Five Good Reads for Fundraisers during the Pandemic

By March 24, 2020March 25th, 2020Industry Trends & Commentary

While you’re at home contending with the coronavirus, you may be looking for something to read that will keep your fundraising skills sharp. Fortunately, you can get books, e-books, and audio books without leaving your home from Amazon, Audible, and even your local library. Below are five suggestions for fundraising professionals. Three are filled with good advice, one is more serious nonfiction, and one will hopefully satisfy your spiritual needs in this time of crisis.


Laura Fredricks, The Ask: How to Ask Anyone for Any Amount for Any Purpose

This is a classic text on the art and science of major gifts. Most of her advice will be lessons you’ve already learned on the job, but it can be reassuring to know you’re doing the right thing. Fredricks offers helpful sample dialogues from a planned giving solicitation as well as specific recommendations regarding capital campaign gifts. When it comes to engaging donors, I particularly like her suggestion of inviting donors to contribute pieces to your organization’s newsletter. Many people are aspiring writers and would love a byline!

Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

The first time I heard the title of this book, I cringed. Even though I’ve been a fundraiser and fundraising consultant for many years, the words “sell,” “selling,” and “sales” still make me uneasy. But if you can get past the title, Pink’s book is a brilliant overview of the best ways to interact with others in order to persuade them to support your cause. He shows the clear value of attending to what he calls the ABCs of contemporary selling: “attunement,” “buoyancy,” and clarity.” By the way, Pink knows how many of us feel about the concept of “sales,” and he addresses this directly. My guess is that if you read this book, you will end up recommending it to all your frontline fundraisers.

Charles Vogl, The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging

Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to hear Vogl speak at a conference. If not, grab a copy of his book. In this strange period, we need to think creatively about how to sustain and nurture community in new and empowering ways. Vogl’s text explores the nature and conditions of community in clear and inspiring prose. His seven principles – including the Rituals Principle, the Stories Principle, and the Symbols Principle – will get you thinking creatively and help you develop strategies for keeping community alive during this period of social distancing and virtual interaction.

Serious Nonfiction

Claire Gaudiani, The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism

As far as I can tell, this book is out of print, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to get hold of a copy. Gaudiani is a true champion of philanthropy and fundraising, and her book will make you feel good about the work that you do. Gaudiani makes a strong argument that nonprofit work and giving have been essential to the growth and vitality of American society since the earliest days of the Republic.


Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

We could all use a little spiritual grounding right now. Whether you are already engaged in a form of contemplative practice or not, Kornfield’s writing will provide you with a fresh perspective on the benefits – and challenges – of letting go of egoistic concerns and striving for a sense of connectedness with the universe and the eternal.  Kornfield is a Buddhist who believes the best way to live one’s Buddhism is by engaging with, rather than running away from, the world. Of course, right now we’re all running away from the world and for good reason, but it’s still possible to “be the Buddha” on your Zoom calls and when dealing with your family members who want your attention (or turn on the TV while you try to talk to a trustee). Kornfield has a great sense of humor and a deep understanding of the dilemmas – and joys – of being human.

David Allyn is Vice President at Graham-Pelton and can be reached at 1-800-608-7955 or


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