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BIG’s Blog: Summer Reading

Can we all agree that when the Independence Day (aka The 4th of July) Holiday falls on a Friday, it is the perfect summer holiday “extended” weekend? My office building was emptied out by noon on Thursday, and the only folks around on Thursday morning were the rookies and me. So, Thursday to Monday, that’s not a holiday, that’s a vacation. And this on top of most of you taking off some additional vacation time over the next couple of months.

So with all this newfound time on your hands, how about some professional (yet enjoyable) summer reading?

Journalists and political types were the first to publish their “what I’m reading” list as a kind of badge of honor … “Look at the highbrow books on my reading list!” And their lists were so long you wondered if they really read all those books or just published all the titles they thought would make them look so darned learned.

I used to think it was only a Democratic thing, since most Democrats have a fixation on highbrow literary patter and ideas, even though they have trouble crafting their ideas into laws that actually work in the real world (Obamacare et al). But now Republicans have joined in as well with their reading lists. So, although the Congress and the White House are collectively getting little or nothing done of any consequence in Washington, at least we know they are passing reading lists across the aisle.

So, in keeping with this time-honored (though dubious) tradition … I want to throw out a short list of books for you to think about acquiring and reading this summer. Of course, my recommendation is that you get them in e-book form. I still buy print books, but only after I have read the e-book version. The print books I buy tend to be the ones I consider really worthy or classics. And I extensively mark them up, as well as tabbing hundreds of pages with Post-It notes.

Here are my three recommended books to read this summer of 2014, as well as my reasons why you should take the time to read them.

The three are: The New Rules for the New Economy (New Rules) by Kevin Kelly, With Charity for All, by Ken Stern and Difference by Bernadette Jiwa.

Order is important.

My suggestion is that you read them in the order I have listed below.

New Rules was written back in 1997. In technology terms that seems like ancient history, but Kelly gets so much right back in the 90’s about our world today, it is almost spooky. In fact, if you tried to connect a common thread between all the tech titans or legends of the last 15 years, with names like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and even Mark Zuckerberg, the common thread is they all (and many lesser tech leaders as well) read this one book. Kevin Kelly and his book are honored in Silicon Valley and tech circles worldwide for the prescient insights and predictions that predate the actual arrival of the groundbreaking technological gadgets that we all take for granted today. But this is no history book. Rather, it is a primer to you and me today about how the Internet really works and, just as importantly, how it evolves. Why it is important? Because your fundraising future is online, and the sooner you understand why the Internet is different, the sooner you start changing and growing revenue again.

Ken Stern, who wrote With Charity for All, was a highly successful Executive Director of a large nonprofit organization. Vast and largely unexamined, the world of American charities accounts for fully 10 percent of economic activity in this country, yet operates with little accountability, no real barriers to entry, and a stunning lack of evidence of effectiveness. In With Charity for All, Ken Stern reveals a problem hidden in plain sight and prescribes a whole new way for Americans to make a difference. The thrust of his book is an argument to re-think and reorganize how nonprofits are run, and the need for increased transparency and accountability in delivering results. Why is it important? Because it isn’t just fundraising that is in need of a major shift. The core way that nonprofits are thought about and operate needs to be examined.

Finally, Bernadette Jiwa’s book, Difference, is a very easy-to-read primer on the importance of story and the ongoing narrative of your organization in the Internet age. Although written for companies, it is easy to transpose from the corporate world to the nonprofit world … “Marketing (fundraising) is not a department, it’s the story of how you create difference for your customers (supporters).”

Good reading and …


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