Five Good Ideas - the book

Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-profit Success

Latest News

Five Good Ideas is now available as an audio book. Purchase it here.

Read an excerpt (PDF)

It’s no secret. Managers working in the non-profit sector wear many hats and have to be awfully good at doing many things. One day you’re asked to be a communications expert, the next you’re handling the HR duties of your organization, and then, without blinking an eye, you balance the books.

But how can you even begin to learn so many things in a time-effective way?

Consider the recently published Five Good Ideas book as your go-to non-profit management handbook. Whether for a deep read, or quick reference, keep it handy in your top right desk drawer.

Buy your copy now from
Coach House Books | Chapters Indigo | | | Barnes & Noble

In the media

Foreword by Craig Kielburger

Introduction by Alan Broadbent

1. Leadership and Vision

  • Reimagining Your Organization · Nick Saul / 3
  • Leadership · Rocco Rossi / 10
  • Institutional Change · Alok Mukherjee  / 17
  • Influencing Change · John Oesch  / 21
  • Strategic Planning · James Appleyard  / 27
  • Turning Your Organization Around · Paul Davidson  / 33
  • Innovation · Suzanne Gibson  / 38

2. Organizational Effectiveness

  • Leading an Inclusive Organization · Kay Blair  / 45
  • Shared Services · Sharon B. Cohen  / 49
  • Managing Risk · Derek Ballantyne  / 53
  • Not-for-Profit Corporations Law · Sheila Crummey  / 59
  • Dealing with a Large-Scale Emergency · Thomas Appleyard  / 66

3. Human Resources

  • Effective hr  Management · Lynne Toupin  / 77
  • Improving Employment Relations · Dave Mckechnie  / 84
  • Managing Union Relations · Frances Lankin  / 91
  • Working with Volunteers · Gail Nyberg  / 97
  • Managing Consultant Relationships · David Pecaut  / 102

4. Resource Development

  • Financial Management · Lois Fine / 111
  • Translating Vision into Funding · Paul Born / 118
  • Approaching Grantmakers Successfully · Robin Cardozo / 122
  • Corporate Fundraising · Susan McIsaac / 127
  • Fundraising · Ross McGregor / 132
  • Developing Resources Through Partnerships · Helen Walsh / 138

5. Communications

  • Branding · Ian Chamandy & Ken Aber / 147
  • Strategic Communications · Jennifer Lynn / 153
  • Maximized Marketing for Non-Profits · Donnie Claudino / 157
  • Social Marketing · Mark Sarner / 167
  • Talking to the Media · Carol Goar / 167
  • Web 2.0 · Jason Mogus / 175
  • Building Conversations on the Web · Marco Campana & Christopher Wulff / 183
  • Successful Networking · Lisa Mattam / 190

6. Advocacy and Policy

  • Government Relations · Judy Pfeifer / 197
  • Advocacy · Sean Moore / 204
  • Working with Government Budgets · Dan Burns / 212
  • Impacting Public Policy · Ben Perrin / 218

7. Governance

  • Managing Board – Executive Director Relationships · Rick Powers / 227
  • Board Governance · Tom Williams / 232
  • Diversifying Your Board · Maytree / 237


The Editors

by Alan Broadbent

Good management is based on the ability to put good ideas into action. Whether one is running a business, a community organization, a government department, a school or a hospital, putting good ideas into action is critical to success.

The idea for this book arose in 2003 when I returned from a two-day conference and compared notes with my colleague Ratna Omidvar, Maytree president, who had returned from a similar conference. Asking our usual question of each other — “Did you learn anything useful for our work?” — we ascertained that my conference, unfortunately, had produced a rather low yield, one middling idea, and hers had produced two. We then began to wonder if taking time to attend conferences was worth it.

Of course, there are benefits to conferences that have more to do with networking and relationships than content, but when we attend conferences for two or three days, the volume of work crossing our desks doesn’t abate. When we’re back in the office, we face today’s work, plus that of the days we missed.

