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Major Donor Fundraising Books

I’m often asked by fundraisers and charity leaders which major donor fundraising books they should read. I haven’t (yet!) written one myself but am constantly reading and learning. And I’ve learnt just as much about major donor fundraising and philanthropy from “non-fundraising” books – major donor fundraising links hugely to psychology, wellbeing, human decision making and relationships.

So, read on for the best major donor fundraising reads. IMHO they all manage to deliver the holy grail of being non-fiction and a great read!

I’d love to know what you think!

Title: In Defence of Philanthropy
Author: Beth Breeze

Why this book?

There is a narrative that the wealthiest people are the villains in our society. This can make many of us (myself included!) uncomfortable with major donor fundraising at times. But what would the impact be on society if we didn’t have philanthropists giving major gifts? This is a hugely readable defence of why major donor fundraising remains vital, despite its imperfections and why all rich people are not Jeff Bezos.

Who will get the most out of this?

Fundraisers, charity leaders, trustees and anyone who struggles to make sense of society’s inequalities in the context of philanthropy and major donor fundraising.

In three words…

Pride in fundraising


Title: Intrinsic (A manifesto to reignite our inner drive)
Author: Sharath Jeevan

Why this book?

You and your colleagues work for a great cause, and that’s motivation enough right? Not really, and you’ll know this if you’ve ever felt demotivated and disconnected from your role. In a sector where staff retention is generally poor and burnout is not uncommon, it’s worth reading how to uncover that deeper motivation and purpose –  for yourself and your teams. There are perspectives from a variety of different sectors which are thought-provoking for charity fundraising.

Who will get the most out of this?

Managers and aspiring managers, fundraising leaders and charity leaders.

In three words…

Rediscovering your purpose.


Title: Philanthropy: from Aristotle to Zuckerberg
Author: Paul Vallely

Why this book?

Okay, so at over 800 pages long, this might be a reason not to read this book!  However, it’s here despite it’s length because it’s fascinating. There are great chapters on giving throughout history, including different faiths which takes us away from the selective, white, Christian-centric view of giving. There are interviews with philanthropists at the end of every chapter which add invaluable perspectives. Take your time and enjoy!

Who will get the most out of this?

Lovers of history and/or philanthropy, anyone working directly with major donors.

In three words…

It’s worth it!


Title: Blink
Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Why this book?

As fundraisers our instincts are vital. If your manager insists you ask that donor for a gift to hit budget, you may know it’s not the right time for that supporter. But you may not be able to explain how you know! Blink uncovers how our brains work in those moments when we have that “gut feel” and “know” something, but don’t know why.

Who will get the most out of this?

Everyone!

In three words…

Trust your instincts.


Title: The Innovation Workout
Author: Lucy Gower

Why this book?

On the one hand major donor fundraising is simple – build great relationships. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to constantly innovate and to surprise, delight and understand our major donors. Whether it’s your next donor event, or developing a giving club, this is a workbook style guide that you can easily dip in and out of. It’s practical tips are easy to follow and there will be something you’ll be impatient to try out for your own fundraising and projects.

Who will get the most out of this?

Anyone!

In three words…

Do things differently.


Title: The Righteous Mind
Author: Jonathan Haidt

Why this book?

In some meetings we click with donors straight away; it’s easiest to do this with those who share our outlook on the world. The challenge comes when someone’s views are vastly different to our own.

This book will help you understand where a donor or potential donor might be coming from, as well as colleagues.  From there you can understand so much better how to move a relationship forward.

Who will get the most out of this?

Anyone meeting major donors.
Anyone who works in a team.

In three words…

Eye-opening, challenging, thought-provoking.


Title: Time to Think
Author: Nancy Kline

Why this book?

Large gifts don’t come quickly and we can’t afford to not take the time and space to understand our potential donors and listen to them! When we do have those valuable conversations with a potential donor, how can we make the most of the opportunity.

In three words…

Practical, Holistic, Listening

Who will get the most out of this?

If you feel lack of time is your main challenge
If you feel like you run on adrenalin and don’t have head space
If you want to learn to listen deeper and better

If you’re too busy to read this, you need it the most!


Louise Morris is the Founder of Summit Fundraising. She is a major donor fundraising specialist and has worked with over 200 charities helping them raise large gifts.

This was posted on 18 July 2022.

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