Within the world of nonprofit work, many have incredible stories to share that expand others’ perspectives. Here is a list of books about nonprofits specifically focused on global poverty. Some are about what inspired certain organizations, some about the work that they do and some about behind-the-scenes logistics.
- “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder; Founder of Partners in Health, Paul Farmer is a believer in change when change seems impossible. This book describes Farmer’s pursuit of improving global health by working in places from Harvard to Peru and Haiti. His goal is to cure the world because “the only real nation is humanity.” For a list of books about nonprofits, this one is a must.
- “Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor” by Paul Farmer; Paul Farmer’s own book details his personal experiences working in developing countries. He describes the social and economic injustice that the poorer citizens of the world face and explains why it should be among everyone’s priorities to help. He writes with optimism, believing that our sense of justice will evolve with medical and social technology.
- “The Blue Sweater” by Jacqueline Novogratz; By blending personal stories and theory, Jacqueline Novogratz’s memoir demonstrates her approach to ending world poverty. Moving from credit analysis to nonprofit work, she started the Acumen Fund, which invests in ideas and companies fighting against poverty. She illustrates the global reach of the need for this kind of work by using personal stories from her travels.
- “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time” by Greg Mortenson; This is the story of one man’s journey from mountaineering to the school building in Pakistan. Mortenson’s 55 schools, many for girls, offer education in a dangerous place and illustrate the power one individual can have for change.
- “Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail” by Paul Polak; Polak focuses on a grassroots approach to ending poverty based on his 25 years of experience. He wants to help those who make less than a dollar per day stand on their own two feet rather than have developed countries swoop in and save them. His approach involves low-cost and innovative ways to implement change.
- “Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results” by Alison Green and Jerry Hauser; Another highlight of management on the list of books about nonprofits, this one focuses on getting results through effective management skills. It reminds us that office work can be just as important as getting dirty on the ground.
- “Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits” by Leslie R. Crutchfield, Heather McLeod Grant and J. Gregory Dees; This book discusses the six characteristics that make 12 different nonprofits successful, especially when one looks at their levels of impact. Big or small, organizations can apply these six ideas to their own work, especially in the wake of the global recession.
- “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins; As the title suggests, this book outlines certain companies that were able to go from average to amazing. Collins and his research team list seven characteristics that helped these companies build strong and long-term foundations for success.
- “The Networked Nonprofit” by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine; In today’s society, businesses rely heavily on social media to engage consumers, and nonprofits are no exception. In terms of books about nonprofits, this is another that focuses on management. Social media can be a great tool for raising awareness as well as fundraising and reaching donors.
- “A Fistful of Rice: My Unexpected Quest to End Poverty Through Profitability” by Vikram Akula; This personal story about the intersection between philanthropy and capitalism shows how business ideas can be applied to global problems. Akula writes about using capitalism to transform many of India’s poor citizens first into first consumers and then into business owners.
Everyone has a book, movie or song that completely changed the way he or she sees the world. Perhaps it was a particularly inspiring character or a plot that defied imagination. Often the most amazing stories humans tell each other are true.
– Ellen Ray