Three Books Every Fundraiser Should Have On the Shelf

If you are too young for this reference, I don't want to hear about it.

If you are too young for this reference, I don’t want to hear about it.

“The Ask” by Laura Fredricks

If you have been to a fundraising conference lately, then you have probably seen Laura Fredricks talking about major gifts, the board’s role in fundraising and how to ask for money. Her New York charm is very Linda Richman-esque (see image) and she cuts through the crap in a refreshing way. When she spoke at the 2012 AFP conference in Toronto, she was characteristically blunt: after hearing a question from the audience on how to work with a particularly hopeless board, she decided there was no solution and advised the person to quit the organization!

Anyhoo, this book has been around for a few years but is both relevant and enjoyable to read. She starts things off by listing the reasons why people are afraid to talk about money, and why they are even more afraid to ask for it. She details common “readiness traps” – an excellent list to help you judge whether you should ask a prospect for money. I have used this list with my CEOs many times to steer them away from a bad ask. She includes eight “okay” asks, and then re-works them into more moving pitches. And one of the best parts is a section on typical responses to an ask and how the fundraiser should reply. Truly useful as I have never heard the same response twice in over ten years. There’s even a chapter on how to ask for planned gifts. Yummy.

“Uncharitable” by Dan Pallotta

This one details Dan’s role in creating a wildly successful cancer fundraiser and the resultant backlash from supporters who didn’t want him to profit from it. So although he has an axe to grind here, Dan does a killer job of highlighting the very real issue of our society’s obsessive focus on the cost to raise a dollar in the charitable world. Note how I had to say “the charitable world” as no-one asks Apple what their cost to raise a dollar is. What you want from Apple is a kick-ass iPhone that rules your life with panache. And what you should want from your charitable organizations is the same thing: a quality end result. Who cares if the homeless shelter’s cost to raise a dollar is one cent if the clients are stacked on tarps in the parking lot? This topic really fries my egg people. If, like me, you read it and can’t get enough, then buy his follow-up book “Charity Case”. Less axe-grindy, more suggestions on how to solve the issue. Both are at the top of my reading recommendations to BCIT students.

“Awesome Grammar” by Becky Burckmyer

She may be American but her grammar tips apply to any English speaker! Becky takes you on a smart and funny ride covering the basics of grammar and every situation you’d typically fret about like whether the word “staff” takes a singular or plural verb. I always get that one wrong. (Answer: it depends! See the chapter on agreement.)

Other problems she tackles include the use of “which” versus “that” (beats me!); proper use of punctuation; whether “alright” is really a word (nope!) and more. She also makes stylistic suggestions on how to “shine up your writing nicely” and who doesn’t want that? It’s tiny and cheap and you can buy it online just like everything else.

If you know the best fundraising book ever, please send me the title. And don’t forget to follow my blog – it’s a great ego-booster for me!

– Siobhan


About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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