Admittedly, we were both feeling a little conference – and road – weary.

So we began to imagine how great it would be to obtain the benefits of a conference without having to actually attend. And if we could do that, how about striving for multiple benefits? Instead of getting one good idea in two days, how about getting two in one day? Heavens, why stop there – how about five good ideas over lunch? At that moment, we stopped, looked at each other and launched the Five Good Ideas series.

Over the past eight years, Maytree has hosted lunch-and-learn sessions on a wide range of management-related topics. The topics result from our ongoing canvass of people working in community-sector organizations. We ask them a simple question: what do you need to know to help you run your organization better? Some of the answers are obvious, like fundraising, information technology and governance. Others are less so, like managing in a unionized environment, branding and planning for emergencies such as an epidemic or earthquake.

The formula is simple. We ask leading experts and practitioners in each topic area to make a presentation. They do it with enthusiasm and without compensation, and we make them work! Rather than give a “canned” presentation, we ask that they frame their advice as Five Good Ideas they feel will make people think and act better. We don’t want a survey course on, say, fundraising; rather, we are looking for those Five Good Ideas that people can take back to the office, share with colleagues and apply to their work. (We’ve been asked why we don’t call them Five Great Ideas, because many of them clearly are great ideas, but we had a little modesty spasm and opted for understatement.)

At each session, the presenter speaks for 20 minutes, after which the participants (seated at round tables of about ten people) discuss the topic for another 20 minutes. This lively discussion also serves as a networking opportunity that often connects the most unlikely partners, and is followed by a chance for participants to question, challenge or seek clarification from the speaker, as well as share their own experience on the topic.

Five Good Ideas is an inexpensive program for Maytree to run. We rent Elmsley Hall on the University of Toronto campus, which has a wall of windows giving on to a lovely terrace garden, beautiful all year round. We provide a bag lunch of a sandwich, an apple and a drink, and request that people RSVP, but we do not charge a fee. We record the session and place a summary with video on the Maytree website for those who may have missed the session or wish to share or revisit it.

We have had people from many parts of the community sector attend, usually 80 to 100 per session. While our initial target audience was from Maytree’s granting cohort in the anti-poverty and immigrant and refugee settlement fields, it quickly grew beyond that to include people from all kinds of community organizations, including the arts, health care and education, sports and recreation, and many other areas. We even attract people from the business and political communities.

Good management is important everywhere. But it is especially important in the community sector, which operates with much complexity, often high stress and few resources. The sector is thinly managed, so the people who are there have to be good at many things–and good pretty well all the time. Community-sector leaders must wear a variety of hats, as their organizations don’t enjoy the luxury of many specialized management positions.

At Maytree we have a great respect for how well the sector is man- aged, particularly under constrained circumstances. We are also aware of the high degree of innovation in the sector, often a result of necessity. Five Good Ideas is a way for sector leaders to begin to think about the important elements of the range of skills they must perform. They rarely have the luxury of time to dive deeply into each area, but they can be well-served by being exposed to what some of the best thinkers and practitioners consider the top ideas. The Five Good Ideas.

“The ultimate collection of instructive ideas and insider info from the best mentors a social innovator could ask for. Helpful, succinct and right on time.”

Jane Farrow, Executive Director, Jane’s Walk

“If we are to make government and the private sector more responsive to community needs, we need a not-for-profit sector that punches above its weight. The insights in this book are required reading for every committed social change activist.”

Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director, America’s Voice

“If you have anything to do with a not-for-profit, read this book.” Read more >

Mayank Bhatt

“I recommend it as a helpful and sometimes inspiring read to all who are interested in Canada’s cultural community as professionals or involved volunteers.”

James Wright, General Director, Vancouver Opera

“The format of the book is easy to read and divided into small chunks that one can digest 5 Good Ideas on a short TTC or GoTrain ride, an ideal book to be tucked into a briefcase or purse for those few minutes of waiting that creep into all of our days.”

Danielle S. Russell
stories of change
Five Good Ideas
Latest publications