Author Archives: Nick Fellers

Video Nugget: Using Altitude to Develop your Presentation

Previous video in this sequence:
Using Altitude for Engagement, Organizational Development and Communication

In this video we cover using Altitude to develop your Presentation:

  • Lay out a Vision at 30,000’
  • Focus on clear Priorities over the next 1,000 Days
  • Answer “How you can help” with a Funding Plan

Check back tomorrow for more on developing your Funding Rationale.


The Campaign as an Opportunity for Organizational Culture Change

Changing a culture is very challenging. In the best cases, it is very slow.

Observing and working with thousands of organizations and companies I’m convinced culture change only comes about because of a dramatic event and/or extraordinary leadership.

More than a funding goal, the ‘campaign initiative’ can be an organizational event to declare a culture change.. and it gives a framework for leadership to tell a new story.

In fact, when we assemble a team for a major campaign effort we carve out time (off-site) with the team to envision success, draft the plan and DECLARE THE CULTURE.

Special note: Part of the exercise in declaring a culture is identifying sacred cows (and getting rid of them) as well as developing new language.


The For Impact Guidebook On Quantum Leap Campaigns

Campaign Week: Day 1.

(Reminder, we’re hosting campaign teleseminars this week.)

This guidebook is designed to CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT CAMPAIGNS.

No more of these…


Think BIG. Build SIMPLE. Act NOW.
It’s about the STORY! It’s about SPEED. SIMPLICITY. and SALES.
It’s about LEADERSHIP… TALENT… and a FOCUS on your BEST prospects.
It’s about choosing the DESIGN of your organization, team and impact… then making that QUANTUM LEAP.
Read ‘The For Impact Guidebook On Quantum Leap Campaigns’.


Campaign Week (our version of Shark Week)

Campaign Week Header Image

Every year we do our version of Shark Week. Instead of sharks we focus on CAMPAIGNS.

Next week is CAMPAIGN WEEK!

We will focus our writing, publishing and education on campaigns.

Here are four teleseminars we will be hosting. They’re free for the first 50 registrants.

Teleseminar: For Impact 101- Changing the Funding Game (INTRO)
Tuesday, July 14, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)
Teleseminar: Designing a Campaign
Wednesday, July 15, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)
Teleseminar: Building a Sales Culture – On Talent and Teams
Thursday, July 16, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)
Teleseminar: The Language of the Ask, The Close and The Follow-up
Friday, July 17, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)

Optimism and Confidence

This one’s a book recommendation and a commentary.

Book Recommendation: How Champions Think by Bob Rotella.

Some of the most important qualities in a great sales/major gifts person include:

  • Empathy
  • Optimism
  • Confidence
  • Engagement (Ability to ENGAGE)

It’s difficult for me to rank these. They’re all important.

How Champions Think gives you and me a way of approaching optimism and confidence as dynamic traits we can control. We DECIDE to be optimistic and CHOOSE to believe in ourselves.

  • On Optimism.

    “People aren’t born optimistic or pessimistic. Optimism is an attitude that people can choose to have.”

    • “Optimism doesn’t guarantee anything in sports [and life]. It just improves your chances.”
    • “Optimism is often an act of faith, a belief in something that cannot be proven.”
    • Rotella says that top athletes either consciously or unconsciously find ways to become and stay optimistic.
  • On Self-Confidence.

    “People tend to become what they think about themselves.” – William James

    “There is enormous wisdom in that sentence. And there’s enormous hope. James was wise enough to see that we are each the biggest influence on our own destiny. More importantly, he understood that we each have the power to construct our own self-image and that the self-image we construct will very likely determine what we become in life.”

The valuable thing about this book is that it gives us a peek into the minds of Lebron James, Ben Hogan and other champions. You see the importance of confidence but more importantly, you see how these are decisions that add up to construct one’s being.

Having coached and trained over 1000 sales people and leaders I believe in everything Rotella is saying. Optimism and confidence are found in different ways but fundamentally they are choices.

Implications for For Impact Leaders:

  • Hire for optimism and confidence… And always reinforce these traits. Believing in your team is one of the most important things you can do as a leader.
  • Remove (sales) team members that cannot be mentored toward optimism and confidence. We must guard against anything that takes these dynamic traits in the wrong direction.
  • Renew YOUR optimism and confidence. It’s a decision! But this one falls under ‘simple, not easy’. Work on finding ways to become and stay optimistic. Set the tone and the story for the team.

Video Nugget: Use Altitude for Engagement, Organizational Development and Communication

Previous video in this sequence: Introduction to Altitude Framework.

In this video we cover three ways to leverage the Altitude Framework.

  • For engagement. People will engage at the altitude of your choosing.
  • For organizational development. Start with WHY and answer the question, “To what end?”
  • For communication. Use the metaphor to effectively communicate with your team ‘at altitude’.

Summer of Health

In the spring of 2014, The Suddes Group team members encountered several health setbacks, ranging from physical injuries to the emotional / mental toll of losing family members. As a team, we decided to commit the summer to health and healing. On June 21, the Summer Solstice we started our SUMMER OF HEALTH.

This really simple concept defined our TEAM STORY for the summer.

We read books… took cooking classes… held each other accountable to fitness goals... rehabbed old injuries… There was an open and ongoing conversation about managing energy, finding flow, and the process of mental renewal.

The Summer of Health had many expected benefits, but also a few that we didn’t even see coming:

  • We went wayyyy beyond diet and fitness. The team conversation shaped around vitality, balance and meaning!!!
  • Team members involved families. This seems obvious in hindsight, but everyone reported having family members who also lost weight, gained energy, and transformed their health. As one team member shared with me, “We took the time to learn how to cook and prepare healthy food as a family, and this is a value that will be passed on to our kids!” (THAT’S IMPACT!)
  • We had an impact on broader social circles and extended families. Our team members became incidental health leaders and coaches. Let me tell you, there is nothing more fulfilling than helping a family member find health!
  • I think it had a permanent impression on our culture. Since last summer we’ve observed an awareness of energy and work-life integration.

