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Essential reading for charity CEOs and managers

Originally published: December 2017

“I work long hours but it’s for a good cause.” How many times have you heard this comment from colleagues and peers?

Many charity professionals are guilty of clocking up the hours, as they feel the pressure of limited resources and tight budgets (they might be the only person doing the job). They might also find it hard to let go as the work is rewarding. Plus, social media is blurring the line between business hours and home life, making it even harder to switch off from work.

It’s great the charity sector is full of enthusiastic and passionate people — it’s what makes it a great place to work — but there comes a point when too many hours can take its toll. It can lead to burnout, which isn’t good for staff, organizations or beneficiaries. As a nonprofit CEO or senior manager, it’s essential to look after your staff — not least because happy employees will be more productive and motivated.

Here’s our selection of practical reads* (in no particular order) to help make sure your staff and your organization stay happy and healthy.

The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout (2016)

Renowned nonprofit blogger, book author and marketing expert Beth Kanter and author, blogger and online marketing expert Aliza Sherman offer strategies for charity leaders looking to achieve organizational impact without causing burnout. The book covers topics such as stress reduction techniques, managing technology and information overload, understanding what individuals need to look after themselves (sleep, nutrition and exercise), effective team work habits and communication, and developing a self-care strategy for your organization.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (2013)

No doubt you have a mix of characters working at your charity: the louder, more dominant people who aren’t afraid to shout out in meetings, and the quieter ones who need encouragement to speak up. It’s important to recognize that everyone is different, and that we all have skills to bring to the table no matter what our personality types are. Being an introvert is often viewed negatively, but Susan Cain shows us that introverts add huge value to the workplace — it’s about harnessing their skills in the right way.

The Idealist’s Survival Kit. 75 Simple Ways to Avoid Burnout (2016)

Humanitarian psychologist and author Alessandra Pigni says it is easy for activists and humanitarian workers to become disillusioned with the world when immersed in conflict and disasters, and that internal working cultures in humanitarian organizations are fuelling this. She looks at how leaders can help change this and prevent burnout.


The Happy Manifesto (2013)

Written by Henry Stewart, CEO of Happy Ltd — listed as one of the 20 best workplaces in the U.K. by the Financial Times and the Great Place Work Institute, and rated the best company in the U.K. for work/life balance — this book covers 10 core principles for a happy workplace. These include trusting your staff, recruiting people based on their attitude and potential ability rather than their qualifications and experience, creating a no-blame culture and celebrating mistakes, and ensuring staff are well rested, nourished and supported.

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) (2012)

Based on former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan's popular course ('Search Inside Yourself') for employees at the technology company, this book aims to help people across all sectors “enhance productivity and creativity, find meaning and fulfilment in work and life, and experience profound peace, compassion and happiness while doing so."

Preventing Burnout: The Key To Staying Healthy And Engaged At Work (2017)

Are you working long hours and taking work home with you? Part of the Coaching series from the 50Minutes collection, this 37-page book (containing easy to digest information that can be consumed in under an hour) will help you to identify the warning signs and symptoms of burnout, understand the risk factors for professional exhaustion and take steps to prevent burnout.

HBR Guide to Managing Stress at Work (2014)

Often workplace stress can tip over into home life, affecting mental and physical health, as well as relationships with family and friends. Get sustainable solutions to manage stress with this Harvard Business Review guide. It will teach you how to harness stress to promote productivity, rather than hindering it, and establish manageable routines.

*Thanks to those charity professionals who helped us to research the list. What books have you found helpful? Send your suggestions to



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