With Prosper’s origins rooted in nonprofit marketing and communications, it should come as no surprise that we spend a fair amount of time reading on the topic. We’ve amassed quite a long list of books that have shaped our thinking and approach, and today, we want to share that list with you in case you’re in the market for some new ideas or insights to help you keep your work fresh. Once you’ve perused it, please add your recommended reads to the comments!
Important note: if you choose to buy any of these books, we suggest finding a small, local and/or independent bookstore to support with your purchase. If you need a suggestion, we love Semicolon Books, a Black and women-owned bookstore in Chicago. We have not included any affiliate links nor will Prosper earn commissions of any kind from your purchase.
Here you have it…the best books for nonprofit marketers and communicators
The Brand Idea: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel
Offering a new framework for nonprofit brand management, this book presents the Brand IDEA (Integrity, Democracy, and Affinity). The framework eschews traditional, outdated brand tenets of control and competition largely adopted from the private sector, in favor of a strategic approach centered on the mission and based on a participatory process, shared values, and the development of key partnerships. The results are nonprofit brands that create organizational cohesion and generate trust in order to build capacity and drive social impact. The book explores in detail how nonprofit organizations worldwide are developing and implementing new ways of thinking about and managing their organizational brands.
Why we love it: This book was born out of the research that has most shaped our thinking on the role of brand and communications in the nonprofit sector. When we first came across these concepts, we were so thankful to finally find a source that was using data and research to explain how nonprofit brand and communications are intrinsically different from for-profit ones, and we’ve continued to build the framework presented in this book into so much of our work. If you’ve just transitioned from for-profit to nonprofit work, or play any sort of role in shaping your nonprofit’s brand, this book is an absolute must-read.
The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine
This groundbreaking book shows nonprofits a new way of operating in our increasingly connected world: a networked approach enabled by social technologies, where connections are leveraged to increase impact in effective ways that drive change for the betterment of our society and planet.
Why we like it: Social media is so often misunderstood and mismanaged at nonprofits. This book gets real about social media, positioning it not as a mystical magic bullet, but as one of many important tools in a nonprofit communicator’s toolbox. If you’re ready to stop wasting time “trying to make social work,” this book is for you.
Donald Miller’s Story Brand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides readers with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services. Building a Story Brand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media. Whether you are the marketing director of a multi-billion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a Story Brand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.
Why we like it: The Story Brand concept wasn’t originally designed for nonprofits, but there’s a reason hundreds of social sector organizations love it. We’ll leave it at that.
Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications by Sarah Durham
In the current economic climate, nonprofits need to focus on ways to stand out from the crowd, win charitable dollars, and survive the downturn. Effective, mission-focused communications can help organizations build strong identities, heightened reputations, and increased fundraising capability. Brandraising outlines a mission-driven approach to communications and marketing, specifically designed to boost fundraising efforts. This book provides tools and guidance for nonprofits seeking to transform their communications and marketing through smart positioning, branding, campaigns, and materials that leverage solid strategy and great creativity, with a unique focus on the intersection of communications and fundraising.
Why we like it: We really admire Big Duck’s work and are so thankful for the spotlight they’ve put on the importance of brand in the nonprofit sector, in this book and beyond.
The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause by Kivi Leroux Miller
This down-to-earth book shows how to hack through the bewildering jungle of marketing options and miles-long to-do lists to clear a marketing path that’s right for your organization, no matter how understaffed or underfunded. You’ll see how to shape a marketing program that starts from where you are now and grows with your organization, using smart and savvy communications techniques, both offline and online. Combining big-picture management and strategic decision-making with reader-friendly tips for implementing a marketing program day in and day out, this book provides a simple yet powerful framework for building support for your organization’s mission and programs.
Why we like it: Kivi’s site is absolutely packed with resources for nonprofit marketers who have to be scrappy with their budgets and wear many hats. We love it, but sometimes finding the most important content can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. This book is great because it gets right to the heart of what matters for marketers at small and mid-sized organizations.
With millions of nonprofits and hundreds of new ones being created every week, how do you get your message in front of the people that matter? In “Who’s Telling YOUR Story?” you’ll find simple, powerful techniques to help you structure, codify, and share your story in a way that they’ll be passed on to others!
Why we like it: Effective storytelling is at the heart of every successful nonprofit. No matter the size of your budget, the strength of your team or the sophistication of your technology, your nonprofit can’t achieve its highest potential without strong storytelling. However, gathering and telling powerful stories in a way that respects the people featured is easier said than done. This book includes some great tips to help you improve your approach.
This brilliantly simple book on the philosophy known as Asset-Based Thinking, instills success-oriented habits in even the most die-hard cynic. Its transformational lessons–conveyed through unique photographic metaphors and inspiring stories from real people–reveal how the slightest shift in perception can lead to monumental results in both business and in life.
Why we like it: While this isn’t actually a book about marketing or communications, its underpinnings are essential to the strength-based communication approach we prioritize and help our clients adopt at Prosper. You can’t authentically communicate in a strength-based manner unless you think in a strength-based (aka asset-based) manner, and this book will help you do just that.