By Cass Wheeler
It is unusual to encounter leadership books focused on the social sector. Thankfully, Cass Wheeler, former CEO of the American Heart Association (AHA), has written what might be considered a primer in running a nonprofit organization.
You’ve Gotta Have Heart offers a step-by-step approach for new executive directors (or current ones who wants to assess their efforts) that illuminates the main factors in running a nonprofit. While the American Heart Association is not a typical, small- to medium-sized nonprofit, the lessons are universal.
From the first chapter, which discusses the key differences between a for-profit and a nonprofit, to the very last, Wheeler draws upon his time at AHA to give examples of the practices he is preaching. At times, it can feel a little self-serving; nevertheless, he relays his experiences in an interesting manner.
I have spent the past few years transitioning my consulting to nonprofits and my business experiences have served me well in trying to help these organizations. Wheeler states that nonprofits need to act more like modern businesses and one area he highlights is use of technology, an extremely important resource for small- to medium-sized nonprofits. Technology can help these companies achieve their missions without, for example, sacrificing personnel dollars for clerical staffers, he writes.
Wheeler introduces another new concept for nonprofits: branding. While this aspect of marketing is deemed essential in for-profits in differentiating one firm from another, branding is not an issue that many nonprofit executives have given a lot of thought. Even small nonprofits need to learn how to brand so they can do the best job possible of fundraising and creating awareness for their cause. Of course, fundraising is covered as well.
The last part of You’ve Gotta Have Heart deals with the subject of personnel and the recruitment and retention of good people is emphatically stressed. For most nonprofits, personnel includes volunteers as well as staff. The younger generations are increasing interested in the nonprofit sector as a career path-Pepperdine even offers this option through its undergraduate college-so the ability to attract (quality) new blood is essential, especially in light of the fact that a majority of nonprofit executives will be retiring in the next few years.
For executives new to the nonprofit sector, this book is a must-read. For current executives, this book will be very helpful in preparing your organization for the future.