The team journey was so powerful that we’re making it again. Hopefully a few of you will make a commitment to a SUMMER OF HEALTH too.

Obviously, this is something you can do yourself, but I would encourage you to do this with your team or with some friends.

Write to me at Tell me about your INDIVIDUAL or TEAM commitment to a SUMMER OF HEALTH. I will include you on notes we share with our team about focus, renewal and vitality. I’ll also send out some of the books below to a few randomly selected people.

Here are a few of the books we shared last summer:


Meaning Before Details

I’m preparing for our flagship experience, The For Impact Boot Camp. Part of the ritual includes re-reading some clippings and materials — including a chapter on the subject of ATTENTION from Brain Rules. John Medina goes into the neuroscience of how we pay attention, engage and learn.

Here’s a powerful nugget from that reading:

The brain processes meaning before details. Providing the gist, the core concept, first [is] like giving a thirsty person a tall glass of water. And the brain likes hierarchy. Starting with general concepts naturally leads to explaining information in a hierarchical fashion. You have to do the general idea first. And then you will see [a] 40% increase in understanding.”

This nugget (and the science explained in the book) helps to explain why the Altitude Framework is such a powerful communication framework. The Altitude Framework along with the Engagement Tool provide a visual orientation and hierarchy… moving from meaning to details.

This is also a great reminder that one of the most powerful questions we can ask someone is their WHY…. It creates full engagement around the THEIR meaning. If you can then attach every detail of the conversation to their WHY then you will have full attention.

In an educational setting (like Boot Camp) this becomes an important teaching principle. Give ONE concept and use a lot of details to support ONE idea. We then support with a story because stories are rich with meaning.


The Power of Context

I’m not sure we give enough credit or thought to the power of context… the situation, atmosphere or circumstances that shape events and communication.

Context gives (EVERYTHING) its form and meaning.

“The room is EIGHTY PERCENT of the context for the comedy!” – Jerry Seinfeld.


Think about CONTEXT (in these contexts!)

  • CONTEXT-setting! The job of the LEADER.

    “The CEO must set the context within which every employee operates. The context gives meaning to specific work that people do, aligns interests, enables decision making, and provides motivation.” – Ben Horowitz in The Hard Thing about Hard Things

    Set the CONTEXT!


    McKinsey identified the number one challenge with hiring and leadership development to be OVERLOOKING CONTEXT. “A brilliant leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another.” (McKinsey Quarterly. Jan 2014)

  • CONTEXT for the ASK!

    (This one needs a book, not a bullet point!)

    Think about how we PREDISPOSE to set and control the CONTEXT for the conversation. What do we need to send ahead of time? The experience! Who needs to be there! Where will we have the visit?


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

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?”

Funding Frameworks – Illustrated

In this video we illustrate a few funding frameworks inside of our sample engagement tool.

Reminder: You don’t need to use EVERY framework in your engagement tool. Simplicity is the goal!

Here are some links to support this video nugget.


Intern Reading List

As summer approaches we are brushing up the directed readings list for our For Impact Summer Internship. This is the version of the list / books we will share this year.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

The point of this book is in the title. The book is an invitation to THINK your way through life.

The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightengale

The first two books on this list are timeless classics. The Strangest Secret is… You become what you think about. This is true for individuals. I believe it’s equally true for teams and organizations.

Give and Take by Adam Grant

I don’t know how this book didn’t up with even MORE acclaim! Published in 2013 it was my most distributed book of that year. Adam Grant draws on research and real-world stories to illustrate and backstop the notion that helping others is actually the key to success. For anyone in our sector, especially, this is ‘wind in the sails’.

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin

Remember ‘Searching for Bobby Fisher’? The author of this book is Josh Waitzkin, the former child phenom chess champion and subject of the film. This book is about building your craft, learning (period) and the life-as-a-journey pathway toward fulfillment, excellence and mastery.

The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success by Marcus Buckingham

Focus on strengths (not weaknesses). In life, business, marriage!!! and more. If you can pick up this ONE tip it’s a huuuuggeeee lever for success.

The Power of Story by Jim Loehr

Everything is is a story. Nothing more. Nothing less. We have the ability to control that story. This is a book about the narrative machine that is the mind and the energy stories consume or create.

Eat. Move. Sleep. by Tom Rath

We’ve read dozens (maybe hundreds) of books, journal articles and other publications about health and wellness. Tom Rath does a great job hitting the recurrent (and really very simple) themes. At The Suddes Group we think of health & vitality as the first wealth. Anything we can do to promote that with our interns, our team, our clients or the broader FI community is really important!


How to use an Engagement Tool

In this video I share three quick tips around how to use an Engagement Tool.
(Download the sample Engagement Tool PDF.)

I suspect we will film many more videos around this topic. I could offer 50 examples / tips.

In this video we cover three things:

  • The engagement tool is not the presentation.

    It’s a tool. It’s not meant to be used (necessarily) in a linear and ‘unabridged’ monologue / delivery.

    In order to illustrate how little we ACTUALLY need to support a conversation we use a placemat drill in some of our trainings. Try walking through your story and an ask using a blank piece of paper or a placemat. Draw on it as you communicate. When you finish, you will be surprised to see that you made your complete presentation using only 5-6 words, a terrible picture and a lot of scribbles.

  • No prose paragraphs!

    Only prompts or framing devices are placed on the tool, as well as figures or words that CREATE engagement.

  • Use the whitespace, listen and write to create engagement.

    The best message in the world begins in the prospect’s head. Use THEIR words (when you can). This isn’t a sales device, it’s a relationship and communication device!

    Note: stay away from dark back grounds or gloss on the paper. Go with white space so you can write!

  • See also: What is an Engagement Tool?


A Framework that Works for Every Visit…. ever.

Having made 2,000+ visits I can share that only three went EXACTLY as scripted.

However, in all of those visits I cannot think of ONE time in which the Presentation Framework was not totally valid.


On every single visit these three things are really important.

Authenticity. Authenticity makes you and immediate sales expert.

