Book Review: How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar

Disclaimer: I was asked to provide a review of this book and was sent a free advanced copy and the opportunity to be an affiliate, meaning that a portion of every e-book sale made via links on my blog will go into my bank account.

Nonprofit Rockstar

How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar
Rosetta Thurman and Trista Harris
$19.99 / $24.99 (after November 15)

Before I even delved into this book, I had to try very hard to literally not judge a book by its cover. The word “rockstar” and the image of a single person in the spotlight, on a pillar, surrounded by fans, completely turned me off.

Perhaps the target audience is younger than I, more extroverted than I, less advanced in career than I.

Nevertheless I can see the cover and title appealing to those in the first few years in their nonprofit career, keen, and eager to be the face of youth that are changing the world.

But, I’m not judging a book by its cover. I’m judging its contents. So I read the book through the eyes of a soon to be graduating university student, or a young professional fairly new to the sector (though the book’s introduction indicates the intended audience is the latter).

What the book does well:

First of all, the general format of the book appeals to me. I love lists, and I love practical, implementable action items, of which this book has 50 (plus sub-tips).

There are some great tips, including ones related to:

  • Speaking openly about goals
  • Getting management experience by leading committees
  • Stretch assignments
  • Ditching martyrdom

Rosetta and Trista also do a great job of using examples, both personal and of real young professionals, to illustrate their tips. I found this very useful in being able to visualize the practicalities or potential outcomes of their suggestions.

I really enjoyed Rosetta and Trista’s emphasis on the nonlinear career path, though I don’t believe this is unique to nonprofits as they suggest. This advice cannot be repeated enough to those about to enter the workforce or recently within it. Your past job titles or degree programs don’t define you. You do. Repeat: You do.

Another highlight of the book is the attention paid to diversity throughout. If you are a reader of Rosetta’s blog this won’t surprise you, but for those who are not, you will be treated to examples of all sorts: organizations that differ in size and mission, and individuals that different in experience and background. In that sense, I think every reader would be able to personally connect with at least one person sharing his or her story within.

Finally, Trista and Rosetta use an approachable and upbeat tone of voice throughout, so the book is not a heavy read.

What the book could have improved upon:

The book starts off very extrovert-centric. The introduction, which relates being at the back of the room with bad and being on stage speaking with good, casts aside and further marginalizes the oft-misunderstood introverts who very possibly get great work done without making a big fuss about it. (Disclaimer: I am one of those oft-misunderstood introverts. And Note: Sometimes making a fuss about your work is important. And Note: The book doesn’t stay extrovert-centric).

The book is also quite America-centric. Though there is one example given of young Canadian nonprofit staffperson, the specific examples of tools and resources are generally located in the US or directed to a US audience.

One of my largest frustrations while reading was that some of the sections were too short  (e.g. Tip 37: Create Your Own Professional Development Plan is only 3/4 of a page and I would have loved to read more) whereas others are way too long (e.g. Tip 44: Introduce Yourself to a Search Firm is 9 pages long and I feel less relevant to the intended audience).

Because of this, I felt while reading that the book goes all over the place. Because some of the tips were so short, others long, some providing a series of subtips, others with lengthy examples, I felt my brain was getting tugged around. On one hand this makes the book fine to read a tip at a time, out of order, over a long period of time. On the other hand, it made reading the book in one sitting a bit distracting.

The final call:

I think this book could have broader appeal than the intended audience described in the introduction. I think this book could also be suited to students planning on entering the nonprofit sector after graduating, or for any young profession in general, as many of the tips are relevant in all fields.

If you’re tight on cash but interested in this, I would suggest visiting a career advisor, talking to a few people who have jobs that resemble those you aspire to be in in a few years, volunteering, and following some nonprofit career-ish blogs, like Rosetta’s. I’m not a reader of Trista’s blog, but from reading Rosetta’s feed, I recognize many of the tips from previous posts.

Overall, I think it could have used a bit more editing, but offers a wide variety of tips to a young professional which can be used as a diverse grab bag of career advancement opportunities.

Find out more:

You can buy the book (in electronic or paperback version) here.

Find Rosetta on Twitter at @rosettathurman and on her blog at

Find Trista on Twitter at @tristaharris and on her blog at New Voices Of Philanthropy