First Book Reviews | Glassdoor

First Book Reviews

Updated May 1, 2017
19 reviews

Filter

Filter

Full-time Part-time

2.8
Star Star Star Star Star
Rating Trends Rating Trends
Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
(no image)
Kyle Zimmer
10 Ratings

19 Employee Reviews

Sort: Popular Rating Date

  1. Helpful (1)

    "Coordinator"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Coordinator in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Coordinator in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook

    I have been working at First Book full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    mission-driven, passionate employees - everyone is committed to getting books to kids, and growing the organization's capacity to meet the needs of all children

    Cons

    confusion and dissonance over organization's strategic priorities - information is not communicated effectively from the top down
    organization silos and cross-departmental friction

    Advice to Management

    listen to your people and eagerly consider their feedback - First Book has so many smart, driven people who are invested in its mission.


  2. Helpful (10)

    "A lot of wasted potential"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at First Book full-time

    Pros

    Wonderful mission, incredible people who are truly passionate about kids, literacy, poverty alleviation and making a difference. Most managers are flexible and allow for decent work-life balance. Organization is constantly innovating and growing quickly, creating lots of opportunity to try new things, brainstorm, and contribute to the cause.

    Cons

    There is virtually no investment in the staff. Middle managers and some VPs are great mentors, but senior leadership all but ignores staff that's below VP level. Staff feedback is never asked for, and openly discouraged in many ways. No culture whatsoever, and morale problems (of which there are many) are outright ignored or feebly acknowledged in inefficient and awkward ways. Expectations are poorly set - ie, many staff find their travel schedules quite heavy but are never told they would have to travel in interviews. Staff is highly producing but any requests for additional resources go ignored, which burns people out and contributes to poor morale. HR is nonexistent - two people for a staff of 80+ and they don't know the answers to most basic HR questions. Organization's financials are a mystery. Unfortunately, the list of cons just goes on and on, despite the amazing organization and huge potential.

    Advice to Management

    You have an incredible amount of talent working for you - truly passionate people who would walk through fire for what you have built. Stop ignoring them. Ask for and listen to their feedback - you'd be surprised what you will learn. Stop treating culture and morale like dirty words - they matter, and you have huge problems with both. Be more transparent, more open, show some vulnerability, connect with your team or openly acknowledge and own that you would rather not so that people aren't constantly discouraged and feeling disconnected.


  3. Helpful (4)

    "Great cause, great people, but upper management lacks the drive and ability to recognize and therefore retain talent."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Entry Level in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Entry Level in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at First Book full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    - Mission driven: The entire organization breathes the mott, 'Books to Kids.' First Book tends to hire overqualified, passionate indidivuals who are a joy to work with.
    - Fast paced work environment
    - Opportunities abound to innovate in your job and make processes more efficient.

    Cons

    - Lack/ very difficult and political process for job growth
    - Organizational disconnect with past and future. First Book has grown very quickly in the past 2 years, and there is a cultural disconnect in which a medium to large non-profit still attempts to be a small, tight-knit family.
    - Disorganized IT upgrades that stall organizational progress.

    Advice to Management

    Be nostalgic for the past, but embrace the talent in your middle ranks to get you to the future. Promote accountability for ideas, and refine your vision.


  4. Is this helpful? The community relies on everyone sharing – Add Anonymous Review


  5. Helpful (4)

    "I worked at First Book for four years, as both a manager and a director ..."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Communications in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Communications in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at First Book full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The staff at First Book is amazing; so many brilliant, creative people all in one place.

    There's a lot of opportunity to expand your skills and work on a wide range of cross-functional projects (though the organization doesn't have the resources or structure to help with that, in the sense of either mentoring or professional development). While working at FIrst Book in the communications department, I think I improved my skills in pretty much every possible area - copywriting, editing, graphic design, web design, email marketing, media outreach, celebrity outreach, relationship management, advertising, you name it. That's not for everyone, but I gained a lot from the experience.

    Pay and benefits are decent for a nonprofit. Time-off and work hours were enormously flexible for me, though that varies by department. First Book is also incredibly family-friendly; a great place to work if you have young kids. I experienced a family emergency that lasted for several months and the staff and management were extraordinarily supportive, letting me take significant time off and work remotely as much as needed.

    Cons

    Work-life balance could be better; there is definitely a culture of answering emails at night and on weekends.

    My greatest criticism is First Book would be the lack of empowerment of leaders at mid- to senior levels. You couldn't ask for a stronger group of department heads and director-level leaders, but the executive leadership does not always give them the autonomy to make decisions, take risks and lead. This is not as significant an issue for more junior staff, but for anyone leading a team or big project it can be frustrating and limiting.

