Customer Reviews: The Mission Myth: Building Nonprofit Momentum Through Better Business
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Where would so many causes be without the guidance of organizations created to galvanize those of us who are out here wondering how to manage and direct our interests to best facilitate the projects and ideas we believe in if it weren't for the Not for profit agencies who make dreams happen? Yes, with the Internet we are barraged with requests for contributions, sometimes form organizations that seem to be identical in presence and drive. What Deirdre Maloney has provided in this book (probably meant for chairmen of such Non-Profit agencies) is the opportunity for us, as contributors to groups that men holes in our society left open by the hurry of living - whether those needs are political action, or feeding the poor, or providing funds for helping moments of natural disasters or third world countries to any number of service organizations - to understand the machinations of these groups and why some succeed and others fall by the well-meaning wayside.

Not for profit organizations simply indicate that the product they purport is service and assistance that will not provide financial returns for an 'investor' (for that is what we as contributors are). Even though this is 'charity work' the organizations must realize that in order to function they must act in the manner of solid businesses. This may not seem enlightening to many, but the manner in which Maloney lays out the basics for organization and improvement of action in gathering needed funds for the organizations beneficiary is solid business sense. She dispels the old myth that 'if we all are doing good things the money will just come in from generous people who believe in us'. Yes, the précis of that statement is true, but whether the money coming in actual WORKS toward the goal is something else.

This book seems to be directed toward instructing managers who have little professional business training to address issues of solid management: finding the strong Board of Directors, selecting a staff of volunteers and instructing them in all aspects of fundraising (direct call, drives, benefits, gala dinners, all manner of ways to make donors feel appreciated and needed, marketing tools (yes, asking for contributions is the same as marketing a cause). how best to use the tools for advertising and solicitation, dealing with the press and with social media - the list practically mirrors the texts on excellent business management.

Where it seems this book will be best used is 1) by those dedicated individuals who sign up to be a key person for a non profit organization and 2) by the volunteers of such organizations - a role of self instruction to bridge the time gap of learning the skills necessary to support the manager and the Board of Directors. Saying that this book is low key is meant as a compliment: Deirdre Maloney instructs the way many fine teachers in the classroom practice - entice, inform, set goals, learn how to achieve them. This is a solid little book that addresses a much-needed vacuum - especially in a down economy where every donated dollar is tough to find and to keep. Grady Harp, January 12
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VINE VOICEon March 8, 2012
In the specific world of political nonprofits, I first heard it described as the Sir Galahad mistake: the belief that "our side shall win for we are pure of heart." In this excellent book, Deirdre Maloney expands the idea into the Mission Myth -- the feeling (I put it that way because it's not always a conscious idea) all too common among nonprofit staff that because we are good people working together to achieve good ends -- and not greedy, competitive "suits" -- the very power of our goodness is enough to make us successful.

In her years as executive director of a major nonprofit charity, Deirdre Maloney confronted the Mission Myth, first and most painfully in herself, but also among board members, donors, staff, and volunteers. She believes, and argues convincingly, that in order to be successful ... in order to achieve the very "good things" that motivate people to work for nonprofits in the first place ... leaders need to run their organization >gasp< like a business.

This really shouldn't be so revolutionary a proposal. After all, the distinction between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations is largely artificial. As Franz Oppenheimer, and A.J. Nock following him, pointed out, there are only two ways to interact with others in society, meet needs, and acquire wealth. One is through voluntary exchange (what Oppenheimer called the "economic means"), the other is through force or the threat of force (the "political means"). Viewed this way, for-profit business (in the absence of government-enforced monopolies) and non-profit charity are both clearly part of the broader "voluntary sector," the major difference between the two being where they stand in relation to the political means -- specifically, to tax law. It shouldn't be any surprise, then, that the keys to "building momentum" and achieving objectives should have some important similarities. After all, as one nonprofit executive once told me, "Just because we're called a `nonprofit' doesn't mean we're allowed to lose money." (Interested readers should look up the Mises Institute working paper "Against the Third Sector as a Contrivance of the State" by Kevin Hodgkins of UAB, and the audio presentation "Consumption, Profit, and Competition in the Not-for-Profit" by Italian economist Paola Mazzà.)

