What books should be on every volunteer manager’s shelf? We asked our community of volunteer leaders to share the books that have supported them throughout their unique roles. The resulting list of their recommendations has been curated for volunteer managers just like you!
So, whether you’re searching for practical guidance, career growth, or powerful stories, there’s a book on this list that’s just what you’re looking for.
Books on Leadership
For volunteer leaders at all levels, learn to lead your supporters with confidence, intention, and open-mindedness.
Race, Work, and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience
Laura Morgan Roberts, Anthony J Mayo, David A. Thomas
This important collection of essays shines new light on the dynamics of race and leadership in the workplace. Contributions from top scholars, researchers, and practitioners in leadership, psychology, and sociology offer a range of perspectives and encourage new and necessary dialogue for all leaders.
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
Author Daniel Coyle outlines the three key skills that cultivate a solid group dynamic in this New York Times bestseller. The reader will learn specific strategies for promoting learning, collaboration, and trust at their organization, while also harboring innovation.
Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader
Renowned author and professor Herminia Ibarra invites leaders at all levels to learn through action. With a mix of insight and outsight, Ibarra helps leaders evolve by redefining their roles and changing the way they think.
Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead
Author Charlene Li is an expert in disruptive leadership and digital transformation. This resource will help the modern leader navigate the new open world of social media. While intended for businesses, these lessons certainly apply to nonprofit and volunteer program leaders.
Books on Volunteer Management
These books speak specifically to volunteer managers. Learn modern strategies for recruiting and managing happy volunteers.
The Volunteer Project: Stop Recruiting, Start Retaining
Daren Kizer, Christine Kreisher, Steph Whitacre
For volunteer leaders who feel overworked and understaffed, this book outlines four essential strategies for retaining volunteers. While the book was written for youth ministries, it’s a useful resource for any volunteer program stuck in the cycle of volunteer recruitment and turnover.
Connect: How to Double Your Number of Volunteers
Nelson Searcy & Jennifer Dykes Henson
Written for churches but applicable to any volunteer program, this book offers practical guidance on creating a culture that attracts and keeps volunteers so you can grow your program and boost impact.
Books for Growing Your Program
Build capacity and grow your program with these up-to-date insights on fundraising.
The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need
Ellen Karsh & Arlen Sue Fox
Writing grants is an essential skill for any community organization. Read interviews with nonprofit leaders, funders, and policymakers to learn all about how to write winning grants with this comprehensive guide.
Books for Building Community
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters
Author Priya Parker takes readers on a journey of human togetherness. Parker invites us inside events of all kinds to show what works and what doesn’t. Volunteer managers and event organizers can apply the book’s expertise to their own volunteer gatherings, fundraising events, and more.
Books for Understanding Community Challenges
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author examines the caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
Bruder takes readers on a journey across America to discover the “dark underbelly of the American economy,” portraying the compelling stories of nomadic, older Americans unable to retire but unable to find regular employment.
Notes of a Native Son
Considered one of the greatest nonfiction books of all time, Baldwin’s compilation of essays considers what it means to be Black in America. Written in the late 1940s, Baldwin’s words remain just as powerful and important today.
Between the World and Me
Named one of the most influential books of the decade, Between the World and Me is a literary exploration and personal account of America’s racial history. Written in epistolary form, Coates confronts the nation’s troubling past and offers a “transcendent” vision for the future.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
Award-winning journalist Naomi Klein argues that solving the climate change crisis will require bold action; massively reducing greenhouse gas emissions is humanity’s best chance at reducing inequality, fixing broken democracies, and rebuilding local economies. This Changes Everything is now a motion picture.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
A fascinating exploration of food and agriculture in America and the oft-unknown social, economic, and ecological consequences of what we eat.
Books to Give and Inspire
Get inspired or motivate your volunteers with these moving and evocative stories. P.S. These books make great gifts for your volunteers and colleagues!
Unbowed: A Memoir
Nobel-prize-winning environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai inspires readers with her story. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over three million trees across Africa through networks of rural women. She was elected to Kenya’s Parliament and appointed the Deputy Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources—a fascinating read on a truly extraordinary woman.
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
President Barack Obama deemed this book “essential reading” for anyone who wants to understand—and change—history. Nelson Mandela was one of the great moral and political leaders of his time, and his story of struggle and triumph can inspire action, passion, and benevolence in us all.
The Art of Happiness
Nobel Prize winner His Holiness the Dalai Lama contemplates how to overcome self-deprecation, insecurity, anger, and defeat on our path toward happiness. With co-author and psychiatrist Dr. Howard Culter, he investigates the complexities of relationships, loss, and inner peace. Infused with nearly 3,000 years of Buddhist teachings, this novel meditates on the common experiences of all humans.
You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life
A simple guide to leading a fuller life, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt shares her philosophy on living. Discover her keys to a more fulfilling civic life, including how to be a public servant, how to find the best in people, and how everyone can participate in politics. Roosevelt’s original better-living guide is a window into the First Lady herself and offers a wealth of timeless wisdom.
The Happiest Man on Earth
Eddie Jaku was just a teenager when his world was ripped away from him by Nazi Germany. Spending over seven years imprisoned in Auschwitz, Jaku survived against unbelievable odds. At one hundred years old, Jaku now describes himself as the “The Happiest Man on Earth.” Read this autobiographical account of how gratitude, tolerance, and kindness can shape one’s life.
Omoiyari: The Japanese Art of Compassion
Erin Niimi Longhurst
Japanese culture emphasizes the importance of community and helping others. This spirit is reflected in several unique words like ‘Mottainai’ (want not waste not) and “Omoiyari.’ Omoiyari describes a selfless and compassionate way of being in the world and anticipating the needs of the people around you. This book helps the reader embody the principles of omoiyari and other Japanese principles to live a more impactful life.
Hailed as one of the greatest stories of heroism in the modern age, Endurance chronicles Ernest Shackleton's grueling attempt to reach the South Pole in 1914. As the reader uncovers the details of this fateful voyage, their ideas of willpower and perseverance will be forever changed.
Books for Children
Read aloud and inspire children to get involved with these beautifully written and illustrated picture books.
The Mitten Tree
Beneath this story's playfulness lies a clear message: pay it forward without expectation. This is the perfect bedtime tale of kindness, generosity, and intrigue for the up-and-coming volunteers in your life.
Thank You, Omu
In this heartwarming story of generosity and community, a strong female role model named Omu feeds her aromatic soup to the community. The toddlers in your life will be enchanted by the unexpected rewards of sharing in this wonderfully illustrated children’s book.
A is for Activist
This ABC book is written and illustrated for the next generation of community activists, environmental protectionists, and LGBTQ+ and civil rights advocates. Conveying a deep message in an accessible way, this book will have your children inspired for the future.
The Man Who Planted Trees
A parable for all ages, the short story is equal parts hopeful and moving. Protagonist Elzéard Bouffier planted one hundred acorns a day in a desolate region in France, transforming a barren landscape into a forest full of life. The story shows the power that one person has to make a change.
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