The best books for someone new to a nonprofit board

Melisa Galasso Author Of Money Matters for Nonprofits: How Board Members Can Harness the Power of Financial Statements by Understanding Basic Accounting
By Melisa Galasso

Who am I?

I’m a CPA with nearly 20 years of experience in the accounting profession and I provide continuing education to CPA firms in the area of accounting and auditing. One of my areas of specialization is government and nonprofit accounting. I serve on the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB’s) Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee and the AICPA’s Governing Council. I am passionate about the standard setting process and ensuring financial reporting is accurate and presented in a way to help the user make financial decisions. I have a BSBA from Georgetown University with a concentration in Accounting and International Business. 


I wrote...

Money Matters for Nonprofits: How Board Members Can Harness the Power of Financial Statements by Understanding Basic Accounting

By Melisa F. Galasso,

Book cover of Money Matters for Nonprofits: How Board Members Can Harness the Power of Financial Statements by Understanding Basic Accounting

What is my book about?

People serve on nonprofit boards to make a big impact and if a nonprofit is financially unstable it can’t make that impact. However, if you’re not a numbers person, or it’s been a while since you’ve worked with numbers, you may find financial statements hard to decipher. Money Matters for Nonprofits demystifies financial statements to empower nonprofit board members. It makes complex topics easy to understand with lots of examples and stories. The book also provides readers with methods to evaluate the nonprofit including ratios and KPIs. It also provides a list of questions to discuss with the independent public accountant. With this resource, board members will feel equipped to better advise a nonprofit and make an even greater difference.

The books I picked & why

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The Little Book of Boards: A Board Member's Handbook for Small (and Very Small) Nonprofits

By Erik Hanberg,

Book cover of The Little Book of Boards: A Board Member's Handbook for Small (and Very Small) Nonprofits

Why this book?

The Little Book of Boards provides a concise and easy-to-read overview of what are the responsibilities of a board member. It provides an excellent overview of the fiduciary responsibilities of the board and then the further responsibilities of someone who takes a leadership position. The appendices provide helpful guidance. When I was researching the nonprofit books out there for board members in preparation for writing mine, I found this one to be practical and well-written. Some books were too detailed but this one provided enough context for someone new to a board position. 

The Little Book of Boards: A Board Member's Handbook for Small (and Very Small) Nonprofits

By Erik Hanberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Little Book of Boards as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are you new to a board and have no idea what’s expected of you? Do you know what a board’s six key responsibilities are? Do you know what your relationship with the Executive Director should be? If not, this book is for you.

So many board members—especially of small nonprofits—want to support a nonprofit and readily accept the invitation to join the board. It’s only then that they discover they are in over their heads, with no idea of their expectations and responsibilities. The Little Book of Boards is here to throw that drowning board member a rope.

Told with…


The Best of Boards: Sound Governance and Leadership for Nonprofit Organizations

By Marci S. Thomas,

Book cover of The Best of Boards: Sound Governance and Leadership for Nonprofit Organizations

Why this book?

This book builds on the information provided by The Little Book of Boards by going into more details into the nitty gritty. This book addresses the legal responsibilities of the board risk management and ethics. It also has a chapter on financial statements and internal controls. Each chapter provides just enough details that the reader can start to get a great understanding of the big picture of a board member’s responsibilities. The book closes with a focus on change management and useful case studies to get the reader thinking about their responsibilities for the nonprofit organization. I’d definitely recommend reading this after the Little Book of Boards to continue to grow the knowledge base without getting overwhelmed.

The Best of Boards: Sound Governance and Leadership for Nonprofit Organizations

By Marci S. Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Best of Boards as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nonprofit organizations boards are justifiably passionate about their causes and eager to help their organizations. However, in today s increasingly regulated climate, board members, who come from diverse backgrounds and may have little financial expertise, can feel overwhelmed by the regulations that are their duty to follow. The Best of Boards: Sound Governance and Leadership for Nonprofit Organizations provides not-for-profit board members and financial managers with the essential fiduciary knowledge and indispensable leadership guidance that they need to meet the challenges of the current not-for-profit environment. This book contains: * Financial and ethical guidance for real-life situations * Practical leadership…


The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives

By BoardSource,

Book cover of The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives

Why this book?