    Like many nonprofits, First Book tries to get a lot done with minimal resources. In the realm of marketing and communications, this can be frustrating, as there is a limit to how well-executed work can be without access to designers, producers and other creative professionals.

    Advice to Management

    Keep the admirable culture of experimentation and entrepreneurship in place, but marry it with more trust and autonomy for managers. You hire great people, so invest in them and let them make their own calls.


  6. Helpful (8)

    "Great mission - poorly run organization"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Manager in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Manager in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I have been working at First Book full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Excellent mission- exciting social enterprise model and great benefits. A great place to work if you want to leave right at 5pm and don't care about much else. It's rare that anyone is in early or late which is rare in mission driven work.

    Cons

    Poorly managed organization. Employees lack autonomy and most staff are micromanaged- even the VP's lack autonomy in some cases. Leadership lacks a cohesive vision for the future and there is no strategic plan. Very little information transfer from the top down through the ranks. There are significant issues with process and infrastructure related to the basic functions of the organization that need to be addressed. High staff turn over and very little opportunity for professional growth. Unnecessary and unproductive competition between departments. I would not in good conscience recommend working for First Book- unless it was to someone who was only interested in a pay check and not focused on impact or growth.

    Advice to Management

    Trust, empower and respect your employees. Don't worry so much about the parties- they are not enough to keep people. Fix your infrastructure problems. Pay attention to turn over. It's hurting you.


  7. Helpful (5)

    "I worked as a coordinator at First Book."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Coordinator in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Coordinator in Washington, DC
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at First Book full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    First Book has pretty good pay and benefits for a DC non-profit. Don't let the Washington Post article fool you, though - the average salary is highly skewed by the fact that there are many, many people in this organization who have big titles.
    The job, at least at coordinator level, is lower-stress than my friends in different organizations with similar roles. With such a big company, upper management encourages you to take your vacation and encourages a work-life balance. During hotter months, First Book promotes a summer hours policy that lets you take time off (but, ultimately you work more hours, so it's actually kind of a shady move).
    Ultimately, there are a bunch of people at First Book who truly believe in the mission and it makes the job worth it. The company is a great place to be if you're not sure what you want to do with your career short term, and also a good place to be if you really care about children's literacy.

    Cons

    The leadership at the organization isn't amazing - you can successfully build a company, but that doesn't mean that you're a good leader. An executive leader infamously said that "at First Book there isn't a hierarchy," which is easy to say if you're at the top looking down.
    While there are definitely some good managers at First Book, coordinators are often taken advantage of, both by the fault of leadership in other departments and leadership within. There is definitely a feeling among lower-rung employees of us versus them.
    There are occasionally lay-offs which makes a job at First Book feel insecure.
    Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of room to grow at First Book. There is a high turnover rate.

    Advice to Management

    Listen to your employees. Either slow the growth of the organization down or hire more people - the teams can't keep up with your lofty goals.


  8. Helpful (5)

    "Great Mission, Poorly Run Organization"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook

    I worked at First Book full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    The mission is great. The words "books to kids" are heard everyday. Amazing stories and thanks from the people First Book reaches. That's what kept me there for several years and keeps most people there.

    Cons

    Executive team of three are all extremely weak managers. They have great vision for the organization but internally nothing ever changes - I heard the same ideas for 5 years - the same ideas that never quite happened. The employees who most inspired me and who tried to make changes did not stay that long - they get frustrated and leave.

    Advice to Management

    Stop traveling to India. Stop talking about the same ideas that never happen. Spend time managing the organization - encourage real conversation internally. I could never say what I am saying here at the office. Give staff opportunities for growth.


  9. Helpful (5)

    "Unpleasant"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend

    Pros

    Working for good cause makes a difference.

    Cons

    There are a lot of politics and unfair treatment of employees.

    Advice to Management

    Listen and respect your employees.


  10. Helpful (4)

    "Great stepping stone, not a great place to grow."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Doesn't Recommend

    Pros

    Exposure to creative campaigns and innovative ideas.

    Cons

    Poor management.
    Plays favorites.
    Very flat organization.

    Advice to Management

    Hire competent middle managers.


  11. Helpful (5)

    "National, growing to international, social enterprise organization"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Director in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Director in Washington, DC

    Pros

    Exceptional mission and dedication to providing books to children from low-income families around the country. Flexible work environment, passionate leadership dedicated to providing resources to the hardest to reach children.

    Cons

    Fairly flat hierarchical structure, although that does provide some flexibility in work environment. Fast paced environment, often long hours to complete the tasks at hand.

    Advice to Management

    Continue to provide growth opportunities for upcoming and young professionals. Providing insight from senior leadership to lower level staff members is encouraging.


Showing 19 of 19 reviews
Reset Filters