Author Archives: Nick Fellers

Transformational Gifts Are Not Always the Largest Gifts

Transformational gifts are not always the largest gifts. Sometimes a commitment made at the right time – early in a project, or perhaps when a campaign is stalled – can be transformational.

When funding for a project is unclear, or when funders are not coming through with commitments, confidence can decline. On a team this often manifests itself in the form of more meetings, lack of team cohesion, and increased turnover. We cannot overstate the importance of confidence – for individuals, for your advancement team, for your complete enterprise.  

The nonprofit sector is the largest sector of our economy. We would love to be able to calculate the lost productivity, or lost output, due to uncertainty, fear, or simply a lack of clarity that arises from (or, in many cases, produces) a lack of funding. 

We’ve witnessed how a gift commitment at the right time can provide more than just momentum – it can transform a team and an enterprise. It can validate the vision and trigger a state of flow in an organization. In the funding function, this translates into increased confidence in the story, more presentations, more asks, and more revenue.

There are times when we can share the internal uncertainty with a funder – to talk about the impact the commitment could have on the psychology of the team.  Any funder that’s ever had to lead will understand the importance of validation, clarity, and the morale boost that follows.

In a way we’re saying, “Your impact is not only going to be on the kids, or homes, or projects.  It’s going to have a very, very real impact on our team. They have been putting in long hours, fighting for this plan.”

It takes a particular command and control to share this kind of message with a funder. It’s not about showing weakness. It’s… a real opportunity to transform. This is the kind of thing we mean when we talk about being ‘a real partner’ with the funder and standing ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’.  

So, transformational gifts can be about something other than huge gifts that give scale; they can be about well-timed funding commitments that give confidence. Confidence and team-cohesion is TRANSFORMATIONAL.

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It’s Easier to Get into Something Than It Is to Get out of Something

It’s easier to get into something than it is to get out of something.

This isn’t something most people think about, but upon hearing, say, “Yeah, isn’t that the truth!?” This is a human insight with implications for anything we start – like a new partnership, position, or program.  

In the natural world, it has a parallel with Newton’s first law of motion: An object in motion tends to stay in motion.

And, while the insight would seem to be a caution about jumping into things quickly, I think of it more as a law of human behavior. For instance, with a new program commitment we might want to think about the exit strategy – in case it’s needed. For a new funding relationship it means we should (often) be less concerned with getting a maximized gift commitment and maybe just focus on getting a new prospect ‘in’ and committed to our work (at any level).

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Future Cities Accelerator at the Unreasonable Institute

We are deeply committed to the formation of talent, leadership and ‘sales skills’ in the social sector. One of the ways we think about giving back and impacting the sector comes in the form of our partnership with The Unreasonable Institute.

We’re really proud of the team at the UI. They now provide accelerator and support programs to Social Entrepreneurs in over 30 countries!!! Since the institute’s inception, we’ve provided pro-bono mentorship and coaching to these entrepreneurs.

We think of Unreasonable Institute as a platform that finds, attracts and supports the most promising Social Entrepreneurs on the planet – they are GREAT at this.

For our part, we benefit from proximity and relationship with entrepreneurs all over the world – working on some of the most complex problems ranging from clean water, to climate change, to housing, to health (access). In terms of impact, we view this as a huge leverage point. We get to be with these entrepreneurs as they BEGIN their journey (toward scale).    

 

The Future Cities Accelerator:

Kerry and I are preparing to leading a two-day Boot Camp around Storytelling and Sales at the Future Cities Accelerator. This is a new Unreasonable Institute concept developed in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation to find, support, and scale ten game-changing ventures supporting poor and vulnerable populations in the US.

As we prepare to spend time with these entrepreneurs, here are some key refrains we will share:

  • We become what we think about.

    In addition to the global power of this insight, we caution social entrepreneurs from getting too caught up in messaging ‘earned-income revenue’ or ‘biz model’. These are HUGELY important, but entrepreneurs can get distracted as they make their way through awards circles, fellowships, and conferences. They seem to be sucked into a world that debates the how at expense of story about the why and the what.


    Eyes on the prize. And the prize is the impact.
  • There are no rules.  

    (Assuming ethical and legal baseline, but beyond that, there are no rules.)  Everything we share in terms of our frameworks are simply constructs that we’ve made up (and tested A LOT). Don’t ever think there is some magic fundraising (or entrepreneurship) secret that you don’t know. There isn’t.
  • We are taught to present, not to engage.  

    Simply ask yourself before every pitch, or sale,  
    “What would ENGAGEMENT look like in this situation?”

    Use more visuals. Be simple. Ask questions. (Despite the fact that every entrepreneur is going to have you make a pitch deck – outside of silicon valley, boulder and wall street – nobody uses a pitch deck.)
  • Think Big. Build Simple. Act Now.

    We don’t believe that ‘Changing the World’ has to be cliché. ‘Changing the World’ is the epitome of THINK BIG! And it’s only cliché if you can’t follow-up with how you’re going to do it – SIMPLY and IMMEDIATELY.

Entrepreneurs will complete the boot camp next week after which our team will provide coaching and support for nine months. I hope to be able to share some great stories about innovation and promise for impacting our most vulnerable populations.

 

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Set Your Intent at the Start of the Visit

Set your intent at the start of a visit. In conjunction with strong predisposition, an INTENT will help you TRANSITION throughout the conversation and DRIVE toward an ask.  

Stating intent could be as simple as outlining the FLOW for the visit, “Thanks for taking time to visit with us today. As George shared, we’re hoping to connect with people that really have a similar passion for helping youth. What we would like to do is take a few minutes to get to know you [the OPEN]. We would like to share a little bit about what we’re doing [the STORY]. And, then, if it’s okay, we would love to talk about ways to help [the ASK / Presenting the Opportunity].

When they’re not able to navigate the ‘flow-of-the-visit,’ Development Officers have a hard time transitioning to the ask. It’s as though they are waiting to be invited to have a discussion about how the prospect can help.

In a broader and universal sense, any discussion is more productive when framed by a clear intent. As a reminder, here is the framework we use to illustrate the ‘The Flow of the Visit.’

 

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The Development Professional Triple Legacy

Most of us hope to leave a legacy – for our families, communities, those we serve, our world… And many of you reading this have an even more unique opportunity to leave a mark.

As a development professional (in many cases, this includes executive/volunteer leadership), you have the chance to be a part of three legacies:

  1. The Legacy of the Funder. It’s your job to help funders and leaders move from success to significance. That cannot happen without you.

  2. Your Personal Legacy (or Brand). Think of this as the positive energy, attitude and optimism you bring to your team every day.

  3. The Mentorship Legacy.  Every great leader and every great sales professional became great because of hard work AND because of great models. Be intentional about this legacy. Your impact will not be contained to your organization – it will multiply (for better or worse) as the next generation assumes leadership to be for impact.
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Purpose Clarity

This month’s print edition of HBR makes mention of a new study supporting ‘the purpose-profit’ connection (p32).  The study looks at the relationship between strong purpose and public company financial performance. I believe the insights apply to all organizations – That is, any organization with a strong purpose will see increased performance.

The study finds there is a strong link between PURPOSE and PERFORMANCE (or, in my adjusted language, IMPACT). Researchers make a distinction in two types of high purpose organizations. The first is what it calls ‘high camaraderie’ where everyone simply has a sense that they are doing something great, TOGETHER. The second type of purpose is ‘high clarity’ from management. This is noted as the type where managers excel at translating purpose into action.

The statistically significant performance bump was only found with organizations that have ‘purpose clarity.’

As a leader, think not just about PURPOSE, but ‘PURPOSE CLARITY.’  To help you with this, I would bridge some of the findings of the research with some of the For Impact teaching. Think about PURPOSE as an anchor for your STORY. And, by story, I don’t mean a narrative with a beginning-middle-end. I mean how you FRAME the organization.

A GREAT STORY…

  • Is anchored in hope-filled purpose (Start with WHY!)
  • Simplifies WHAT you do.
  • Serves as a litmus for action.

Some of the writing in the research study further supports thinking about placing PURPOSE inside of STORY.  “The company’s primary purpose – the real one, which isn’t necessarily the one written in the official documents or etched in the wall plaques – [that] guides its actions and decisions.”

———————–
Gartenberg, Claudine Madras and Prat, Andrea and Serafeim, George, Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance (June 30, 2016). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 16-69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840005

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The Funding Roadmap: Align Your Story, Team and Sales Process

The For Impact Funding Roadmap has been built, tested, and refined in working with thousands of organizations to raise over $2Billion. Though each organization is unique, we believe the Roadmap has universal application – Whether you’re a startup, a college running a large campaign, or an international NGO – every funding initiative needs a STORY, a TEAM, and a FUNDING PROCESS.
[Download the PDF.]

Here are some quick thoughts on the Roadmap. [We’re also leading a teleseminar this Tuesday with more explanation, examples and help to APPLY the Funding Road Map to your funding. Register here.]

Design your STORY

The funding roadmap begins with STORY.  A great story is anchored in hope-filled purpose, simplifies what you do, and serves as a litmus for action.

  1. Simplify your MESSAGE. Message is what people HEAR, not what you SAY. What do we want people to HEAR? Ultimately, this should be a message about CHANGING, SAVING, or IMPACTING lives.
  2. Create your FUNDING RATIONALE. A Funding Rationale is why you need the money, and what you will do with money. Another way of thinking about this is around defining the ask. (Most organizations don’t have a good ‘ask’.)
  3. Design your PRESENTATION. The ‘ASK’ is an experience. We actually stop to think about the complete experience, from predisposition, to the environment, to the materials.

Really important point about STORY. This is not just a ‘funding thing’ – It guides your IMPACT and provides MEANING for your TEAM.  Organizations so often enter a cycle of strategic planning – I wish there was a norm to enter into a cycle of STORY planning!

Develop your TEAM

Jim Collins says, “First WHO, then WHAT.”  With our Funding Roadmap we might say, “First WHY, then WHO, then WHAT!”  

  1. Commit to SALES.  Every organization needs to STOP and make a commitment to sales. What does this mean for your team? For your organization? For your strategy/resources?  
  2. Engage LEADERSHIP.  Leadership needs to be bought into the STORY and likely even the source of the STORY. Leadership also needs to be bought into the model.  
  3. Model TEAM SELLING.  This is about defining roles and responsibilities for staff, board and champions.  

    Important note: In a true sales model, your board is not responsible for fundraising! In a true sales model there is a role for board members that is very different from saying they are responsible for fundraising.

FUND your VISION

  1. Identify/ Prioritize/ Strategize your PROSPECTS.  Prospects. Drive. Everything.
    There is a lot to say on prospects (that’s why we have a whole guidebook) but here are some key points:

    • Focus on your top prospects
    • Focus ‘top-down’
    • Present the Opportunity (And don’t make decisions for your prospects!)
    • When building a strategy ask this question, “What would it look like to maximize this relationship?”
    • Maximize relationships at this given moment
  2. Just VISIT. In the words of the prolific sales trainer, Brian Tracy, “Spend more time with better prospects.” We’ve been teaching this for years. There is so much value in the old maxim, “JUST SHOW UP.”
    The visit is the entire context for the ASK. It has three parts:

    • Predisposition
    • The Presentation
    • Follow-up
  3. Just ASK. This is kind of an alpha/omega to everything we teach.

Finally, it’s worth tying this all together as it relates to the For Impact Point of View:

Impact Drives Income.  

Impact is about your STORY.  

You need a PROCESS to make the INCOME happen.  

And, PEOPLE drive everything!

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STORY is About More Than a Mission Statement, Strategy and Goals

Your organization’s story is about MORE than a mission statement, strategy, and clear goals – it’s about the CONTEXT that creates meaning.

In all my reading I’ve not been able to find (or compile) anything as strong and complete as what is expressed by Ben Horowitz, the cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm with investments in Facebook, Twitter and Airbnb. I’m sharing a full excerpt from his book The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Bold emphasis is mine. Translate all of this to our ‘Impact world’.

The CEO must set the context within which every employee operates. The context gives meaning to the specific work that people do, aligns interests, enables decision making, and provides motivation. Well-structured goals and objectives contribute to the context, but they do not provide the whole story. More to the point, they are not the story. The story of the company goes beyond quarterly or annual goals and gets to the hard-core question of why. Why should I join this company? Why should I be excited to work here? Why should I buy its product? Why should I invest in the company? Why is the world better off as a result of this company’s existence? When a company clearly articulates its story, the context for everyone— employees, partners, customers, investors, and the press— becomes clear. When a company fails to tell its story, you hear phrases like

  • These reporters don’t get it.
  • Who is responsible for the strategy in this company?
  • We have great technology, but need marketing help.

The CEO doesn’t have to be the creator of the vision. Nor does she have to be the creator of the story. But she must be the keeper of the vision and the story. As such, the CEO ensures that the company story is clear and compelling.

The story is not the mission statement; the story does not have to be succinct. It is the story. Companies can take as long as they need to tell it, but they must tell it and it must be compelling. A company without a story is usually a company without a strategy.

Want to see a great company story? Read Jeff Bezos’s three-page letter he wrote to shareholders in 1997. In telling Amazon’s story in this extended form— not as a mission statement, not as a tagline— Jeff got all the people who mattered on the same page as to what Amazon was about.

Horowitz, Ben (2014-03-04). The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers (p. 237). HarperCollins.

I LOVE this framing. And, I can’t post without a coaching point for sales people (fundraisers). We, as fundraisers, must do everything we can to help CREATE, SUPPORT and OWN the story. It’s too easy to say, “Leadership doesn’t get it.” In my estimation 90% of companies and nonprofits don’t really understand the power of STORY as something that SHAPES meaning, strategy and impact.

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There Are Many Paths to Leadership, Not One Right Path

Here is a story about LEADERSHIP (as shared in the Encore Effect).

From Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines.
“My best lesson in leadership came during my early days as a trial lawyer. Wanting to learn from the best, I went to see two of the most renowned litigators in San Antonio try cases. One sat there and never objected to anything, was very gentle with witnesses, and established a rapport with the jury. The other was an aggressive, thundering hell-raiser. And both seemed to win every case. That’s when I realized there are many different paths, not one right path. That’s true of leadership as well. People with different personalities, different approaches, or different values succeed not because one set of values or practices is superior, but because their values and practices are genuine. And when you and your organization are true to yourselves–when you deliver results and a singular experience–customers can spot that from thirty thousand feet.”

Shortly after Apple returned to greatness (mid to late 2000’s) I started to come across CEO’s and executive directors that seemed to be modeling Steve Jobs. In fact, several said that they were. These ‘leaders’ were mercurial and churning through staff. Now, some 5-10 years later, all these Steve-Jobs-models have been fired, or they’ve burned out.

I could make a dozen points but the one I want to emphasize ties to Herb’s story. Choose a path whereby your values and practices are genuine. There are many paths – not one RIGHT path.

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97/3: Pareto’s Rule on Steroids (for Fundraising)

Pareto’s Rule is the 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of the output comes from 20% of the causes. Pareto’s Rule is usually used to reference work (or output). E.g. 80% of the work is done by 20% of the team.