I’ve found — through our workshops and trainings — that I need to be very dramatic about this. Here, I might even say BRUTALLY authentic.

One time I made a visit on behalf of a monastery. There were 33 monks praying for the visit. That made me nervous. I started the visit off by saying, “I do this all the time but I have to tell you, I’m nervous. Right now there are 33 monks praying for our conversation!”

Or, if you’ve been on the job for two weeks get out an make visits. You can be totally authentic, “I’ve only been on the job for two weeks, you probably know more about this organization than I do!”

Discovery. By discovery I mean the process of asking questions and… LISTENING. Most people don’t do the first part and when they do, they forget about the second part!

2,000+ visits and I can’t recall one time when asking questions and listening was not important. WOW!

Engagement. Engagement is a dynamic with a relationship which holds attention, heightens interest and motivates action. (My definition.)

We’re in the process of posting some Daily Nugget videos to illustrate ENGAGEMENT.


  • Visual
  • Simple
  • (Again) Asking questions / Listening

We tend to put a lot of preparation on what we want to SAY but almost no preparation into how we will create engagement and what discovery questions we will ask.


What is an 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


The Clueless Close

Of all the closes we cover, the Clueless Close has resulted in more gifts for our coaching and
training alumni than all the other closes combined.

It represents the EASIEST way to ask, especially if you have no idea what to ask for or you have some fear and need a go-to line to make the close.

Use the Clueless Close for visits where:

  • You have great timing, but your lack of information lowers confidence; or
  • You have a qualified prospect on a first visit.
In its simplest form, the Clueless Close is one question:

Where do you see yourself?

One great way to do this is with an engagement tool that includes a funding plan or
traditional campaign pyramid (examples below).

Goal: 500 Families @ $1000/Family
1 @ 100 Families
2 @ 50 Families
4 @ 25 Families
10@ 10 Families
20 @ 5 Families

Hospice House: $5.0M
1 @ $1M
2 @ $500K
4 @ $250K
10 @ $100K
20 @ $50K

Example 1:

After you’ve walked through the vision and funding priorities, you come to the
funding plan and ask:

Based on everything we’ve talked about, I would love to ask you about being part of this plan. Mrs. X, I’m not really sure where to go. I don’t know much about your capacity but you’ve indicated you would ‘like to make a really big difference’.

We have several funders on board with us [checking off – with a pen – committed gifts]. I
would like to go this route and ask you, where do you see yourself?

(You can let the prospect think about it and respond. As with any question, it’s critical that
you LISTEN to the answer and PROCESS the response.)

The prospect responded by saying “I think I could only do this [pointing to $50,000] this year.” Key words: THIS. YEAR.

Important note: Obviously you can’t use the Clueless Close when you’re with your top prospects. If you know you NEED to ask for $1M or you NEED to ask for project funding (tied to a specific number) you can’t afford to be clueless. Use the Clueless Close with first time funders when your funding plan is not dependent upon a specific commitment.
Be prepared for the answer.

Example 2:

On a different visit for the project, I tried to ask the same question, but that prospect started laughing before I even finished. “Nick, I’m not on your chart.”

I paused and said: Could you tell me more about what that means?

He responded, “My wife and I are committed to seven big projects right now.”

Key Words: RIGHT. NOW. These are big community philanthropists in the middle of some huge funding commitments. He was telling me that though he loved our project, it couldn’t be one of his top projects right now.

At the end of that visit, he committed to $10K. The goal of every visit is to maximize the relationship at this given moment. In this case, there was a lot of potential for the future as he and his wife finished up with other projects, and I now had more information about capacity than I had before.

The Takeaway: The Clueless Close is a great way to ask when you don’t know what to ask for. And you will no longer be ‘clueless’ after this close.

Click here to download audio on on the Clueless Close + 19 more Closes.


The Entrepreneur’s Mantra: Think Big, Build Simple, Act Now

For Impact is a team of entrepreneurs. I sold my first company at the age of 20. Tom, a serial entrepreneur, has founded 19 different companies. Just about everyone else has experience in starting or building companies and scaling ideas.

What brings our team together is this experience plus a common passion to use this DNA for Impact. (And, there we have a nice little reference to our raison d’être.) Extracting this DNA — then putting it into words — it reads:


This mantra is so important to us, that we’ve also made it one of our 9 Guiding Principles.


  • Think Big with your VISION. How are you changing the world or your world?
  • Think Big with your ASKS. You can’t get $1M if you can’t communicate what you would do with $1M!
  • Think at a higher level. Get up out of the weeds and see the problem, opportunity, team and solution at 30,000’!


  • Get your MESSAGE on a napkin!
  • Simplify what you do using the Rule of 3.
  • Focus on 10 prospects who could TRANSFORM your funding … and TRANSFORM your organization.
  • ONLY do that which is productive in your funding plan (Stop doing special events that aren’t special and that don’t raise money.)


  • Stamp DRAFT on everything and go visit!
  • No committees. “Engage, then plan!”
  • Just Visit. Just ASK. Ten steps forward and two steps back is still eight steps forward.

Tom brings a more powerful voice to the ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT. Not only has he done the 19 companies, but he’s traveled the world visiting with and mentoring social entrepreneurs. Here is a one-pager on TB/BS/AN from Tom.


2:1 Rule for Deliberate Dialogue

I was recently coaching a brilliant scientist. She is world-renowned for her research and was having no problem getting visits. I joined her on a visit.

Despite our plan, she spoke for 20 solid minutes before giving the prospect a chance to engage in some form of dialogue.

Everything she said was good. The only challenge is that it was shutting out the other person. We were – most certainly – skipping right past a host of connections.

On every visit, the prospects were wow’d but not maximized.

To change this, we started to focus on the practice of creating DELIBERATE DIALOGUE.

Deliberate dialogue is the act of intentionally
stopping to create dialogue.

For my scientist friend, we had to be even more specific. The coaching was this:

For every two minutes of ‘presenting’, you should STOP and ask a quick question.

