Interview with Jonathan Poisner

Why did you write this book?
This is the book I wish I'd been handed when I first became a nonprofit Executive Director in 1997. As I consult with nonprofits across the country, I'm repeatedly struck by how often new Executive Directors are forced to reinvent the wheel.

Of course, in this case, I'm not talking about a wheel. I'm not even talking about the technical aspects of the job that are "invented." I'm talking about the underlying strategic framework with which an Executive Director should approach their job. Time and time again, I see Executive Directors who seem to just be making it up as they go along, without connecting the dots.

I realized I could help them connect the dots by creating a series of lessons for new Executive Directors. I did this originally as a series of articles, but was encouraged by several of my readers to turn it into a book. That process helped turn the individual articles into something that stands together as a whole.
What is your writing process?
I tend to write in short bursts of intense activity - 30-60 minutes at a time. Sometimes even less than that if I'm on a roll. I tend to throw a lot of ideas onto the computer screen.

Then I come back and edit. Oftentimes, the second draft looks radically different as I impose order on the first draft. This is also where I try to make sure I'm being precise in my language and correct in my grammar.

For the book, I had 10 friends and colleagues of mine who've served as nonprofit Executive Directors review my work and provide feedback. The book benefited greatly from the feedback, with several lessons evolving significantly, one being dropped, and another being split into two separate lessons.
Why did you publish it as a free E-book?
I have the luxury of writing this book as an offshoot for my consulting practice, instead of as my livelihood. My goal was to give away this knowledge as quickly and broadly as possible, so a free E-Book was the logical choice. It's been fun to watch people I've never me or interacted with download my book.
Who are your favorite authors?
In the nonprofit world:

I adore Jim Collins, the business author. Of all the business authors I've read from the for-profit world, he seems to get the nonprofit world the best when he writes about it.

I find Michael Wilkinson really compelling when it comes to understanding good group facilitation and strategic planning.

For fundraising, I'm a big fan of Kim Klein and her book: Fundraising for Social Change.
What are you working on next?
My next E-Book will be a compendium of what can go wrong -- Why Organizations Go Off Course.

In some ways it's a perfect mirror image of the first book -- some of the lessons can be inferred just by imagining doing the opposite of the lessons in Why Organizations Thrive. But other "go off course" lessons stand on their own.

We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes, so I'm hopeful these next set of lessons will prove a valuable counterpart to Why Organizations Thrive.
Where can people out more about your consuling practice?
My website is Or just remember to google my name and it will come up.
Do you expect to produce a second edition?
Yes, I do plan on updating Why Organizations Thrive at least once. I've already received valuable feedback on the first edition and I continue to learn as I work with new organizations.

I'm definitely interested in hearing from more readers if they have specific questions about any of the Lessons, comments about them, or want to tell me why I'm wrong.
Published 2013-09-10.
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Books by This Author

Why Organizations Thrive: Lessons from the Front Lines for Nonprofit Executive Directors
Price: Free! Words: 15,760. Language: English. Published: April 26, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Non-profit business
Why Organizations Thrive outlines fifteen lessons for nonprofit Executive Directors from a long-term nonprofit leader and consultant. It's the book the author wishes he could have read when he first started as a nonprofit leader 20 years ago. The book is designed to be read in a single sitting, with each short lesson including a mix of theory and practical tips.