Mike Hudson’s new book is an extremely useful addition to the growing literature in non-profit management. It belongs on any student or practitioner’s bookshelf and would be a book not read once, but pulled down many times.
This book offers most value as an excellent catalogue and summary of the most prevalent frameworks and concepts used in the non-profit management field. The chapters provide quick reference and comparison on management frameworks or tools on the themes of capacity-building, performance, alliances, funding, leadership and governance. It clarifies many of the terms and concepts that we use today in studying and tackling non-profit management. However, because it is a comprehensive reference to so many tools, it is not useful for leaders looking for one ‘right way’ or depth in understanding how to implement any of the frameworks. The reader instead gets a top-level menu, complete with ingredients list, and needs to go to the original sources/authors for the recipes.
The first and last chapters, covering the history of US non-profits and comparing the sector in the US and UK, are very handy and a useful addition, consistent with the reference theme. Hudson’s central propositions, which became the themes of the chapters, are all appropriate and in good priority. The only thematic area I missed was a treatment of creating accountability mechanisms. Hudson covers accountability as a primary reason for performance measurement but does not provide a set of frameworks for accountability processes related to constituents, clients, members and the community. In most chapters, Hudson presents useful cautions or hazards associated with the misuse of management concepts rather than coming across as an unabashed cheerleader, again providing a useful resource for the thinking manager.
The book’s very usefulness as a guide exposes a technical weakness: it provides a good bibliography to non-profit management literature but one has to use the endnotes in each chapter. Hudson is less thorough in a few places, such as when he mentions Barbara Gray’s Collaborating (p100) but fails to cite the reference anywhere. Rather than choose just a few recommended books to highlight in the appendix, he might have provided a more complete bibliography.
Hudson does occasionally get carried away and makes assertions without providing evidence, such as on p134: ‘There is undoubtedly a trend for funders to become more engaged with the organizations they support.’ Hudson’s reference to issues and even pending legislation, such as in his section on faith-based organizations, mean that parts of the book will end up dating rather quickly.
These few problems do not take away from the underlying reference value of the book. I recommend it to my colleagues who teach non-profit management, their students and non-profit leaders.
Christine W Letts is Rita E Hauser Lecturer in the Practice of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. She can be contacted at christine_letts@Harvard.Edu
Managing at the Leading Edge
Mike Hudson Directory of Social Change £16.95