A Reading List For Non-Profit Leaders

I want to start by recognizing that hundreds of these types of lists exist all over the internet. I felt that one tailored to non-profit leaders would be helpful, as most are geared towards other demographics. Being a leader in the non-profit sector requires traversing challenges daily and a tenacity that is unparalleled. Literature has always been my favorite medium to find ways to keep motivated and inspired.

That being said, enjoy!

To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee

I’m sure this book mostly reminds you of your high school English class, but it provides incredible lessons when read in adulthood. When viewed through a lens of non-profit leadership, there is a bit of Atticus Finch in all of us. Atticus is faced with countless moral dilemmas throughout the heartwarming novel and through it all, he is true to his beliefs. Holding true in the non-profit world, much like Maycomb County, requires great tenacity and perseverance, and some days will simply be harder than others. Most importantly, Atticus’ explanation of courage to his young daughter Scout fits those in the sector all too well: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

The End of Poverty By Jeffery Sachs

It’s no secret to anybody that poverty is a complicated issue. What often falls on deaf ears is just HOW complicated and complex eradicating poverty truly is. Sachs’ experiences advising global economies complements his ability to provide realistic possibilities and great hope for future generations. Non-profit leaders are on the forefront of addressing issues that often appear simple to our society but in fact, require in-depth and multi-faceted solutions. This book exemplifies the complications that often arise and those that are often overlooked by consumers from outside the sector. Sachs, at times, can be extremely technical and lets the econometrician inside him leap out but if you want a gripping read that will help shape your everyday life, look no further.

Don Quixote By Miguel de Cervantes

I doubt this appears on many must-read lists when it comes to leadership and growth but Cervantes’ classic saga provides countless lessons for all walks of life. The story centers around a 16th Century man who believes himself to be a knight and wanders the Spanish countryside battling sheep, windmills and complete strangers for no reason at all. However, at no point does Quixote doubt himself but rather, he commits his life to living with passion and the pursuit of joy. This passion is exactly what brings most non-profit leaders into the sector and keeps countless organizations alive. Further, the novel is the basis for the adjective “Quixotic” which is often defined as “exceedingly idealistic”. If there’s one word that I would use to describe most non-profit leaders in today’s world, it would be Quixotic (and I mean that in the absolute best way). Without this idealized set of beliefs, the sector would not have as many passionate and driven individuals working tirelessly to make an impact.

There you have it. Three books to add to your bookshelves or recommend to a friend. If you have thoughts or would like to keep the conversation going, find me at @benjambradley on twitter.