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The Art of Doing Good: Where Passion Meets Action

ISBN: 978-1-118-26435-5
288 pages
September 2012, Jossey-Bass
The Art of Doing Good: Where Passion Meets Action (1118264355) cover image
How to turn personal passion into an organization with impact


For anyone setting out to change the world, launching a nonprofit venture can be a powerful way to enact change. Whether bringing donated eyeglasses to children who have never seen clearly, revamping inner city schools, or bringing solar cookers to refugee camps, the act of doing good can be life-changing. Yet starting a nonprofit and running it well can also pose challenges. The Art of Doing Good is an essential companion for anyone looking to start an organization that makes a real difference.


Drawing from their own leadership roles in the nonprofit world, as well as interviews with 18 celebrated social innovators, the authors prepare would-be social entrepreneurs with guidance and real-world advice for sustaining the spirit, ambition, and ingenuity to keep their vision alive and thriving.


  • Features real-life stories of 18 notable social entrepreneurs and the organizations they run, including Geoffrey Canada (Harlem Children s Zone), Darell Hammond (KaBOOM!), and Michael Brown (City Year)
  • Reveals what particular issues nonprofit leaders can expect to face throughout the lifespan of their organization and shares strategies for meeting challenges
  • Written by world-renowned philanthropists Bronfman and Solomon, respectively cofounder and CEO of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and coauthors of The Art of Giving

With thoughtful and comprehensive insight on how the most effective social ventures do good well,The Art of Doing Good is essential reading for both new and experienced nonprofit leaders.


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PREFACE vii

INTRODUCTION: How to Change the World 1

PART ONE Sources of Inspiration

1 That Aha! Moment: When Inspiration Strikes 17

2 The Prequel: The Backstory: The History Behind the Idea 31

PART TWO Bringing Your Idea to Life

3 What It Takes: Can You Really Do This? 49

4 Getting off the Ground: At Some Point You Need to Get Real 65

5 Being the Brand: Identifying with Your Organization 77

6 The Pros and Cons of Partnerships: Do Your Research 85

7 Finding Support: Use Your Connections 95

8 Setting Goals and Keeping on Track: Start Small and Grow 109

9 Staffing Up: Your Most Vexing Resource: People! 125

10 Hard Knocks: Weathering the Storms 135

11 Preparing for Rollout: Ramping Up 149

PART THREE Managing the Organization

12 Becoming a Manager: The Change 161

13 The Board: How the Board Can Help 169

14 Transparency: No Secrets 179

15 Planning for the Future: What to Do Next 185

16 The Money Side: Money Is Not a Dirty Word 203

17 Making Your Exit: How Do You Know When It Is Time to Go? 215

EPILOGUE: The Value of Leadership 223

PART FOUR Resources

RESOURCE A: Index of Nonprofit Resources 229

RESOURCE B: Major Supporters of Capacity Building 261

NOTES 263

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 265

ABOUT THE AUTHORS 267

INDEX 271

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Charles Bronfman, of the Seagram's corporate family, was the founding owner of the Montreal Expos and is the chairman of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. Among his many philanthropic achievements is the creation of Birthright Israel and Historica. Bronfman has been awarded six honorary doctorates from universities in three countries for his humanitarian work. With Jeffrey Solomon, Bronfman is the coauthor of The Art of Giving.

Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, has taught philanthropy at New York University and has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Council on Foundations. Solomon has been chief operating officer of the United Jewish Appeal Federation in New York, and he is a founding trustee of the World Faiths Development Dialogue.

John Sedgwick is the author of eleven books, including the family memoir In My Blood, and has been a regular contributor to the Atlantic, Newsweek, and GQ.

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“A nuanced and thorough portrait of the phenomenon of generosity in action, by visionary practitioners not only of the art of doing good, but of the art of transforming society. If the world is to be repaired and redeemed, it will be through the work of Bronfman and Solomon, the visionaries they write about in this book, and the visionaries they will yet inspire.”
—Frederick M. Lawrence, president, Brandeis University

“In The Art of Doing Good, Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon vividly describe the feelings of overwhelming challenge, unbridled passion, and consuming purpose that every social entrepreneur experiences when establishing a new organization. Providing inspiration and thoughtful advice, this book is for both aspiring social entrepreneurs and accomplished practitioners, helping them navigate the myriad trials and opportunities they will encounter as agents of change.”
—Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, author, New York Times bestseller Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World