We called this the 2:1 RULE using DELIBERATE DIALOGUE.

This is about INTENTIONALITY!!!

Some people do this very effectively:

I’ve been talking for a few minutes so I want to stop and then see if this is making sense.

Or simply: Does this make sense?

Or, you can set it up: I will talk for a few minutes and pause to see if we’re tracking.

It doesn’t have to be scripted. Most of the time the ‘talker’ just needs to stop long enough for the other person to jump in.

If you’re struggling to ENGAGE with someone else, or
If YOU end up doing all the talking,
be DELIBERATE in creating dialogue.

The benefits are numerous:

  • If you’ve lost them, then it’s not by much.
  • If there is an on-ramp for the other person, it lets him or her catch it.
  • You can listen when the other person is talking.
  • When we talk, we become fully engaged. (So let the other person talk.)
  • Feedback. Simple.

For the scientist, it was a game-changer.

Note: We’re in the midst of 33 days of our ‘best of’ For Impact Ideas on a Napkin. Check the blog daily for some great reminders.


Just Ask

Just Ask is the ACTION part of the For Impact Point of View.

Through The Suddes Group, we’ve raised a $1B. A big reason for this – WE ASKED.



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

…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.

A Campaign Is…

Several times each month I visit with boards and leaders. These thoughts represent a lot of the conversations I’ve been having on the subject of “campaigns”.

“What is a campaign?”

I often engage a board with this question. The word-association is something about which we should to be mindful.

  • “Committees!”
  • “Asking our friends for money!”
  • “Kickoff events!”

If the ‘capital campaign’ had a brand, it would be a bad one.

So, the first thing I often do is take control of the word.

A campaign is…

  • A time when we (The Suddes Group) see organizations getting very serious about building and maximizing relationships. This begs a question, “When would we NOT want to be building and maximizing relationships?

    This is all. it. is. By this definition we should ALWAYS be in a campaign.

  • A defined initiative with a goal and a plan.

    The first notion of a campaign I can find goes back to the Roman days: targeted initiatives with an objective and a plan (and then a celebration).

  • A story!

    The campaign is a time for us to tell our story! And, in fact, the campaign itself is a story. What’s the story we want to be telling about the next chapter in our impact?

    The story is not about ‘a capital campaign’ or ‘a building’. Those are traditional capital campaigns. Instead, what if we built a focused story around what we want to accomplish in the next 1000 days? Some examples:

    • “We want to be there when people need us!”
    • “Advancing care for vulnerable populations.”
    • “Scaling our impact on a national level.”

      Each of these defined very successful campaign initiatives. They provided the focused narrative for our 1,000 day WHY/WHAT/HOW.

  • A catalyst.

    For telling our story. For engaging others. For change. For results. For impact.


Talent Posting :: Water for People – Head of Business Development

Finding the right talent is one of the top challenges facing organizations. Over the past two years we’ve been quietly launching For Impact Talent, a division of The Suddes Group that works with our clients and alumni to find and train the right talent — to lead, sell or support around a true sales model and For Impact Point of View. Periodically, we will share these postings with our readership. Sometime this year we will also launch a talent center to source talent through

We’re currently working with Water for People, in Denver, to find the right person to lead their sales team in providing clean water for Everyone, Forever.

We’d love your help in spreading the word about this opportunity. The ideal profile for the Head of Business Development role is someone who:

  • has fearlessly led (and coached) teams through transition;
  • is a strategic leader and a rock; and
  • loves sales – and wants to take a best-in-class team to the next level.

Who do you know who fits this description? Contact our Director of Talent, Jessica Gemm, and let us know!


Year End Thinking. 100 Memories.

I sent this out last New Year’s Eve – had a great response – so I’m sending this idea again. Every year-end I make a list of my top 100 memories from the year. These could be events, moments, firsts, lasts, etc. etc.

It’s a great way to reflect on the year and prepare for the next.

I got this idea from Michael Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. He says one of Leo’s brainstorming exercises was to come up with 100 big questions about life, the universe, etc. The idea is that the first 30 will be easy. The next 30 will be cool and the remaining questions will be profound, insightful and guiding. You will see telling themes emerge.

The same is true of the 100 memories list. After you get past obvious moments like weddings and births the really telling memories start to emerge.

You can do this solo, with your team or family. And, it will probably take you a few hours. If you don’t have time for that, just do a top 30 – still great to capture at least those memories!

I won’t bore you with my list except to say that many of my memories come from meeting so many of you on the road … so many smart, passionate and inspiring stories of people changing the world.

If you’re up to it, I would love to hear about some of the adventures/memories/reflections you’ve had from the past year. We have some pretty ‘crazy’ (cool) social entrepreneurs reading this blog. What’s on your list?



Setting clear priorities!

It’s at the guts of great strategy and missing from bad strategy. It’s one of the most important functions of a leader or manager (to help declare and clarify).

Simple. Not easy!

Here are two powerful nuggets about prioritizing.


“One of the most useful findings in recent neuroscience could be summed up as:
The decision-making network in our brain doesn’t prioritize.”

– Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind.

(If you’re intrigued by time-management, story or neuroscience… read The Organized Mind! One of my WOW books from 2014.)

The insight is not new but the science is confirming. We should mindful and routine about the practice of prioritizing; our wiring requires this!


For Impact Reading: Being Mortal

Atul Gawande - Being Mortal

I’ve made Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’ required reading for our For Impact coaches.

Typically we share books with our team that relate to health/vitality, personal development, story, design/innovation, coaching/leading and sales. This book gets some of the highest marks I could offer in the first three categories.

Atul Gawande is a surgeon, contributing writer to New Yorker, and the best-selling author of ‘Better’ and ‘Checklist Manifesto’ (a book that’s as much about changing culture in health care as it is about checklists).

I resisted ‘Being Mortal’ because I thought it would be tough and depressing. After seeing the book appear on EVERY year-end ‘best of’ list, I downloaded it and couldn’t put the book down.

