With the world changing faster than ever, we nonprofit leaders need to stay informed with the latest insights on generosity, solving complex problems, storytelling, and more. 

But what do you do when there’s so much to learn… and so little time?

We’ve rounded up a list of some of our top titles to help you stay on top of your nonprofit game in 2024.

Many of these must-reads don’t deal directly with the nonprofit space… but the powerful ideas they offer are sure to inspire you as a leader.

Read on for our top 10 books to help you innovate and lead your nonprofit team in 2024.

1. Hooked

We live in a highly addictive world, with products vying for our attention and attempting to hook us into hard-to-break habits. But what if you could use the principles of habit forming for good? Written by consumer psychology expert Nir Eyal, Hooked unpacks the psychology behind habit-forming products and experiences. This how-to guide can help you think through your donor experiences, recurring giving program, and nonprofit programs and services and look for ways to design more effective products and services. It might even inspire you to leverage creative tactics for nurturing your donors… like offering randomized rewards to make the world a better place.

2. Alchemy

Have you ever tasted Red Bull? Disgusting, right? And yet, it’s the leading energy drink in the US. That can’t be explained with logic. In fact, the world is full of a frightening number of things that work but aren’t logical. Written by Ogilvy direct mail veteran Rory Sutherland, Alchemy explores how people make decisions—which means it’s packed with  invaluable insights for leaders of people-focused nonprofits. Sutherland shows you how to put behavior design into practice in an ever-changing world.

3. The Perfect Story

What makes some stories so compelling? So memorable and life-changing? Much of it comes down to brain science—like the 5 storytelling tactics you’ll read about in this super short read. In The Perfect Story, storytelling expert Karen Eber offers her foolproof framework equipping leaders to tell their own stories to inspire others to take action. You’ll learn how to tell better stories, embrace vulnerability, engage emotions, and inspire action. This book is packed with quality research, concrete examples, and checklists you’ll keep coming back to.

4. The Cold Start Problem

Fundraising is hard. Especially if you haven’t ever considered how to take advantage of network effects in fundraising programs to decrease your acquisition costs. What’s a network effect? It’s when a product grows in value as more people use it… like Airbnb or Uber. People need to use it for it to be worth anything. Drawing on his experiences as an Uber exec and a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz, Andrew Chen offers practical insights on network effects with all sorts of applications to your fundraising—including how to create ecosystems of peer support, activate movements of advocacy, and launch open-source communities to swap information, resources, and more.

5. This Is Service Design Thinking

What if you took service design thinking—the customer-engagment methodology used by top consumer brands—and applied it to your donor experiences? This book is your primer on designing incredible experiences for your clients and donors. (When you as a customer have an experience that’s delightful, enjoyable, and useful, all at the same time… that’s good service design.) This must-read covers the five basic principles of service design thinking, top tools, and case studies featuring real-life applications of service design thinking. Plus, it’s a beautifully designed book—a shining example of service design thinking at work!

6. Everyday Business Storytelling

Here’s another winner on storytelling! Because, after all, no one wants to feel stuck in a meeting listening to information when it could all be delivered in an engaging, inspiring narrative instead. Everyday Business Storytelling, written by sisters Janine Kurnoff and Lee Lazarus, offers a super practical, simple, repeatable framework for crafting stories that inspire and motivate people to take action. Whether you’re communicating with your board or major donors or in an all-hands meeting, this framework helps you tell a persuasive story while equipping you to riff and flex as needed.

7. The Future Is Faster Than You Think

Terms like “disruption” and “speed of change” are everywhere these days. In fact, we hear so many of these buzzwords that there’s a temptation to just go numb. But, the reality is that as the world changes (and rapidly) so will the needs of those we’re on mission to serve and the donors who are on mission with us. This book is a deep dive into what the speed of change actually means for our organizations and how we can embrace it well.

8. Leading Through Disruption

We’ve all lived through massive disruption (thank you, Covid). And with today’s rate of change, more disruption is coming. Andrew Liveris’ Leading Through Disruption is the guide for navigating complex problems, tackling them quickly, and cultivating a more sustainable future for all members of society. It’s geared toward social impact business leaders, but it’s essential for every nonprofit leader too. You’ll learn how to measure social impact better, strengthen local communities, hire mission-driven team members, and more.

9. Burn the Boats

So many typical nonprofit leaders are compelled by a burning conviction… but struggle with the nonprofit scarcity mindset. And that’s damaging. It weakens your brand, your culture, and your ability to hit your goals. This book is your answer. Written by Matt Higgins—a desperate high-school-dropout-turned-Shark-Tank-contestant—Burn the Boats is a raw, transparent must-read on navigating risk, harnessing the power of desperation, and cultivating total commitment to your cause. Plus, it’s packed with actionable lessons, thorough research, and inspiring real-life case studies.

10. It Starts With Clients

Few things are as rewarding—and as challenging—as nonprofit fundraising. And if you’ve been at it for a while, there’s a good chance you’ve hit your head against all sorts of relational roadblocks in fundraising and development. Andrew Sobel’s book, It Starts With Clients, isn’t specific to the nonprofit space… but it outlines a clear, proven, 100-day roadmap packed with practical how-tos for cultivating the next-level relationships your nonprofit needs.

[BONUS] Adrift: America in 100 Charts

These days, a lot of people—your donors included—are asking, “How the heck did we get here?” They’re worried about where we’re going, and this will only be amplified the further we get into this big election year. In Adrift, Scott Galloway uses compelling stats and charts to craft a narrative explaining how we arrived at this point. This read will help you appreciate and grasp the world your donors live in and the challenges they’re facing.

That’s a wrap!

Got any other books you’d add? 

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