In the fundraising world we see Pareto’s Rule on steroids. 97% of the funds come from 3% of your prospects. This is axiomatic… it doesn’t matter if you’re a large university or a small start-up. The ratio almost always holds.

When I share this with groups I’m always challenged. “What about NPR? What about Salvation Army?”

My answer: JOAN KROC!!!

Joan Kroc left $200M to NPR and $1.5BILLION to The Salvation Army!!!

We’ve studied the ratio for years… sometimes it’s 95/5 or 99/1 but the universal model of philanthropy holds true (for organizations that consistently advance impact!)

Are you focusing your time, your energy, your effort on the 97% that gives 3%? Or, are you focusing your time/energy/effort on the 3% that can generate 97% of the funds needed to help change, save and impact lives.

NB: None of this is to disparage the 97%. This simply requires that we take a hard look at the math and then make decisions about where to focus.

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What Business Are You In?

What business are you in?

Every MBA student hears about the story of the railroad industry. As the need for transportation grew and grew, the railroad industry failed to capture growth. It thought it was in the railroad business and failed to realize it was in the transportation business.

More recently, Blockbuster video hired big box retail executives to help grow its footprint. They thought they were in the big-box retail business and failed to realize they were in the content delivery business. Blockbuster declined to purchase Netflix in 2000 for $50M. Blockbuster – as a store – is long deceased and Netflix now has a $56Billion market cap.

Those are two examples of failure. Here are two examples of enduring success:

  • “We are in the business of democratizing the skies.” – Herb Kelleher. Founder, Southwest Airlines.
  • “We are in the reliability business.” FedEx

Asking, “What business are we in?” is a clarifying question.

Increasingly, we’re asking organizations to answer this in TWO ways.

What business are you in? (What is your promise?)
What business are you in? (What is your model focus?)

One is aspirational — around a customer promise and one is operational.

I think it could be argued that I’m really asking for mission + strategy. And… I am okay with that. In the real world there are many different ways to ask questions to arrive at clarity. The ‘What business are you in’ is a FOCUS question, we’re just coloring it with mission and strategy.

ALL of the examples above illustrate a statement of (customer) PROMISE. I don’t think an organization can really be strategic if it doesn’t focus on its core operation. As the examples illustrate, they can’t endure in IMPACT if they don’t know their promise.

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I Have a Dream: The Speech and Story

Today we reflect on the life and message of Martin Luther King Jr. Here are some nuggets about the I Have a Dream speech. Appropriately, it comes up again and again, in studies of metaphor, engagement and story.

  • Dr. King finished writing his speech at 4am, just hours before his address. It was originally entitled, “Normalcy, Never Again.”
  • King used over FIFTY metaphors in his speech! Contained therein was was an extended and powerful frame of the biblical struggle for freedom and the American struggle for freedom.

    From Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation, and Sell Our Greatest Ideas – John Pollack

  • “I Have a Dream” represents a CHANGE of story to INSPIRE and LEAD! In The Story Factor, Annette Simmons writes that Dr. King’s refrain offers a positive vision that, “inspires generations to change their story from “I have been oppressed” to “I have a dream.”

  • The original and prepared speech did not contain the phrase, “I Have a Dream!” 11 mins into the speech gospel singer Mahalia Jackson — sitting behind Dr. King — shouted “Tell ’em about the ‘dream,’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘dream’!”

    Dr. King recalled that he ‘just decided’ to go with it! In front of millions, he started RIFFING!

    There is no substitute for authenticity. When I listen to Dr. King’s speech I believe I can FEEL his heart kick it up a notch with each riff. (Dr. King’s final speech ended up being DOUBLE the length of his prepared remarks.)

    Story recounted in Originals by Adam Grant, and Shortcut.

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Culture of Health

To ‘Be For Impact’ is to have a very whole-person view… of impact… and of your own role (and vitality) in that impact. ‘Change the world’ is a common refrain in our sector but this begins by taking care of yourself.

Three years ago we asked ourselves, “What would it look like for our company to be completely and totally committed to health?” We launched THE SUMMER OF HEALTH. For 90 days we were ALL-IN in terms of supporting, incentivizing, and funding lifestyles of wellness, nutrition, and fitness.

That was a big success.

More than the impact it had on our team, the Summer of Health was a value (and a story) that catalyzed relationships beyond our team. I began to hear from readers that wanted to talk about HEALTH, first and foremost!

Health. Vitality. PERSONAL Impact. These are values that resonate for us and for others. So I wanted to share a quick update…

After the Summer of Health, we decided to adopt the commitment (and investment) as a permanent part of our culture and business model. We simply call it: CULTURE OF HEALTH.

Here are some selected stories from our team (as shared in our annual survey), almost three years in. The biggest words that come up again and again are PERMISSION and FAMILY.

  • “I’ve found it interesting how my efforts in the gym have spilled over into other aspects of my life. When I cook meals for us at home, I do so with my exercise and health goals in mind. These healthy meal choices affect my family as well as myself, and I think my enthusiasm for my gym routine has helped create a positive feedback loop where we work to support family members’ exercise goals.”

  • “I think one of the main things Culture of Health has given me is PERMISSION. Without having to worry about cost, I can do the kinds of self-care that I was probably hesitant to indulge in. A number of years ago I wrote down some dreams I had, and one of those included getting regular massages – not just once a year, but much more frequently – they are one of the ways I can fully relax and be taken care of. I’ve been getting massages every two months, and it’s such a great way to unplug, and basically do 90 minutes of meditation too (I struggle to do 5 minutes of meditation!). Having the same massage therapist has also meant she knows when things are out of whack with my body, and can give me a more holistic treatment.”

  • The family impact comes up again-and-again. “When I grew up we ate fast food and processed stuff. The Culture of Health has us thinking about nutrition. My kids are growing up with a completely different eating habit. That’s an impact that will last forever.”

  • “After reading It Starts with Food we [husband and I] decided to try the Whole 30. It then inspired my brother-in-law and his family. While the impact has been big on us, it’s been transformation on them. He’s down 60 pounds and going strong. I don’t think you expected to have the ripple impact through the Culture of Health but that’s what I’m seeing.”

When we first introduced the Summer of Health, we saw the loss of weight, energy spikes and the like. Then things started to normalize.

While that might seem bad, I think it’s simply normal and probably more ‘practically sustainable’. I’ve also notice the ‘normalized conversation’ changes. It moves from ‘diet and exercise’ to ‘environment, nutrition, and fitness’… and I hope we can continue to move forward toward ‘vitality’.

In my mind our overall ‘health and vitality’ went like this.

Overall, this continues to be the right move. On average it’s an incremental financial investment of 3% to 4% each year to our bottom line. The financial return is not a straightforward calculus — but it’s there. Moreover, the impact return is transformational (and generational).

We all want to impact the world. Hopefully, this post gives you a little PERMISSION to take care of yourself, first!

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How to Leave a Voicemail

Most people don’t know how to keep control of the next action when leaving a voicemail. This can have a huge / negative impact on your selling, fundraising, or follow-up in general! This is a tactic I picked up early in my sales career. It’s simple and effective.

Most people leave a very standard voicemail. “This is Nick Fellers, I’m calling about XYZ. My phone number is 614-352-2505. Please call me back.”

Do not leave the responsibility for follow-up with the prospect. It’s YOUR responsibility!

Instead, “It’s Nick Fellers, I’m calling to connect about ______. I’m sorry I missed you. You can reach me at 614-352-2505. Or, I’ll try you again later.”

This keeps you in control of the follow-up action.

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Dream in Years. Plan in Months. Evaluate in Weeks. Ship Daily.

This tweet caught my eye. (If you’re reading this via email or rss reader, make sure you load the picture).

From U.S. Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patil.

What a GREAT notecard!

-Dream in Years.
-Plan in months.
-Evaluate in weeks.
-Ship Daily
——-
-Prototype for 1x
-Build for 10x
-Engineer for 100x
——-
-What’s required to cut the timeline in 1/2
-What needs to be done to double the impact

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Have a Triumphant Thought Pattern

Early this am I was re-reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (1898 – 1993). Dr. Peale is one of the original positive psychology authors. He wrote from a theological place of origin and applied teachings in a secular context. In 1984 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the tremendous and positive impact of his message.

Dr. Peale’s First Principle of Positive Thinking is: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

On the subject of believing in yourself he writes, “Feelings of confidence depend on the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind. Think defeat and you are bound to feel defeated. But practice confident thoughts, make it a dominating habit, and you will develop such a strong sense of capacity that regardless of what difficulties arise you will be able to overcome them.”

And, “The secret is to fill your mind with thoughts of faith, confidence, and security.”

I made many highlights and notes on those two paragraphs, then came the nugget that LEAPT off the page (in bold).

“I know a man who is a tremendous asset to his organization, not because of any extraordinary ability, but because he invariably demonstrates a triumphant thought pattern. Perhaps his associates view a proposition pessimistically, so he employs what he calls “the vacuum-cleaner method.” That is, by a series of questions he “sucks the dust” out of his associates’ minds; he draws out their negative attitudes. Then quietly he suggests positive ideas concerning the proposition until a new set of attitudes gives them a new concept of the facts.”

TRIUMPHANT THOUGHT PATTERN!!!

That’s what we should strive to bring as leaders and salespeople!!!

Here is the question I wrote to myself? “What can I do to make a TRIUMPHANT THOUGHT PATTERN my consistent discipline and contribution?”

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Maximizing Relationships Requires a Funding Rationale

The absence of strong Funding Rationales (a.k.a. your reason for needing funds) likely means your organization is not maximizing relationships.

At a major-gifts level* there needs to be some specificity in terms of funding a specific program, outcome, or priority initiative. (See 10 Types of Funding Rationales).

If you don’t have a specific Funding Rationale then one of two things usually happens:

  1. The commitment is not maximized.

    People give to support a mission or a cause, and they invest more to support specific impact (or outcome).  Our experience has been that a portfolio gives 3x more when you’re able to clearly define a strong funding rationale!!!  

    This is the difference between asking,”Will you invest $10K in our vision?”  And, “Will you invest $10K to help with this priority and these outcomes that will help us deliver on the vision?”
  2. Funders (over) restrict the funding.

    When we see this, it’s an indication that the funder is creating a rationale because yours is not clear enough!

    Note: While restricted funding is not bad in and of itself, gifts committed with restrictions crafted by the funder hinder an organization’s efficiency or focus. Said another way, if you don’t define your priorities/rationales then someone will do it for you.

*For most organizations this is $10K+ and could come from an individual, corporation, or foundation.

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Planned Giving – Be Proactive and Keep it Simple

For most organizations, Planned Giving is largely a reactive and complex conversation. It needs to be proactive and simple.  

When using our For Impact TODAY/TOMORROW/FOREVER Funding Model, the beauty of having a complete funding model as part of your presentation is that it you are always able to talk about Legacy/Planned Gifts.

Instead of trying to figure out HOW to get into a conversation about estate planning you can simply say, “We talk to EVERYONE about ways to have an impact here, FOREVER.”  (Visually referencing a complete funding model.)

In terms of simplicity, there are people out there that understand all the modes and vehicles for planned giving… they’re called estate lawyers and accountants!!  

You (as a salesperson) don’t need to know all the mechanics. In our (simple) approach there are only three ways to make a planned gift:

  • Assignment of a life insurance policy
  • Bequest (will)
  • Other

‘Other’ includes all those ‘other’ complicated financial arrangements (including gift annuities) that we can pass off to an expert.

I really don’t believe this is oversimplification. As a salesperson your job is to present the opportunity to have an impact, FOREVER.  97% of the time they have their own accountant, lawyer, or insurance agent that can help them with the mechanics of the gift!

Keep it simple!

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The Rule of 3

The Rule of 3 is the ultimate simplification and framing device. It’s powerful because it simplifies anything AND offers an arrangement that is digestible… even attractive to the human mind.

We are wired to receive things in threes! When you have two of something it creates conflict – it’s an either / or. In a traditional three-act story, the second act creates the tension, and the third act resolves.

When you have more than three, studies show the brain is more inclined to ‘give up’ than to internalize all the points.

Going back age of the Roman ages, Cicero became a famed orator using the cadence of three’s in his speaking. Today, politicians, advertising agencies, and media people use this device — the second you look for it, it’s EVERYWHERE.

Think about the resonance and stickiness of three’s…

  • Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
  • Small. Medium. Large / Tall. Grande. Venti.
  • Faith, Hope, and Love.
  • Goldilocks. Mama Bear, Baby Bear, Papa Bear.
  • Blood, sweat, and tears.
    Note: This one comes from a Churchill speech, “Blood, toil, tears and sweat.” The fact that no one remembers ‘toil’ underscores the point of THREE.

We use the Rule of 3 in a lot of our For Impact framing.

Some applications:

  • Speaking. The next time you give a speech, focus on making just three points (or even better yet, three short stories – supporting three simple points). I’ve coached Fortune 500 CEO’s that have said, “I’ve had a lot of communications coaching. That’s one of the best tips I’ve ever received. It’s simple and works every time!”

  • AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!

  • Simplifying Your Funding Message! Instead of trying to explain ALL of your programs and projects, simply say, “We do these THREE things…” (Notice how we do that in our presentation framework.)

  • Productivity. Try to accomplish ONLY THREE things in one day… and become more productive than you ever imagined.

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Culture and Friction

Culture is how you work.

Friction is a force of resistance.

At The Suddes Group we lead organizations through campaigns that advance impact. Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it is getting and we view campaigns as a process that requires a change in design. Note: Change doesn’t have to be a deficit, it can be enhancement.

In every instance, there are elements of cultural (or team) friction that must be overcome. This is because the campaign process requires that the team changes how it works (and humans are complex).

In the world of physics, overcoming friction (static or kinetic) requires energy. The same is true in terms of overcoming a force of resistance in a team. You can apply more energy OR you can remove the force of resistance.

(Incidentally, overcoming friction also releases energy in the form of heat. The brakes on your car become very hot because they create enough friction to slow, or stop, your car).

I’ve been thinking about all the cultures in which we work and some of the sources of friction. They usually include one or more of the following:

  • Story
  • Role Clarity
  • Communication
  • Clear Action Plan
  • Wrong Team/Team Member

Jim Loehr is my ‘virtual story mentor.’ I think the stuff the guy wrote in The Power of Story is the best there is – He says that the most powerful story in the world is the story we tell ourselves. He also says that anything that consumes our ENERGY can be a story (even if we don’t call it a story)!

Think about how much energy it consumes if we sit in a planning meeting telling ourselves, “No one has ever given us a million dollars. We aren’t designed for million dollar gifts.” Instead of a completely different story, “We’ve never asked for one million dollars, and that’s why we don’t have it!”

I’ll also comment on the wrong team (members). We’ve all been there. You can apply energy to overcome the force of a bad (or wrong) team member. Energy has a cost. But there is another cost, like the heat that emits from the brakes on a car, there is the heat that dissipates to your team.

