5 Books Every Fundraiser Should Read
On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Sheena Greer of Colludo shares her 2015 reading list for fundraisers and nonprofiteers.
Steven: Hey there! Welcome to this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. Thanks for tuning in. I’m Steven. As always, I’m your host for this week’s episode and all episodes, actually. I don’t think I’m going to be giving up that hosting title anytime soon. I’m super excited today because I have probably one of my favorite Canadians, easily in the top three favorite Canadians in mind, Sheena Greer. Sheena, how’s it going?
Sheena: Very well, how are you doing?
Steven: This is great. We’ve been buddies for a while on social media, Twitter, but now we’re talking in real life, so this is monumental for sure. So, Sheena, who are you? What do you do up there? I know you’re a writer, you’re a fundraising consultant, you’ve got an awesome little firm up there in a part of Canada that I don’t exactly know where it is, so maybe you could fill us in for us ignorant Americans.
Sheena: Yes, so if you look at a map of Canada and kind of in the center is a really boring rectangle. Well, that is Saskatchewan. I am located sort of right in the center of that rectangle, in a city called Saskatoon. There is a berry named after us, quite delicious in pies and fillings and that kind of thing. So I’m in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, yeah I work with clients all over the place.
I’ve been working in non-profits kind of for the last decade. I dropped out of film school to get a degree in Medieval English and luckily stumbled into the nonprofit world and realized that’s exactly where I belonged. For the last decade I’ve worked all aspects. I’ve done mostly communications and fundraising, but I’ve done program stuff, volunteer events. Over the past couple years I’ve struck out on my own. I’m doing writing, fundraising, consulting, strategic planning and just generally people call me in when they need to sit and have a coffee and brainstorm crazy stuff.
Steven: That’s cool.
Sheena: I’m going to try really hard not to swear during this time.
Steven: Oh you can swear. It’s okay. We’ve had Irishmen on and you can swear; it’s fine. So you’re up there, you’ve got Colludo, which is the name of your firm, right? You’re doing all these great things. You’ve got a great blog, which everyone watching this should read Sheena’s blog for sure. One post caught my eye recently. You wrote, “The Top Five Books That Fundraisers Should Read in 2015.” Can you talk a little about that list and why you think in general fundraisers should read a lot of books? Everyone should read a lot of books, but why fundraisers too?
Sheena: Definitely! Every year you kind of see the same sort of posts coming out, “These are the kinds of books you should read in this profession.” Especially whether it is nonprofit or business focused books, the lists end up looking the same. That’s great, and usually the lists are full of great books, but I figured if I made a list that was, “Here are fundraising or non-profit specific books to read,” my list would look exactly the same. So when I make my list, it’s usually stuff that people may not have heard of, or might be sort of outside the realms of those big lists or maybe what would be normally on people’s list for the coming year last year.
Steven: I think that’s why it caught my eye, because I saw the title in a Tweet and I thought, “Oh, okay. It’ll probably be the usual things that you see on a fundraiser’s list.” But you do branch out. You’ve got a lot of things in here, one is about storytelling and politics, one looks like an anthology of speeches. You’ve got another great title, The No Asshole rule: Building a Civilized Work Place and Surviving One That Isn’t, and then another book on logo design. So yeah, you really branch out in all these interesting topics. Why should people read non-fundraising books to help them with their fundraising?
Sheena: Well, I think fundraisers or nonprofit people in general, we know-at least I hope we know-that we deal in relationships, we deal in people. So not only understanding history, like on my list there was The History of Philanthropy, which is a really interesting look at the institution of philanthropy over the last hundred years or so in America. While that’s important to understand, I think it’s important to understand the topic of storytelling, which is obviously very popular in fundraising and nonprofits these days.
You know a title like . . . well, I’ll hold it up. It Was Like A Fever delves into the storytelling that is used in the political process and protests and that kind of thing. It talks about why with storytellers it’s all about the person telling the story, but sometimes those people are seen as more or less legitimate than others. Some examples, they draw specifically politically on why George W. Bush came across as more of a better or more legitimate storyteller than someone like Al Gore, who is clearly a very charismatic, wonderful storyteller. But for some reason, that didn’t pan out the way you would maybe expect.
