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25 Wishes

At The Suddes Group we do these three things:

  1. Help organizations tell a clear and compelling story.
  2. Build talent and teams.
  3. Generate funding results (through strategic coaching and training).

Every aspect of our work comes from an aspirational point-of-view: BE FOR IMPACT. Over the years we’ve learned that you don't impact organizations — you impact the people in the organizations. Story… talent.. funding… it all begins with YOU and what it means for YOU to BE FOR IMPACT.

Today’s WOW is for YOU (and me). It continues Tom’s 'Life as a Journey' theme.


Click to open a PDF for download/printing in a new window


Life is a Splendid Torch


“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as I live it is my privilege – my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I love. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got a hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” -George Bernard Shaw

This quote has triple meaning for us. First, it was one of Tom’s favorites and perfectly depicts how he felt about legacy. Second, we use this as part of The Abbey Theatre presentation. And last, for any leader reading this – live and work with a splendid torch!


Discover your personal legend. Become an Alchemist.

Tom and I traded hundreds of books in our years of working together. The Alchemist was the first book he shared with me some sixteen years ago. I'm estimating he gave away nearly 1,000 copies of this international bestseller — to clients, boxers, and friends.

The Alchemist is an allegory for Tom's 'Life is a journey' message.

Life is a journey… to be lived, explored and appreciated. The story is about a shepherd that discovers his personal legend. His discovery, journey, and lessons speak to each reader in some way.

Through his journey, the shepherd is called to be more and give more – without fear of failure.

Paulo Coelho writes that when you can do this, “You can achieve anything in creation.” You become an alchemist and can do anything in accordance with your purpose.

Tom had the ability to achieve so many things – and to unlock this gift of achievement in others. He was an alchemist and he had the gift of unlocking the personal legends of others.

The 'wow' is really the book itself. I hope you will enjoy this short read. Life is a journey. Discover your personal legend. Unlock your full gifts for others. Learn to be an alchemist.

“Alchemists show us that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

You can purchase the book. It would also be my privilege to mail you a copy as a way to continue Tom's legacy of helping others discover their personal legend. Submit a personal request here.


A Tribute to Tom Suddes (1949-2016)

Tom Suddes passed away peacefully on Monday, September 26, 2016.

On behalf of our team and his family, I want to thank so many of you who have shared support and prayers as Tom battled ALS these past two years. He read and enjoyed every card, napkin, and letter that he received.

This is a time for tribute and celebration. Tom modeled so many things to those of us who knew him as a coach, leader, and friend. He was a man who defined living, loving, and giving.

We all hope to leave a legacy. Tom leaves a list of legacies.

  • Through his family: Tom was a husband, father, grandfather, brother. To hundreds more he was ‘OG’ (short for ‘Old Guy’) — a fun-loving, adventure-filled, grandfather-figure, who treated everyone like family.
  • Through his fundraising: Tom raised over $1Billion to save, change, and impact lives. In his field he was a visionary maverick, master-trainer, and one-of-a-kind motivator.
  • Through The Suddes Group: Tom’s vision continues, providing training, counsel, and support to nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs throughout the world.
  • Through the thousands of Notre Dame boxers he coached: This fraternity has raised thousands for the Holy Cross Mission in Bangladesh. They carry forth his passion and pursuit for life and ‘just one more push-up.’
  • Through the dozens of Suddes Group alums: He helped me and so many others find and fulfill our purpose. Tom instilled values: family-first, life design, and give more than you get.

Tom gave away everything – his time, his money, his love – but perhaps the greatest gift Tom gave was his spirit. This was the common gift among the thousands Tom impacted. And so his spirit lives in each of us that knew him. This is the most remarkable legacy of all.


Leaders Can’t Wait for a Clear Picture to Make Decisions.

