Finally — a Japanese practice that anyone can master. No, it’s not folding a paper crane or wielding a samurai sword. I’m talking about Tsundoku: the Japanese word for acquiring more books than you can actually read.
There’s no wasteful intent here. As a life-long learner, I am constantly aware of how much I don’t know and welcome information that will fill the endless gaps. When perusing my local Salvation Army thrift store, how can I not add a book about the economics of weddings or a biography about a lesser-known president to my ballooning collection?
If you’re also a student of Tsundoku, your “to-read” list is probably longer than the list of books you have actually read. And you probably also acquire books of every flavor: professional development, religion, novels, politics, biographies, art, history, and — of course — fundraising.
TrueSense Marketing has quite a few Tsundoku practitioners on staff. I asked them to share their favorite books to help you master the skills necessary to find and cultivate the heroic human hearts who are touched by your mission so you can change the world.
Top-Notch Fundraisers Love These Must-Read Books:
- Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential by Dan Pallotta is helpful for any fundraiser whose organization’s growth is handcuffed to “overhead” constraints.
Recommended by Marcy Auman, Senior Vice President
- If you’re looking for a crash course in writing direct mail, Herschell Gordon Lewis' Direct Mail Copy that Sells! is quippy, easy-to-follow, and definitely no-nonsense. He outlines what to do, what not to do, and why — with examples! Additionally, his book On the Art of Writing Copy is a broad overview of the history of advertising copywriting, with a wealth of basic lessons for fundraising copywriters.
Recommended by Everett Lowe, Editorial Manager, and Alan Hyams, Senior Copywriter
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon challenges designers to seek inspiration in all things, to make what they love and know is right, and to never stop working toward their craft.
Recommended by Amanda Swadlo, Designer
- “The needs of the patient come first” is the vision that drove Dr. W.W. Mayo and sons Dr. Charles and Dr. William Mayo to found and build Mayo Clinic. That same vision is at the core of their culture of philanthropy, which has built one of the most unique and loved brands in healthcare and has propelled Mayo Clinic to again be ranked #1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report 2018-2019. Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic, by Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman, provides insights into what it takes to create a living brand embraced by all its team members and attract patients and benefactors from around the world.
Recommended by Jeff Nickel, Executive Vice President
- Nir Eyal masterfully weaves his insights of technology, business, and psychology into his four-fold model, which explains how to create habit-forming digital products in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.
Recommended by Steve Farrar, Digital Creative Director
- During the 10 years that I was a Development Director, I gave a copy of Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers, and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift, by Jerold Panas, to every member of my team. This book provides invaluable tools for anyone charged with major donor development.
Recommended by Jacqui Groseth, Vice President of Client Development
- The Power of Moments, by Chip and Dan Heath (who also wrote Made to Stick), offers insights and strategies that are relevant for any marketer involved with creating long-term engagements with customers. Never is the need to create memorable moments more critical than for fundraisers, on whose shoulders lay the responsibility of cultivating transformational donor relationships.
Recommended by John Thompson, Chief Creative Officer
- Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick — by Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt, and Sven Smit — demonstrates just how broken the process is for most business leaders when it comes to strategic planning. Furthermore, this book outlines what steps to take in order to break out of the mediocre middle to pursue being one of the top organizations in a given industry. While they look at things through a for-profit lens, the lessons resonate for nonprofit organizations just the same.
Recommended by Stephen Ferrando, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Analytics
- New to managing a team? In his book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Simon Sinek talks about the importance of strong leadership and how the successes and failures of an organization are based on the leadership. This book is very helpful to anyone new to managing a team.
Recommended by Megan England, Account Director
- Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money by Ken Burnett is a solid resource book about the fundamental principles of nonprofit fundraising. The book covers everything from direct mail to donor research and major and planned giving.
Recommended by Margaret Carter, Senior Director
- Sometimes we forget how important it is to be able to thoughtfully present ourselves, our ideas, and our cause without just shouting louder than others doing the same thing. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a great reminder that persuasion is an art form and not a bad word.
Recommended by Jay Finney, Vice President
- Ann Handley is the foremother of content marketing. Her book Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is a must-read for anyone who is responsible for producing engaging content.
Recommended by Elyse Haines, Marketing Manager
- For the fundraiser who is also spiritual — and wants a deeper understanding of how their work and personal faith are integrated — check out A Spirituality of Fundraising, edited by John S. Mogabgab.
Recommended by Paul Hebblethwaite, Senior Director
- The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others by Tali Sharot is not a traditional fundraising book, but it gives great insight into how and why humans behave and make decisions. Excellent book for the neuroscience fans!
Recommended by Jennifer Miller, Creative Director
- No list of books a fundraiser needs to read would be complete without Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Fundraising. This industry classic covers a lot of common-sense topics with supporting data.
Recommended by Kurt Worrell, Senior Vice President of Donor Engagement Team
BONUS: If you are only able to add one book to your list, check out our Fundraising Field Guide.
The fundraising experts at TrueSense Marketing banded together to write and publish this complete compendium of tried-and-true tactics for conquering the fundraising frontier. You can get your free copy here.
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