Six Business Books Every Nonprofit Professional Should Read : Successful Nonprofits

Books to build your career and your nonprofit

Six Business Books Every Nonprofit Professional Should Read

by GoldenburgGroup

Books to build your career and your nonprofit

Six Business Books Every Nonprofit Professional Should Read

by GoldenburgGroup

by GoldenburgGroup


I’ve been a voracious reader ever since I was in elementary school back in the 1970’s!  Each week my mom would takeSix Business Books Every Nonprofit Professional Should Read me to our local public library, and I got to check out two books every time.

My love of reading has never faded, and reading a book is still my favorite way to learn. Not surprisingly, I’ve structured a life that allows me to read with lots of time on planes and subways. As a podcast host, I read every guest’s book before recording a conversation with them. And sometimes I read a book and then hound the author to have them on the podcast!

As nonprofit professionals and volunteer leaders, we are inundated with books, articles, podcasts, and conference presentations focusing exclusively on fundraising, board development and other nonprofit topics.   As a result, we miss a lot of great information produced with a for-profit audience in mind. This is especially true in the areas of human resources, management, career development, and marketing.

While I know everyone isn’t a reader, I do gift a lot of books to clients and colleagues at nonprofit organizations. So I just checked my Amazon account to determine the business books I gift most frequently. Over the past couple years, I have often gifted the six business books below, which have also made a big impact on my life.

Please note that the links below are Amazon affiliate links and, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission. Know that I only recommend I’ve personally read and genuinely believe are worth your time, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them.

#1 – Radical Candor: Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity

I adore this book by Kim Scott, which has helped me become a better manager and human being. Based on the concept that we must demonstrate both caring personally and challenging directly, the book provides exercises and tools to become the boss that our teams deserve. I first read this book after binge-listening to their podcast  (, and it is probably the book that I’ve given the most – especially to first time managers or those struggling with an especially difficult team member or colleague.  Late last year, Scott released a fully revised second version, and I bought copies for about a dozen client and colleagues.


#2 – Thief in your Company: Protect Your Organization from the Financial and Emotional Impacts of Insider Fraud

I first read this book in preparation for having the author Tiffany Couch on the podcast  (, and this book reads like a series of true crime novellas. Each chapter starts with Tiffany walking into the office of a nonprofit, government agency or business, as she slowly uncovers fraud over the course of a single chapter. At the end of each chapter, she explains the type of fraud that the story illustrates and shares the internal controls that can help detect or prevent this from happening in your organization. This book is so engaging that I actually chose to sit on a plane as every other passenger exited, so that I could finish a chapter. As I mentioned on the podcast, if I won $20 million, I’d save $2 million for retirement and spend the other $18 million buying a copy of this book for more than a million nonprofit treasurers!


#3 – CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders.

This book is perfect for the o early- or mid-career professional who hopes to become a chief executive, a first time executive director, or a seasoned CEO seeking to sharpen their skillset.  The book is a culmination of an analysis of over 2,600 leaders drawn from a database of more than 17,000 CEOs and C-suite executives. It has over 13,000 hours of interviews behind it and two decades of experience in advising CEOs and executive boards. Co-authors Elena Botello and  Kim Powell overturn the myths about what it takes to get to the top and to succeed. Co-author Kim Powell was on the podcast (, and I often give this book to my coaching clients who are first-time executive directors.


#4 – The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work

Co-author Dr. Jody Foster realized the need for this book while in an executive MBA program. Nearly every Saturday of her program, an MBA-candidate would sit beside her and quietly say, “You’re a psychiatrist, right? Well, there’s this person in my office . . . . “. Dr. Foster realized there was a tremendous need to outline the archetypes of Schmucks in the workplace and provide actionable steps for dealing with them.  We had Dr. Foser and her co-author Dr. Michelle Joy on the podcast to help listeners learn how to deal with the schmuck in their nonprofit office and also on their board ( And the one chapter every nonprofit executive and board member should read is entitled: “Am I the schmuck in my office?”


#5 – Discipline Without Punishment: The Proven Strategy That Turns Problem Employees into Superior Performers

I first learned about this book in 2011 as part of a seminar on personnel management, and I’ve been a big fan ever since! Author Dick Grote lays out a simple strategy for ensuring your team meets expectations and achieves goals, without having to use the threat of punishment. The first edition was published in 1995 and the second edition in 2006. Needless to say, that the workplace today is very different from the one in which either edition of the book was written. When I give this book, I often ask recipients to ignore those passages that may have been culturally acceptable a generation earlier. The remaining 80% is solid gold!


#6 – The Seven-Day Weekend: The wisdom revolution to finding the work life balance

If you want to think about work and workforce management in a whole new way, you should definitely get a copy of Brazilian billionaire Ricardo Semler’s book. While the book doesn’t actually suggest taking seven days off every week, it advocates for human-centered workplaces where both management and their team members are treated as adults capable of making independent decisions. It also presents some radical ideas about workspace, selecting managers, transparency about compensation, and more.



This is the first part of a three-part blog post. In two weeks, I’ll share the personal development (self-help) books I have gifted the most to nonprofit professionals.

Feel free to share your thoughts!

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