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Act or Ask.

This week, we’re re-publishing some lessons from Tom’s For Impact Campaign Manifesto: Take a Quantum Leap

Lesson: ACT or ASK.

Make this a big part of your TEAM CULTURE. A BIG, BIG part of the culture.

Everyone on the team needs to know how to either ACT or ASK!

If you know what to do, DO IT.
If you think you know what to do, DO IT.
If you aren’t clear, ASK for clarity… and then DO IT.


Speed Doesn’t Kill

This week, we’re re-publishing some lessons from Tom’s For Impact Campaign Manifesto: Take a Quantum Leap and asking our Coaches to apply to real world scenarios.


As Mario Andretti said, “If you feel like you’re still in control, you’re not going FAST enough.”



Why would an investor make a decision NOW to make a really big IMPACT on your organization, when there is no sense of urgency on the organization’s part?

I know. You’re thinking that you actually need to ‘slow down,’ ‘do better planning,’ ‘get all your ducks in a row,’ etc., etc. You’re wrong.

From our For Impact Coach, Robb Pike:

One of the biggest shifts I have seen in our clients comes when they OWN a SENSE OF URGENCY. Some examples of SPEED from the field:

“Not long ago I would wait months for a prospect to respond to me. When I realized the longer I waited the less people would get help I started following up quickly and regularly. Emails, phone call, and even a text or two. Sometimes I would ask ‘Am I being too persistent?’ What I found was almost everyone would actually thank me for my persistence and commitment. A couple actually gave more because they felt our organization was more committed to our work than others just because I never stopped.”

“We work in 90 day sprints now. We move fast and focused. Two years ago we would barely make our numbers (if we did) by the end of the fiscal year. Now we are in a 90 day sprint to close NEXT fiscal year and we are still in this fiscal year.”

“I love the ‘Just Visit’ strategy. We used to spend months with research, inviting people to events, and sharing marketing materials in hopes they would want to know more. Now, if we want to talk to them we move quickly to ‘Just Visit.’ Our work is too important to wait for the perfect moment.”

If you don’t own an SENSE OF URGENCY around your IMPACT, then who will? If you know the impact of your work, you know that saving/changing/impacting lives can’t wait. If you don’t have a sense of urgency no one will.


Let Go of Your Baggage.

We’re re-publishing some lessons from Tom’s For Impact Campaign Manifesto: Take a Quantum Leap this week and next.

One that comes up often in coaching and working with clients is getting over the ‘We’ve always done it this way’ attitude and instead asking questions like, “Is this (event, appeal letter, feasibility study, etc) producing the right results? Or any results for that matter?”

Tom says simply: LET GO OF YOUR BAGGAGE.

You can’t make a QUANTUM LEAP dragging ‘BAGGAGE,’ ‘SACRED COWS,’ and an ‘ALWAYS DONE IT THIS WAY’ attitude.

“IL SOLE NO MUOVE.” Da Vinci and Copernicus both got blasted (by the church) for espousing this heresy: ”THE SUN DOESN’T MOVE.”

“The world is flat.”
“The 4 minute mile can’t be broken.”
“Peers must ask peers (for money).”
“Feasibility studies are mandatory.”
“We need this event to raise awareness/friends.”

Let go of your ‘BAGGAGE.’ All of it.

Read more about Sacred Cows and Change here.

[Note: we do take a hard line on many things we consider to be OLD THINKING. The good news is that if we take something away, we’ll always give you a NEW way to think about it.]


Giving Is Good

A quick follow up to yesterday’s post on defining SUCCESS. A friend shared this quote from Pablo Picasso:

The meaning of life is to find your gift.
The purpose of life is to give it away.

There are many a way to interpret this quote, but I’ll just say it’s GOOD TO GIVE! From an old Ode/Optimist Magazine article, “Giving improves health, spreads wealth, strengthens social bonds and, best of all, it’s CONTAGIOUS!”

The GIVING triple win:

For Yourself. ‘The more you give the more you get’ is not just a cliché. It works.

For Your Organization. The better you understand your purpose (saving, changing, impacting lives) the easier it is to go out and SHARE THE STORY and PRESENT OPPORTUNITIES for people to give to your impact.

For Philanthropy and Fundraising. Helping people enjoy the benefits of GIVING sure is a worthy calling!


SUCCESS. If You Can’t Define It, How Will You Know When You Make It?

SUCCESS. Everybody wants it. Few people can define it.

If you can’t define it, how will you know when you make it?

I’ve asked these questions of thousands of people over the years:

“How many of you want to be a success?” All hands go up.