Sheena: So in a title like that, digging into why storytelling works and why it doesn’t, I think it’s really interesting because we all want to tell our stories and we all want to tell them in a really appropriate, potent, authoritative way, but it doesn’t always workout that way. So yeah, I think that’s a really interesting look into something that we use every day as fundraisers and nonprofit workers. It just gives us a bit more insight into that process and that idea.
Steven: What else is on your list there? You’ve got a couple other books there on your stack. What else can we talk about? Maybe that civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. I’m interested in hearing more about that.
Sheena: Right! On my list last year was Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James. Aaron James is a philosopher, so this is a really dense read. I found myself having to pause and go back over it. Essentially, I’m just going to read you the definition. “An asshole is one who allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically. He does so out of an entrenched sense of entitlement and is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other people.”
So it’s a pretty heady definition, but what I found it helpful for was thinking deeper around why people act the way they do. Obviously, in any sector, we run into jerks of all different kinds, but I think there is a specific brand of nonprofit assholes that is maybe difficult to deal with because of the systems we have in place-organizational history or policies or whatever. This is a really great book to delve into the deeper issues of why people are like this.
The No Asshole Rule by Bob Sutton, which is on my list this year, is a really practical, “Okay. Jerks exist. Here are some ways to deal with it and some ways of building in policies around strictly not having them around. Oh, are you a jerk? You get canned.” So if you’re looking to get deeper around the idea of jerks then Assholes: A Theory is a good one. If you need some practical advice for dealing with the office bully or the office jerk, The No Asshole Rule is a great one.
Steven: Very cool. Maybe to wrap things up, if you could recommend just one of the books that are on your list, or maybe that isn’t on your blog post, what do you think people should read next? What should be their next read if they’re a fundraiser, if they work in development, or even if they work at services in a nonprofit, what’s your number one recommendation?
Sheena: I would definitely send them towards the Howard Zinn speeches book. For people who don’t know who Howard Zinn was, he’s passed away, he was a historian, civil rights activist, professor and you can learn more about him if you know nothing about him. Seek out the movie, You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train. It’s a biography pic, and it’s really great. You get to understand his sense of voice and idealism and he was just such a charismatic, caring man who really wanted to see change in our society.
This book that I have is a collection of his speeches, and that voice really comes thorough. It’s something that I feel like most people get into the field with that idealism of wanting to make change for the better and having a vision of society as something different than it is now and that we can work to make it better. Zinn does a really great job of reactivating that fire. At the end of the day when you’re bogged down with the minutiae of every day, reading his words, whether or not it pertains exactly to what your doing, I found it a really refreshing and invigorating read. I actually started reading it at bedtime and I had to stop because I would get too excited and I couldn’t sleep.
Steven: Well, that’s good. That quite a recommendation. Well, cool, we will link to your post. I’m going to go buy all these books. Do you get a commission through Amazon for recommending all these books?
Sheena: No, I don’t!
Steven: Well, you should, because you’re going to sell some books today through all this. So just to wrap up, can you let people know where they can follow you online, visit your blog and learn more about your firm as well?
Sheena: Certainly. My website is colludo.ca, and you can follow me on Twitter @colludos and you can find me at LinkedIn. You can track me down on the street if you happen to be in Saskatoon. I happen to know where you can get really great roadside sausages and pierogies and that kind of thing!
Steven: Well, cool. If I’m ever in Saskatoon, don’t worry; I’ll be stopping by. Well, this is a lot of fun, Sheena. This is a bucket list Bloomerang TV for me, so it was super fun having you. Thank you to all of you for hanging out with us for 15 minutes or so. Check out those books, do some reading, branch out a little bit. You never know what you’ll learn or what you may think about differently. So, Sheena, thanks a lot. We will catch you all again next time with another episode of Bloomerang TV. See you then!