What I’m Reading This Fall

Who doesn’t love cozying up with a great book? Bonus points if that book gives you strategies to make a difference. The good news is that there are a ton of great new social impact books (besides Social Startup Success, of course!) to cozy up with. Here are a few of the titles I’m most excited about these days:

Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy And How It Can Do Better, by Rob Reich: Now available for pre-order, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this new book by Stanford professor Rob Reich, who writes about why philanthropy is failing democracy and how it can do better. Reich asks the provocative question: is philanthropy by its very nature a threat to today’s democracy? If philanthropy is largely unaccountable and sometimes even worsens inequality, Reich sets forth policies to ensure that charitable giving supports, rather than threatens, democracy.

Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy, by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey: This award-winning guide is a soup to nuts handbook that is a must-read for funders. Based on their decades of experience, Brest and Harvey argue that results-based philanthropy is more important than ever, and walk the reader through how any foundation can implement essential tools such as choosing among different forms of funding, measuring progress, and learning when to abandon a project that isn’t working.

Unicorns Unite: How Nonprofits and Foundations Can Build Epic Partnerships, by Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Jane Leu and Vu Le: One of the biggest challenges we face in the nonprofit sector is the power imbalance between funders and nonprofits. In this clever and beautifully-illustrated book, Jane Leu, Jessamyn Shams-Lau and Vu Le examine how foundations and nonprofits can develop better partnerships to unlock potential.

Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good,by Ann Mei Chang: Drawing on all the innovation frameworks from the Lean Startup, Ann Mei Chang lays out how nonprofits can integrate innovative practices — like prioritizing user experience, building minimum viable products, and driving fast iteration — into their day-to-day work. This book is a must-read for both newer and more established nonprofits who care about maximizing impact at scale by innovating for radically greater social good.

The Purpose of Capital Elements of Impact, Financial Flows and Natural Being, by Jed Emerson: Over the past couple of decades we’ve seen lots of creative experimentation with how to use capital for good, but what’s really working? In his latest book, social impact veteran Jed Emerson walks us through the history of social impact investing outlining ways in which the sector has gotten off track — such as by creating unrealistic expectations of returns and focusing on investors as opposed to stakeholders — as he helps us understand its potential as investors and individuals.