“What does it mean for you to be a success?” Blank stares.*

(*It’s like, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” “Yeah! I do! I do!” “WHY?” “Huh?”)

SUCCESS. If you can’t define* it, if you can’t measure it, how will you know when you achieve it?

*When I say ‘define’ I mean in writing, clear, concise, compelling.

The dictionary definition of success is the “attainment of wealth, position, honors or the like.BULL HONKY!

This implies that most believe SUCCESS has something to do with finance, money and material goods, like houses or cars. The older you get, the more you know that it’s actually the complete opposite. In fact, in all of my readings, most of the philosophers and thinkers never tie SUCCESS to money. It’s always about value, significance, fulfillment and impact.

For example:

“Try not to be a SUCCESS, but rather to be of VALUE.” Albert Einstein

“Many people have come to a point in their life when they want to move from SUCCESS to SIGNIFICANCE.” Peter Drucker

“Our focus should be on FULFILLMENT, not SUCCESS.” Victor Frankl

And, of course, there’s Maslov and his ubiquitous pyramid who says our highest needs is SELF-ACTUALIZATION, after we’ve done the whole ‘food, shelter thing’.

Mark Cuban, billionaire, blogger and owner of the Dallas Mavericks says, “SUCCESS isn’t about how much money I have in the bank. It’s how big a smile I have on my face when I wake up.”

Mark Cuban, billionaire, blogger and owner of the Dallas Mavericks says, “SUCCESS isn’t about how much money I have in the bank. It’s how big a smile I have on my face when I wake up.”

One of my favorite definitions of SUCCESS is also around WAKING UP. It comes straight from the iconic legend of my youth, Bob Dylan.


In six words, DO WHAT I WANT TO DO.

Sometimes, just waking up every morning is good way to define success. ☺ My own six-word personal message/EIA (Eulogy In Advance) would be: “He Lived. Loved. Laughed. Learned. Left Legacy.”

While I won’t attempt to help you define your PERSONAL SUCCESS, I can share some thoughts on SUCCESS from some really smart people.

In 1936, Napoleon Hill wrote Think & Grow Rich, which has become one of the all time classics in the personal development field. He also wrote The Laws of Success. Mine is 3” thick with a bright red cover. Hill’s copyright is 1937. My first reading (inscribed inside the cover) was 40 years after that on the 25th of May 1977.

Here’s Napoleon Hill’s definition of success:

SUCCESS is the attainment of your DEFINITE CHIEF AIM
without violating the rights of other people.

Obviously, in order to achieve Hill’s SUCCESS, you’d need to know exactly what your DCA is!

Earl Nightingale, the actual father/founder of the personal development industry, wrote the all time classic motivational and inspirational book entitled The Strangest Secret. Recorded in 1956 for a small group of salespeople, The Strangest Secret went on to become one of the all time best selling records. It is also captured in 19 small pages – THE STRANGEST SECRET is really not that strange and it’s not a secret: YOU BECOME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT. That’s the whole message.

Earl lays it out like this:

SUCCESS is the progressive realization of a WORTHY IDEAL.

Again, it would be hard to meet Earl’s definition if you weren’t sure what your ‘WORTHY IDEAL’ was!

Based on these two brilliant thinkers’ idea of SUCCESS means that you need to be able to define your DEFINITE CHIEF AIM or WORTHY IDEAL.

One of my absolute favorite coaches (based on philosophy attitude, demeanor) is John Wooden. He was named the Best Coach of All Time. Coach Wooden says, “SUCCESS is about peace of mind… knowing that you did the ABSOLUTE BEST you could do WITH WHAT YOU HAD.”

Harvey Cook wrote a great book, Scientific Success, in which he supported Coach Wooden – “My definition of SUCCESS is being the best you’re capable of being, based on who you are.”

And then there’s Ralph Waldo Emerson:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of
children, to earn the respect of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he offers these five steps for SUCCESS*:

  • Find MEANING and INSPIRATION in your work.
  • Work HARD.
  • Discover the relationship between EFFORT and REWARD.
  • Seek out COMPLEX WORK to avoid boredom and repetition. (MIHALY’S FLOW)
  • Be AUTONOMOUS and CONTROL YOUR OWN DESTINY as much as possible.

*He notes that talent and IQ don’t matter as much as we think they do (vis-à-vis SUCCESS). Awesome. That means I’ve still got a chance.

Tony Robbins’ Ultimate Success Formula:

  • Clearly decide what you are absolutely committing to.
  • Take massive action (not just action).
  • Notice what’s working or not and then change course or change approach until you get what you want.

We have put together a PDF poster with quotes on SUCCESS.