We can apply energy to work through the resistance. Or, we can remove the resistance – change the story, develop a clear plan, change a team member, etc.

PS: In physics two objects in motion actually have TWO measurements of friction. There is static friction – which represents the force to overcome the static state. There is also kinetic friction required to keep a body in motion. It takes more energy to overcome static friction than it does to overcome friction in motion (kinetic). Same is true in our team culture(s).

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Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

I’m continuing to write about some mindful habits and insights to frame thinking and actions for the New Year.

Today’s post pulls together some thoughts on FOCUS and PRODUCTIVITY.

First, I’m highlighting Tom’s book notes from The Power of Full Engagement (read post). The powerful nugget:

Manage your energy, not your time!

Second, I want to highlight Paul Graham’s essay: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. Graham is the co-founder of Y-Combinator and Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule has been a guide for me since I first found it several years ago. Graham challenges us to think about two different MODES of working: (Bold emphasis is mine.)

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

Read the full essay at http://paulgraham.com.

I partition most days into two parts. The first is the MAKER part of my day: writing, creative thinking, strategy. I will work from my home office… or my corner coffee shop… NOT AT THE OFFICE. Early mornings 5-10am are when I’m most creative (with an interlude to get the kids up, dressed, fed and to school). I then arrive to the office around 10 and schedule calls / meetings AFTER 10:30.* This let’s me FOCUS my creativity when my energy is highest around a MAKER schedule.

*Ideally.

If you are a leader you need time to THINK. Manage your energy, not your time. When do you do your best thinking? PROTECT YOUR MAKER TIME. The science is clear and conclusive – we incur a heavy transaction cost associated with the interruptions that stop/start our ‘deep work’.

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Don’t Make Decisions For Your Prospects

I’m consistently reminded by clients and boot camp alums of the power this one insight has on them.

Don’t make decisions for your prospects.

Most recently, I got a note from the head of advancement for a college who told me this ONE insight TRANSFORMED fundraising for him in 2016.

So, I think this is the perfect insight to reflect on as we start the new year.

  • Don’t assume the prospect has a ‘giving level’ just because they gave at X the past three years. Maybe they haven’t been asked.

  • Get comfortable with the Clueless Close. This is a great example of a way to ask – authentically – in which you’re not making a decision for the prospect.

  • Use this insight to question assumptions. At some point this year a natural partner will say to you, “You should ask for $X. That’s the right number for this prospect.”  

    Unless that statement is product of extraordinary strategy and dialogue with the prospect, don’t make a decision to LIMIT the ask. (Don’t worry about under-asking or over-asking. (See tip #6 in 9 Tips to Help You Get to the Ask.)

    When you catch this thinking you can coach yourself by asking, “What would this prospect give if they were totally committed to the impact? If this was their number one cause?” See if you can build your comfort to ask from this place.  

    Related: I sometimes find myself saying (with TOTAL authenticity), “It’s not my job to try and decide the appropriate investment level for you. It’s my job to make sure I make the best case for how we can have an impact and then let you decide if that’s right for you.”

  • Guard against the voice inside that says, “Maybe now is not the right time to ask.” We exist to save lives, change lives and impact lives. Deciding it’s not the right time to give a prospect the opportunity to save, change and impact lives goes against everything we are trying to teach.

Point of emphasis: This is an insight (or a guiding perspective), not a strategy.

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Be For Impact. Journey For Purpose.

Over the holidays I picked up Tim Ferris’ new book, Tools of Titans.  It’s a worthy read companion and deserving of a whole other post (or several).  Right away one nugget leaped out at me.

From James Altucher, an American Hedge Fund manager, entrepreneur, and best-selling author:

“Forget purpose. It’s okay to be happy without one. The quest for a single purpose has ruined many lives.”

That reads a little cynical to me… but leads into something we say a lot:

Finding purpose is a journey.

Being For Impact is a decision.

I don’t think we should forget purpose. We should realize it’s a journey and embrace the journey as such.  Drop the pressure to decide your personal single purpose. (I think this is Altucher’s EXCELLENT point.)

BE for Impact. That’s a decision you make today. JOURNEY for Purpose. That’s a decision you can embrace forever.

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The Elevator Pitch is Dead

“What’s your elevator pitch?”

The lore of the elevator pitch comes from the early days of Hollywood when one would hope to trap an executive in an elevator and ‘pitch.’ The Elevator Pitch is an enduring shorthand that represents the simplest description of what you do.

You need brevity and simplicity… but simplicity alone is not your goal! Your goal is to get the other person to say, “I get it!” or “I want to learn more!”

The Elevator Pitch is dead. What we aim for is Elevator Engagement.

We achieve our goal more effectively and efficiently if we focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds (even if succinct), think about one great question you can ask the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.

At our boot camps we do an exercise to illustrate that you can actually communicate WAYYYY more in 60 seconds by simply asking one or two questions than you can by talking (however concise you may be). It works because:

  • In asking a question, you start with the other person’s construct (or gestalt!).
  • We become fully engaged when we are talking. So, the simple act of getting the other person to talk changes the level of engagement. (This is Dale Carnegie 101!)
  • If you start with a question, you immediately learn what is pertinent and non-pertinent. You can use a short amount of time on relevant information.
  • Finally, we can position our work in their words. LISTENING is one of the most powerful selling skills in the world.

Earlier this year we were helping an organization make a neuroscience pitch to a foundation. The executive director was asked to appear before the foundation board and ‘make a pitch’. We had to reprogram her default, one-way pitch, to instead starting with a question to the panel of eight. She simply asked, “Has anyone ever had experience with a stroke, or a family member that’s had a stroke?” The board chair raised his hand and then spent two minutes talking about the importance of neuroscience research. Others jumped in. They were engaged — fully.

The executive director was able to simply build on the conversation. Though she had eight slides prepared, she found she only needed to use three of them (in response to the conversation). The board said it was one of the best pitches they had ever received – that’s because she didn’t pitch; she engaged.

She was awarded the grant!

Nota bene: There are many circles (usually tied to funding communities, e.g., silicon valley and nyc / financial) where a ‘pitch-deck’ is standard affair. Don’t let the ‘pitch deck’ put you in ‘pitch mode.’ As in the neuroscience story, you should focus on engagement. And, of course, we’re partial to the one-page pitch deck!

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Our Commitment to Talent in the For Impact Sector

Our heritage is rooted in generating funding results for nonprofits. Since 1983 we’ve built and managed capital campaigns. We developed a unique value proposition around our approach:

  • We live ‘in-the-field’ making the campaign asks.
  • We use a true ‘sales process’.
  • Through the campaign we DESIGN the organization for ongoing funding results.

We’ve built a lot of experience through the sheer volume of activity over the past 35 years… raising $2Billion, leading over 30,000 visits, and managing over 400 campaigns.

In 2000, we started to provide training and capacity building (through For Impact) to share our frameworks with others. That effort quickly led us to realize that our DESIGN work had to include the ‘talent part’ of the equation. We had to do more to:

  • Build great leaders and fundraisers in the social sector.
  • Identify and recruit the right talent for our clients.

Identify and recruit the right talent for our clients.

  • For Impact Search. This is a solution we provide whereby we help find the right funding talent and then help your organization through an onboarding process and implementation of a true sales model. To learn more about how The Suddes Group / For Impact can help you identify and build the right talent / model, contact Jessica Gemm.
  • For Impact Fellowships. Launching in 2017. The For Impact Fellowship is designed to imprint rising stars with the skills and perspectives to accelerate impact and effect change.
  • Emerging Leader Mentorship. We provide mentorship to emerging social entrepreneurs and sector leaders. Our primary vehicle for this impact is through our partnership with the Unreasonable Institute. Our coaches serve as mentors at the Institute, helping develop leaders throughout the world.
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Walt Disney Was In Sales

We help social entrepreneurs and really cool organizations implement a true sales model for philanthropy. The word SALES is supposed to grab your attention!

“You’re in sales, get over it.” – Tom Suddes

Most of us got into this work for the IMPACT, not the fundraising… and certainly not ‘SALES’!!! But ‘SALES’ holds the key to resourcing the impact we want to have.

Pat Williams and Jim Denney are co-authors of some the world’s great leadership biographies – from Bear Bryant and Coach Wooden to Mother Theresa. Here’s how Pat Williams writes about Walt Disney as a salesperson.

Note: I’ve pulled dozens of nuggets out of the book and threaded them together. As always, just read the book – How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life

Virginia Davis (Walt’s original Alice) told Pat that Walt Disney was a great salesman:

“The more I examined Walt’s life, the more I saw what a profound insight this was. From the very beginning of his career, Walt was a salesman— one of the greatest salesmen the world has ever known.”

Many people look down on selling as somehow beneath them. I hope you don’t make that mistake. All the wealth in America can be traced to the fact that somebody somewhere sold something to somebody else. Selling is one of the most honorable professions around— and one of the most rewarding. It is also one of the toughest. What does it take to be a great salesperson? I would suggest five qualities that every great salesperson must have. Build these qualities into your life and you can sell like Walt.

Those five qualities are honesty, enthusiasm, confidence, courage and persistence.

  1. Honesty.

    All great salespeople are honest. Does that surprise you? That’s probably because you have been raised on the stereotype of the fast-talking used-car salesman in the plaid jacket. Sure, shysters abound, and they give a bad name to the honest salespeople who make their living by trading value for value. But the best salespeople are people of integrity. A great salesperson lives on repeat business. The key to repeat business is trust, and the key to trust is integrity. Anybody can sell to one customer one time. A great salesperson builds relationships of trust on a foundation of truth.

  2. Enthusiasm.

    All great salespeople are fired up about their product. Enthusiasm is contagious; it affects everyone around you. How did a twenty-year-old cartoonist convince a group of Kansas City businessmen to part with $15,000 so he could open his studio? Enthusiasm! Voice actor Corey Burton told me, “Walt was excited about his projects, his movies, his theme park. When he was excited about something, his excitement fired up everyone around him. That’s how he sold his dreams.” Disney film editor Norman “Stormy” Palmer recalls Walt’s power to motivate. “Walt’s enthusiasm made over-achievers out of all of us,” he told me. “You got caught up with his energy, you believed in his ideas, and you wanted to please him. He transmitted his excitement to all of us. If it hadn’t been for Walt, there would have been a lot of times we would have settled for less than our best.”

  1. Confidence.

    Confidence is not a feeling, it’s an attitude choice.

    Even if you don’t feel confident, you can still adopt an attitude of confidence. You may not be comfortable selling yourself or your product, but so what? Nobody is comfortable selling. Nobody ever became successful by staying within their comfort zone. If you want to succeed, you have to do what Walt did: take a big, confident step outside your comfort zone, and start selling your dreams.
  1. Courage.

    Psychological studies show that high-achieving, successful people are not overly concerned about what others think. This was true of Walt Disney. He never catered to his critics. He never worried about rejection. He kept selling his dreams.

    5. Persistence.

    Walt absorbed the blows and soldiered on, fueled by a total and utter belief that his vision was right. Walt was successful because of one rock-solid Midwestern value. It’s called perseverance.


It’s worth bottom-lining these three gems:

  • The best salespeople are people of integrity.
  • Enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Confidence is not a feeling, it’s an attitude choice.  (Write this one on your MIRROR!)
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Zooming Out to Lead

Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United for over 25 years, leading the club to 13 English Premier League Titles. 

In his book, Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United, Sir Alex tells a story about his own tipping point as a leader.  

Prior to his post at Manchester United, he managed Aberdeen, a Scottish Football Club. He learned about the importance of ZOOMING OUT to lead. My emphasis in bold…

Watching is (an) underrated (leadership) activity…it costs nothing. For me there are two forms of observation: the first is on the detail and the second is on the big picture. Until I was managing Aberdeen and hired Archie Knox as my assistant manager, I had not appreciated the difference between watching for the tiny particulars while also trying to understand the broader landscape. Shortly after he arrived at Aberdeen, Archie sat me down and asked me why I had hired him. The question perplexed me, until he explained that he had nothing to do since I insisted on doing everything. He was very insistent… Archie told me that I shouldn’t be conducting the training sessions but, instead, should be on the sidelines watching and supervising. I wasn’t sure that I should follow this advice because I thought it would hamper my control of the sessions. But when I told Archie I wanted to mull over his advice, he was insistent. So, somewhat reluctantly, I bowed to his wishes and, though it took me a bit of time to understand you can see a lot more when you are not in the thick of things, it was the most important decision I ever made about the way I managed and led. When you are a step removed from the fray, you see things that come as surprises– and it is important to allow yourself to be surprised. If you are in the middle of a training session with a whistle in your mouth, your entire focus is on the ball. When I stepped back and watched from the sidelines, my field of view was widened and I could absorb the whole session, as well as pick up on players’ moods, energy and habits. This was one of the most valuable lessons of my career and I’m glad that I received it more than 30 years ago. Archie’s observation was the making of me.

As a player I had tried to do both– paying attention to the ball at my feet whilst being aware of what was happening elsewhere on the field. But until Archie gave me a finger wagging, I had not really understood that, as a manager, I was in danger of losing myself to the details. It only took me a handful of days to understand the merit of Archie’s point, and from that moment I was always in a position to be able to zoom in to see the detail and zoom out to see the whole picture.

Stepping back to watch from the sidelines is not natural (at least not to me!) This story has powerful leadership insights and implications for all of us.

Ferguson, Alex; Moritz, Michael (2015-10-06). Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United (p. 18). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.

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The Price of Management Debt

“Every really good, really experienced CEO I know shares one important characteristic: They tend to opt for the hard answer to organizational issues. If faced with giving everyone the same bonus to make things easy or with sharply rewarding performance and ruffling many feathers, they’ll ruffle the feathers. If given the choice of cutting a popular project today, because it’s not in the long-term plans or you’re keeping it around for morale purposes and to appear consistent, they’ll cut it today. Why? Because they’ve paid the price of management debt, and they would rather not do that again.” – From the Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

I’ve never heard anyone talk about ‘management debt’.  What a powerful concept! It smacked me between the eyes! This is a powerful frame for leaders because it puts the notion of DEBT on indecision. Decision/indecision doesn’t just have a ‘cost’; it has a ‘debt’! It allows us to ask, “What debt will I incur in NOT dealing with this tough issue?”

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Winston Churchill on Planning

“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

-Winston Churchill

Pretty powerful nugget!

I’m working on rewriting / synthesizing a lot of our thoughts on strategic plans.  Churchill’s nugget helps us with our message! – it’s not that PLANNING is bad; it’s that the traditional strategic plan ‘is of little importance’.

Every plan says the same thing, “We’re going to grow our programs, expand our offering, and work on financial sustainability.”

Program quality, growth, and revenue are simply business functions – not strategies!  The majority of strategic plans don’t actually touch on STRATEGY (see Strategic Planning vs. Strategic Clarity).  

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Message to Garcia

We are continuing with our favorite Tom Suddes nuggets and reflections. This little story (as introduced and summarized by Tom) came to define an underpinning of our culture – especially in the early years. The shorthand from Tom would be, “Can you go ‘message-to-Garcia’ this one?” We knew what that meant.