I started reading Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve seen enough to recommend this one. It’s dripping with great nuggets, and author Robert Sutton has worked really hard to include powerful stories from the field, including this great story from Andy Grove:

Andy Grove was tremendously successful as Intel’s CEO. Growth and earnings went through the roof during his tenure. He was selected Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1997. Grove is one of the most blunt executives I’ve ever met. In 2002, I was at a conference in Silicon Valley where Andy was interviewed by Harvard’s Clay Christensen. Clay asked Andy how leaders could act and feel confident despite their doubts. Andy began by talking about the Sopranos TV show and how intrigued he was by fictional mob boss Tony Soprano’s struggles. The messes that Tony dealt with week after week included turf wars, unexpected hits on Tony’s people, bad decisions, emotionally unstable subordinates, and Uncle Junior, who kept undermining his authority and trust. Andy commented that although Soprano’s product was different from Intel’s, “anybody in this room could very easily relate” to his daily struggles to maintain control.

After the laughter died down, Andy said, “Investment decisions or personnel decisions and prioritization don’t wait for that picture to be clarified. You have to make them when you have to make them. So you take your shots and clean up the bad ones later.”


(Updated) My Social Entrepreneur Identity Crisis… And, Philanthropy is Sustainable

I’ve just returned from a trip to Ireland. I had a number of great meetings with social entrepreneurs and conversations about ‘social entrepreneurship’.

In Ireland and certainly here in the states, I think Social Entrepreneurship still represents TWO frames. The first is having to do with earned income. (I’m reposting thoughts from 2008 below)

The second frame is more broad. It represents the entrepreneurial attitude for change or impact.  It’s this second definition that I like and it’s also this second frame that is starting to define the social sector. Go to a nonprofit conference and notice the average age. Then go to a similar conference organized for ‘social entrepreneurs’ and again, note the average age.

We’re obviously fans of the social entrepreneurship because the very term invites challenging thinking and norms. That being said, I don’t think one room (or conference) is superior to another in terms of commitment or values. It’s worth noting that the conversation-at-large is generationally shifting. If it weren’t for the IRS I could argue that in 30 years we might not have a ‘non profit sector’; it might become the ‘social (entrepreneurship) sector’.


Original Post, December 11, 2008: My Social Entrepreneur Identity Crisis… And, Philanthropy is Sustainable


Commitment to Contribution

I was re-reading some passages from Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive. He has a chapter on CONTRIBUTION – I hope some of these nuggets speak to you like they continue to speak to me:

  • “The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility.”

    (Note: Peter Drucker lived from 1909-2005.  His writing and thoughts on management were visionary and clear and his observations from the 1970’s still represent some of the best thinking on ‘management’ I can find. I’ve left quotations as they were originally printed but wanted to recognize that his writing is very ‘male dominant’.)
  • “Commitment to contribution is commitment to responsible effectiveness. Without it, a man shortchanges himself, deprives his organization, and cheats the people he works with.”
  • “The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management.” He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.”
  • “To ask, “What can I contribute?” is to look for the unused potential in the job. And what is considered excellent performance in a good many positions is often but a pale shadow of the job’s full potential of contribution.”
  • And another great guiding question, “What can I and no one else do which, if done really well, would make a real difference to this company?”





Future Cities Accelerator

At For Impact | The Suddes Group we are committed to developing social entrepreneurs and emerging social leaders. For most of our work in this area, we partner with The Unreasonable Institute where we have been ‘Unreasonable Mentors’ to social entrepreneurs from all over the world for the past six years.

Unreasonable teamed up with the Rockefeller Foundation and together they’re launching The Future Cities Accelerator. This project exists to solve the challenges faced by poor or vulnerable populations living in U.S. cities.

We’re proud to play a big part in this project where 10 early stage ventures will be selected to take part in the the 5-day accelerator and receive $100K in grant funding. After the accelerator, The Suddes Group will provide 9 months of fundraising mentorship and assistance to make sure you have the resources to solve these challenges.

Learn more and apply!



The Real Estate Questions You Need To Answer – At Altitude

In designing, managing and leading hundreds of ‘building campaigns’, these are questions we ask – at altitude:

30,000’ WHY?

  • Are we in the Re-Construction Biz or the Impact Biz?
  • What is the Purpose(s) of the ‘Space(s)’?
  • How does it relate to our Vision?
  • Have we dealt with the ‘Footprint’ & ‘Bubbles’ before Wall Coverings & FFE?
  • Do our Financial Goals match our Constituent’s Capacity?
  • Is this about ‘Ownership’ or ‘Control’?
  • How do we Share this Story (of Impact) vs. ‘Sell Recognition/Naming Rights?’
  • Have we explored Partnerships?  Multi-Use Facilities?  24/7?