“Charles Bronfman's goodness is displayed through his inspiration, talent, and passion for philanthropy, and The Art of Doing Good is a masterpiece for all to enjoy—not just nonprofits alone. It is about how each and every one of us can leave our own mark in society through our own positive creations.”
—Robert K. Kraft, chairman and CEO, New England Patriots and The Kraft Group

“Charles Bronfman and Jeff Solomon's new book crackles with compelling portraits of social change. Aspiring leaders will return to these stories again and again to find both inspiration and practical advice for their own journeys.”
—Susan Wolf Ditkoff, partner and cohead, philanthropy practice, The Bridgespan Group

“Charles Bronfman has been involved in the charitable world for his entire life. His knowledge combined with his passion creates effective giving. Philanthropists will find his insights not only interesting, but helpful, as they move forward on their own path of giving.”
—Bernie Marcus, chairman, The Marcus Foundation, and cofounder, The Home Depot

“Charles Bronfman and Jeff Solomon have followed upon their first collaboration with another thoughtful articulation of the tried-and true rules of successful social entrepreneurship. At once accessible and engaging, The Art of Doing Good is a font of well-reasoned counsel for aspiring nonprofiteers.”
—Adam Meyerson, president, Philanthropy Roundtable

“I knew from the beginning that I was going to enjoy and gain great information from The Art of Doing Good, and I looked forward to the content as I read from page to page. In this book I found affirmation and confirmation of what it takes to bring good ideas to full potential and to realize full value and sustainability that benefits, respects, and improves the quality of life for whoever will be affected. This book is a treasure trove for all of us who are eager to give back in meaningful and sustainable ways. Both the ideas and the people who have created them add to the joy of ‘doing good’ and are enriching my life. Thank you, Charles and Jeff!”
—Roselyne Chroman Swig, community activist

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September 11, 2012
The Art of Doing Good: Where Passion Meets Action

Launching a nonprofit venture is one of the most powerful and fulfilling ways we can make a difference.

So, how can you build a nonprofit that will transform your personal passion for social change, from that first a-ha moment when inspiration strikes into an impactful, well funded and managed organization?  How can you keep your vision alive from your first proudest moments of founding to the gut-wrenching milestone of passing on the reins of leadership at the right time?

In The Art of Doing Good: Where Passion Meets Action (September 24, 2012; Jossey Bass), world-renowned philanthropist, Charles Bronfman and nonprofit expert, Jeffrey Solomon, share real-world insights and provide a roadmap for aspiring social entrepreneurs.  They draw on their own leadership roles in the nonprofit world, as well as interviews with 18 of today’s most remarkable social innovators.

Many are now famous like Michael Brown of City Year, Darrell Hammond of KaBOOM!, and Geoffrey Canada of Harlem’s Children’s Zone. Others in the book are less-well known, like Rebecca Onie, who was just a college sophomore when she launched a volunteer-driven project in Boston to keep children healthy by providing neglected services that spread to five other cities, and Jordan Kassalow, who built a "LensCrafters for the poor" by sourcing eyeglasses from China and distributing them in developing countries at reasonable prices to those who were blind simply because they could not afford eyeglasses through a network of "vision entrepreneurs" he employed from local communities. 

While the lifecycle of any social venture begins with an arresting idea, it does not end there. The authors emphasize that the most important element of nonprofit management is emotional commitment so you, in turn, can engage and excite your staff, board members and other stakeholders. They also show how to get creative about finding alternative revenue streams to fund your idea beyond fundraising, especially during times of economic hardship (for instance, by charging a nominal fee for the services you provide, finding a corporate partner whose products or services are aligned with your mission, or competing for an innovation prize). Among the most consistent lessons from the 18 innovators interviewed is how necessary it is to keep an open mind so you can actively learn from your failures and partner with likeminded organizations who might be doing things better than you.

A nonprofit won’t run itself without your own heart, soul and hard work. The authors emphasize how crucial a founder is to the success of her social venture “a nonprofit depends on its founder for inspiration, energy, determination, and character. A leader’s external resources are useful, no question, but her internal resources are an essential part of what it takes to get a nonprofit organization off the ground.”

Filled with insightful examples and stories, The Art of Doing Good shows any aspiring social entrepreneur how to learn from such successes and undertake her own social change journey.

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