Holiday Gifts for Nonprofit Readers

by Joan Garry

Want to give a great gift to a nonprofit staff or board member? Any of these terrific books would be perfect and very leader should read these.

Nonprofit leaders impress the heck out of me. Not gonna lie.

I call them superheroes for a reason. They raise money, recruit and engage board members, design programs, manage staff, and there are dozens of other important responsibilities they juggle.

But there is one thing that nonprofit leaders make time for that truly surprises me.

Wanna guess?

OK, time’s up.

The answer: THEY READ.

Nonprofit leaders are readers. They look for and consume books for the express purpose of thinking about their work in a smarter way, managing their time, and understanding what leadership is really about. They strive to be really really good at their jobs.

For this reason, we run quarterly book clubs in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab (my online membership program). Members are hungry for resources and always on the hunt for the “thing” that will solve a problem or improve performance.

So is there someone on your gift list this year who works for a nonprofit or is a dedicated board member or volunteer? Need some help finding holiday gifts?

Look no more. Any or all of the following books would be perfect to place adjacent to a box of Chanukah candles or under the glow of the family Christmas tree.


The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

If you have ever said the words, “I wish this meeting would be over so I can get back to work,” you need this book. If someone has ever said to you, “why was I not invited to this meeting?” you need this book. Imagine this. A book that digs into why we even have meetings/gatherings and how to ensure that they are meaningful and productive. That they add value to your ability to do the good work you do.

Nonprofit Management 101 by Heyman & Brenner

It’s a bible every nonprofit leader needs to have. Full stop. Great contributors (Full disclosure: I am one of them). Editors Darian and Laila made quite sure that every important topic was covered and that each included VERY actionable takeaways. Get this book the old fashioned way and not on your Kindle. It’s a book that will be dog-eared.

Difficult Conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most by Stone, Patton & Heen

As soon as kids learn to read, they need to read this one. OK, so I’m only half kidding. If you believe that it’s important to live in the world authentically, you absolutely must exercise the skill of offering constructive feedback, hearing it, and having a productive debate. This book is straightforward and will offer you a framework that really helps. I am a certified mediator and I have used techniques from this book. They work.

Messy by Tim Harford

Fellow nonprofit blogger Vu Le and I have had multiple debates about my tagline: Nonprofits Are Messy”. This book makes the best case for why “messy” need not be a pejorative nor let nonprofit leaders off the hook. My argument is that nonprofits are hard wired in a kind of messy way and we all just need to recognize that. Author Tim Harford advances my case with a clarity about the treasures that can be found in “mess.” Read the opening chapter about the piano and you will be hooked. (P.S. Do not give this book as a holiday gift to a teenager whose bedroom looks like a bomb went off.)

Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt

If you don’t know of Michael Hyatt or read one of his books, it’s time. And this is the one every nonprofit leader needs. Hyatt is a leadership guru and his work is very actionable – focusing on planning and goal setting. If you follow the recipe in this book, you’ll get more done in less time and you won’t fill the time you save with more work. Does your to-do list have tasks on it that you feel will suck the life out of you? This is one of the best antidotes to the nonprofit leader’s most challenging affliction – an inability to prioritize. It also comes with downloadable worksheets – super helpful. Maybe use it with your staff? Great as holiday gifts for sure.


Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Read this quote from the author and you will want to stop what you are doing and start reading.

“Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage. The world is desperate for braver leaders. It’s time for all of us to step up.” Brown believes that leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. This book is a gift for all those who lead or aspire to lead.


OK, so there are my six books ideas for holiday gifts. I love it when readers add to my list.

Go for it in the comments below!

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