14,000’ WHAT?

  • Have we engaged all stakeholder groups to validate that we have the best solutions/plan?
  • Are there other cheaper and/or more creative real estate solutions to achieve our goal? If so, can we address why we’re not pursuing?
  • Have we looked at all Creative Financing Opportunities?
    • Debt/Mortgage?
    • Bonds?
    • Lease?
  • Are we telling the architects and planners what we want and need, what we can afford, how it fits… or are they telling us?
    • Cost per sq. ft. needs to fit our situation
    • Entire Project/Cost must enable our Case for Support

3’ HOW?

  • Can this be divided into phases? (Both Building & Funding)
  • Can we take 3 to 5 Year Commitments? Do we need Bridge Financing or a Construction Loan?
  • Have we made Everything A Project? (within the Big Initiative)
  • Are there Projects (In-Kind Opportunities) to Maximize Gifts?

In sharing this, I also want to encourage leaders and readers to engage with us EARLY in the formative stages of a building project or strategy. By asking the right questions up front you can save time and money – but it’s not just about that – It’s about identifying the right solution and needs to help you with your impact!


The Leadership Circle: Occam’s Ask

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming For Impact Guidebook about Leadership Circles.

Every organization should have some form of Leadership Circle. In its simplest form, this is ONE baseline-major-gift level of support, positioned as the cornerstone of your annual fund.   The Leadership Circle is not just another giving level – It’s a funding program and a strategic pillar of your funding model that qualifies prospects, simplifies stewardship, provides flexible funding and annuity!

You’ve heard of Occam’s Razor; this is ‘Occam’s Ask’. It’s set at ONE level between $1K and $10K – messaged around your mission and vision in a way that represents your simplest and strongest sell.

HOW TO MESSAGE: (Examples)

  • STORY: “We would like to invite you to be part of the Leadership Circle – a group of 100 families, individuals and/or businesses that are extremely committed to the mission of the YWCA. Membership requires a minimum $10,000 investment in the fund, renewable annually. Each year, these funds will be used to make the biggest impact in the areas of after school programming, innovation and scholarships. But, ultimately, The Leadership Circle is about investing in our vision to transform our community.”

  • COLLECTIVE IMPACT: “This Leadership Circle level is significant because the collective power of its members – providing the core funding support that allows the YWCA to be an efficient organization, responding to the most important needs of women and families in our community. Additionally, this Leadership Circle has the impact of $2M in endowment for each 10 members.”

In working with over 1,000 organizations, I can’t think of a time when an organization didn’t benefit from a Leadership Circle. As a tool, its versatility rivals duct tape.


  • As a QUALIFIER. The Leadership Circle can be a GREAT ASK on a first visit. The story around the Leadership Circle should be tied to your simplest and strongest sell and if someone commits the $10K then you KNOW they are serious about your impact.
  • As a component of your overall FUNDING MODEL and CASE.  It’s helpful for top funders to see that you’re building a base. This should offset the perception (and reality) that you’re going back to the well with the same funders again and again. It’s really helpful to be able to show (in your plan) that at the same time you are asking for LEADERSHIP SUPPORT, you are also building giving-based-relationships through the Leadership Circle.
  • As a MOMENTUM BUILDER.  If you’re working on leadership support for a major project the Leadership Circle can be a powerful momentum builder. It’s one thing to go to your board and announce you THINK you will have some leaders on board. It’s another to back that up with the cash flow and commitments from 20 new memberships in your Leadership Circle.
  • As an ANNUITY and ENDOWMENT EQUIVALENT.  The membership base of support becomes an annuity. For example, 20 families at $10K is $200K per year which is the equivalent of having $4M in endowment!
  • As a FOCUSED way to TEST and BUILD TALENT. Having a Leadership Circle offers a safety valve for new salespeople. “When you don’t know what else to do, ask for a membership.” This is a clarifying directive. Asking for a membership does not eliminate the potential for a larger gift – if anything it qualifies the relationship (offering objective insight to the sales manager.)

    If a new major gifts officer fails to close a $1M gift it could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s a prospecting issue. Maybe it’s the story. However, anyone should be able to close Leadership Circle membership.

