Stories & Joy: “Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership”

There’s a lot to love about the new book Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve known Joan forever—well, for a few decades; long before she became a rock-star nonprofit leader, consultant and, now, a budding television personality.

But believe me, no amount of friendship would have gotten me past page 3 if her book wasn’t a good read. It is. The first two sentences hooked me:

“I could have killed my development director.

And I don’t mean it the way you think.”

Joan Garry's Guide to Nonprofit Leadership — invaluable advice
How much did I get out of Joan Garry’s book? Let me count the flags.

Listen, I am not Joan’s key demographic. I’ve worked with nonprofits from time to time but I don’t run one; I don’t sit on any nonprofit boards. (And before you ask—I’m not sure I want to.)

But you don’t have to be in nonprofit leadership to get something valuable from Joan’s book. If you’ve led any kind of organization, if you’ve managed a team, if you’ve ever worked with another human being, Joan has some wise advice for you.

And she offers it up in the best way possible. Not with charts and data, but with stories. Joan knows how powerful good stories can be: Good stories can open hearts. Yes, they can open wallets and checkbooks too, but without emotion, it’s just a transaction. A good story can turn a transaction into a connection, a connection into a relationship. And relationships are key to any organization’s success—from nonprofits to mega-profits.

Joan advises her clients to bring their organization’s stories front and center, so staffers and board members alike can see the impact their work is having. And she does the same in this book: Stories do the heavy lifting, making the messages both more entertaining and more memorable: if you read my blog regularly, you’ve heard me sing that song more than once. I’m always happy to recommend people who agree with me.

Stories—for nonprofit leadership and the rest of us, too

Nonprofits may be “messy,” as Joan’s tagline reminds us—and that’s the title of her top-rated podcast, too. (If you’re planning to check it out, start with this episode; I’m a close personal friend of the guest.) But even though “mess” can have serious implications for organizations that deal with major, even world-changing, issues—Joan knows it’s essential to have fun along the way.

“The single most important attribute of a nonprofit leader—board member or staff leader—the attribute that is most critical in helping you to untangle knots and the one that can move your organization from good to great—is joy.”

There’s a lot of joy in Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership. And a lot of great advice, too, offered by a witty and charming expert. If I have any problem with the book, it’s this: Joan’s a good enough writer that she didn’t need to hire a ghost. And she knows a damn good one, too.


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