The Nonprofit Board Answer Book is a question-and-answer style book that takes the learnings from The Best of Boards one step further. It addresses board functions and structure with a section on board member selection and development. Oftentimes nonprofit boards aren’t intentional about these items. The Q&A addresses all the common questions that persons new to a board would ask or need to know. Board Source is a phenomenal organization whose aim is to help boards succeed. When I was researching governance for chapter 1 of my book, I cited several Board Source tools as they really do have the experience with nonprofit governance through their research. I love that each chapter of the text closes with suggested action steps to make the book more hands-on and practical. 

The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives

By BoardSource,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Nonprofit Board Answer Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An essential guide to good governance for board leaders at all levels of experience and expertise This third edition of the bestselling book for nonprofit board members and professionals offers a thoroughly revised and updated resource that answers the most-commonly asked question on board governance. The book covers such topics as board structure and process, board member recruitment and orientation, board-staff relations, and financial management. This new edition includes updated information on topics that have recently increased in importance including new Form 990; dealing with the financial crisis, risk management, and mergers.
* Shows executives and board members how to…


Embezzlement: How to Detect, Prevent, and Investigate Pink-Collar Crime

By Kelly Paxton,

Book cover of Embezzlement: How to Detect, Prevent, and Investigate Pink-Collar Crime

Why this book?

Google nonprofit fraud and you will see the sad scenarios that many nonprofits fall prey to. While large flashy frauds are interesting to read about, it is often the people closest to the organization that you wouldn’t expect that impact many nonprofit frauds. Pink collar crime is perpetrated by someone with limited power (bookkeepers, office managers) as opposed to white collar crime (CFOs and CEOs). Embezzlement breaks down the fraud triangle and provides excellent examples of various fraud schemes with a chapter dedicated to nonprofit and governments. It’s filled with prevention tips to help nonprofits stop being a victim. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to empower board members to be able to ask the right questions of management so that fraud schemes would be more easily identifiable. 

Embezzlement: How to Detect, Prevent, and Investigate Pink-Collar Crime

By Kelly Paxton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Embezzlement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Your most trusted employee. Your right hand. However, something just doesn’t feel right about your business. Could an employee be stealing from you? Certainly you’re mistaken, right?

After all, this person helped you grow your business, has full access to everything from passwords to bank statements. Sure, that gives your employee the opportunity, but he or she would never take advantage of it.

We lock our cars and our houses to protect ourselves. What do you do to protect your business? This book is designed to help you prevent, detect, and investigate embezzlement. You will learn how opportunity, pressure, and…


Asking Styles: Revolutionize Your Fundraising

By Brian Saber,

Book cover of Asking Styles: Revolutionize Your Fundraising

Why this book?

While governance is a key aspect of any board member's responsibilities, often nonprofit board members are surprised or even disheartened by the requirement to fundraise on behalf of the organization. Some people are afraid that they can’t ask for money or are uncomfortable asking certain people and decide they don’t want to serve on the board. While there are a lot of books on fundraising, Asking Styles helps board members identify their asking style and what would be the most effective fundraising methods for them. It also helps understand how others feel about fundraising and how to work as a team to bring the most success to the organization. The book is a short read but full of great examples and practical guidance. 

Asking Styles: Revolutionize Your Fundraising

By Brian Saber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Asking Styles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This could very well become one of the most important books in our field. It is a breakthrough of a methodology that really works. It’s the best antidote I’ve read on taking the fear out of asking. It will make you successful. If you already are, it will make you more so. (From the foreword by Jerold Panas.)

The breakthrough concept of the Asking Styles makes it possible for anyone to become a more effective fundraiser. Your Asking Style is based on your personality and unique set of strengths when asking for gifts.

If you’ve ever said to yourself “I’m…


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