  • Everyone on our team has dealt with or is dealing with figuring out how to care for a parent / grandparent.
  • Atul Gawande offers a simple history of healthcare in the states (Chapter 3).
  • We all age. (This is the most certain bullet points I’ve ever composed.)
  • This is, in many ways, an ultimate book about STORY and WHY. The story of family, the story of medicine, the story of living, the story of YOU.
  • This book will be something everyone in healthcare ends up reading. (About 20% of our work is in health / healthcare.)

The book explores a change in perspective through some gripping storytelling. So I think the book has importance not only because of my points above, but also because it relates to the work we do actively trying to change the dominant perspective of the ‘not-for-profit’ sector.

Gawande writes:“The problem with medicine and the institutions it has spawned for the care of the sick and the old is not that they have had an incorrect view of what makes life significant. The problem is that they have had almost no view at all…”


Welcome to the new!

We’ve relaunched our website. Our most important goal in doing this was to make useful content easier to find.

We’ve organized the content so it’s easy to get what you want, when you want it, by applying this framework:

The old website was designed to be a river of daily nuggets. This new version will still publish daily nuggets, but our timeless content is organized around For Impact subject areas (like our point-of-view, organizational development, team development, and fund development), and by type of resource (guidebooks, videos, audio, etc.).

We encourage you to start with our P.O.V. and then explore the content – start reading from the beginning, or jump right to an area where you could use some help or inspiration.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, just ask.

Note: If you’re a current client or recent alum (of either coaching/training or a live experience), you will be receiving a link to re-register for one year of access to the ‘virtual coaching’ areas in our new site.


Top Challenges for Organizations

Small or young organizations (for profit / nonprofit alike) often identify FUNDING as their top challenge – until the organization really figures out a working funding model (or business model).

At that point, a top challenge becomes the RIGHT PEOPLE. The limiting factor to more IMPACT/INCOME is finding the right people!

(Of course, there are many challenges but these are the two constants in our work with hundreds of organizations.)

To those two, I would add a third top-challenge, self-identified by large organizations and that’s COMMUNICATION.

There are some intentional parallels:


The Suddes Group has really focused on helping the sector around these three challenges, developing solutions in these areas:

  • STORY. Hopefully it’s obvious that we’re all about STORY. The organization’s story guides strategy, talent, sales, and much more. Having the right story frames and simplifies communication.
  • TALENT. Helping organizations find the right talent. It’s interesting, we used to stay away from helping with hiring / search, instead focusing on the sales process. But we’ve learned that very few people are really thinking about a sales model and finding the right talent to lead / sell / support. We help organizations find the right people! It’s all about For Impact Talent!
    Note: To that end, we’re going to start posting positions at
    To learn more about FI Talent Solutions contact Jessica Gemm.
  • SALES. Helping organizations commit to sales…. the sales process… sales model… sales culture… to build and maximize relationships. We started in 1983 by providing sales-based campaign solutions. We WERE (and in many cases still are) the organization’s sales team. Today, we provide training and coaching to organizations throughout the US and the world in order to build their own (ongoing) sales cultures.

How To Make Your Story Awesome

I’ve heard it said that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

I buy that.

If that’s the case then I’m convinced STORY eats strategy for lunch, dinner and all the little snacks in between.

We’re preparing two important resources for our followers and alums.

Teleseminar on Thursday, August 21: How to Make Your Story Awesome
1ET. Free for the first 95 to register.  Info & Registration.

Storytelling Boot Camp on Thursday, October 9
Eagle Creek (our HQ in Columbus, OH).  Info & Registration.


How to Make Your Story Awesome

I’m defining STORY as a point of view – a way in which you choose to weave together facts. A set of glasses through which you see the world.

  • EVERYTHING is a story (awareness/mindfulness).
  • Your get to CHOOSE story (control).
  • As a leader, it’s up to you to LEAD the story for the organization, for your team, and for prospects (strategies). Lead!!!!

(Recorded August 21, 2014, Nick Fellers)
Right click and save for listening offline.

Right click and save to download show notes.


20 Closes

Closes Covered In This Audio

  • 0:00 Greeting
  • 2:08 The Clueless Close
  • 3:37 The Listening Close
  • 6:29 The Higher Level Close
  • 9:56 The Qualifying Close
  • 15:26 The Math Close
  • 19:05 Conversations To Have With Your Board
  • 25:17 The Binary Close
  • 27:37 Holy Audacity
  • 32:39 The Permission Close
  • 34:54 The Goonies Close
  • 38:35 Top Of The Mountain Close
  • 40:59 The Predisposition Close
  • 43:14 The Action Forcing Event
  • 47:14 Practice Close
  • 50:41 The Handful Of People Close
  • 58:15 The Self-fulfilling Prophesy Close
  • 1:00:33 The Momentum Close
  • 1:06:54 Handling Objections
  • 1:14:17 The Transformational Close
  • 1:16:44 Wrap-Up

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Nick’s Note: Just Ask


‘Just Ask’ the ACTION part of the For Impact message.

  • Through The Suddes Group, we’ve raised a lot of money. A big reason for this was because WE ASKED.
    So many times I’ve been on a visit with an executive director. We asked… the prospect (after some dialogue) said yes and the executive director then later said to me,

  • Just ask when timing is perfect.
  • Just ask when you know exactly what to ask for.
  • Just ask after you’ve visiting with the prospect nine times.
  • Just ask when you’re entire board is on board.
  • Just ask when those butterflies in your stomach are finally gone.
  • Just ask when you have the perfect message.
  • Just ask when you have the perfect materials.

It says, “Just Ask!”

  • Timing will never be perfect.
  • The only what you’ll know what to ask for is by asking (and getting a response).
  • You are in the business of saving, changing and impacting lives It’s not about nine visits. People cultivate because they can’t communicate!
  • Re: the board… just move… take action.
  • I still feel like I want to puke before a big ask….
  • The only way to truly test a message is to ASK.
  • Re: Materials, see my above point about message.

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 message, from the org or plan) to make a commitment.
Until you ask, prospects can’t say YES!

Just Ask!
Always Ask.