This story was written by Elbert Hubbard, editor of the “Philistine Magazine” and published in March of 1899! I am paraphrasing Hubbard’s story… but I think you will get the point.

THE STORY: When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the insurgents… a General Garcia. He was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. Mail or telegraph could not reach him… and the President had to secure his cooperation quickly.

Somebody told the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of ROWAN who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Andrew S. Rowan, West Point Class of 1881 was a First Lieutenant in the 19th Infantry, U.S.A. (Yes!) Because he knew the topography of Cuba, was familiar with Spanish, and had shown himself to be a brave and prudent solider, Lieutenant Rowan was selected for this mission.

In short, he took the letter, sealed it in an oil skin pouch, strapped it over his heart and crossed from Jamaica to the southern coast of Cuba in a sailboat. He disappeared into the jungle, made his way inland to Garcia’s camp… and delivered his message!!!

In Hubbard’s words: “The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia. Rowan took the letter and did not ask, ‘Where is he at?’ By the eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and his statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book learning young men need nor instruction about this and that but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do that thing – ‘CARRY A MESSAGE TO GARCIA!’”

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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
 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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(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

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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?”

 

 

 

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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?
VISION

  • 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?
STRATEGY

  • 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?
EXECUTION

  • 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!

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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.

A FEW WAYS TO USE THE LEADERSHIP CIRCLE:

  • 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.
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No More Special Events: A Look At The WHY

Tom has stood on podiums (literally) for 30 years and shouted NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS

This works as a napkin message – It’s powerful and simple.

I don’t do the ‘standing-on-a-podium’ thing, but I’m not above shouting IN ALL CAPS to make a point:

NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS!

I get the occasional challenge, “But Nick, events are how we build relationships!”  Or, “Our event gets the word out!”

In years and years of doing this, no one has ever said, “Our event is our CASH COW!”

WHY are you doing the event?  Is it to raise money? Or, is it for MARKETING? (Start with WHY.)

It’s really helpful to make a distinction between MARKETING and SALES. Here is a great nugget to bridge the relationship between MARKETING and SALES:

It is the job of marketing to provide qualified leads for sales.

I hear many people who want to defend events with a marketing rationale. If you want to run events as a part of your MARKETING STRATEGY – great! Just don’t PRETEND your events are great fundraisers. And if MARKETING is the end goal, then how much are you telling your story at that golf outing?

Also, if you’re going to do an event to ‘BUILD relationships’ then it begs the question – what is your strategy to MAXIMIZE relationships?

NB: We’ve been on this rant for a few decades now. There are events that raise money – a lot of (net, net, net) money. Here are some examples:

  1. The EVENT is the IMPACT. There are some organizations whose impact is using a community’s ability to raise money. For example, Pelotonia here in Central Ohio, which has raised over $100M for cancer research. They are in the event business: the money they raise from one event a year is given directly to cancer research (read: curing cancer!). Pelotonia is in the EVENT BUSINESS – most organizations (i.e., you) are not.

  2. But what about WALL STREET?!?! Those ‘guys’ (I think, often citing Robin Hood as a model) all get in a room and give MILLIONS! This is an anomaly, not a model.  When you can get a bunch of hedge fund titans in a room to throw their egos behind your philanthropy, have at it!

  3. RECOGNITION EVENTS.  These are events where the money was not raised, but simply RECOGNIZED, at the event. In all of these cases, I submit that more money could be raised if we were clearer on the WHY.  While the organization might be ASKING because of an event, people aren’t GIVING because of the event; they are giving because of the IMPACT!
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Story: Played Out in General Election Cycles

41G4UZjjg2LOne of my go-to books on STORY and INFLUENCE is The Story Factor by Annette Simmons.  First published in 2001, Simmons did a wonderful job pulling together frameworks and practical examples that illustrate how influence happens (or not) through the power of framing (i.e. STORY.)

It’s really powerful to pull some nuggets from this book during a general election cycle – Think about these points the next time you’re arguing politics with your relatives!  (Good luck!)

“A good story helps you influence the interpretation people give to facts.  Facts aren’t influential until they mean something to someone.  A story delivers a context so that your facts slide into new slots in your listener’s brains.  If you don’t give them a new story, they will simply slide new facts to old slots.  People already have many stories they tell themselves to interpret their experiences.  No matter what your message, they will search their memory banks until they find a story that fits for them.”

“Whenever you tell a story that contradicts someone’s core story they will usually get angry. This is a natural defense. Understanding anger is an important part of telling influential stories… If you choose to tell empowering stories you will encounter anger as people defend their ‘victim stories.’ When a new story demands courage, extra effort, or invalidates past choices, people usually get defensive.”

“Facts don’t have the power to change someone’s story. Their story is more powerful than your facts. As a person of influence, your goal is to introduce a new story that will let your facts in.”

“The beauty of story is its ability to last in memory long after the facts and figures are gone.”

“In the end, the best story wins. Not the right story, not even the most frequently told story, but the story that means the most to the greatest number of people—the one that is remembered. Lawyers know that. In the courtroom, diagrams, passionate language, exhibits, and the art of questioning witnesses are orchestrated to tell the story a lawyer wants told. A storytelling lawyer activates the emotions and senses of a jury and invokes the power of drama to influence the decision. The timing and style of a prosecution attorney walking ‘the murder weapon’ around the room can ignite the fears, horrors, and imaginations of the jury. They may be consciously concerned about the facts, but their subconscious mind is watching that gun and playing a story they imagine might have happened complete with screams, blood, and emotion. If this ‘story’ becomes real enough for them, they will find the facts to fit the story their subconscious already believes.”

This last part is worth summarizing: The best story wins. People will find facts to fit their ‘story.’

 

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Do the Simple Things to Avoid Team Complexity

In his book The Checklist Manifesto, author Atul Gawande calls attention to 3 different kinds of problems: the simple, the complicated, and the complex.  

From The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right:

“Two professors who study the science of complexity—Brenda Zimmerman of York University and Sholom Glouberman of the University of Toronto—have proposed a distinction among three different kinds of problems in the world: the simple, the complicated, and the complex.

Simple problems, they note, are ones like baking a cake from a mix. There is a recipe. Sometimes there are a few basic techniques to learn. But once these are mastered, following the recipe brings a high likelihood of success.

Complicated problems are ones like sending a rocket to the moon. They can sometimes be broken down into a series of simple problems. But there is no straightforward recipe. Success frequently requires multiple people, often multiple teams, and specialized expertise. Unanticipated difficulties are frequent. Timing and coordination become serious concerns.

Complex problems are ones like raising a child. Once you learn how to send a rocket to the moon, you can repeat the process with other rockets and perfect it. One rocket is like another rocket. But not so with raising a child, the professors point out. Every child is unique. Although raising one child may provide experience, it does not guarantee success with the next child. Expertise is valuable but most certainly not sufficient. Indeed, the next child may require an entirely different approach from the previous one. And this brings up another feature of complex problems: their outcomes remain highly uncertain. Yet we all know that it is possible to raise a child well. It’s complex, that’s all.”

I want to relate this framing to teams and dysfunction. Building and leading a team is a complex problem. Like raising a child well – “It’s complex, that’s all.”  In our work at The Suddes Group, we’re often building or reconfiguring teams to create greater funding results. One of the things we’ve observed is the relationship between the simple and complex problems. When teams don’t execute on the simple problems, the complex problems are amplified.

Any funding effort is largely a function of simple problems: (more…)

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How To Write A Call Memo

The Call Memo is an important mechanic in our Sales Process – It’s an internal memo-for-the-record. I would encourage you to write-up these notes IMMEDIATELY following the visit. Don’t wait!

(I carry a dictation device and transcribe the call memo in my car – minutes after the visit ends.)

Download sample call memo: I’ve altered a real call memo and included training notes to help you learn. You can also download a call-memo-template if you want more structure.

Objectives of the Call Memo:

  • Record what happened on the visit. Someone on your team should be able to pick-up the memo and continue the conversation. In most cases, you can have a sheet of paper out to take notes during the visit. I’m amazed at how often sales people don’t take notes!
  • Use quotes. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!! The best message in the world is the one that comes from the prospect’s mouth. Capture words and exact phrases used by the prospect(s); put them in quotes.
    • Bad: Prospect seemed to like our program.
    • Good: “Of everything you’re doing, I honestly don’t really care about the after-school program but I think the summer program has mountains of potential.”

    This will:

    • Help you LISTEN. (Read Vocabulary Wars.)
    • Help others on your team LISTEN (even though they weren’t there).
    • Make life so much easier when you pull out the call report in six months…
  • Use bullets. Easier to read. Easier (faster) for you to download.
  • No rule on length. Should capture all the key points that you would need to remember in six months, but shouldn’t take you all afternoon to compose.
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“Can You Get Me A Proposal?”

Have you ever finished a great visit and had the prospect say, “This is great – Can you get me a proposal?”

If someone asks this we need to simplify on the spot – “Sure thing. Are you an email person?” (Everyone is.) “Would it be okay if I summarized our conversation in bullet point form and shot that back by email?”

Save yourself HOURS by converting ‘proposals’ to ‘bullet points.’

Read more on Follow Up.

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The Vision Must Live In One Person’s Head

The vision for your organization must live in one person’s head.

The vision can’t sit with a committee. Many can contribute to the building of a clear vision but, there must be one person that holds that vision. This ultimate vision keeper could be the CEO or it could be the Board Chair.

We use this nugget often as the first step toward strategic clarity – many leaders don’t realize they’re trying to juggle or navigate 3-4 visions.

The ultimate vision keeper is often trying to make room for others – inviting them to contribute to the vision. This can be great, so long as it’s clear that there will be one person that ultimately owns the vision.

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Optimism. Pessimism. Skepticism.

So much of Being For Impact is about having a positive attitude and optimism.

I was asked recently about about being too positive and it was then suggested that maybe a little pessimism keeps balance. I don’t believe this.

But I do believe in the rigor of SKEPTICISM.

Skepticism is not the opposite of optimism. Pessimism is the opposite of optimism.  Skepticism is something different – entirely. It represents the work you do to give your optimism a solid foundation.  

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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

516TXpkm6+L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_This week’s W.O.W. is a book – Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

His core message: Do less, but better. You can unlock quality and make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter by doing only what is essential.

He dubs this ‘Essentialism.’

In some ways this isn’t a new idea, and yet, I found myself underlining nuggets on every page:

  • If you don’t prioritize your life, somebody else will.
  • To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”
  • Once we accept the reality of trade-offs we stop asking, “How can I make it all work?” and start asking the more honest question “Which problem do I want to solve?”
  • Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking… Almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. This is the justification for taking time to figure out what is most important.

This makes a lot of sense. Recent discoveries in neuroscience tell us that the decision-making function in our brains does not prioritize!

Essentialism is applicable to any human endeavor:

  • Sales/Major Gifts. Spend more time with better prospects. Just Visit. Just Ask. The  discipline of the Sales Process (e.g., strategy, predisposition, follow-up.) These are the essentials; almost everything else is noise and nonessential. 
  • Life. An Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for people in the last twelve weeks of their lives, recorded their most often discussed regrets. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” McKeown argues for LIFE DESIGN, “This requires, not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials.”

I agree with McKeown’s notion that Essentialism is an idea whose time has come. We are in an age-of-noise. Discern. Focus. Do less. Have more IMPACT.

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We Spend 95% of the Time Thinking About Ourselves and Our Own Story

“When we are not engaged in thinking about some definite problem, we usually spend about 95 percent of our time thinking about ourselves.” – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I’m not sure how to tell you to use this nugget – I just know it’s very insightful.

Related: In The Power of Story, Jim Loehr writes:

“The human brain, according to a recent New York Times article about scientists investigating why we think the way we do, has evolved into a narrative-creating machine that takes ‘whatever it encounters, no matter how apparently random’ and imposes on it ‘chronology and cause-and-effect logic.

Stories impose meaning on the chaos. They organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of facts. Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”

Here are some ways I’ve processed and coached around this recently:

  • As a speaker or leader.  I promise you no one else is over analyzing your work or your presentation to the degree you are – especially when things go bad.  You’re spending 95% of your whitespace-thinking trying to align your world in your head… how you did with a presentation or how you are doing in your role.  Other people have reactions to your work but they don’t dwell on it — they dwell on themselves. They can ‘let it go’; you should too.
  • As a human being.  Now that you’ve read this, take note of how often you’re making sense of your own life, your own narrative.  What if we can shift it to something more like 50/50!?  I believe we can! Or, at least, we can direct our 95% toward more empathetic thinking.
  • On a visit.  Whomever I’m sitting with is spending 95% of their time working on their own narrative!  What’s the narrative!? (Discovery! Discovery! Discovery!) I want to listen and then tie to that!

 

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General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis on Professional Reading

You’re never too busy to read.

This eloquent letter from Marine General Mattis is wise, direct and incontrovertible – I’ve never read anything better on reading:

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
 Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.
Going forward, I will print and share this letter with every graduate as ‘some of the best life advice I can give.’

I’m reminded also of Charlie Munger’s observation, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.”

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You Need to Have a Clear Answer to This One Question

When a Qualified Prospect asks, “How can I help?” you need to have a clear answer.

The fact that most organizations don’t have a clear answer is one of the biggest funding challenges in the ‘not-for-profit sector.’

I’ve heard many default responses that fall into these categories:

  • “I’ll get back to you.”  The fundraiser then heads back to the office, calls a meeting and says, “Prospect X is willing to help! What should we ask for?”  The team then makes up something that they think might be most attractive.
  • “Maybe you could come to our event?” The moves management route… “Would you consider joining our board?” Or [insert other ‘move.’] The prospect has already ASKED how they can help – You need an answer, not a chess gambit!
  • “How do YOU want to help?”  This is just a weak way of engaging.  I think too many in this sector are afraid of coming off as too aggressive if they answer truthfully.  If you are authentically representing your IMPACT, and they have asked to help, then it is your responsibility to Present the Opportunity.

In self-assessments, most organizations can identify challenges with prospecting, messaging or board support. But rarely do they say, “Everyone always asks me how they can help… And I don’t have a clear answer!”

Simply bringing attention to this could have a tremendous impact.

On my last three visits I’ve heard this from prospects, verbatim:

  • “Tell me concretely, how I can help.”
  • “I’m not ready to make a commitment today, but what do you need?”
  • From a foundation: “What’s a way we can be most helpful to this work?”

Here are some ideas and resources to help you answer the question “How can I help?” – all of which fall under our Just Ask! philosophy:

  1. Have a simple (major gift level) ask that works in every situation with every person.  

    We’re a big fan of the Leadership Circle for this reason. It represents your simplest ask around the most compelling (and general) areas of your case. It’s not used to maximize a relationship, but it offers a clear answer.

    E.g. “Our Leadership Circle is a group of people – like you – who GET the mission and are invested in our cause at the $10,000 level. Collectively, all the Leadership Circle members generate $1M a year that’s used for unbudgeted and timely priorities. Would you be willing to join?”

