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General Management Texts for the Sector

Updated 22/12/03

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Most of these reviews were written June 1999. Titles may get updated or go out-of-print. The idea is to cover all those that tackle management as a 'rounded' activity.

  • Introduction
  • Summary - best books
  • Reviews
  • Additional Titles.


See Publishers; Management Books Direct.


In some areas, management of voluntary organisations is very different from in the commercial world (e.g. you are not focused on satisfying customers, but have to consider funders, beneficiaries, volunteers, trustees and often committed underpaid staff too). At other times, charity culture means that we are behind or in front on various issues - such as ethical considerations (ahead) or management training (behind). So on many subjects, the Business section in WH Smith's will have some useful general, non-sector specific, texts. That's where I got my first Charles Handy!


The range of most of these books is both a major positive and negative aspect. Within their target area, you will find something on what you are looking for, but not always enough. Try one of the more specific titles from DSC if the latter is the case - ranging from Health and Safety Handbook to Essential Volunteer Management.

Best overall starter - Just about Managing
Best in-depth/theory - Understanding Voluntary Organisations/Understanding Organisations
Best 'bloody hell, I've been lumbered again' - Croner's (but use our resources lists)

Most of the main titles can be bought from Books Department at DSC, 24 Stephenson Way, London, NW1 2DP, 020 7209 5151, by post, phone or at their bookshop. Also on-line ordering at their web site. Otherwise try the list of publishers given on the Information - Publishers page, or local bookshops.



In reverse alphabetical order (apart from new additions):

NEW Strategic Management for Voluntary Nonprofit Organizations, Roger Courtney, Jan 2002. Routledge, ISBN 0 415 25024 2, £20-99. Roger obviously knows his stuff and has had a range of real sector experience, unlike many comparable authors, alongside serious management studies. Not a book to delve into to find quick solutions to problems, but its 300 odd pages should provoke valuable thought. It is part of a series which is "for students ... as well as the the thinking manager", and is quite academic in tone with comprehension questions as well as learning objectives for each chapter. Over two chapters, he puts up and knocks down a whole raft of strategic management approaches, ending up suggesting that 'new pragmatism' is the way forward and intune with sector values. There are some good tools and examplesin the latter half of the book, although we havent got round to ploughing through this fully yet! We were disappointed that the case studies are mainly from large charities (Oxfam, NSPCC, Save the Children, WWF).

Voluntary matters, DSC in association with The Media Trust, 1997. ISBN 1 900360 17 9. £16-95. Video set also available. This was produced to accompany the TV showing of the videos, and is made up of 12 chapters by different authors. There is some overlap of contents and variable quality, but it scores over other general management books in its breadth e.g. sections on Fundraising, Campaigning, Organising Volunteers, User Involvement, Marketing, as well as the standards. Not a 'how to be a better manager' book, more a nuts and bolts of doing the work.

Understanding voluntary organisations, Charles Handy, 1988 (revised Sept 97). Penguin, ISBN 0 14 014338 6. £8-99. Should be available from Amazon. A lot of this is lifted straight from his somewhat thicker Understanding organisations, but Handy does understand the differences and peculiarities of the sector. He has tailored this quite well, and the person with limited time would find this a good starting point to develop an organisational understanding on which to base your own management practice. Sample chapter headings: The Motivation of Individuals, Power and Influence, The Chances of Change. Personally though, I would spend a bit longer reading the bigger book.

Managing without Profit, Mike Hudson, 2nd edition 1999. Penguin, in association with DSC, ISBN 0 14 026953 3. £12-99. Quite a lot of theory, but also draws on experiences of various (usually larger) organisations. There has been some criticism that it reduces everything to a series of bullet points, when management is often about making choices between imperfect options with limited information. It does cover the all ground, though, and will suit those who like a bit of theory thrown in with positive solutions to common problems.Sample sections: Concepts for Creating Boards that Govern, Creating Flexible Management Structures, Making a Success of Different Jobs. NB This review is based on 1st edition.

Managing Voluntary Organisations, Roger Courtney, ICSA Publishing. ISBN 1 872860 89 3 £14-95. Title not reviewed.

Just about Managing, Sandy Adirondack, 3rd edition 1998. LVSC, ISBN 1 872582 17 6. £14-95.
First published 1989, but still one of the best general management guides for small to medium voluntary organisations. It covers the whole range of issues - staff, committees, teams, policy, change, conflict etc. - in an approachable manner. Inevitably there may be some areas where you want to go deeper, in which case look out one of the appropriate specialist management books to supplement this.

Governance and Management of Charities, Andrew Hind, 1995. Voluntary Sector Press, ISBN 0 9525801 0 1 This may well be out of print.

Croner's Management of Voluntary Organisations - the Essentials £133-95 for first year. Available on 10 days trial. Not a book but 'an information package' with a quarterly update service, plus a monthly 4 page newsletter, bulletins and pocket book (currently Organising Effective Events) included in the cost. As one of a whole range of business manuals it benefits from having all regulatory changes, such as the Working Time Regulations or data protection, on tap. Many of these are common to a range of Croner publications, and the editing doesn't always quite get there in making it easy to apply to the typical voluntary organisation. But where else do you get 2 pages on Music in Offices, Canteens etc. (copyright issues)?

It has been improved gradually over its 10 years or so life. The original 5 sections remain: Setting up a Voluntary Organisation; General Management (ranging from Property Considerations and Employment (recruitment guidance as well as legal considerations) to a section listing MEPs); Finance; Fundraising & Publicity; Further Information. They don't make for a cohesive whole, but while criticism of Croners approach is easy, they do produce comprehensive manuals and clarify many bureaucratic nightmares. Some less critical areas (eg Useful Publications, Addresses) unfortunately haven't been updated since 1991! No management theory, but a lot of practical information. Have on your shelf if you can afford it. See Croner's web site.

Additional Titles

See Buy Management titles online for info on: The Good Management Guide for the Voluntary Sector (NCVO), A Management Companion for Voluntary Organisations.


Other Charity Administration Manuals (similar in some ways to Croners, but I feel not quite so rounded in terms of general management) are listed on the Management Books Direct.

How to Manage a Voluntary Organization: The Essential Guide for the Not-for-profit Sector ; Kogan Page, Jan 03; ISBN 0749437804. Comes with CD-ROM containing templates and documents.

Aspects of Charity Management by Harry Stone has been published on the web ( but we couldnt get through Nov 00. If you can, read it online in four parts or download it as a zipped ascii text file (it's 60,000 words). He writes from 30 years' experience of voluntary work and involvement with over a dozen charities (includes having 'worked among meth drinkers and down-and-outs in London's East End') and was a co-founder of the St. Mungo Community.

Complete Guide to Business and Strategic Planning, Alan Lawrie, DSC, ISBN 1 873860 61 7, £10-95. This is not a general enough title to be in the main section, but with a number of checklists and practical tools for producing business plans and the like, it can be a way in to start thinking about management problems and planning the solutions.

Managing change in voluntary organisations, from OU Press, is focused on 'contract culture' and service delivery rather than a broad approach, so is not reviewed here.

Issues in Voluntary and Non-profit Management OU/Addison-Wesley ISBN 0 201 56547 1. A reader for the Open University Business School course B789: Managing Voluntary and Non-profit Enterprises. Not generally available, but some good insights into why voluntary organisations operate as they do..