10 May 2019 | 6 min read

7 Books Every Volunteer Leader Should Make a Point to Read

Last year, I made a goal to read more. Specifically, I decided to read 100 books in 2018. This year, I’ve continued to read as much as I can but my strategy has slightly changed. Instead of an inward focus, I’m shifting gears to see how I can best support those around me. I want to learn how to support my team, get the most out of their unique talents, and help them grow. So I’ve been reading with that specific goal in mind.

Not everyone enjoys reading. And honestly, who really has the time? I totally get it. You’re busy. Setting aside time to read is not always a high priority. So I’ve done the research for you and picked the top books I think will give you the most bang for your buck as a leader of volunteers.

Here are 7 books every volunteer leader should make a point to read:

1) 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. We can’t say enough how important this book is for leaders. Chapman and White breakdown the five primary ways people recieve love in the workplace and how leaders can boost the way they make their team feel valued. Trust us, this will take your appreciation skills to the next level. Here at Volunteer U, we learned the importance of valuing people based on their primary love language the hard way. Not everyone is excited to get a plaque during a team dinner. For some, a high-five or thank you note means more than anything else. READ THIS BOOK. It will completely change the way you interact with your team.

2) Raving Fans.  Ken Blanchard’s classic on customer service has revolutionized the way we approach those outside our organization. This easy read guides you into the mind of your customer and shows you how to take customers from paying guests to raving fans who promote your company through word of mouth. Trust us. This book is a game changer.

3) Volunteer U. Excuse the obvious self-promotion, but it’s hard not to brag when we believe so much in the concepts in our book. We wrote this short read specifically for church volunteer teams but the ideas apply to any organization with non-paid staff. Organizational culture, teamwork, serving with excellence, first impressions, we cover it all. Less than 80 pages and jam-packed with practical advice, this manual will take your volunteer team from good to great. 

4) Making Vision Stick. Vision is crucial when operating a company with the help of non-paid team members. If they don’t buy into what you’re doing, they won’t stay around for very long. In this book, Andy Stanley shares practical tips to connect your passion with your followers and stay on-task without diluting your purpose.

5) Be Our Guest. Living in Orlando, Florida it’s hard not to be a Disney fan. Be Our Guest is a sneak peek behind the magic of Disney’s incredible culture of customer service. The folks at the Disney Institute have cracked the code by focusing on the four points of the Quality Service Compass. Details are king at the Mouse House and we love the entertainment giant’s attention to both the customer and employee experience. If you’re ready to take your team to the next level with an intentional customer service strategy, read this.

6) Everybody, Always. This lighthearted biography by Bob Goff will alternately make you laugh and cry. Goff’s life passion has been to love those around him and it has led him on some pretty wild adventures. Everybody, Always encourages readers to love with abandon and without bias or fear. Bonus book: Goff’s first book Love Does follows the same theme and is another fantastic read for leaders looking to go beyond themselves and live their values with action and whimsy.

7) Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. Any leader who has interacted with more than one person in their life knows dealing with people can be tricky. Not everyone fits into a perfect little mold. People are messy, sometimes scary, and if you’re anything like the author, they can bring out your awkward side. Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards gives you the tools to succeed with people by reading body language, learning other’s motivation and love languages, and connecting through dazzeling (and meaningful) conversations.


*Edited 2023 Bonus Book: Volunteer U 101: Introduction to Volunteering.  Your volunteer team can be your most valuable asset. Not only can they help you accomplish tasks. But they can become leaders in your organization and help you further expand your volunteer pool by developing others. Our newest release is a textbook for managers of volunteer teams that explores ten principles of volunteer management. Each chapter focuses on the best practices in recruitment, training, retention, and many other volunteer areas.

What do you think? Did we miss any good books for leaders of volunteers? Are there any you would add as a must read for leaders this year?