  2. Use the “Champion-Invite-Invest” framework.

    This is a great way of making the ask multidimensional.  On its own it’s no more clear than ‘give or get,’ however, you can use the framework to ask for specific help as a champion… specific referrals… and specific opportunities for investment.  (Watch 3 minute video.) 
  3. Develop a specific ask around a project, priority or plan.  

    This allows you to ask for support around a specific project (and corresponding funding number) OR a funding plan.  (Watch 3 minute video.)

In order to ‘Just Ask’ you need to HAVE an ask.

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Unless Someone Hears, There Is No Communication

 

“It is the recipient who communicates.  Unless there is someone who hears, there is no communication.  There is only noise.” – Peter Drucker
Such a powerful insight that it doesn’t need any color commentary from me. 

Pairs well with:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” –  George Bernard Shaw
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LCB: A Framework to Create a Clear Message, Engage Others and Build Funding Momentum

We use a Leadership Consensus Building (LCB) framework on nearly every project. At the highest level, this is a versatile framework to:

  • Create clarity around vision, message, priorities and plan,
  • Get others ‘on board’ with these elements, and
  • Build (funding) momentum.

This visual illustrates the LCB Framework:

fi_LCB-800

 

I often describe Leadership Consensus Building as similar to coalition-building – You’re bringing people together around an idea, cause or vision and creating priorities, goals and buy-in. A natural result of this process is that everyone becomes invested in the outcome!

Leadership Consensus Building can be used in many ways and can help with these specific challenges:

  • Getting a board ‘on board.’ Think about strategically engaging each board member one-on-one (or in small groups) as part of this framework. (This is much better than holding a retreat and herding cats.) And, you can use a team gathering to start or conclude the process – We often do this in the form of a Vision Day!
  • Determining (funding) priorities. We often employ the framework to help with organizational development and strategic planning – facilitating this process to engage key leaders and stakeholders, listen to key issues and keep framing toward a common goal. The framework is essential to effective strategic planning with a team.
  • Predisposing prospects for campaign funding. This a great way to test and strengthen your message with your best prospects. Depending on the prospect you can say, with authenticity, “We want you to be our lead funder on this so it makes sense to sit down and talk through the priorities and plan well in advance of that conversation.”
  • Testing feasibility math. Leadership Consensus Building is about engaging key stakeholders with a working version of your message, model and math. It brings ‘to the market’ a real message and plan for discussion – versus a hypothetical! This is an alternative to a traditional feasibility study which means you can be…
  • Building funding momentum (while you figure out ‘the next big thing.’) I see too many teams who are waiting to engage in a funding conversation until _____ . While you get stakeholders on board with a vision and plan, this framework allows you to be sharing a future project AND asking for a commitment for a CURRENT project.


Because we spend so much time teaching this to leaders, I’m going to record a seminar on the subject this Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Blog readers can participate for free – More info and registration. On the call, I will walk through this visual and illustrate how it can be used in various ways, giving examples you can model.
Actions:

  1. Download and use the LCB Visual above
  2. Send me an email (nick@forimpact.org) and let me know how you’re using it.
  3. And, email me if you want to talk about how we can facilitate this process for you and your organization.
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Engagement Has a 12-hour Half-Life

I’m constantly trying to get people to think about what it means TO ENGAGE! I think we’re taught how to present, but we’re not always taught how to engage.

I define engagement as a dynamic within a relationship that holds attention, heightens interest and motivates action.

Think about a movie or a performance you’ve attended where you were engaged and left with that feeling of being present and excited. Think about how that engagement consumed your mind! Now think about how you felt the next day.

I believe engagement has a 12-hour half-life. That is, if we could measure engagement in some way, it seems to dissipate by half every 12 hours.

This means that within 24 hours of your visit the prospect has an engagement level at 25% of what it was after your visit.

THINK ABOUT THE IMPLICATIONS!

As salespeople, we need to be making engaging presentations and asks. And, more importantly, we need to pounce on timely follow-up. It’s better to follow-up immediately, even if it’s 60% of your best effort, than it is to wait three days. At three or more days you’re just working to recapture engagement.

(Read more on the 24-Hour Follow Up Rule here.)

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Vocabulary Wars

From the archives, but still relevant today – Read on for how to avoid Vocabulary Wars.

Last week we were with an organization that helps homeless people find and secure permanent housing. The Executive Director of this organization had spent the last 10 years – off and on – trying to get three specific area Foundations ‘on board.’ In that time, some $10K grants had been awarded but for the most part the Foundations said, “We don’t fund projects like yours.”

The mission statements for the foundations were almost identical to that of this homelessness organization. And, each Foundation had funded similar agencies working in the homeless arena.

After some discussion, I realized that the challenge has been vocabulary, not fit. For example:

  • This organization receives about $1M annually from the government — to be used for ‘capital’. It turned out that ‘capital’ in this definition meant anything that had to do with the actual home or residence (including programs to get into the residence.) In the case of this organization, the ‘home’ was the OBJECTIVE of the program. Kind of hard to end homelessness without a home somewhere in the equation… no?
  • The Foundations avoided ‘capital’ projects. It turned out the ‘capital’ meant ‘capital campaign’ to the them – bricks and mortar, campaign committees, fancy office chairs, etc.
  • The organization had structured all of its internal vocabulary based on conversations with the government. These vocabulary words were deal killers with the private foundations who heard “capital campaign” when they wanted to focus on more “programs for the homeless.” (I’m not making this up.)

So, here’s what we did:

  • We coached the organization’s senior leadership to go back to one of the Foundations. This time the organizations was to ask questions, listen and use the Foundation’s vocabulary to advance a discussion.
  • The key questions to ask were, “What is the biggest challenge you’re seeing with respect to ending homeless in this area? How are you working to address that challenge?”
  • The Foundation said it felt a lack of ‘housing opportunities’ were available to the working poor and that it was trying to identify agencies that worked as a catalyst to create more opportunities. Note: The most critical point of this entire story is probably right here. The organization had to LISTEN to the foundation to pull off the right ask.
  • The organization’s leadership was then able to position its work as a ‘catalyst to create more housing opportunities’.
  • Both the foundation and the organization leadership described the ensuing conversation as ‘electric’ and ‘exciting.‘ They will be meeting again next month to talk about a multi-year financial partnership.

For 10 years, would-be partners had failed to align for what amounted to a vocabulary war. At times the relationship was even contentious – there were debates and arguments between foundation heads and leaders in this organization about right/wrong and ‘justice’ in funding.

It’s important to realize in this story that at 30,000’ they were in COMPLETE alignment: all parties were trying to end homelessness. The fact that the homeless organization was getting a token $10K here and there was an indicator that there was alignment on the CAUSE (WHY), but not the CASE (WHAT). The relationship was advanced – light speed – by really, really listening and aligning the solution in terms the funder understood.

The only way to avoid a vocabulary war is to listen.

Note: In the actual coaching I said to the ED, “I want you just to listen.. to really understand the foundation’s challenges. When you hear a word you don’t understand, ask them to define it. Keep listening until you can say, ‘wait a minute, we can help solve that!’”.

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Follow-Up is 90% of the Effort

Like predisposition, follow-up requires a specific strategy. Too often, wonderful presentations/asks/sales visits are wasted because there is no follow-up.

A typical scenario includes someone making a great presentation and then ‘hoping’ a gift comes as a result of the ask. Or, sometimes there is only a phone call that comes weeks (or months) later in which the substance of the dialogue is one question: “We were wondering if you had a chance to make a decision?”

It’s probably impossible to misquote or butcher one of Yogi Berra’s malapropisms, but here goes:

“Half of the game is presentation. The other 90% is follow-up.”

Huge problem: We consider our work finished when we get to the point of making the request. We feel like we’ve shared everything we can and now it must be in the prospect’s hands. That notion is wrong. In fact, follow-up is 90% of the effort!

Some reminders to help you with follow up:

  • This is not some one-off transaction. It’s all about a true relationship. Follow-up is about advancing the relationship, opportunity or plan WITH the prospect.
  • It’s either win/win or lose/lose! You’re presenting an opportunity to save lives, change lives or impact lives. Stop being so bashful.
  • Follow-up is about taking the opportunity to continue the excitement generated on the visit. You’re need to keep the momentum. This could mean:
    • An immediate follow-up letter.
    • An immediate follow-up phone call from champion or volunteer.
    • An immediate follow-up phone call from you.
  • Don’t dodge the issue! The worst follow-up is when you step politely around the pending request (hoping the prospect brings it up or announces to you a commitment.) Using your own style you need continue to work with prospect to advance the ball – be direct, sincere and authentic and remember – Hope is not a strategy.

Read more Thoughts on Follow Up from Tom.

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The Three Roles of the Sales Leader

Following up on my post about the ‘Sales Driven Funding Operation.’

A critical position on a Sales Team is the Sales Leader.

IF you are committed to a Sales Team then you should identify the Sales Leader – the person who fulfills these duties:

  • The ultimate PLAYER/COACH: This person has the street cred and is usually the organization’s BEST sales person. This person has also accepted the role of COACH to the team.
  • Has ultimate ACCOUNTABILITY: This person is 1) accountable for the Sales Team results, and 2) the person to whom each Salesperson is ultimately accountable.
    • There are also cases in which the Sales Leader can use others to support this function. Example, let’s say your team has ten Salespeople – they can report to a deputy but ULTIMATELY report to the Sales Leader.
  • The ultimate PLAY CALLER (or referee): If three Sales Team members want different changes to the engagement tool (for instance) the Sales Leader is empowered to LEAD and make-the-call, end-the-dispute, or unite-the-team around a clear decision.

Just having this vocabulary has been powerfully clarifying for organizational leadership responsible for building Sales-Driven Funding Operations.

 

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Henry Ford’s ‘One Secret of Success’

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get in the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.” – Henry Ford

I’ve trained over 1,000 development professionals and leaders. One thing I’ve observed – those that perform at the highest levels always have a high degree of empathy.  Yet, in no instances that I can recall, have I seen a search committee or hiring manager put a premium on this skill that Henry Ford called the ‘one secret of success.’

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On Practice and Excellence

 

We strive to be ‘Best in the World’ at the ASK.  We are constantly training and improving as a team in this area.  Here are some quotes/thoughts on the importance of practice and excellence.

I think they are relevant to anybody who strives to be world class in their own domain.  

“Excellence is a habit.” – Aristotle

Tom Brady has returned to his coach, Tom Martinez, 4 times per year for the past 17 years for a tune up!

Immediately following her 2015 U.S. Open second round win, Serena Willams went to the practice courts for 90 minutes!

“The enemies of practice are pride and fear and self-satisfaction.”   – Practice Perfect

“It’s a funny thing.  The more I practice, the luckier I get.”  – Arnold Palmer

“If I skip practice for one day, I notice.  If I skip practice for two days, my wife notices.  If I skip for three days, the world notices.”  – Vladimir Horowitz, Virtuoso Pianist

Note:  Two fantastic reads on this include Practice Perfect and The Talent Code.

 

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Number of Asks: The ONE Lever

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we will use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Just Ask. Just Ask. Just Ask.

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explores the formation of organizational habits. (You can read this quick summary by BusinessWeek.) One case study examines Alcoa’s remarkable business turn-around in the 80’s/90’s. CEO Paul O’Neill focused the cultural energy (and habits) around safety–more specifically, around the number of safety violations.

We call this the ONE LEVER. Meaning, to maximize team cohesion and culture change you need to focus energy on ONE LEVER at a time to create organizational change.

What will that lever be? Be specific. Be clear.

The Orlando Magic focus on ‘butts in seats’.
FedEx focuses on number of packages that don’t arrive when promised (aiming for zero).

Just about everyone reading this is seeking some form or another of improved funding results.

Call it a culture of philanthropy.
Call it a sales culture.
Call it greater revenue for impact.
Call it funding the vision.

When you’re bringing your team along there is so much ‘other stuff’ that can obscure progress. Events, predisposition activities, reporting, deadlines, board meetings.

As it relates to INCOME DEVELOPMENT the ONE LEVER is – in most every case – the NUMBER OF ASKS.

This is what we emphasize, design-around, message, measure, reinforce.

Obviously a funding goal is pretty important. However that is a RESULT of this measurable activity. Similarly, Alcoa’s leap in quality (and then profits) was a RESULT of increased safety.

One lever: Number of Asks. Preach it. Measure it. It will be transformational. I promise.

Note: It’s not uncommon to see an organization (of any size) with fewer than 10 real-asks per quarter. In fact, it’s a safe bet that by our definition most are at ZERO.

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What Does An ‘Ask’ Look Like? A Checklist.

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we will use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Just Ask. Just Ask. Just Ask.

In the For Impact world A REAL ASK satisfies this checklist:

  • We were WITH a prospect – physically.
    See Just Visit. There are exceptions to this but 19 times out of 20 the ask is done in person so that there is engagement and dialogue.
  • We asked the prospect for specific help with a specific project, program or level of support.
    In doing so the dollar figure was clear. Example: “John, we need your help, would it be possible for you to underwrite this project for $20,000?”It wasn’t open-ended, we didn’t ask, “Could you give whatever you can give?”

    Also, in being specific, the funding rationale wasn’t for ‘unrestricted’ or ‘operations’ – those aren’t specific. (See: Have a Funding Rationale)

  • The ask was a dialogue – a back and forth with questions and listening — so that we could ensure that we were maximizing the relationship at this given moment.
    Read: The Ask as a Dialogue to help with this concept.
  • We will expect a YES or a NO – and will follow-up accordingly.
    Thinking about how to get to a YES or NO ensures you have covered appropriate mechanics and you can continue within a sales process. Otherwise, there is a risk of pending into oblivion or unclear follow-up.

Without the definition provided by this checklist we often find:

  • A visit is scored as an ask.
  • There is no real ask – but rather a suggestion that it would be great to have the prospect’s help.
  • Some psychological shift whereby the salesperson only asks AFTER the prospect says he or she would like to make a gift. That’s not an ask. The relationship certainly wasn’t maximized and it’s an incredibly low return-on-energy methodology.
  • The salesperson raises money without asking. This is similar to point above. To be clear, just showing up DOES yield funding – this is our point behind JUST VISIT!But, in terms of measurement this is harder to spot (and therefore coach around), and usually shows up because a sales person will report the following:
    • 25 visits
    • 20 asks
    • 3 commits
    • 0 declines

    If you follow this ask checklist, you SHOULD get a ‘no’ from time-to-time.

  • There was a request for help, but there was no funding rationale or dialogue. We see this with a lot of organizations that ARE raising money. They’re out visiting, they’re asking the prospect to help but they’re not maximizing the relationship. (Not the worst problem in the world – but usually leaving tons of money on the table).

