“Please don’t stop doing this,” Tony Myers said to me at a book launch in Toronto over ten years ago, as he hugged me almost tearfully in gratitude for publishing (me)volution, which he had co-authored with Jon Duschinsky. Hilborn’s Civil Sector Press launched three books that evening at a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception attended by dozens of our fundraising friends, and we sold four books. Yes, four. The wine and snacks were great though.
In spite of this less-than-stellar early effort, on September 7, The Hilborn Group assumed publishing responsibility for more than two-dozen top-selling books originally published by Emerson and Church in Medfield, Massachusetts. You’ll recognize these authors:
Kay Sprinkel Grace,
Martin Teitel and others
This combination of the Civil Sector Press and Emerson and Church backlists now places The Hilborn Group as the leading international book publisher servicing the global nonprofit sector. Widely available throughout the English-speaking world, some titles are also available in Italian, with French editions following shortly. New editions and new authors are underway.
Ten years ago in Canada, mainline book publishers were pulling up stakes. Publishing for the Canadian market was seen as targeting a tiny, easily-overlooked niche of the international book publishing scene, and we had chosen to focus our efforts on an even smaller, impoverished and resource-challenged niche within that tiny market — the nonprofit sector.
The publishing of our first title, The Complete Handbook for Planning, Implementing and Sustaining A Successful FUNDRAISING GOLF TOURNAMENT, by Frank MacGrath, was a lucky/unlucky first choice because its decent level of sales dazzled us with visions of a mega-publishing enterprise.
No-one else was publishing books for this market, so how could we lose?
Ignoring the rest of the North American market made growth challenging… and now the combination of Emerson and Church with Civil Sector Press has finally addressed that concern.
Like Jerry Cianciolo and Kathleen Brennan, the founders of Emerson and Church, I found myself serving this sector with information service offerings largely because I was convinced — and remain so — that it was/is “a good thing to do.” Surely, sales, profits and success would flow steadily to such a worthwhile activity!
Well … not necessarily, and certainly not in Canada, but like so many nonprofits, we made our hard-scrabble way, with a current backlist of over 40 great books written by a spectrum of Canada’s top fund development experts.
Jerry and Kathleen entered publishing to produce books that everyone could understand, filled with ideas that could be put into practice once the reader turned the last page. That meant no jargon, no acronyms, no overwrought theory, just every day, intelligent language. “Our goal,” says Jerry, “was always to communicate the essence of the topic at hand, to chip away everything that was unnecessary as Michelangelo said in his famous quote, ‘The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. I just have to chisel away the superfluous materials.’ This is the very sentiment we encouraged with our writers: ‘Get to the Point!’ And in all of our books we achieved this.”
Another of Emerson and Church’s goals was the production of books that busy board members would actually read; short but substantive works that could be read in about an hour. But, of course, Jerry and Kathleen’s crowning achievement was to identify the top practitioners in the field to write the books. “These authors,” Jerry points out, “were as committed as we were — sharing their talents, and sometimes spending a year or two to produce books that have become classics.”
Their first book was Fundraising Realities Every Board Member Must Face, by David Lansdowne. Asking, by Jerold Panas, followed, which subsequently went on to become the bestselling fundraising book in history. And then The Ultimate Board Member's Book, by Kay Sprinkel Grace which has become the go-to board orientation book for thousands of organizations across America.
Jerry and Kathleen’s almost four decades of unrelenting effort enriched the international nonprofit sector beyond any other information provider. Our commitment at Civil Sector Press is to preserve and build steadily on their massive contribution.
Jim Hilborn is the owner of the The Hilborn Group, publisher of Hilborn Charity eNEWS.