The great fundraiser’s bookshelf

Want to know more about the best books in fundrais­ing? Keep read­ing to find out what titles you should be adding to your own per­son­al fundrais­ing bookshelf’.

Written by
Joe Burnett
June 05, 2018

Did you know SOFII got started because of books? Have a look here at the story of the Reverse Book Club. Now, there’s an idea worth copying… all over our planet, books are changing the world.

So, to appreciate the advantage they give, take a pile of books, stand on them and look around you. You’ll see more, clearer, further and better than anyone else who’s not standing on a pile of books. That much is obvious. But books are much, much more important than that. Books are unique windows on the world. Books enchant, engross, entertain and enlighten. They educate and inform. They’re full of ideas that you can share, copy, adapt, embellish, even steal. Books feel great and smell good. Books are a route to riches often tangible, physical, certainly emotional. They are treasures because of what they contain, offer and are.

If you haven’t got a great collection of fundraising books, chances are you’ll never be a great fundraiser. Now, getting the books you need just got lots easier. And some of the world’s finest fundraisers – SOFII reviewers – have already done much of the legwork for you. 

Welcome to the quiet corner of SOFII that is THE GREAT FUNDRAISER’S BOOKSHELF. Already 29 books are reviewed here. This list of great fundraising resources has just been hugely increased thanks to the heroic efforts of fundraisers all around the globe, coordinated by the talented Lisa Sargent, who have come together to list the books that have most influenced them, and helped them in their careers. 

STOP PRESS: Just as the contents of this bookshelf was being compiled an initiative started in the USA and soon spread around the world. Its objective was to create the most comprehensive list of fundraising books anywhere, based on the recommendations of practicing fundraisers. Click here for the 149 books plus other resources that are featured in SOFII’s reading list for fundraisers. And see below for how you can be a SOFII reviewer and add your insights to guide SOFII’s readers to the books that’ll soon be most irreplaceable for them (and will most enhance their career prospects too). SOFII now invites would-be reviewers everywhere to step up and review one or more of the titles in Lisa’s list, so that fundraisers everywhere can be guided easily and directly to the books most likely to matter to them. Could you be a SOFII reviewer? Of course you could! See below for how.

Most of the books listed or reviewed here are available from the publisher (we’ve linked them where possible) or they’re on Amazon or other retail sites. If you have difficulty tracking down any of these titles please email to see if SOFII can help.

The great fundraiser’s bookshelf

Must-haves for the most motivated. Some treasures already reviewed on SOFII

The late great superstars 

The current stars

Here are some of the great books still to be reviewed on SOFII, recommended by Lisa Sargent:

Presenting to win, by Jerry Weisman. 

Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. 

Nudge, by Thaler and Sunstein. 

Harvey McKinnon’s Hidden Gold. 

The Leaky Bucket, by Ellen Bristol and Linda Lysakowski. 

Keep Your Donors, by Tom Ahern and Simone Joyaux.

Did gems like these revolutionise your fundraising world?  Don’t let them stay a secret! Scroll through the list to find your favourites, then if they aren’t reviewed, please give us 500-1,000 of your wisest, most persuasive words on how others will cherish and benefit from these terrific titles too. Reviewing guidelines below.

The critics/ reviewers

Roewen Wishart, hereherehere and here.

Neil Sloggie, here.

Roger Craver, here.

Jan Chisholm, here.

Marie Burnett, here.

Suay Melisa Ozkula, here.    

Charlotte Grimshaw, here.

Charlie Hulme, herehere and here.

Rob Woods and Joe Jenkins, here.

Bethan Francis and Rory Green, here.

Kimberley MacKenzie, here.

Laura Croudace, here.

Christiana Stergiou, here.

Joanna Culling, here.

Ken Burnett, hereherehereherehereherehere and here.

Craig Linton and Giles Pegram CBE, here.

Skye MacKenzie, here.

Joanne Fritz, here.

Clare McDowall, here.

Ryan Burdock, here


You! Yes, sure, you. Why not? 

Well, it could be you. Really! Do you have a favourite fundraising book or video that’s not here yet? If so, tell us why – just 500 words will do. More than 1,000 may be too long (though we’re open to persuasion). If it sounds good and helpful to others who’ve not yet read it, we’ll publish your words on SOFII. Fundraisers everywhere then can benefit. And you’ll be famous! How about that? First, choose your title and read the guidelines below. Next, write your all-star review and send it to It’s that easy, and the fundraising world will thank you for it!


‘You don’t get milk from a cow by sending a letter. You don’t get milk by calling on the phone. You get milk from a cow by sitting next to it and milking her.’
Si Seymour, Designs for fund-raising (1966)  

Though published more than 50 years ago Harold J. (Si) Seymour’s classic text is still regarded as a bible of the fundraising profession, though few now have even heard of it. The quote above may indicate that its relevance now wouldn’t be quite what it once was. But there’re lessons in there, you can be sure. So SOFII would welcome anyone willing to review that classic and extract them, for today’s fundraisers. See also Jerrold Panas’s 16 Verities, here.

But more than this, compiling SOFII’s great fundraiser’s bookshelf has highlighted some yawning gaps in our own collection. Where are reviews of books by the great Tom Ahern? And the even greater Simone Joyaux? And that doyenne of fundraising, Kay Sprinkel Grace? Not to mention Dr Judy Nichols, the brilliant Harvey McKinnon and… and…

Oops! Way, way too many gaps, indeed. Well, you budding would-be reviewers. Sharpen your pens and get writing please. SOFII needs you!

​Tips for reviewers

  • 500-1,000 words is fine. 
  • If your review isn’t interesting no one will believe the book you’ve featured is either.
  • Start with the basics: publisher, format, no of pages, areas it covers, price (in $, £ and €) inc p&p if appropriate.
  • Tell us, succinctly, why this book matters. What does it add? 
  • What’s great about it? What could have been left out? What did you like? What not?
  • Where can readers get it?

The rest, dear reviewer, is up to you. Feel free to add quotes and little nuggets of observation, as the spirit moves you.


NB. If you really want to be good at reviewing, or indeed writing generally, you’d be wise to read the essays of George Orwell. Some of his timeless guidance is opposite. Note in particular please the passage about how writing really is a horribly exhausting struggle. In particular, those who write for fundraisers deserve our admiration and respect, not to mention sympathy, for while the process is no less painful, the rewards are sure to be meagre because the market is so small and fundraisers, generally, are not well read in their craft. More evidence that you can gain competitive advantage and truly excel while simultaneously collecting and enjoying some really good books.

Send your review(s) to with a cover shot plus any illustrations you feel will create the atmosphere you want, for your review. Then bask in the warm glow of a good deed, done well.

© SOFII 2018

About the author: Joe Burnett

Joe Burnett

Joe Burnett (he/him) cut his teeth as an intern at the Association of French Fundraisers, he then embarked on a career in advertising before returning to where his heart lay: in the charities sector. Joe is passionate about fundraising and how it can be a force for positive change in the world. 

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