The (almost) com­plete read­ing list for fundraisers

The best books to build your fundrais­ing exper­tise, curat­ed for SOFII by Lisa Sargent.

Written by
Lisa Sargent
June 05, 2018

Have you read these fundraising page-turners?

If you want to build your knowledge of fundraising, but don't know where to start among the wealth of great books out there, look no further. International fundraising copywriter Lisa Sargent has compiled an extensive list of the best fundraising books, covering a range of subjects related to fundraising and all well worth seeking out.

If you have been inspired by these or any other fundraising books and want to share that inspiration, head over to the great fundraiser's bookshelf to find out how to do so on SOFII. We'd love to hear from you.

Lisa Sargent

It all began with simple tweet from one fundraiser to another, asking, ‘what books do new fundraisers start with?’ International fundraising copywriter Lisa Sargent put out the call to the Twitterverse, and inside of a day, the fundraiser’s reading list began to grow, and grow, and grow, with suggestions from SOFII friends around the globe.

See below for the full list of suggested good reads from all the fundraisers and nonprofit professionals who graciously rooted through their bookcases to find their all-time favourites, make a recommendation and add to SOFII’s bookshelf-in-progress.

Why ‘(almost) complete’? Because no book list is ever fully finished... there’s always another treasured read on the horizon.

Note to people who are new to the fundraising and nonprofit profession:

You will soon see that this is a colossal booklist. And the books you start with will depend on what you are specialising in at present. A fundraising copywriter, for example, will have an essentials list that would be a bit different than someone doing telephone fundraising, or major gifts work.

To get you started, we’ve taken the liberty of adding that every fundraiser, new and experienced, would do well focusing first on authors such as Jerold Panas, Ken Burnett, Mal Warwick, Jeff Brooks, Adrian Sargeant, Simone Joyaux, George Smith, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Jerry Huntsinger, Tom Ahern, Penelope Burke, Guy Mallabone, Erica Waasdorp, Harvey McKinnon, Daniel H. Pink, Dan Ariely, and Robert Cialdini. Other fundraisers will have additional advice to give you regarding essential titles, so don’t hesitate to reach out to folks you know and respect to ask for their recommendations.

One last thing. If you are a new fundraiser, it’s vital that you get into not only the proper headspace, but the proper ‘heartspace’ as well. Donors, philanthropy, the amazing act of giving, with the right ethos, it’s about so much more than money - and the secret, in turn, to prospering. So please be sure to investigate a few culture-based titles early on, such as The Power of Giving by Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon and The Zen of Fundraising by Ken Burnett. And include the persuasion classics by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, simply because so many fundraisers overwhelmingly included them in their most-recommended lists.

Happy reading!

LS, May 25th 2018

Books for fundraisers:

  • Fundraising Principles and Practice, Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang and Associates  Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Building Donor Loyalty (US) or Fundraising Management (UK), Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay. 
  • Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers and Staff Must Know to Secure the Gift, Jerold Panas.
  • Mega Gifts, Jerold Panas.
  • Presenting to Win, Jerry Weissman.
  • How to Write Successful Fundraising Appeals, Third Edition, Mal Warwick.
  • Strategic Fund Development, Simone P. Joyaux.
  • Monthly Giving, The Sleeping Giant, Erica Waasdorp.
  • Hidden Gold (monthly giving), Harvey McKinnon.
  • The Eleven Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers Every Donor Craves, Harvey McKinnon.
  • What Your Donors Want...And Why! Tom Ahern.
  • Making Money with Donor Newsletters, Tom Ahern.
  • Keep Your Donors, Tom Ahern and Simone Joyaux.
  • Donor-Centred Fundraising, Penelope Burke.
  • Donor-Centred Leadership, Penelope Burke. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Ask Without Fear! Marc A. Pitman. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • It’s Not Just About the Money, Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels.
  • Retention Fundraising, Roger Craver. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Asking Properly, George Smith. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Relationship Fundraising, Ken Burnett. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • The Zen of Fundraising, Ken Burnett.
  • The Tiny Essentials Series, various authors. (From fundraising to donor loyalty to strategy and board management, by renowned authors such as George Smith, Harvey McKinnon and Adrian Sargeant. Special price on all eight, )
  • Tiny Essentials of Major Donor Fundraising, Neil Sloggie.  Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Making Direct Response Fundraising Pay Off,  Jerry Huntsinger.
  • Direct Marketing for Nonprofits, Kay Partney Lautman.
  • The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications, Jeff Brooks. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • How to Turn Your Words Into Money, Jeff Brooks.
  • The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand,  Jeff Brooks.
  • Designs for Fundraising, Harold J. Seymour.
  • Excellence in Fundraising Canada, Guy Mallabone et al.
  • The Leaky Bucket, Ellen Bristol and Linda Lysakowski.
  • Donors for Life, Craig Linton and Paul Stein. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Data Driven Nonprofits, Steve MacLaughlin. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Revolution in the Mailbox, Mal Warwick. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters, Mal Warwick.
  • Raising $1,000 Gifts by Mail, Mal Warwick.
  • Fundraising for Social Change, Kim Klein.
  • Fundraising Fundamentals: A Guide to Annual Giving for Professionals and Volunteers, James Greenfield.
  • Reliable Fundraising in Unreliable Times, Kim Klein.
  • Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion Into Action, Gail Perry.
  • The Power of Giving, Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon.
  • A Spirituality of Fundraising, Henri Nouwens.
  • Essential Principles for Fundraising Success, G. Douglass Alexander and Kristina J. Carlson.
  • Don’t Just Applaud, Send Money, Alvin H. Reiss.
  • Successful Fundraising for Arts and Cultural Organizations, Karen Brooks Hopkins and Carolyn Stolper Friedman.
  • The Porcupine Principle: and Other Fundraising Secrets, Jonathan Farnhill.
  • The Influential Fundraiser, Bernard Ross & Clare Segal. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Ethical Decision Making in Fundraising, Marilyn Fischer.
  • Emotionraising, Francesco Ambrogetti.
  • Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, Michael J. Rosen, CFRE.
  • Iceberg Philanthropy, Unlocking Extraordinary Gifts from Ordinary Donors, Fraser Green and Beth McDonald.
  • How to Raise Planned Gifts By Mail, Larry Stelter.
  • Effective Telephone Fundraising, Stephen F. Schatz.
  • T-Rexes vs Kangaroos, and Other Stories: Improving Your Fundraising and Donor Relations, Lynne M. Wester.
  • With Gratitude: The Power of a Thank You Note. Jennifer Richwine.
  • Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter.
  • The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, Kivi Leroux Miller and Katya Andresen.
  • The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer.
  • Fundraising and Zombies: A Guide to Charity Management, John Baguley.
  • Strategic Database Marketing, 2nd edition, Arthur Hughes.
  • The Seven Faces of Philanthropy: A New Approach to Cultivating Major Donors, Russ Alan Prince and Karen Maru File.
  • The Journal of Donor Relations & Stewardship, Books 1 & 2. Julia S. Emlen et al.
  • How to Raise $500 to $5,000 from Almost Anyone – A 1-Hour Guide for Board Members, Volunteers, and Staff, Andy Robinson.
  • The Ultimate Boardmembers Book, Kay Sprinkel Grace.
  • Engagement Organising: The Old Art and New Science of Winning Campaigns, Matt Price.
  • The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fund-Raising, Jennifer McCrea.
  • The War on Fundraising Talent, Jason Lewis.
  • Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, Henry A (Hank) Rosso. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Yesterday’s trail-blazing and pointers for tomorrow, Harold Sumption. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • About that first tweet, The Social Misfits team: Alisha, Carlos and Alissa. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Something to tweet about, The Social Misfits team: Alisha, Carlos and Alissa. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • The fundraiser who asked for more, Rob Woods. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Yes you can fund it, Shannon Anderson. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Storytelling for grant-seekers, Cheryl A. Clarke. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Philanthropy in a flat world, Jon Duschinsky.  Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Digital Giving, Richard C. McPherson. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Making change, Bilaal Rajan.  Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Storytelling can change the world, Ken Burnett. Reviewed on SOFII here and here.

Advertising, marketing and communication books that are great for fundraisers:

  • The Book of Gossage, Howard Luck Gossage.
  • Method Marketing, Denny Hatch.
  • Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Stickier Marketing, Grant Leboff.
  • Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Top Copywriters, Joseph Sugarman.
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk, Al Ries and Jack Trout.
  • The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers, Boost Your Sales, Dan Kennedy.
  • Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing, Harry Beckwith.
  • Scientific Advertising, Claude C Hopkins. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Changing the world is the only fit work for a grown man, Steve Harrison. Reviewed on SOFII here.
  • Type and Layout, Colin Wheildon.  Reviewed on SOFII here.

Persuasion and Behavioural Science:

  • Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
  • Switch, Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
  • The Power of Moments, Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
  • Drunk Tank Pink, Adam Alter.
  • Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini.
  • Presausion, A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, Robert B. Cialdini.
  • Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Persuade, Robert B. Cialdini.
  • Contagious, Jonah Berger.
  • Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink.
  • To Sell is Human, Daniel H. Pink.
  • Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.
  • Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely.
  • Brainfluence, Roger Dooley.
  • The Choice Factory, Richard Shotton.
  • Emotionomics, Dan Hill.  Reviewed on SOFII here.


  • Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug.
  • Originals, How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant.
  • Give and Take, Adam Grant.
  • Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull.
  • A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger.
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Steven King.
  • The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird.
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown.
  • Creative Mischief, Dave Trott.
  • A Man Called Ove. Fredrik Backman.
  • Principles: Life and Work, Ray Dalio.
  • Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg.
  • Get the Job! Mazarine Treyz.
  • Charity Case, Dan Palotta.
  • Common Interest, Common Good: Creating Value Through Business and Social Sector Partnerships, Shirley Sagawa and Eli Segal.
  • The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.
  • Never Eat Alone, and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, Keith Ferrazzi.
  • Marketing: A Love Story, Bernadette Jiwa.
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin.
  • The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue, Robbie Kellman Baxter.
  • The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last, Tom Peters.
  • New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms.
  • Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything, Zack Exley/Becky Bond.
  • Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, Tara Mohr.
  • Careers in Fundraising, Lilya Wagner.
  • The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, Jayne Cravens and Susan Ellis.
  • The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
  • Daring Greatly, Brene Brown.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie.
  • Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Joseph Grenny and Kerry Patterson.
  • The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg.
  • The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, Lynne Twist.
  • Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas.
  • The Political Brain, Drew Westin.
  • Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, Danny Meyer
  • A Lamp in the Darkness, Jack Kornfield.
  • Anger, Thich Nhat Hahn.
  • The Go Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea, Bob Burg.

Free SOFII Tutorials:

Other lists abound around the world: A few collections that were recommended:

Additional resources:

  • The Emerson and Church Publishers, Online Bookstore (“some of the bestselling and most authoritative fundraising and board development books in America”).
  • White Lion Press (“the best fundraising and general books you’ll find anywhere”).

     Many thanks to all the generous nonprofit folks in the Twitterverse for their book recommendations, and to @SOFIIisHot ( for hosting the list and Dalton Moore for asking the question in the first place. 

    © SOFII 2018

    Would you like to review any of the above books, for SOFII? See here for information on how you can become a reviewer. Or add your comments to any existing review, where you see this panel.

    About the author: Lisa Sargent

    As head of Sargent Communications, Lisa Sargent helps nonprofits raise more money and keep more donors through better donor communications. A creative strategist and copywriter, Lisa works exclusively with nonprofits on direct mail, email fundraising and donor care communications – acquisition appeals, annual reports, proposals, welcome packages, e-appeals, newsletters, thank-you letters and more.

    Lisa’s articles have been featured in Mal Warwick’s newsletter, FundRaising Success Magazine and The Agitator. Lisa also publishes The Loyalty Letter, a free e-newsletter for nonprofit and charitable organisations read by subscribers around the world.

    Lisa has regularly contributed to SOFII, including the wonderful thank you letter clinic, which you can read here.

    Recent Articles

    New study finds legacy giving has gained ground beyond boomer generation

    Legacy giving is one of the largest sources of voluntary income for UK charities, but what are the latest trends in legacy giving? These new findings from a long-running benchmarking study provide vital insights for fundraisers – simply click to learn more.

    Read more

    Team Trees – digital fundraising success in aid of the Arbor Day Foundation

    This article celebrates a viral campaign that has been making a big impact since 2019. Keep reading to learn how two men took on a challenge to plant 20 million trees, engage Gen Z donors, and achieve fundraising success for the Arbor Day Foundation.

    Read more

    Unleash the might of the donor – power as a component of a fundraising plan

    Your donors want to make a difference. But sometimes when they give, they aren’t sure if their generosity is making an impact. In this article, Mark Phillips shares three techniques you can add to your fundraising appeals. Each one will help ensure your donors know that they DO have the power to make a difference.

    Read more

    Is your donor a Spiderman, Batman or a Wonder Woman?

    Superheroes have a unique backstory that makes them who they are and shapes their narrative. But in fundraising, your donor has an ‘origin story’ too. Marina Jones believes that making an effort to learn more about your donor’s story can give you an insight into why they choose to give – and help you build supporter loyalty.

    Read more

    Will you join these kind fundraisers at the heart of SOFII?

    Who are the SOFII One Hundred? They are fantastic fundraisers from around the world – and you can find them at the heart of SOFII. Read on to discover more about this group of caring people and learn why they have chosen to help fundraisers today, tomorrow and forever.

    Read more