Some reminders:

  • We’re pushing for everyone to be more assertive. That doesn’t mean you always have to ask for funding on the first visit. There are certainly many times where it’s a discovery or predisposition visit (but never 4-5 ‘cultivation’ visits before we ask).
  • Kerry was with a client last week and they visited with a high capacity prospect for a first time discovery visit. There was no ask, however Kerry did ask for permission to make the ask. She closed the visit by saying to the prospect, “Today we wanted to share the vision and see if we could get you on board with our story. As we move along would it be okay to talk to you about supporting that vision?”
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Change Agents Almost Always Under Communicate the Vision

As a leader the vision makes the most sense to you because it lives in your head.  You probably have the most complete view of the operation, you spend the most time thinking about the vision, and feel like you’re constantly communicating that vision.

And yet, that vision is likely under communicated! Here is a great excerpt from Adam Grant’s Originals about how change agents under communicate their vision:

“When Harvard professor John Kotter studied change agents years ago, he found that they typically under communicated their visions by a factor of ten. On average, they spoke about the direction of the change ten times less often than their stakeholders needed to hear it. In one three-month period, employees might be exposed to 2.3 million words and numbers. On average during that period, the vision for change was expressed in only 13,400 words and numbers: a 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, a briefing, and a memo. Since more than 99 percent of the communication that employees encounter during those three months does not concern the vision, how can they be expected to understand it, let alone internalize it? The change agents don’t realize this, because they’re up to their ears in information about their vision.”

The vision for you is a full-length motion picture in which you’re the writer, producer, director — surely worth millions of words.  But likely, for the rest of your team, the vision is a word-cloud they heard on Tuesday.

In a nutshell: The vision can’t be over-communicated!

 

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Just Ask. Just Ask. Just Ask.

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we will use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Just Ask. Just Ask. Just Ask.

 

This napkin has just two words. Please note that it does not say:

Ask…

…when timing is perfect.

…when you know exactly what to ask for.

…after you’ve visited with the prospect nine times.

…when you’re entire board is on board.

…when those butterflies in your stomach are finally gone.

…when you have the perfect message.

…when you have the perfect materials.

It says, Just Ask!

Timing will never be perfect.

The only way you’ll know what to ask for is by asking (and getting a response).

Cultivation is for people who can’t communicate. You are in the business of saving, changing, and impacting lives; if you’re with someone who wants to do just that, you can ask on the first visit.

I still feel like I want to puke before a big ask.

The only way to truly test a message is to ask.

You don’t need perfect materials – You need a tool to help you engage in a conversation.

Just Ask is all about action.

It’s permission to move. Nothing happens until you ask!

Until you ask, (one-on-one) the message is not personal.Until you ask, people don’t know how they can help.

Until you ask, the prospect doesn’t guide you through what else is needed (from the you, from the org or from the plan) to make a commitment.

Until you ask, a prospect can’t say YES!

Just Ask!
Always Ask.
This is 90% of everything you need to know about raising money.
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A Sale Happens On Every Visit

Zig Ziglar, one of the greatest sales trainers of all time, said that a sale is made on every visit. Either you sell the prospect on all the reasons why s/he should buy or s/he sells you on all the reasons why s/he should not.  Period. 

My contention is that if you don’t decide to be one side of that either/or then you will almost always let the sale happen TO YOU. You will almost always be sold on reasons why the person cannot give what you had hoped for or what you need to deliver on the plan.

Remember: Hope is not a strategy.

So, decide. Don’t hope.

Years ago, when Tiger Woods was in his prime, he remarked that he does not putt the ball until he has decided it will go in the hole – Until he has that level of certainty, confidence and visualization.

This is the level of conviction you need to bring to every VISIT.

Of course, every putt does not fall and every ‘ask’ does not close.  But, you can’t go into a visit ‘hoping’.  You need to decide the commitment is a foregone conclusion.

As a mentee of Tom Suddes’ for years, I watched and learned the hard work that went into making a great case. Tom would not go into make a visit or presentation until he was able to wrap his mind around the emotion + logic of the case so completely that he thought, “Why would someone NOT make this investment?”

There is an old sales maxim: I am sold myself.  Certainly you don’t visit until YOU are sold.  That work is upon us as sales people to own that conviction.  It’s not up to a manager or a CEO.  It is OUR responsibility to do the work to be totally sold. 

I don’t want to hide this from you – Arriving at that level of conviction, preparation and DECISION is hard work.

For those that still have an aversion to the word ‘sales’ – Get over it.  This isn’t about used cars. It’s about making your case and engaging in such a compelling way that people understand what it will take to save lives, change lives and impact lives. This makes Zig’s challenge perhaps MORE important in the world of philanthropy.

We live in a great world. People are generous. You are doing good work.  

I believe 80% of the time gifts are not maximized because a generous person said he or she would commit $10K and we did not sell them on the true need (e.g. $100K) to deliver the impact. Instead, we were sold on all the reasons why they could not make the larger commitment.

 

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Stop Cultivating and Start Communicating

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we will use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Commit to SHARING THE STORY and PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY!

 

Why do we cultivate people?

As Tom always reminds me, “Cultivation is that thing you do with plants and manure.”

We really, truly don’t understand ‘cultivation.’ We are in the business of saving, changing, and impacting lives. If you can help people understand your impact and they want to help then they don’t need cultivation -They need to be asked!

Here’s a simple story to emphasize the point. Imagine that you and your prospect were walking around a lake and came upon a drowning child. What would that prospect do? It’s likely she would jump in, fully clothed, committed to saving the life of the child. And so would you. Try to imagine this same scenario where you would first try to spend years getting this person interested in saving children (read: cultivation.)

So, if you’re actually saving or changing lives then you can’t really argue that cultivation is needed. The issue at hand is much more about communication. That is, how you communicate your impact in such a way that is clear, concise and compelling. So clear, in fact, the prospect jumps on board (read: into the lake) to make a major investment in your impact.

If you can communicate the impact, the income will follow. If you can communicate the impact, you can ask for any amount of money on the first (sometimes second) visit. The challenge, again, is that we struggle with our message. Or, we might even have the message, but we’re not out visiting with people, one-on-one, to share the message and present the opportunity for them to help (or save the child.)

Your job is to communicate the impact, not spread manure. It’s blunt but we want to motivate you to action with this idea. You’re doing great things – so present the opportunity for someone to help now.

P.S. If you think this example is too simplistic or unrealistic, please know that this same example is what set into motion the greatest philanthropist of our era – We’ve altered the lake example somewhat but borrowed it from noted philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer who wrote an amazing article in the New York Times, “What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?” In that article he also explains Bill Gates’ moment of clarity around impact that moved him to action.

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Nix the Cultivation Event and GO AT THE GOAL

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Set your goals of ENGAGEMENT.

We often see ‘Fundraising Plans’ that call for X number of Cultivation Events a year.

The coaching on this one is always the same: Nix the Cultivation Event and GO AT THE GOAL.

  • The best way to build and maximize relationships is 1:1. (See 1x 10x 50x.)
  • When you do an event, your ‘network’ is going to expend a ton of energy getting people to the event – I would rather expend that collective energy on getting 1:1 intros.
  • You do the event and you’re still going to have to work to get the follow-up – which is the goal! SO, just go to the goal.

(See ‘No More Events’ and ‘No More Cultivation’.)

Nixing the event and focusing on getting more visits is a simpler, more productive approach. It may feel challenging to work through the ‘but-what-about-objections.’ So, here’s a few ideas:

  • You need a good message and story for the visit. Absent of this people hear (and what creates our reluctance) is “Can I come and ask you for money?” If instead people heard (and we believed), “We’re having an amazing impact and need more people like you to know about it!” (Read more The Story for the Visit here.)
  • The first visit doesn’t need to be an ambush for money. Quite the opposite – the goal should be to ENGAGE. To LISTEN. And then to overwhelm the other person with the IMPACT so that he or she says, “This is incredible, how can I help?”

This shift in thinking save hundreds of hours, thousands and thousands in fundraising costs and countless lives (because we will generate much more INCOME for our IMPACT).

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Master Prospect List – QPI Rating System

We have used the MPL tool to run hundreds of campaigns and major gifts initiatives. It’s simple and powerful. Rate your top prospects to create a Master Prospect List in descending order of importance. Then focus all your time (literally) on your top ten prospects — you will be amazed by the results.

Download the excel file.

Each prospect receives a rating in each category 1-5 (5 being the highest). The sum weighted total of ratings in each of the five categories will give you the Qualified Prospect Index – You need to visit with anyone 90 and higher today!

Definition of Key Terms

Relationship Manager (RM)

This is the person within your organization that manages the relationship — does not have to be the point of contact but must responsible for thinking about this prospect every day.

Natural Partner

This is a person, internal or external to your organization that has the closest relationship to the prospect.

Capacity
Weight: 7

This number is the prospect’s capacity to make a major gift – a gift level that is worthy of one-on-one time with a prospect. This is not an indication of what you think the prospect WILL invest in your organization – it is an indication of what you think the prospect COULD give.

For example:
5 – $1MM
4 – $100K
3 – $10K
2 – $1K
1 – Unknown

Relationship
Weight: 6

This is an indication of the prospect’s relationship to your organization or to your cause. If this prospect is on your board it should be a five (5). If, for example, you are the American Cancer Society, and this prospect is a cancer survivor, the rating should be a five (5) even with no gift history.

For example:
5 – Specific interest in our organization or cause
4 – Heavily invested in our cause or within a sector or geography in which we operate

Timing
Weight: 3

Generally timing is always a five (5) unless you have specific knowledge otherwise.

Gift History
Weight: 2

What is this prospect’s giving history to your organization? You might determine that a five (5) on the rating scale indicates lifetime giving of $100,000+ or ten consecutive years in your Leadership Society. Below is an example using higher numbers.

5 – Has given multiple lifetime gifts and/or has given $1M lifetime
4 – Has given one or multiple gifts and/or has given $100k lifetime
3 – Has given one or multiple gifts and/or has given $10k lifetime
2 – Has given 1 lifetime gift and/or has given $1k liftetime
1 – Has never given and/or has given less than $1k lifetime

Philanthropy (or Gut Feeling)
Weight: 2

This is a measure of the prospect’s general willingness to give. Has he or she supported other organizations? Is it a foundation (5)? Do we have a good feeling about them? Give it a 5! This is also where I take into account the person who reaches out to us first or has said, “I want to help.” or “I want to do something big, can we talk?” Give that a 5 as well.
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BIG IDEA: The Master Prospect List (MPL)

The Master Prospect List is one of the biggest ideas in our sales process. It’s a system of:

  • Rating and ranking,
  • Your best and most Qualified Prospects,
  • In descending order of importance.

PRIORITIZATION is the centerpiece of our prospect system: the MPL is not a random group of names nor an alphabetical list!

The MPL ranks ALL of your prospects, not just ‘individuals’.

Rarely, do we see an organization with a TRUE Master Prospect List. This can be a tough concept for some to implement so we’ve made it simple:

  • MASTER = ONE LIST. Not ‘one list for the gala’ and ‘one list for annual fund’ and ‘one list for corporate partnerships.’ And, certainly not fifteen reports from Razor’s Edge.
  • Most Important Prospects. If you receive half your funding from the government then the government is ALWAYS your most important prospect.
  • RANKED. Not Alphabetical. Not by giving history. Not by Relationship Manager. RANKED BY IMPORTANCE.
  • Re: Individuals, Corporations, Foundations – a gift received yesterday does not remove the ranking of the relationship.
  • Smaller organizations should focus on their top 33 prospects. Larger organizations (e.g. Colleges) should maintain the same focus but take the ranking out to 100+ prospects.

In addition, The Master Prospect List:

  • Streamlines prospecting meetings and reporting and allows you to focus your time and energy.
  • Determines what to ask for by matching your prospect list to your funding plan.
  • Saves a lot of time in meetings, thinking, planning, strategy, etc. because the list IS the framework for all these things.
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“Bankers Don’t Have Any Imagination, None At All”

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Create a simple, powerful PRESENTATION and ENGAGEMENT TOOL.

In September of 1953, Walt Disney was sending his brother Roy to meet with bankers in New York. Roy was going to be seeking financing for a new concept: Disneyland. At the time, Disney had cartoons but no theme parks, which is hard to imagine in the present day.

As the story is told, Walt called in an imagineer named Herb Ryman and said, “You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all. You have to show them what you’re going to do.” He then asked Herb to help him create a mock-up of Disneyland on a large storyboard. It was a splendid painting that even included black light paint so that you could see what Disneyland would look like at night.

This story comes from Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind-the-Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real. The book includes pictures of the storyboard.

 

 

Part of our For Impact story has been the invention of THE ENGAGEMENT TOOL. This one-page presentation flow, at altitude, has become an absolutely indispensable part of our client and coaching success.

Always look for ways to SHOW what you’re going to do. Use Engagement Tools. Banker or not, there is a big difference between talking your way through something and showing your way through something. A Engagement Tool worked for Walt and Roy Disney and it will work for you.

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What is an Engagement Tool?

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is: Create a simple, powerful PRESENTATION and ENGAGEMENT TOOL. 

Most organizations and sales teams don’t have ENGAGEMENT tools. They have brochures, binders, or pitch decks. What are you using to DRIVE engagement on a visit?

Is is simple? Visual? Does it SUPPORT the conversation or constrict the conversation?

In a later video we will show you ways to use an engagement tool.

Download / view the For Impact engagement tool.
See also: Guidebook – On Engagement | Guidebook – On Visual Engagement

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Your Funding Plan Supports Your Case

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is DO THE MATH.

A big epiphany for organizations we work with continues to be – your funding plan actually is part of your case for support.

To me, the funding plan is the HOW behind the big picture dollar goal and the big picture dollar goal is what you need to deliver on your vision. So, in essence, this is HOW you will deliver on your vision. Is that important? You bet!

I’ve found that most organizations don’t have a funding plan – They haven’t done the math.

Three simple action steps to get you there:

  • Determine the dollar amount you need for both operations and projects. What is the lump sum? 80% of organizations can’t answer this question.
  • How many investments would you need and at what amounts to achieve this goal?
  • When? (One year? Three years? Five years?)

The funding plan does a few things as it relates to your case:

  • It makes it believable and achievable.
  • It shows a potential investor how she/he would fit into the funding vision.
  • It also illustrates that you’re not just picking a number out of the air – there is logic – Which gives you and your investors confidence.

Extra bonus: There are times when you can actually ask the potential investor, “Where do you see yourself in this plan?” Then, you let them select a dollar level – Something we call “The Clueless Close.”

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The iPhone: A Case for Oversimplifying

When Apple launched the first generation iPhone in 2007 it shared a device that offered full-email, rich media, a web browser, and a phone.

Think about what they chose to call this: a phone (that does really cool stuff!)

Often times working with organizations to simplify – there is a fear that the final concept omits ANYTHING. In one of these standard group setting the original iPhone device would’ve been named the iWebMediaMailPhone!

When explaining WHAT you do, choose words people understand. Anchor the concept and THEN tell me how you’re different, cool, etc. When someone says you’re oversimplifying just point to the late genius Steve Jobs.

P.S. I downloaded the new episode of Sherlock last night. I don’t know if I would call that a TV show, or a movie, but I purchased it through iTUNES. Not the iMediaEverythingCloudStore.

