President-Elect of the world’s largest Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Chapter in Toronto, and the National Chair of AFP’s Fellowship in Inclusion and Philanthropy. Contact Emma to book your free discovery session, and find out how you can work together to strategically focus your precious resources on the fundraising initiatives that truly work.

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