Use one of these definitions or create your own!


Unbeatable Deal Our Last Boot Camp of the Year

Are you or your organization an FI Boot Camp Alum? Contact me ( for an unbeatable deal on our upcoming Boot Camp. You can use this for yourself, to send new staff / board members or to refer a friend.

Our last camp of the year will be held October 20-21 at Eagle Creek – our beautiful 50-acre retreat center.

The For Impact Boot Camp is focused on frameworks and skill building – You will leave with the knowledge you need to simplify your message and funding rationale, and take your organization to the next level.

This high-energy, day-and-a-half session covers topics like:

  • How to execute against a sales process (for major gifts, campaign gifts, transformational gifts, etc.)
  • How to build and maximize relationships
  • How to build and lead an effective team
  • How to ask, close, and follow-up

The Boot Camp is perfect for organizational alums, new hires, or anyone looking to hone individual skills – both personal and professional!

Discounts are also available for teams with 4 or more participants.

For More Information, FAQs and Registration:
For Impact Funding Boot Camp
Tuesday, October 20 – Wednesday, October 21 2015
Ostrander, OH

Start Before You’re Ready

We wrapped up a fantastic Boot Camp last week with over 70 For Impact leaders from around the country. We end our sessions by asking participants to commit to one ACTION they will take towards producing results – and to take that action within 10 days. One Rock Star sent this update to Coach Mike the day after Camp (it’s long, but worth it to make the point):

On the way home I utilized the training. A board member’s boss was on the same flight – I’ve known him for a while so I went to say hello.

We got to chatting and during the conversation I asked him why he decided to serve on another organization’s board instead of ours. I listened and it turns out it is not because he doesn’t like us! He offered up a lot of information, particularly that there are three avenues for potential gifts from him (his company, individually and from a foundation he serves for.)

He said to call to set up a meeting. I know it will take several tries, which doesn’t bother me, because if I’m anything I’m persistent! I just left him a voice message stating I’d like to meet next week to continue the conversation we had on the plane.

Oh, and just got off the phone with one my top donors – the one who said he wanted to give $50K and I told him the Impact of two fast ultrasound machines and he agreed to $60K. We meet in two weeks.

As Mike says – Double Boom.

With this in mind I want to share a blog Tom wrote a few years ago about Doing the Work:

I was re-reading for the umpteenth time Do The Work by one of my favorite authors Steven Pressfield. There is a huge amount of both wisdom and motivation in this DTW nugget:



Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account.

The enemy is resistance.

The enemy is our chattering brain, which if we give it so much as a nanosecond will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.

That quote is one of the reasons that Steven Pressfield is one of the most impactful writers/thinkers in the world. He puts a name on the nugget. He captures in very few words the essence of the problem; then, gives a simple solution: START BEFORE YOU’RE READY.





Pressfield quotes W. H. Murray, (quoting Goethe), with one of my favorite inspirational quotes:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.


The ‘No Eeyore’ Rule

There is no room on your sales team for an Eeyore. (Full stop.)

I’m not sure there’s room on ANY team for an Eeyore — but this rule is especially important for sales teams.

Sales is about an attitude. It requires a persevering belief in yourself, your team, and (most especially) your cause.

  • Eeyores will not have sales success. Eeyores decide prospects aren’t interested, or that timing is not yet right. (To an Eeyore, timing will never be right.)
  • Eeyores zap energy from others. This is a big deal. An Eeyore sucks energy from A-players, optimists, and rockstars. (Even if this is only the energy it requires to ignore the Eeyore.)
  • Eeyores are not fun.

Dealing with an Eeyore is simple. You can’t coach an Eeyore, and a performance review is not going to help. You can’t say, “We need you to not be Eeyore.”

There’s no seat on the sales bus for Eeyore.


Wealthy Prospects vs. Qualified Prospects

The wealthiest names on your list are not necessarily the most qualified prospects. A truly qualified prospect for your organization has both wealth (financial capacity) AND a relationship with your cause. Here’s the really important point: They musthave BOTH (to some degree).

Too many organizations are trying to figure out how to bend and twist a case for a prospect
with the highest capacity (and very little connection to cause).

Example: Imagine you are an organization impacting cancer.

  • Prospect #1: A really visible billionaire located in your city. This billionaire gives primarily to his or her alma mater and the arts.
  • Prospect #2: More modest capacity (could make a six or seven-figure commitment). Located in a different city and has had two siblings directly impacted by a type of cancer your organization works on.

Prospect #2 is wayyyyy more qualified than Prospect #1.


