Truly effective giving takes time, patience and just a bit of back ground reading. Here are eight books, big and small, to provide inspiration and enlightenment

1 The Most Good You Can Do—How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically

By Peter Singer. £14.99 (Hardcover).
Best-suited for: Students, academics and those searching for more meaningful ways to live

This slim volume puts one’s morning chai latte into new perspective. How much more difference can we make with a few pounds? Singer challenges complacent ideas about earning, spending and giving, illustrating that we can all give more and save lives—no excuses about needing to be a Bill Gates. In reducing charitable spend to “units of less suffering”, it forces us to demand more of charities and our assets.

 

2 It Ain’t What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It: Making Charitable Donations That Get Results

By Caroline Fiennes. £16.01 (a reference to the year of The Charitable Uses Act)
Best-suited for: Donors wanting practical advice and hard facts on how to give effectively

Whether billionaire or volunteer, this donor handbook is a brilliant crammer for anyone new to the world of charitable giving. Fiennes’ physics background has led her to an approach to giving that takes nothing for granted, demanding hard evidence and proof. It has been dubbed the “Freakonomics of charitable giving” and Fiennes’ data-devoted view certainly gives a new perspective on how best to give effectively.

3 Money Well Spent—A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy

By Paul Brest and Hal Harvey. £13.99 (Hardcover).
Best-suited for: Practitioners and advisors involved in achieving grand-scale social change

The authors of Money Well Spent are both highly experienced practitioners, having worked with the US Hewlett Foundation (assets $9bn) and others for many years. Their intimate understanding of grand-scale philanthropy and its complex stakeholder relationships is evident from the real-life examples that pepper every page, bringing theory to life. While offering hard-headed strategies for achieving and measuring best performance, this is, at heart, a very human book revealing the many paradoxes and truisms of philanthropy.

4 One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference

By Katie Smith Milway. Illustrated by Eugene Fernandes. £6.99.
Best-suited for: Socially minded parents and gift-buyers

This busily illustrated picture book opens the world of micro-finance in a colourful, engaging and gentle way for children and adults to share. It tells the story of Kojo who, with one small loan, turns “One Hen” into a poultry farm employing hundreds of people and enriching his Ghanaian community. Far from fairy tale, the story is based on the life of Kwabena Darko who went on to found the Sinapi Aba (Mustard Seed) Trust that has provided loans to more than 50,000 Ghanaians.

5 Leverage for Good: An Introduction to the New Frontiers of Philanthropy and Social Investment

By Lester M. Salamon. £12.99 (Hardcover)
Best-suited for: Investors, social entrepreneurs, advisors, grantmakers and policy makers wanting to understand the new funding ecosystem

If you manage significant charitable funds (or, indeed, are looking to raise them) and have not heard of a “Yin-Yang deal”, then this is the book for you. The philanthropists’ financial toolbox has expanded exponentially in the last few years as boundaries blur between investment and philanthropy. This book offers a road map to a brave new and uncharted world populated by new actors and new definitions of social objectives.

6 Change the World for a Fiver: We Are What We Do

By Anon. £5
Best-suited for: Socially conscious gift buyers and “everyday” philanthropists

As novelty books go—those ones you buy as gifts when you can’t think of anything else—Change the World for a Fiver is actually money well-spent. Punchy in design and crisp in thought, each double-page spread offers one of 50 super-simple and compelling ways to change the world, delivered with resonating humour, personality and often delightful touches.

7 Let IT Go

By Dame Stephanie Shirley. £8.99.
Best-suited for: Autobiography fans looking for inspiration

Dame Stephanie Shirley is one of the UK’s leading and most vocal philanthropists (a TED talker and Twitter trend-maker) as well as one of its most successful IT entrepreneurs. In this disarmingly honest and breezily written account, Dame Stephanie’s heart, humour and humanity shine through naturally without a hint of a boast.


8 Andrew Carnegie

By David Nasaw. Out of print in UK but Kindle Edition available at £11.52 and iBook at £13.99
Best-suited for: Diehard biography fans

In this epic biography, 19th-century whizz-kid turned wunderkind Andrew Carnegie is revealed as a precocious, profound and pioneering entrepreneur of searing intellect and mostly sunny disposition. From Dunfermline to America and back and forth again, Carnegie’s meteoric rise from lowly bobbin boy to the richest man in the world and one of its greatest philanthropists is charted almost step by step.