Deirdre Maloney doesn't engage in this kind of analysis in "The Mission Myth," though I think it provides important context for her basic premise. What she does do is provide some great insight and ready-to-use ideas for maximizing an organization's effectiveness using "the four M's" of management, money, marketing, and measurement. Other writers have covered some of these nonprofit-management topics in greater length, but part of what makes "The Mission Myth" so good is the author's brevity, clear language, and focus on action (she has a great section on the power of succinct writing, but every chapter qualifies as an example of this). The other part of what makes it so good is her use of examples from her own experience: These are not conclusions the author made up for the sake of selling a book or putting on a conference, but are the product of her own life in the trenches as a nonprofit manager.

If there's one thing I know about people who work for charities, it's that they often don't have a lot of time for extra reading. But "The Mission Myth" is a title I urge them to make time for. If you're a board member, get a few copies for the ED and others in leadership positions. If you're a founder (what Morton Blackwell, consistent with the above analysis, calls an "organizational entrepreneur"), do the same and underline chapters 7 and 13 in your own copy. One thing charities don't need is a glut of "management guru" books like that which infests the for-profit world. "The Mission Myth" isn't one of those. This is a book that a great many people could read with profit ... if you'll pardon the expression.
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To do any job well it helps to learn from success and failures of people who came before you. The Mission Myth is such book for those who are interested in running successful non-profit organization. The author, Deirdre Maloney, worked as an executive director of Colorado AIDS project. She describes what it took to take it from struggling organization to being a successful one.

The book is written in easy to follow, friendly style. Personal example make it very accessible. The gest of her approach is that running a non-profit organization has a lot in common with running a business. She talks not only about business, but being an inspiration leader. She leaves you with the final message that even when the mission is the most important goal, sometimes you need to concentrate not on the mission but what can make the mission successful.

Despite the heavy topic I found this book to be an easy read. I found this book interesting as well as educational.

Ali Julia review
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Having worked before at non-profits, I know first-hand what it feels like to run a mission-based organization as a business. The first thing to acknowledge is that employees at non-profits are often expected to work incredible hours in an organization that often resists business constraints.

My favorite parts of the book are the sections where the author tells her own experience. These sections have a blue background so they are set apart from the rest of the book. The author, Deidre Maloney got promoted very quickly to the CEO position by a combination of timing, luck and her desire to assume the responsibility.

I found the author to be humble, relating her past mistakes and how we can all learn from them. She has a lot of interesting stories including her experiences with the Board of Directors. She ended up learning the foundational truths underlying every type of business, including non-profits. In my view, the book explained these truths as well or better than any I've read.
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on March 22, 2012
THE MISSION MYTH: BUILDING NONPROFIT MOMENTUM THROUGH BETTER BUSINESS (Business Solutions Press) by Deidre Maloney is a book that I wish I had read many years ago; i.e., before I started becoming involved with nonprofit organizations.

Unfortunately, it was only written in 2012 . . . yet I still got a lot out of it because of the fact that I remain active in several such groups . . . and there is much to be learned from the author who served as an executive director of the Colorado AIDS Project and who now helps nonprofits meet their missions through a company she founded.

What I liked most was how Maloney shared her many experiences to drive home the point that there's more to successful for nonprofits than just passion and heart . . . rather, only when they integrate the Four M's: Management, Money, Marketing and Measurement will they achieve optimal results.

She then uses countless examples to show how this can be accomplished, including this particular tidbit that I plan to implement right away:

* Here's the other thing to know about systems, one of their most important benefits:

They make things less personal.

When you have a system in place that says it's up to your supervisors to check the staff's timesheets and question comp time, then those supervisors are simply following required policy. It becomes less about Charlene questioning Steve about his timesheet, and more about what the supervisor is expected to do.

When you have a policy that states that it's up to the volunteer coordinator to pick up the mail at the post office each day because you have limited resources, then you're not asking Daniel to do you a favor every day.

When you have a board policy that says a member must give or get a certain amount of money every year, then following up with Amy on her donation is about the policy, not about calling her out for her lack of a monetary contribution.

In addition, I liked the advice on a variety of topics--such as determining the length of something you plan to send out:

* Here's a good test. If you're writing a direct mail piece or a flyer and you find yourself playing with the margins to fit it all on one page, stop. Cut it. I promise you can. And the final product will be much better.

However, what I liked most about THE MISSION MYTH were the many boxes where she encouraged readers to "learn from me" and not make similar mistakes . . . however, Maloney then ends on this positive note:

* The other thing to know is that you will make mistakes. Not everything will go well, and sometimes you will miss the days of the more random use of your time, answering emails and calls as they come in, letting anybody walk in your office and take up your time, acting as the almighty cheerleader instead of the critical combination of inspired leader, excellent manager and accountability mechanism.