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Find those who care about your CAUSE, then sell your CASE.

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is BUILD YOUR FUNDING RATIONALE.

Cause: Your reason for existence. The big problem you’re trying to solve or change.

Case: Your approach. Your model. The way in which you impact the CAUSE.

Think about the the difference between CAUSE and CASE.

When you’re with people that already understand the CAUSE you must engage them with your CASE. (See Use the Rule of 3 to Simplify at 14,000′)

Having a funding rationale answers the question: “Where does the money go?” It’s tied directly to packaging your CASE: Your Priorities and Projects and Programs, around your IMPACT.

The CASE should be all about the WHAT and HOW you will USE FUNDS to deliver your impact.
For example:

“We’ve put together a plan to scale and innovate in our three core areas – Family Literacy, Read Aloud Programs and Teen Services – that would require $1.3M over the next 1,000 days. Here’s what we would use the funds for – 1000 Families in our Literacy Program, increase 1:1 teen Mentoring by 30%, excellent data and evaluation, and 10 new school relationships.”
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Creating Great Funding Rationales

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is BUILD YOUR FUNDING RATIONALE.

In this video we cover the ‘Last 3 Feet’ tied to Creating Great Funding Rationales (hint: “Unrestricted” does not make a great Funding Rationale!)

  • Create a Funding Rationale tied to a Unit of Impact if possible – “Our goal is to underwrite all 3000 of our families each year at $1500 per family. How many families can you help support?”
  • Package up your Programs – “Here is the Impact we’d like to have in each community and it will take about $100,000 per community to make it happen.”
  • Use a Leadership Circle membership goal as it relates to the Opportunity to Save, Change and Impact Lives – “When we have 50 members in our Leadership Society (@$10,000+ per year) it allows us to innovate new programs and provide core support to existing impact. It also allows us to move quickly when needed – To save and change more lives.”

Previous video in this sequence: Using Altitude to develop your Presentation.

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10 Types of Funding Rationales

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is BUILD YOUR FUNDING RATIONALE.

Here is a list of some of the framing devices we often use to create Funding Rationales. (i.e., you need these numbers to rationalize the ASK!)

In an abridged form:

  • The Gap: Using a gap number to justify the ASK.
    Tuition: Tuition is $6K, cost per student is $8K. Gap is $2K. Could ask someone to underwrite THE GAP for five students.

    Project: Receive federal grants to the tune of $45K/year for $60K/year program. Ask someone to fund the gap for three years = $15K/year or $45K ASK.

  • The Widget: Break down projects/programs/model into a cost per person or cost per unit. Package this as the ASK. Typically, I use the widget to create the simplest and strongest sell.
    “One child for one year.”

    See also: See Chipotle vs. Max and Erma’s

  • Funding the Prototype: This is a different way of funding your annual operating budget for a start-up. Communicate how your model works and what is needed to make the model happen – then run a funding pyramid.

    Example: This year we need $1.1M to build the prototype.

    Going to need:

    1 @ $200K
    2 @ $100K
    3 @ $75K
    4 @ $50K
    6 @ $25K
    10 @ $10K
  • Funding the Vision: Think of this as funding the model/prototype and future projects/priorities for the next 3-5 years. If you will, this is ‘the campaign pitch’ but with a more holistic view of ALL funding priorities. Within Funding the Vision:

    Leadership Commitments: Top tiered commitments that validate the funding plan.

    Momentum Commitments: TIMELY gifts. Could be Leadership or not… but means so much because of the timing. Provides a lot of leverage, energy, etc.

  • TRANSFORMATION: Justifies all caps on that one. Sometimes it’s simply about a number that would completely TRANSFORM our organization, the investor, etc. This is a rationale that extends far beyond a ‘campaign lead’.
  • Project Sponsorship: “Can you underwrite the medical program for three years @ $30K/year?”

    Note: If it were me… get rid of the notion of asking people to fund ‘operating’ or ‘infrastructure’. Literally everything you do can be packaged as a project, priority or program.

  • Angel Investment: “We’re going to need 10 investors at X to get this idea off the ground. We’re taking something of an angel-investment approach. Can you be one of these angels?” – Very much about timing, the level, the funder, etc.
  • Strategic Partner: Often a corporation or foundation that provides ongoing, high-level funding support on an ongoing basis. It’s a great relationship because you [the org] are a means of delivering on the funder’s priorities in the community or sector.
  • Protection: This is a rationale or way of asking someone to ‘protect’ and annual investment with a planned gift/legacy gift. More on that here.
  • Leverage: We need to raise X to generate 10X.

    Note: Yesterday I was on the phone with an organization that needs to raise $5M to generate $1Billion. To make my point. They need to raise $5M to generate $1,000,000,000,000.

    Obviously, you don’t need all of these. I’m hoping the brief descriptions can spark some answers to common questions like:

    “What do we ask for?”

    “How do we package our operating to justify a big ask?”

    “How do we rationalize the number?”

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How to Create a Funding Rationale Tied to Impact

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is BUILD YOUR FUNDING RATIONALE.

Essentially there are three ways to create a funding rationale – the three P’s. You can ask someone to invest in:

A PERSON

It would be more accurate to refer to this final rationale as a ‘unit’ but then I would lose alliteration. You can do the math to figure out the cost to impact one student, one class, one session, one exhibit, one visitor, etc. This could be a total cost or a ‘gap cost.’

A PROGRAM

This could include seed funds to launch a program, sponsorship for a program or gap funding for a program. The cost of the program is set against the impact of the program – You’re selling the impact of the program.

A PLAN

Commonly used with the ‘campaign mindset.’ Cast your vision, attach a dollar amount, articulate a funding plan then ask someone to be a piece of the plan.

You can use one, two or all three – but you must HAVE a simple funding rationale:

“Could you sponsor a classroom? (or 5?)”

“Could you underwrite the program this year and next?”

“Could we ask you to take the lead on this plan?”

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8 Common Messaging Challenges

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10
weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!


This week’s theme is SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE.

Some quick reminders and primers coming into this post:

  • Message is what is HEARD, not necessarily what you SAY. (Read: What’s in a Message?)
  • A potential funder needs to be engaged around the message at three levels – the WHY, the WHERE (money goes) and the HOW (can help – supported by a funding rationale). Read our Altitude Framework PDF for a comprehensive look at this.

Here are eight common messaging challenges we see:

  • The message (engagement) starts at the wrong altitude. Engagement begins at 30,000’ – about changing, saving and impacting lives. A quick assessment of the way most ED’s are talking about the organization and you see that it’s so programmatic (think: 14,000’). We do a lot of coaching to get people up to the 30,000’-changing-the-world-level.
  • No simplicity. Not able to state 30,000’ on a napkin. Not able to communicate three priorities. Not able to articulate a simple funding rationale.

    Special note: One way to simplify your message is through the use of visuals!

  • No engagement. Several times each month I look at an organization’s message and say, “That’s actually pretty damn good! I’ll bet you’re just not ENGAGING anyone with the message.” What I mean is, you don’t need to wordsmith or reframe anything. Instead, you have a message problem in that no one is actually HEARING and INTERNALIZING the message. This could be because we’re not out visiting with or it could be because we’re out talking and not LISTENING. Listening allows us to frame our message in a way that makes sense to the other person.
  • No funding rationale. No math or no story to support ‘the ask’. This is identifiable when we have a funding goal only and we’re either saying, “Can you give?” or we’re just picking a number out of the air. See my earlier post on 9 Types of Funding Pitches.
  • No WOW. Only commentary here is that most organizations DO have a WOW factor. They often don’t see it because they focus on what’s not perfect.
  • Story is not awesome. By this I mean your 30,000’ narrative is not representing your transcendent purpose, your BHAG, your audacity.
  • Framing is about the INCOME. Not the IMPACT. A common 14,000’ example. Whereas we should be communicating how ALL of our funding supports specific projects, priorities and programs we say something like, “We need funds for staff salaries… admin… overhead.” YUCK. You frame everything around your excel spreadsheet and not the PURPOSE or INTENT of the expenditure. Again: Yuck. Another example is the message that’s all about the business plan. WHY do you exist and WHAT do you hope to achieve with said business plan (around the IMPACT).
  • All CAUSE, no CASE. (Or, All PROBLEM, No SOLUTION.) This refers to a message that is heavy on selling me on the problem. So much so that I never really engage with the CASE – either because it’s not there, or because you’ve lost my attention. Note: Hitting all three altitude levels actually makes a simple and complete CASE FOR SUPPORT.
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How to run a Sales Meeting using a Sales Dashboard

Reposting this nugget based on several recent coaching calls about ‘Activity vs. Productivity’ and Sales Team FOCUS.

Here is a format we use for Sales Meetings – a weekly review of activities from the Sales Team.

  • Update on activity:
    • Number of visits
    • Number of asks
  • Update on productivity:
    • Number of commits / declines
    • $$ Committed

These metrics provide an objective dashboard that speaks volumes.

  • “What gets measured gets done.” – Tom Suddes

    It’s very easy to get sidetracked. Make it very clear, for yourself and for your sales team, that the first measurement will be number of times we got out of the office to go visit with people. Even without the perfect materials, we know this will have a tremendous positive impact on your organization.

  • The dashboard creates accountability.

    Following on the first point, if you’re a manager you can set goals with your team around number of visits/asks. This ties back to accountability and performance.

  • The dashboard points to what’s working and what’s not.

    Two months ago I was working with an organization that was making 15 visits per week. It was logging only a few ‘commitments’ and no ‘declines.’ We were able to zero in on this and it turned out the staff wasn’t really asking – if you’re asking, you’re going to have some declines! Instead, they were walking through the numbers and ‘hoping’ the prospect would select to give. We did another training session around ‘the last three feet’ of the visit and the numbers then improved.

    This is a pretty important point. You can deal with real issues as they arise – instead of planning and planning for months/years with no activity.

After the numbers we then review:

  • Status of Top Ten Prospects on the Master Prospect List
  • Specific ‘Pending Strategies’ that need attention
  • Strategies for the upcoming week
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Teleseminar: How to Make Your Story Awesome

Teleseminar: How to Make Your Story Awesome
Tuesday, December 15. 12:00-12:45ET
Free for first 50 registrants.

Description:
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 every day actions.

  • Is your story about needing more money? Or changing lives?
  • Do you have a good story that helps get to the ask?
  • Do we have a story that engages the board? Engaging them as passionate champions and advocates?

This 45 minute teleseminar will:

  • Share examples of stories used at organizations to help them with these questions.
  • Address common challenges to funding, action and engagement.
  • Give you several actionable tools use can use to DISCOVER your story and make it AWESOME.
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Make a BIG DEAL out of everything you do.

“The best advice I can give you is: make a BIG DEAL out of everything you do.”
– Frank E. Sullivan

That’s the WOW!!!

Note: We frequently do training/speaking for audiences outside the social sector. The ideas of impact, sales, and purpose are universal. I found this quote on the cover a workbook Tom prepared in 1999 for the Indiana Life Underwriters.

Frank Sullivan was a successful life insurance salesperson. He was one of Tom’s early mentors and authored a gem of a sales book, The Critical Path to Sales Success.

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Sales Attitude: How to think about December

“Should we plan on doing fewer visits with prospects this month, because of the holidays?”

or

“Should we keep pushing because people give at year’s end?”

We get a lot of questions about this every year and our coaching advice is always the same: Keep working your list.

It’s a great time to be engaging (1:1) with your prospects/relationships:

  • If they can’t meet due to the holidays, you can setup a time to connect in early January. Better to do that now than to come back to the office and call – at which time everyone would say, “I’m just getting re-oriented from the holidays. Get back with me in a few weeks.”
  • In my experience, for every person or family that can’t meet now, there is another for whom there will be no better time to meet. Some of my best visits + asks have been in December.

Whatever you do – don’t make excuses for not making visits.

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Discovery is Never THE Goal for a Visit

Discovery is never THE goal for a visit.

When I hear, “It’s just a discovery visit” or, “We’re only meeting to do discovery,” I cringe. To me this is like saying, “We’re just getting together to be authentic.”

Discovery is part of our presentation framework. It’s something we do (ALWAYS).
It’s not THE goal.
 

 

To be clear, often we visit and do discovery – with no ask. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to maximize the relationship at this given moment! The goal is to engage around our impact with such passion, energy and enthusiasm that the person says, “Wow!!! GREAT!!! HOW CAN I HELP?!?!”

You would never reply, “It’s great that you want to help! Thank you! But today I am only here to do discovery. Yes, there are lives we could be saving, changing or impacting with your immediate help but, you see… I’m only here to do discovery!”

“It’s just a discovery visit” is incompatible with the For Impact Point of View: we shouldn’t be doing this work (the programs, the fundraising… any of it) if we aren’t having an IMPACT, if we aren’t changing, saving or impacting lives.

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Keynote Slides: Be For Impact

Last week we were with the New Jersey AFP at its annual Conference on Philanthropy. The conference theme was STORY – something we at The Suddes Group are pretty passionate about!

My basic message:

  • STORY is a point of view. It’s how we choose to interpret (or assign meaning to) facts. Most people talk about STORIES, not STORY. Stories are the narrative that follows the POINT OF VIEW.
  • The FOR IMPACT POINT OF VIEW: IMPACT DRIVES INCOME.
  • IMPLICATION of IMPACT DRIVES INCOME: If we get this it challenges almost everything happening in traditional fundraising.

Here are the keynote slides.

My thanks and kudos to the NJ AFP leadership. We speak at conferences all over the world and this was one of the best programmed and organized gatherings I can remember.

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Making Things Happen After the Visit (How to Follow-Up)

In case you haven’t noticed we spend quite bit of time helping our For Impact tribe get out of the office – doing more VISITS and making more ASKS.

So what happens AFTER the visit?

When implementing a SALES process and SALES approach to funding, there are three equal parts to every visit/ask: Predispose, Present, Follow up.

These 7 points about Follow Up have a wide application – And can help you immensely in making things happen AFTER the visit:

  • The 24-Hour Rule

    We need to get out our follow-up emails/letters within 24 hours – no matter what. If we wait to write the perfect proposal or pitch, with time, it (1) takes more effort and (2) we lose momentum. I’ll take 80% perfect at 24 hours over 90% perfect in three weeks.
    Speed doesn’t kill… time does.

  • It’s a RELATIONSHIP
    The goal is to maximize the RELATIONSHIP at this given moment. Funding is a function of the relationship – not the world’s best proposal. Think more about communication and follow-up in terms of a relationship and not a transaction – this will help with #1.

  • Re: Referrals – think about ONE ACTION item and a manageable timeline.
    It’s great that prospects are saying they’re going to open doors. Focus on ONE action and make it happen. “We’re all about momentum and everyone is busy. To keep the ball rolling, can we talk about making one phone call in the next two weeks?”

    One action will lead to more. Undefined action leads to no action.

  • “Can you get me a proposal?”
    If someone asks this we need to simplify on the spot – “Sure thing… are you an email person?” (Everyone is.) “Would it be okay if I summarized our conversation in bullet point form and shot that back by email?”