This is 90% of everything you need to know about raising money.


Nick’s Note: It Takes 15 Visits to Hit Your Selling Stride

We coach and train organizations and individuals to sell … to sell their vision, their projects, their impact.

  • Sales is a 1:1 activity. It requires that we get out of the office and meet with people.
  • Sales is also the only way to truly maximize relationships.

I will often ask an executive director, “How many visits and asks (1:1) does your organization make each month?” More than any other statistic, this is a key performance indicator for an organization. Many leaders respond with something like, “Well, right now, none. We’re waiting until we finish our strategic plan.” Or, “About once per month but we’re really going to commit to major gifts in the coming year.”

Get out. Visit. Ask.

As coaches, we know it takes about 15 asks (over a three-month time period) from one person to hit ‘selling stride’… where a sales person is likely to keep making visits … revenue will jump … systems will start to form. On paper, 15 visits doesn’t look like a lot (and it’s not) but it requires:

  • That we stop messing with the message.
  • That we get out of our comfort zone. Otherwise, human nature would have us wait forever to make the FIRST visit.
  • That we get beyond the 2-3 ‘low-hanging fruit’ prospects … being proactive in a sales process.

If you’re new to this, your first few visits are going to feel awkward. You’ll find yourself saying really stupid things. Just know this and know that you have to do them to get them out of the way. Somewhere in the range of 6-10 visits you’ll start to ‘own the message’ and find yourself in familiar territory on each dialogue. And … by visit 15 you will find a groove. Each visit is no longer produces that ‘deer in a headlight’ feeling. Much like an experienced quarterback describes, the time seems to slow down and you get much better at processing on the fly.

For what it’s worth:

  • I feel really awkward on my first ten visits on behalf of a cause. Even having done this hundreds of times it takes me a while to find my groove.
  • It’s much easier to do three visits in one day than it is three visits in one-week.
  • Remember, be authentic and you can’t screw up. It’s okay to say, “This is the second time I’ve shared the plan in this way.”
  • If it helps, go ahead and make ‘practice visits’… these count toward the 15.
  • I’m suggesting it takes 15 visits for a person to reach his or her stride which impacts the organization as a whole. If you have two sales people then they each should make 15 visits to hit a stride.

Visit with a Foundation

Nick walks through a visit with a foundation and demonstrates how build Leadership Consensus to validate the plan.

Set Up

Nick meets with a local bank foundation that has a long-time, but unmaximized, relationship with Christian Community Action, an organization that started a campaign but fell short of their goal.





Key Learning Points:

  • Leadership Consensus Building – getting long-time funders on board to validate the plan
  • Ask questions to determine where their priorities lie
  • Get them on board as a champion before the ask, then the ask becomes a natural progression of the relationship
  • Nick used specific language that communicated directly to a bank mindset (strategic partner, emphasis on numbers and plan, ect)
  • Use the tool to draw the prospect into specific parts that they are interested in
  • As a partner, Nick showed that the organization is raising the bar everywhere – that’s why it makes sense for the foundation to raise their bar
  • Sell the plan – let them know that we are a sound investment in the future
  • It’s about making a commitment to having a lasting impact on the community



Key Learning Points:

  • Roadmap: Predisposition, presentation, follow-up
  • Constantly predispose the prospect to the next part of the flow
  • Follow Up with prospects, with your organization, and with yourself
  • Immediate follow-up letter – “here are the key points we talked about, I have captured and confirmed them”
  • Current visit follow-up letter – bullet point format
    • You’ve been one of our best partners, strategic match with our priorities
    • Ending homelessness
    • Strategic partnership
    • Confirm follow-up steps
    • Give a specific time to follow-up
    • Use specific quotes of what they said
  • After action report – how did the message work, what did we learn, what do we need to change? It’s a continual learning process
  • As sales people, keep the ball in your court – control when you are going to get back to them

Only 15 Minutes To Meet With New Prospect

Nick demonstrates a visit with a prospect when under a 15 minute time constraint.





Key Learning Points:

  • Establish a personal relationship and connection.
  • Even though there were only 15 minutes, the visit did not feel rushed or pressured.
  • Listen and ask questions! The prospect did most of the talking

The Clueless Close

Nick explains the Clueless Close for when you are unsure of the prospect’s capacity.

Key Learning Points:

If you are unsure of the prospect’s capacity, be very authentic and honest. I don’t know what your personal capacity is, but I know what it will take to support this program. Can you help? If you don’t know where their capacity is, just ask!


Discovery Close

The Discovery Close can be used when you have not been able to qualify the prospect’s interests or capacity.

Key Learning Points

  • Ask questions and listen!
  • “Where do you see yourself?”
  • “Would you be willing to share with me a little about your grant making process?”
  • “I know you give to so many wonderful projects, could you share a little about your philosophy and priorities?”
  • “I know you have a foundation but I don’t really know much about that, would you be willing to share a little before we talk about the funding plan and how you can help?”

Is Your Story Awesome?

The story you use to maximize funding …

The story that brings rock star talent to your doorstep and fully engages your team …

The story that you tell yourself every day to stay focused and fulfilled …


Story adds passion, purpose and urgency to your message, plan and everyday actions.

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


“We fail to realize that everything we say is a story — nothing more, nothing less.”

“Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our experiences … Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”

“Your life is your story. Your story is your life.”

– From The Power of Story, by Jim Loehr


You have control over the story. That’s the WOW!

Take time to think about:

  • The flawed stories we tell ourselves. “She can’t make a gift of that size because she just made a big gift to the museum.” Stop making decisions for prospects.
  • Our funding stories. Do you need money for your annual fund? (Yawn. Who cares?) Or are you tying your story to your IMPACT?
  • Our organizational story. The story of “Braveheart” trumps the “Little Engine that Could.”
  • The Story of the SECTOR! The Story of our Raison d’être! Are we ‘not for profit’ or FOR IMPACT?

Story … if you ‘get it’ … is a BIG deal. DISCOVER your story and make it AWESOME.


