Five Good Ideas, an initiative of the Toronto-based Maytree organization, is a popular lunch-and-learn program that brings together experts in the nonprofit sector to discuss ways to make charities run better. It's the brainchild of Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar, who thought of the idea when returning from a conference that they felt lacked any worthwhile takeaways.
The formula behind Five Good Ideas is simple: a leader in a certain field is chosen to do a 20 minute presentation on a management-related topic (fundraising, governance, etc.) which is followed by a 20 minute discussion. The catch is that each presentation must adhere to the “five” rule: give attendees five ideas they can take back to the office, share with colleagues, and apply to their work.
This is where the book comes in. Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success (Coach House Books, 2011) distills a few dozen of the these lunch-and-learn programs on the topics of leadership and vision, organizational effectiveness, human resources, resource development, communications, advocacy and policy, and governance.
Robin Cordozo’s “Approaching Grantmakers Successfully” is perhaps the most relevant section to users of the Foundation Center, so we’ll look at that one first. Cordozo leads one of Canada’s largest foundations and conveys these five takeaways: 1) show how you can help a grantmaker achieve its objectives 2) do your homework 3) be aware of the competition for funding 4) be open to change and 5) pay attention to details. Some bits of advice in this chapter include "avoid approaching a grantmaker 'cold'" and to "be open to the possibility that grantmakers may suggest changes or alternative approaches to your work." As with all chapters in the book, the author provides suggestions for further reading and investigation (aka "five good resources").
Rocco Rossi’s discussion of leadership, on the other hand, conveys zen-like pieces of advice on being an effective leader, such as “focus on the journey, not the destination” and “we need to let go of the excess baggage in our lives.” The resources he suggests for further enlightenment are not your typical nonprofit texts. Instead, he recommends reading inspirational material such as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho or listening to The Eagle’s album Desperado. The key is the takeaway: people will probably remember a piece of fiction or music better than a dry tome on leadership.
Five Good Ideas is not a handbook, nor is it intended to be one. It falls more along the lines of self-help books such as Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff that can be turned to when you need a quick dose of inspiration. It’s available in all Foundation Center libraries under call number 604 FIV.
Other recently acquired titles that provide similar guidance include Nonprofit Management 101: a Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals (Jossey Bass, 2011) and You and Your Nonprofit: Practical Advice and Tips from the CharityChannel Professional Community (CharityChannel Press, 2011). Use the Catalog of Nonprofit Literature to see Foundation Center holdings.
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