Philanthropic Beach Reading: Vacation Reads for Better Giving

In a few weeks, my family makes its annual pilgrimage to the beautiful shores of North Carolina. Perhaps you too will soon be heading to the beach, or maybe a mountain-top retreat, to enjoy some down time?

My most enjoyable part of packing is selecting which books to bring along. I try to find a mix historical or professional works as well as lighter reading (don’t laugh, but I’m really looking forward to jumping into my next presidential biography – I’m up to Martin Van Buren).

In that vein, if you want to use the space and salty air of a beach trip to mull over your philanthropy, we’d like to offer some reading material to jump start your thinking. I’ve thrown in the Amazon links for convenience, though most of these are available wherever you prefer to buy books.

As a bonus, if you love both liberty and fiction, I’ve included several libertarian romances (really!) for your deck chair reading.


Give SmartGive Smart

By Thomas Tierney and Joel Fleishman

I found this book extremely helpful – so much so that each new DonorsTrust Novus Society account will receive a copy as part of the welcome packet.  Tierney, a long-time business leader and philanthropist, and Fleishman, former head of the large Atlantic Trust and now a scholar on giving, offer a well-reasoned, methodical approach to how donors can become more strategic in their giving. It’s easy to ready and filled with useful nuggets (as you’ll see if you read this recent post on how to get started with your charitable giving).


Going 2.0Giving 2.0

By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

I think of this as a bit of a philanthropic biography. Arrillaga-Andreessen describes her journey to becoming more strategic and focused in her giving, as well as sharing antidotes of many other givers that illustrate the modern approach philanthropists are taking with their gifts. Though a little more dense than Give Smart, Giving 2.0 does end each chapter with a slew of questions to get your mind racing.


A Gift for FreedomA Gift of Freedom

By John J. Miller

John M. Olin was a great American entrepreneur, both in industry and philanthropy. He devoted his fortune to supporting – some say saving – free enterprise. We give this book to all new DonorsTrust clients because Olin’s foundation was smartly designed to “sunset” at a point in the future to avoid mission drift (you can read more about sunsetting in this post from someone who helped another conservative foundation go through that process). This enabled the Olin Foundation to punch above its weight in the philanthropic arena. Olin’s story is fascinating and his philanthropic journey is an interesting one. I can also vouch that it is fine beach reading – I had it with me at the ocean just before I started at DonorsTrust several years ago.


Who Really CaresWho Really Cares

By Arthur Brooks

If you want to go beyond the nuts and bolts of how to give, Arthur Brooks’ groundbreaking work explores why we give. It also examines who gives and the exceptional benefits – to society but also to ourselves – that come from America’s charitable culture. Though it is now a decade old, the story remains applicable to today. One of my significant takeaways from recently rereading this book: being selfless and altruistic doesn’t mean willfully ignoring one’s own self-interest. Put another way, doing good is good for you!


Forces for GoodForces for Good

By Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant

I’ll admit that I have not personally read this one, though it’s long been on my to-read list and has been recommended to me by several knowledgeable folks. Forces for Good looks at the other side of the giving equation, exploring what makes a good non-profit organization. Whether you are a board member of an organization or just want a benchmark to stand up against groups you support, this book will offer some ideas on what other successful non-profits do to make positive change in society.




Libertarian Romance

For many, fiction is the way to go when taking a break from the daily grind –especially a love story or gritty drama. If you want your liberty-minded principles reflected in your fiction, try these two books.


The Invisible HeartThe Invisible Heart

By Russell Roberts

You might know Russ Roberts from his EconTalk podcast (a great way to pass the time on that drive to the beach!). His Invisible Heart tells the tale of two high school teachers of very different viewpoints with a backdrop of school politics and corporate scandals. It’s a fun story, and main character Sam Gordon’s rational explanations of free markets will help you argue with your left-leaning friends.


We The LivingWe The Living

By Ayn Rand

Trying to pack Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead into your suitcase could crowd out some other essentials (like clothes). Instead, try We The Living for your dose of objectivism in a slimmer form. Written before Fountainhead, you can watch as Rand plays with the core tenants of her philosophical system in an engaging story set in the depths of communist Russia. As with all of her works, parts can be a bit intense. Still, it is a highly readable story of love, love, and the unending quest for liberty.


  • Peter Lipsett

    Peter Lipsett is vice president at DonorsTrust. He also leads DonorsTrust’s Novus Society, a network of donors under 40 committed to growing their philanthropic know-how. He has a dual degree in political science and theater from Davidson College and finally got a practical credential with an MBA from George Mason University.

    View all posts

Start Protecting Your Intent Today.

Are you interested in giving to nonprofits that align with your conservative or libertarian values? If so, consider opening a simple, secure, tax-advantaged giving account with DonorsTrust.