CPR for Nonprofits

CPR for Nonprofits: Creating Strategies for Successful Fundraising, Marketing, Communications and Management
by Alvin H. Reiss

A First-Aid Kit: Not Comprehensive Medical Treatment

This book is a collection of forty-six 3-page vignettes arranged into chapters on major challenges facing a nonprofit: marketing, public relations, making a special event work well, board issues, soliciting corporate donors, etc. The stories, many drawn from New York City-area nonprofits, are designed to show how the profiled organization faced a challenge, planned a response, and achieved a result. Challenge, plan, and result — “CPR.”

Each vignette uses the “CPR” format, followed by “questions to ask” (if you’re facing the same challenge), “lessons learned,” and “last word,” usually a one-sentence summation of the “moral” of the story.

All kinds of organizations are profiled, and it was fun to see CharityChannel regulars as Lynn Shaftic-Averill among the experts sought for their expertise and “war stories.” “The Pig that Saved the ‘Y’” chronicles the success of the YWCA of the Tonawandas in staving off financial collapse. They used a board member’s connection with a local nonprofit theater to arrange for a benefit showing of the movie “Babe” as a joint fundraiser, and the ‘Y’ was saved from serious and imminent financial danger. The film showings are now annual fundraising events.

Like the first-aid kit on the cover, the book contains a lot of tools that are specific to a situation. Just as you wouldn’t use all the tools in the first aid kit at the same time, the book is best read sporadically, almost as a reference manual, when you’re looking for help or inspiration.

Unfortunately, also like the first-aid kit, the book is unable to provide comprehensive relief, or information, for the patient/reader seeking assistance. To say that the book uses a “band-aid” approach sounds pejorative, but it really isn’t. Band-aids are important tools, as are many of the stories in the book. However, people buying this book believing that they’ll find the answers for an organization in trouble will be disappointed.

CPR for Nonprofits is a good “ready-reference” book for stimulating ideas and brainstorming, best read in small doses over time. If symptoms persist, you’ll need to look elsewhere for additional help.