    Save yourself HOURS by converting ‘proposals’ to ‘bullet points.’

  • The ball is always in your court.
    We’re getting a lot of great ‘pending requests.’ If someone says, “give me a few days and I’ll get back to you.” We need to say, “That’s great. If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll follow-up on Monday.”

  • Email is for follow-up notes. Use the phone to make things happen.

  • Be a closer. Always.

    It’s an attitude. Your ability to close translates to lives saved, impacted and transformed. This isn’t about some ‘business jargon’… it’s about real stuff… important stuff. We either believe it or we don’t. And, if we do, then we need to close. If we don’t – let’s quit now.

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“Bankers Don’t Have Any Imagination, None At All”

In September of 1953, Walt Disney was sending his brother Roy to meet with bankers in New York. Roy was going to be seeking financing for a new concept: Disneyland. At the time, Disney had cartoons but no theme parks, which is hard to imagine in the present day.

As the story is told, Walt called in an imagineer named Herb Ryman and said, “You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all. You have to show them what you’re going to do.” He then asked Herb to help him create a mock-up of Disneyland on a large storyboard. It was a splendid painting that even included black light paint so that you could see what Disneyland would look like at night.

This story comes from Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind-the-Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real. The book includes pictures of the storyboard.

 

 

Part of our For Impact story has been the invention of THE ENGAGEMENT TOOL. This one-page presentation flow, at altitude, has become an absolutely indispensable part of our client and coaching success.

Always look for ways to SHOW what you’re going to do. Use Engagement Tools. Banker or not, there is a big difference between talking your way through something and showing your way through something. A Engagement Tool worked for Walt and Roy Disney and it will work for you.

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Fearless, Ruthless, Fearless

A quick nugget on Prospects from on of our For Impact Coaches, Robb.

In the For Impact process to Qualify Prospects you do these three things:

  • Identify
  • Prioritize
  • Strategize

In that order.

Robb adds the attitude needed in each of these steps: FEARLESS, RUTHLESS, FEARLESS.

  • When Identifying prospects: BE FEARLESS.
    Don’t make decisions for the prospect. Be inclusive.
  • When Prioritizing prospects: BE RUTHLESS.
    After you have a list of prospects be very discerning about your focus and priorities. You MUST prioritize. The priority of the prospects (your Master Prospect List) drives your attention – On whom will you place your focus, time and energy?
  • When Strategizing prospects: BE FEARLESS.
    Again, don’t make decisions for the prospect. Let’s make the best case, let’s do whatever it takes to be in front of the prospect and present the opportunity!

Read more about Prospects in our For Impact Guidebook: Gold, Diamonds and Oil.

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1x 10x 50x

If a Qualified Prospect is giving you $50 (let’s call this ‘1x’) in response to a mail campaign, any sort of an event or even ‘totally unsolicited’ then he or she would likely give 10x in response to a one-on-one, personal visit. And 50x if the visit includes a dialogue around the funding plan and an ask.

This is not scientific, but far from arbitrary, as way of thinking about:

  • The potential of your existing relationships (if we visit!), and,
  • Why we need to be doing more visits!

We often hear “we need more prospects” but often find that existing relationships are not being maximized and in some cases, not even being spoken to! Think about this:

  • 1x is clearly emotional. I’ve seen a lot of people cry at events, but the giving is still impersonal and ‘charitable’ in nature.
  • Sitting with someone one-one-one (or 2-1) allows you to listen and respond. It makes the ask personal and seems to trigger another level of discernment in giving – increasing a commitment to an organization ten fold (10x).
  • To get the big, big gifts (50x) we need to walk our Qualified Prospects through a funding plan and have a dialogue around the ask. These conversations are much more strategic.

I often share a story of a school that threw a large gala where they asked everyone to “prayerfully consider giving at a level that was significant.” The school was frustrated – They had a $1M prospect giving $10K and $100K prospects giving $2K.

As much as the prospects liked the school they had no context for how much money to consider. They had no way of guessing that $1M might be the linchpin for the campaign and there was no discussion that gave the committed families and supporters a framework to think bigger.

To put it simply, in this case and many others, you need to tell them what to pray for!

This school went back to each supporter with a complete funding plan. The $1M dollar ask, for example, was a discussion around WHY they needed $1M and what it would enable the school to do (students/faculty/campus, leverage, leadership, timing, etc). The prospects had context in which to consider the ask and many of them increased their gifts by five times and some by 20 or 30 times!

I’ve met with billionaires and many, many millionaires. Trust me, nobody has disposable income. Nobody is going to guess that a $1Million will help. $10K or $50K is a lot to anyone! It’s not until we show up that we can get 10X. It’s not until we dialogue about 50X that we can get 50X. (Read more about The Bystander Effect and Philanthropy here.)

In closing, consider asking yourself a few questions: Is it easier for you to visit with every current funder and ASK (10X) or to get ten new prospects to give? From there, is it easier to get your best prospects to 50X or to get 5-10 more visits?

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Three (daily) self-coaching questions for Sales People

It’s really easy to lose the day, the week, the month or the year putting out fires.

I’d like to offer you a way to design yourself around RESULTS instead just responding to what is in front of you. You can get better Return On Energy (R.O.E.) by self-coaching through these three questions every morning before email – over a good cup of coffee:

  • What are my next actions to line up visits?
  • What can I do to bring in dollars (to fund the impact) today?
  • What am I doing to advance the ball with my top 10 prospects?

Q: What are my next action items to line up visits?
A: Simply, TAKE ACTION.

Visits and asks – advancing and maximizing relationships – is the lifeblood of philanthropy. If ‘dollars raised’ is a productivity output, then this is the measurement that gets you there. Are you scheduling visits this week or next? If not, there will be no new funds to show in 6-8 weeks (plus or minus).

Q: What can I do to bring in dollars (to fund our impact) TODAY?
A: CLOSE existing asks.

I don’t care about adding more or new prospects if we’re not doing follow-up with existing and previous relationships – i.e., if we’re not closing. Adding more to a bad process does nothing. Trust me, it’s much easier to ‘close’ that visit from three weeks/months/years ago than it is to open a new door.

Q: What am I doing to advance the ball with my Top 10 prospects?
A: Set Goals. Engage Natural Partners. Get the Visit. Hit a HOMERUN.

This one is all about the S.F.P. – Self Fulfilling Prophecy. Focus on your top 10 – a little bit – each day. Most people look at the number one prospect and think, “Well, that’s a long way off” or “We don’t know them.” Then they open their email and respond to all the urgent but not important requests. This becomes a routine. Over time we never define the action steps that get us a visit with our top 10. The funds (potential and real) from those prospects can never be made up, nor can the leadership and connections.

Special Note: We had an attendee who raised a question at this week’s Boot Camp, “I’m a one person development shop working on a $5M goal. Should I be doing newsletters?” Using the self coaching model it’s very apparent that the answer is NO. As a Sales Person, your best R.O.E. is:

Setting Up and Executing Visits.
Close existing ASKS.
Advance and Maximize your Top 10… A.S.A.P.

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The Bystander Effect and Philanthropy

Malcolm Gladwell explores the Bystander Effect in The Tipping Point. He recounts the 1964 New York (Queens) stabbing death of Kitty Genovese. Reportedly, dozens of witnesses heard Ms. Genovese and her cries for help; however, no one called the police.

The story is used to paint a picture of a phenomenon called the Bystander Effect – which has been well studied since. The Bystander Effect is one in which as more people are present at a scene of distress the responsibility for action becomes proportionally diffused.
38 people heard Genovese cry for help. Each knew others heard the cries. They were loud, in the middle of a big city. Each person assumed that someone else was making a call to police. So no one called the police.

This specific story has been debated since, but the point still stands. Take CPR Training for example – You used to shout, “Someone go call 911!” Now you’re instructed to point at a person and say, “YOU – go call 911!” If we need to direct the request for a simple phone call – to save a life – it stands to reason that it would go the same way for philanthropy.

Apply this to special events. Have you been to a special event where people are crying, overwhelmed by the impact of the organization? What’s the average gift size?

Alternatively, we know that if we simply change the context and visit with our best people one-on-one and JUST ASK, the responsibility cannot become diffused. When you make a specific request, face-to-face, the action is increased ten-fold (at least).

There is a world of difference between a plea for help to a group and a specific ask to an individual (or individual corporation/foundation).

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The Importance of Taking Great Notes

The Memo for the Record is an important mechanic in our sales process. (See last week’s post on the importance of Follow-Up.)

“Nothing so much assists learning as writing down what we wish to remember.” Cicero

I’m constantly amazed at how often salespeople don’t take notes! A great Memo for the Record is composed directly from your notes – Notes you took on the visit.

A great Memo for the Record should:

  • Record what happened on the visit. Someone on your team should be able to pick-up the memo and continue the conversation.
  • Use quotes. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!! The best message in the world is the one that comes from the prospect’s mouth. Capture words and exact phrases used by the prospect(s); put them in quotes.
    • Bad: Prospect seemed to like our program.
    • Good: “The after-school program is a huge priority for me.”

    This will:

    • Help you LISTEN. Read Vocabulary Wars.
    • Help others on your team LISTEN (even though they weren’t there).
    • Make life so much easier when you pull out the call report in six months.
  • Use bullets. Easier to read. Easier (faster) for you to download.
  • Be as long as needed, but completed within 36 hours of visit. This memo should capture all the key points that you would need to remember in six months, but shouldn’t take you all afternoon to compose.
  • Include follow up for you, your organization and the prospect. I would encourage you to dictate these notes IMMEDIATELY following the visit. Don’t wait. (I carry a dictation device and transcribe the call memo in my car – minutes after the visit.)

I’ve altered a real call memo and included training notes to help you learn: Download sample call memo. You can also download a call-memo-template to help you get your notes organized, quickly.

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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.

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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.

Reminders:

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

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9 Big Board Questions

I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats, meetings, and planning sessions as a leader, observer, and participant. A traditional strategic planning session lays out goals and actions but often fails to address some really big driving questions.

WHAT IF we asked these questions:

  • What is our purpose or raison d’être? This is different from mission – which should be the same thing but usually ends up being more about ‘place in the world’ than purpose. Raison d’être literally means REASON FOR EXISTENCE. It’s the WHY question. If you can’t answer WHY, then WHAT and HOW are irrelevant.
  • How can we (intentionally) go out of business? In either the short term (1000 days) or long term (50+ years)? If you exist to change lives, save lives, or transform lives, then how often do we re-examine our activities and ask, “Can we find a SOLUTION?” I started to qualify this question – to say that it might not apply to some organizations, such as schools. Then I withdrew my qualification. Ask it anyway; see where the conversation takes you. Education is changing.
  • What would you do with $10M or $100M? Or pick a number that is a factor of 10x higher than anything you’re thinking about now. I once attended a retreat as a board member for Road of Life Cancer Prevention for Kids. With $100M, one board member said she would get laws changed to make health education mandatory at an earlier age and another said we should invest in longitudinal studies to understand how health prevention impacts kids. Those are two very different priorities and we weren’t doing either at that time. Ultimately, the question helped to build consensus around focusing on EDUCATION. Until the question was asked, every debate was about incremental tactics. Not Vision or even, I would argue, Strategy.
  • What Strategic Partnerships can we pursue? You have finance committees, development committees, marketing committees, campaign committees. If anything, I would like to see a partnership committee. Better yet, just a commitment to partnerships as a core priority of the organization. I haven’t seen the numbers in a while, but there are somewhere in excess of 2 million nonprofits and many more socially focused businesses (all For Impact). Current structures and strategic planning questions focus on bloat, not partnerships. We’re all trying to make a difference, so let’s make a commitment (financial resources) to exploring this full time.
  • How can we scale our Impact? Simple and open-ended, but not asked enough.
  • What are we best in the world at? Jim Collins has made this conversation prevalent (revisiting the Hedgehog Concept). It’s ultimately a question of priorities and focus. Consider finding the one thing you do very well and FOCUS on that. I can’t tell you how important this discussion is for your staff. It helps them make decisions about grants, programs, staffing, etc. Equally important is identifying those things that you’re not good at. I am a big Marcus Buckingham believer and his philosophy of focusing on your strengths.
  • Should we grow ‘wider’ or ‘deeper’? This is a scope of services question. Ultimately a lot of ‘strategic planning’ comes down to this question. Do we add more depth to our current programs (make them longer, more available, etc)? Or, do we expand our scope of services (diverse offerings, expanded continuum, etc.)? Refer back to question six to help you frame this debate.
  • How much money do we need to achieve our vision? What usually happens: we spend time tweaking funding goals based on last year’s results. It would be of huge value, to everyone, if we knew how much money we really needed to accomplish our Vision (either annually or over time via a campaign initiative).

    This question is often asked in preparation for a campaign, but not usually asked in relation to the operational/annual budget. Instead, we set a number and then allocate it (through the budget) – every year. Why not ask the question?

  • What is our business model? What business are we in? I think this goes along with several other questions and relates to strengths, focus, and priorities. It also adds clarity and could even become part of your message.

I think these questions would also SOLVE a lot of the problems I hear about every day:

  • Board Engagement/Staff Communication: It works both ways.
  • Board Meetings: If we’re on board about the big stuff it raises the level of the conversation. I think a lot of the comments I hear about board members being too detail-focused or staff members seeming unfocused is resolved when we can communicate about and focus on the big picture.
  • The Proverbial Rat Race: Incremental thinking gets incremental results (sometimes).

Download: Board Strategic Framework for Funding

Download: Board Role & Altitude (cards)

Download ‘On Board(s)’ Guidebook

Listen to ‘On Board(s) – A Guide for Greater Board Engagement’ Teleseminar (Tom Suddes)

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An Organization Must be Constantly Led Uphill or it Rolls Backward

4-Star General Stanley McChrystal was responsible for reshaping counterterrorism warfare from 2003 to 2008. In the introduction to his book, Team of Teams, he makes this powerful observation:

“An organization is no more enduring than the physical conditioning that keeps a soldier fit. An organization must be constantly led, or, if necessary, pushed uphill toward what it must be. Stop pushing and it doesn’t continue, or even rest in place; it rolls backward.

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Video Nugget: Creating Great Funding Rationales

Previous video in this sequence: Using Altitude to develop your Presentation.

In this video we cover the ‘Last 3 Feet’ tied to Creating Great Funding Rationales (hint: “Unrestricted” does not make a great Funding Rationale!)

  • Create a Funding Rationale tied to a Unit of Impact if possible – “Our goal is to underwrite all 3000 of our families each year at $1500 per family. How many families can you help support?”
  • Package up your Programs – “Here is the Impact we’d like to have in each community and it will take about $100,000 per community to make it happen.”
  • Use a Leadership Circle membership goal as it relates to the Opportunity to Save, Change and Impact Lives – “When we have 50 members in our Leadership Society (@$10,000+ per year) it allows us to innovate new programs and provide core support to existing impact. It also allows us to move quickly when needed – To save and change more lives.”
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