  • Quality dictates priority and focus. Focus on your most QUALIFIED prospects
  • A truly qualified prospect will also help you find five more great prospects

When a House Is On Fire, You Don’t Need Metrics

Impact is the goal. It doesn’t have to be complex.

SOMETIMES it’s okay to lead around ACTION over outcomes and metrics. There are times when we simply need to command and communicate ACTION. “This one’s not about metrics. A house is on fire, a family is trapped inside, let’s move!”

If your assessment of the situation is correct and clear, then your team and (funding) partners will follow you. They will say, “I get it. We’re with you. Let’s move.”


Don’t Make a Funder Work Hard to Understand What You Do

I was on a coaching call yesterday with a fantastic Development Director. We’re about a month out from a very productive message building session with senior team, program staff and a few board members. During the session, the big a-ha was “We’ve always thought that what we do is too complicated to explain to people but it doesn’t have to be!” Today, the DD finds herself back in a place where the team (with the best of intention) is still tweaking words on the Engagement Tool.

There a many reminders for the team here:

Don’t make a funder WORK HARD to understand what you do and why you do it. (read more here.) Ask questions and listen. What they say is more important than what you say.

Start with Why. Don’t skip this even if you think they know – especially with existing funders. “Why has this impact been meaningful to you?” or “Why have you been funding us for the last 5 years?”

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. The person you are with won’t always understand every detail about every program you do and that is okay. Use the Rule of 3 for communication and clarity.

Engage and then plan. You will learn more from a prospect about what words are working than you will trying to get consensus within the team. Get out of the office and test the message. It will result in real conversation and real dollars.


Turn ‘Dog Days’ Into Great Thinking and Planning Time

An earlier version of this post was originally published August 13, 2009.

I’m struck by how August is viewed as such a down month, dog days of summer, no productivity, nobody around, nothing happening.

The fact is, it’s a TERRIFIC time to THINK… REFLECT… PLAN.

After Labor Day, the kids are back in school, there’s more focus on business and work, etc.

WHAT IF… you use these next few weeks to commit (to yourself) that you’re going to make some ‘BIG STUFF’ happen in September, October and November?

WHAT IF… you took some time during these next few weeks to:

  • THINK BIG! Set some really Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Commit to stay at 30,000′. Take Quantum Leaps. Cast a Vision.

    Special Note: One great way to get in the right frame of mind for this activity is to read some powerful ‘THINK BIG’ books. Here’s a couple of quick examples:

    • Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl. It’s said to be one of the ten best books ever written. If you’re looking for a great life philosophy read that applies to just about everything, Frankl’s book about Nazi war camps, attitude, purpose, etc. is a must read.
    • Think & Grow Rich. Supposedly, more people have pointed to this book as their turning point in their lives (me included) than any other book besides the Bible. DCA (Definite Chief Aim). Mastermind Group. Purpose. So much more.

      *If you really want to go deep here. Grab Napoleon Hill’s Law of Success. Mine is 3” thick with a bright red cover. Hill’s copyright is 1937. My first reading (inscribed inside the cover) was 40 years after that on the 25th of May, 1977.

    • The Magic of Thinking Big. David Schwartz classic. Just reinforces the whole concept that it’s actually so much easier to do BIG STUFF than it is a bunch of small, mediocre stuff. MAGIC is just a great reminder of this concept.

  • “FIRST WITH THE HEAD. THEN WITH THE HEART.” This is my favorite line from one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. It’s kind of the paradox to Andy Grove’s “Engage, Then Plan.”

    I actually think August is a terrific time to PLAN (First with the Head)… so that you can ENGAGE/EXECUTE/ACT (Then with the Heart). This morning I just finished putting together a 90-Day Action Plan for September, October and November. I know WHAT I need to get done (at the highest level). I know WHY I need to do it and how it fits into life goals, business goals, etc. And I know HOW I can get it done.

    Now all I’ve get to do is actually DO it.*

    *I created a separate Journal this morning just for this Action Plan. WRITE IT DOWN. IT WILL HAPPEN.


  • HAVE FUN! The word ‘RECREATE’ can be broken into RE-CREATE. One way to RE-CREATE is to RECREATE! You’re much more creative when you take time off to get away from the fires, the mundane, the cacophony of mindless babbling at work. If you go to the beach or the mountains or even a local coffee shop… it’s a great opportunity to THINK. To PLAN. To CREATE.

    We need to have more FUN! Practice NEOTONY. The dictionary says this is ‘juvenilism’ but I think of the word more about ACTING LIKE A CHILD. Be curious. Have fun. Ask questions. If you want a special book on this, check out Serious Play by Michael Schrage.