    Having developed dozens and dozens of new major gifts officers, I cannot emphasize the importance of this idea. It’s the simplest way to build confidence and funding momentum.
  • As an engagement strategy that PAYS. ‘Nuff said.
  • As a STEWARDSHIP CIRCLE. Get rid of all events and focus that energy on just providing stewardship and thanks to your Leadership Circle investors!  Here is an idea, make it someone’s job to simply get every member of the Leadership Circle to your organization to SEE the impact (return-on-investment) in a given year.  Good things will happen.
  • As ‘BUDGET RELIEF.’ Everyone wants ‘unrestricted funding’. A better message would be around budget relief. I would encourage you to try and create a funding model in which the Leadership Circle monies are unbudgeted. You can then report back to membership the IMPACT of their COLLECTIVE investment.
  • As a way to get into a PLANNED GIFT. Participation in the Leadership Circle for a few years offers a rationale to get ask for a planned gift to PROTECT the annual gift.  “You’ve been giving $10K every year as a member of the Leadership Circle. Could we ask you to PROTECT that with a gift from your estate?”  A $200K planned gift would ‘protect’ the $10K.

    Bonus: This can also be part of a TRIPLE ASK.

The For Impact Workshop: New Locations Added

We’re hitting the road this fall!

Come see us at our For Impact Workshop: Fundraising on a Napkin in the following cities:

October 11, 2016 | Los Angeles, CA (Register using the code ficommunity for $100 off)
October 26, 2016 | Portsmouth, NH (Register using the code ficommunity for $100 off)
December 15, 2016 | Omaha, NE (Register using the code ficommunity for $100 off)


Fundraising on a Napkin summarizes 30 years of fundraising achievement into simple, bold and actionable ideas that any organization can use – Non Profit, For Profit, Social Entrepreneur or NGO.

Whether you’re looking for strategic clarity, ‘sustainable funding,’ a jumpstart in major giving or just no-fluff advice that works – Fundraising on a Napkin delivers on all fronts.  Over 3.5 hours, we will share stories ‘from the field’ and the successful and innovative ideas that have transformed thousands of organizations and raised over $2B, including:

  • How to get strategic clarity
  • How to simplify your message and communicate the vision
  • How to find and engage with great leaders, prospects and champions
  • How to build a high performing leadership team
  • How to build an effective culture around funding the vision
  • How to ask

This high energy, motivating session will give you a road map you can follow to re-design (or design) your organization for impact and income success.


  1. Example-based coaching throughout the day
  2. Lots of interaction so you don’t get bored – this is not one of ‘those’ workshops
  3. Proven frameworks and, to the extent that we’re able with time, one-on-one strategy to help you apply the frameworks
  4. No power point (see no. 2) but lots of visuals
  5. Simplicity.  Complexity is not actionable, so we give you the tools that will have the greatest R.O.I. to your organization in the near term (next 100 days) and longer term (next 1000 days.)
  6. Value that goes beyond funding! We’re all entrepreneurs, so while we always want to create value in the form of funding results, there is a huge personal development theme to everything we do.


This workshop is for Executive Directors, Board Leaders and Development Professionals – Any and all responsible for shaping and implementing funding strategy.


Download Audio: How To Make Your Story Awesome

Nick recorded a fantastic audio on a favorite topic: How To Make Your Story Awesome.

We are sharing the audio here for your listening pleasure – and we have only one small request! If you listen and find value, please take 2 minutes and send us your biggest takeaway.

As gratitude, we’ll send you a PDF of the Engagement Toolkit.

Audio Description:

How To Make Your Story Awesome.

The story you use to maximize funding…
The story that brings rockstar talent to your doorstep and fully engages your team…
The story that you tell yourself every day to stay focused and fulfilled.

Story adds passion, purpose and urgency to your message, plan and everyday actions.
  • Is your story about needing more money? Or changing lives?
  • Do you have a good story that helps get to the ask?
  • Do you have a story that engages the board as passionate champions and advocates?
This 45 minute audio will:
  • Share examples of stories used at organizations to address these questions.
  • How to overcome common challenges to funding, action and engagement.
  • Give you several actionable tools use can use to DISCOVER your story and make it AWESOME.

Download audio call notes