What’s On Your Shelf? Apra Members Review Their Recent Reads

Reviews Collected by Anne Hofmann, Prospect Research Analyst – University of New Hampshire

As we adapt to our ever-changing reality, we know that for at least the next season in our careers a lot of our professional development will be done independently. It may be a while before we can gather at an industry conference in-person, and many are facing budget restrictions which make even webinars a challenging option.

But there are lots of excellent books available to read and discuss.To that end, we offer this book review in which we feature four titles recommended by professionals in our industry. Enjoy!

Click here to view the interactive bookshelf.

“Managing Major Gift Fundraisers — A Contrarian’s Guide,” by David Lively

If you’re reading this review, chances are you’re a) a prospect development professional and, b) you don’t manage any major gift fundraisers. So why read this book?

Like many decisions in the fundraising world, ways of managing key staff such as fundraisers are often made through a combination of intuition, experience and tradition. None of these are inherently wrong, but David Lively, a senior fundraiser at Northwestern University, has put together a strong, evidence-driven challenge to these approaches.

Being evidence-driven is at the heart of our profession. The majority of this book will interest many, as Lively uses a combination of his own internal data analysis and case studies where he teases out the logical implications of “rules of thumb.” Lively writes in a clear and authoritative tone befitting someone with his experience, without bogging the reader down in facts and figures (and still without being short on such information).

If you’ve ever wondered how much work can a fundraiser really do, how metrics could be better used or have been frustrated at a lack of management support for smaller fundraiser portfolio sizes, the wrong incentives, high fundraiser turnover or lack of focus on those great prospects you know are sitting in a portfolio you helped build — this book is for you. You might not manage fundraisers, but those who do should be grateful to anyone who brings them this book, or its conclusions. 

—Stephen Rowe, Prospect Research and Briefing Manager, Australian National University

Factfulness: 10 Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things are Better Than You Think,” by Hans Rosling

One of the key principles of our jobs as researchers is to process information effectively. How do we do that in our current information overload? How do we look beyond potential bias to see what’s really happening? Hans Rosling’s book was recently discussed as part of the Helen Brown Group (HBG) Book Club with staff and other development professionals. We were all amazed by how much our backgrounds and belief systems shape the way we see the world. By describing various instincts that affect how we see data, Rosling explains how those beliefs, as well as how data is presented, keep us from seeing how much progress civilization has truly made in the past few centuries. Through his easy-to-understand visualizations, our group learned how to see the world from a place of factfulness and have more hope in these difficult times.

—Jayme Klein, Research Associate, The Helen Brown Group LLC

“Fundraising Analytics: Using Data to Guide Strategy,” by Joshua M. Birkholz

This book lays a great foundation for understanding the various ways in which analytics can and should be used to guide data strategy. I found this book to be a primer of sorts. Birkholz touches on everything from data mining, to applying analytics to prospecting and prospect management, to using analytics to create scoring models and engage in descriptive analysis. I’ve underlined and highlighted throughout this book, and it has become a worn and trusted companion!

—Melody Travis, Philanthropy Operations Manager, Nurse-Family Partnership

"Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance,” by Edgar Villanueva

Can we reimagine philanthropy (and its function in wealth and resource distribution) to be a true force for and source of social justice? That's the question at the heart of Edgar Villanueva's “Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance.”

In it, Villanueva enumerates the ways in which philanthropy upholds colonial structures of wealth and power consolidation and the marginalization and exploitation of communities of color (for example, the lack of leaders of color in philanthropy and on nonprofit boards, the shockingly low amount of philanthropic funding that goes to communities of color and the assimilation expectations for nonprofit staff members of color). This exploration is accompanied by solutions to repair philanthropy. If you're wondering how your work in philanthropy can support racial justice, this book may illuminate your path. Follow it up with the blog "Nonprofit AF" and the podcast "Nonprofit Luminaries" for a wide lens on disrupting the philanthropic sector.

—Misa Lobato, Director, Prospect Management and Analytics, Rhode Island School of Design


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