I now want to see if I can get the other board members in one of my groups to read this book . . . if they do, they will gain a much better understanding of what being a board member is all about.
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on July 24, 2012
"The Mission Myth" is worth its weight in gold because it will give you clarity, support, hope and direction. It was an investment in my career and sanity.

Being an Executive Director can sometimes be a very lonely job. You're not in this alone. Deirdre has seen it all and done it all. Readers learn from her successes and failure.

You walk away from the book with focus.
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on December 21, 2013
I recommend this book for non profit leaders who are either just starting out, or who just need a reminder about what we are actually here to do. Deirdre has taken the nuts and bolts of non profit leadership, and broken it down into bite sized chapters. It's almost like a checklist of things we need to be sure we are doing, only it feels more like telling to a friend who has been there before and is on our side.
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on February 16, 2012
The Mission Myth is a great read for any nonprofit executive looking for solid advice (and a little humor too). Deidre's frank and straight forward style draw you in and you'll find yourself nodding in agreement. I particularly liked her concept of the four M's : Management, Money, Marketing and Measurement. She has a way of simplifying and entertaining at the same time which is not an easy thing to do in nonprofit management. I highly recommend this book!
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on June 4, 2012
From the Nonprofit Times back in 2005, it was said that about one million nonprofits exist. Then in the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2011, it was stated that 12 million baby boomers want to start a nonprofit.

As I read Deirdre Maloney's "The Mission Myth" I wondered: How many of these are even effective and efficient with the 4 M's? And how many will actually give a hoot about any of the 4 M's once they start their nonprofit?

What are the 4 M's? According to Deirdre, they're management, money, marketing and measurement.

This isn't giving too much away. After all, there is much depth to them in the book which is divided into 6 Parts and 55 chapters. Everything from the board of directors and time management, to leadership and communication skills. There are other touchy topics which might spark a new idea, or make others uncomfortable.

But I was wondering when an actual nonprofit veteran, who has been there and done that, would just finally say it without remorse: Run your nonprofit like a business.

That's the main umbrella theme of the book, but fortunately she says that you shouldn't lose the heart and soul of your mission. She makes a heavy distinction between doing good, and doing good well. Her message is that we must forego the impression that it only takes heart, soul, and mission to be a truly successful organization.

This is a strong testament. Some may nod in agreement, some may faint in disbelief. But like other reviewers and nonprofit veterans here have echoed, so much in the business world also crosses over into the non-profit realm.

For example, Marketing is still needed to educate and communicate to your audiences. So is Measurement to prove to stakeholders that you are not only doing what you promised but holding yourself accountable and making true impact. Money and handling is still important too as it touches upon every part of your organization. And of course, strong management skills and leadership to ensure that the core of the organization runs smoothly and efficiently.

After all, how do you convince others that your cause and mission is worth fighting for? How do you convince stakeholders that you are the right leaders for the mission? Something tells me that the answers are embedded in the 4 M's.

With "The Mission Myth" The writing style is pithy and succinct. This is refreshing especially for heavy topics like money and management. Despite it being divided into 6 parts and 55 chapters, it is a highly actionable book in which you can readily synthesize and apply.

The Mission Myth is practical for the inquisitive, open-minded, yet busy nonprofit leader. It's a rare gem that no nonprofit should overlook.
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I think when some people think "non-profit" there are varied ideas of what it is that comes to mind. I know realized by reading THE MISSION MYTH by author Deirdre Maloney that the reason that is had to do with the misunderstanding of what a non-profit is, how it is run and what happens to the money that it brings in.

Delivering the truth as only she can, Maloney takes you into the four areas that those working with a non-profit have to be concerned with: money, management, marketing and measurement. All of them are important, and as I have learned from the book good management is going to make sure that everything else runs smoothly.

The main goal with of a non-profit is to make sure that it is doing what it has proposed to do. This means that you have to be careful to stay on track and not allow outside influences and inner strife to take you off message and your mission.

Whether you are looking to begin a non-profit or looking for one to join, this book will definitely help you to make sure that you approaching it with the correct mindset and the tools needed to make it succeed.

Deirdre Maloney does it again by sharing valuable information that is sure to make an impact. THE MISSION MYTH gives the readers just the tips they need to be successful.
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