Nick’s Note: Return on Energy

Here is a simple idea you can use to frame your thinking around your funding plan:


This seems to be especially big for organizations trapped in a transaction-based system of special events (life-sucking, volunteer-draining) with often and incredibly low RETURN ON ENERGY.

If that describes your organization, then think about this rhetorical question: What would happen if you did away with one event. Then, you focused all that energy (time, urgency, people, resources) on building a great relationships with one or two prospects that could invest $1 million in your vision?


  • Special Events As Fundraisers Stink- they’re not special.
  • Major Gifts: Raise the most money at the least cost.
  • 97/3: 97% of the money/investments comes from 3% of your family … focus on
    the 3%


I was with a school in Albuquerque. The bulk of the funding strategy revolved around special events … in fact, they were running FIVE events. The board was drained. It made a commitment to CHANGE the way it FUNDED the VISION. In only one week, the board generated more than $80,000 to fund student scholarships by working only a few key phone relationships. To really see the ‘WOW’ you need to know that they these events were consuming hundreds of volunteer hours and netting an average of $30K – $50K each (with a funding cost as high as 70 cents to raise a dollar – yikes).

To me, this is a wonderful example of stopping to think about the RETURN ON ENERGY, making a commitment to change and enjoying IMMEDIATE RESULTS.

Final Note:

This applies to EVERYTHING you’re doing. Take a moment today to think about your RETURN ON ENERGY.


Nick’s Note: Marketing v. Sales

If you’ve seen Tom or I speak … or if you’ve been to a workshop then you’ve probably heard our rant about ‘No More Special Events.’

A bold few always want to challenge this position:

  • “But that’s how we build relationships.”
  • “But that’s how we generate awareness.”

No one ever says, “But that’s our CASH COW!”

The reasons most often heard in defending special events are really tied to MARKETING. Substitute the objections above with, “But that’s how we do our marketing!”

Interesting. And, OK. So that begs a question, what about your SALES?

Think about your development efforts in terms of MARKETING and SALES. Right now we don’t use those terms (Enough? At all?) Use MARKETING and SALES as a simple strategic framework. What IF we all agreed that the one big event was going to be the most incredible opportunity for us to tell our story? What if we didn’t pretend it made a ton of money?

If you’re going to keep your event – in the name of building relationships – then tell me what you’re going to be doing to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS.

If you decide to keep that event, then decide its purpose. If it’s to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS, then set out to make it the best at doing that … but don’t pretend it’s the centerpiece of your funding strategy.


A reminder: The best way to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS is 1:1.

And a question: What if we took that time, energy and effort spent on the event(s) and put that into getting great visits and providing customized experiences with our top 10 or 20 prospects?

It’s the function of marketing to produce qualified leads for sales. I can’t remember where I got this definition, but I favor it as it relates to our development efforts. Once you determine what efforts are marketing and what are sales, then you can ask, “How are we using this marketing effort to find qualified leads for sales?”


Nick’s Note: 9 Big Board Questions

I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats (leader/observer participant), meetings and planning sessions in the last few years. A traditional strategic planning session lays out goals and actions but often fails to ask 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’ vs. 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? Is this for the short term (1000 days) or long term (50+ years). You exist to change lives, save lives or transform lives. 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 recently attended a board 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 aren’t doing either right now. 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 (DNA) 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 in the last few years (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. Side note: I am a big Marcus Buckingam believer. He tells you to focus on your strengths. [Our strength at For Impact is live training, facilitating and coaching. We’re focusing on ways to do more of that.]
  • Should we grow ‘wider’ or ‘deeper’? It’s 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 (annually or over time via a campaign initiative). Reflecting on this, I would say that this question is often asked in preparation for a campaign but it is not asked in relation to our operation (annual). Why not? Instead, we set a number and then allocate it (budget)… every year.
  • 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 (some times).

Nick’s Note: Killing off Campaign Commitees

Nick’s Note: Killing off Campaign Commitees

by Nick Fellers

Here’s a story about an organization that was having a hard time getting leadership engaged and ‘on board’ through a Campaign Committee / Chair Structure.

A youth-serving organization in the Midwest started a campaign two years ago – then put on the brakes. It couldn’t find a ‘Capital Campaign Committee Chairperson’.

The description for this ‘Capital Campaign Committee Chair’ was four pages in length. It included things like (and we’re not making this up):

[First line of the description:] Acceptance of the Capital Campaign’s financial goal by the General Chairperson represents his/her commitment to raise this goal for this Campaign.

This person should make a lead or the lead commitment for the Campaign.

The Chairperson is responsible for achieving the Campaign Funding Goal. [Yes, essentially this is stated twice.]

The Chairperson is responsible for identifying, recruiting and soliciting other members of the Campaign Committee.

The four pages did have other filler that wasn’t as harsh, but…The message? The Capital Campaign Committee Chairperson basically has to do the whole Campaign… devote the next two years to focusing
on Income, no Impact… he’s on his own… except he’s not because he’s going to sell others to come along for the ride.

OBVIOUSLY no one in his or her right mind would sign onto this. it’s no wonder this organization was having trouble finding a chair. The description above probably works (but not because of the description) when there is one clear and strong leader that STARTED the Campaign Effort… that’s LEADING the Campaign Effort… from day one…. As in, it was HIS or HER idea. For the other 98% of Campaigns, it’s completely unrealistic and completely off-putting.

Prior to putting on the brakes, the organization profiled had asked eight people to be the Chair – without success. All eight have expressed STRONG enthusiasm for the Vision, the Case and the Project.

So here’s what we did.

We scrapped the Capital Campaign Committee all together.

‘Capital Campaign’ tells a story about a building. The building is a means to an end. ‘Committee’ connotes committee. Ugh.

What we really need is LEADERSHIP – so that the community OWNS the project – not the nonprofit development team. We also need CHAMPIONS – people that will help us make the vision a reality.

Instead of a Campaign Committee, we’re identifying ‘Ambassadors for the Children of [CITY]’. We’re focusing on ten great ambassadors who can help us Advance the Vision by doing three things (that match our Champion/Invite/Invest strategy).

  • Be a Voice – For the Children. [CHAMPION]
    2 out of 4 children in this city’s metro area live below the poverty level. Many are on a path to gangs and unemployment. This is all in an affluent city where people would probably guess the
    numbers to be much lower.We’re asking the Ambassadors first and foremost to lend their name and endorsement to the Vision, the Mission and Project.
  • Help us Share the Story [Invite]
    When people come down to our existing neighborhood center it takes about ten minutes of walking THROUGH the story before they ask us, “How can I help?” We’re reinforcing to our Ambassadors that the story illustrates itself… but we need their help by bringing people TO the story.We even note that in doing this, it’s all about ‘Sharing the Story’ and not about asking their friends for money. We have a well equipped staff with a killer process if someone is moved by the Impact.
  • Invest with a Commensurate Commitment
    It’s also important to note that we are not dodgy or coy about needing help. Instead of building out meetings we’re focused on building and leading a movement in the community – with the help of these 10 voices. And, we pretty much explain this thinking to them in the same way.We’re not focusing on ‘the group’ but instead on individuals that comprise the group. We’re only holding 1-2 gatherings per year for formal group updates about the Impact and Income. Otherwise, accountability is specific for each individual most months as needed. Notably, we ARE putting in place a ‘Lead Ambassador’ – someone who can help rally the troops!

Though we’re just rolling this out at this organization, we’ve used the same strategy with great success on other ‘Campaigns’/Funding Initiatives.

Community leaders want to help. They want to be Champions for your Vision. They want to make the Impact happen. They will even invest in the Impact and help to get others investing in the Impact.

This enthusiasm is muted (maybe killed?) when it becomes all about signing in blood to be a ‘Capital Campaign Committee Chairperson’ (or member).


Nick’s Note: If Effective, Then Plenty of Money Available

“Most philanthropists, even experienced ones, say that it’s harder to give money away effectively than it is to make it.”
– Beth Cohen, Director of the Global Philanthropists Circle (GPG)
(An organization created by David Rockefeller’s great granddaughter.)


A few thoughts on that point:

  • You should be asking whether or not your organization is an effective use of funds.The answer is either yes or no.
    • If NO – then you don’t deserve the money (pretty simple).
    • If YES – then the issue is that you’re not able to communicate your effectiveness.

    This goes back to one of our principle message points: Impact drives Income.

    I think this is encouraging.

  • Think much bigger about your Impact and Income.Tom always shares a great line from his sales mentor, who came from the life insurance business: “It’s easier to sell a million dollar policy to a qualified prospect than it is to sell a $10,000 policy to a family member.” Thing big about your qualified prospects.

    The greater the capacity and philanthropic interest, the more difficult it is for that person to be effective (evidenced by the quote from Cohen).

    This means there is an entire network of investors out there looking for you (if you are an effective investment).

    This is also encouraging.

  • Trust me, most organizations are not out communicating their impact.While we know there are plenty of people who have ‘short arms and deep pockets,’ I have a tough time accepting that judgment about somebody before going to see them.
    • Most people don’t go visit with the prospect: they send a letter, don’t hear back, call it a rejection, and chalk it up to the idea that he prospect is “getting hit up by everybody.” Or, “It’s a competitive environment.”
    • When they do visit, they ‘ask for money’ (instead of ‘presenting the opportunity’). They don’t communicate the impact. What the prospect hears is, “We want your money,” instead of, “This is how the investment will change lives, save lives or impact lives.”
    • Or, worse yet, they visit, talk about the NEED for money, share no impact and make no real ask.

    So don’t base your assumptions about prospects (people, foundations or corporations) on what you’ve heard on the street.

    Try this.

    • Get a visit with a qualified prospect.
    • Share the story around your impact (communicating your effectiveness).
    • Present the opportunity to make an investment that will change lives, save lives or transform lives.

    It makes all the difference in the world. You will be successful and the word on the street will be that you walk on water.


Nick’s Note: Stop Cultivating and Start Communicating

“Why do we cultivate people?” As Tom always reminds me, “Cultivation is that thing you do with plants and manure.”

I 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 then it’s really not about cultivation; it’s about asking whether or not they want to help you with your cause.

I use a simple story to emphasize my 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 committed to save the life of the child (so would you). I can’t imagine a scenario where you would first try to spend years getting this person interested in saving children (read: cultivation).

So … if you’re saving or changing lives then you can’t really argue that we need more cultivation. I would propose that the issue at hand is really 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 vision.

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 (save the child – as it were).

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

People come from all over the world to the For Impact Boot Camp because they need more money. In order to address that, we spend almost half of the Camp talking about HOW to COMMUNICATE the IMPACT. It’s all about communication, and it’s why attendees have success when leaving. They have the ability to communicate their impact in such a way that it is as clear as saving a drowning child.

P.S. If you think my example is too simplistic or unrealistic, please know that this same example is what set into motion the greatest philanthropist of our era – I’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.


Nick’s Note: Strategic Planning v. Strategic Clarity

I’m tired of reading lengthy strategic plans that don’t derive-from or result-in real strategic clarity.

  • In past year I have been with several foundations that have asked organizations for ‘strategic plans.’ Speaking to the foundations directly, I can say that what they’re really asking for is STRATEGIC CLARITY — not 40 pages of ‘stuff.’ It’s a vocab issue.
  • IMPACT drives INCOME. In order to get funding results we [The Suddes Group] always have to back our way into helping an organization get REAL strategic clarity so that we have a clean strategy, message and case for support for funders. Funding, at the point, then simply becomes about execution. We can coach and train people to execute.

Strategic Plan vs. Strategic Clarity

Think about the difference in these two terms.

Every organization needs strategic clarity and a 1000-day action plan. They need to have everyone on the same page about:

  • The purpose (the WHY) and the vision (the ultimate goal) (at 30,000’).

    This should fit on a napkin.

  • No more than THREE* simple strategic priorities (at 14,000’) that advance the organization toward the goal, aligning with purpose.

    These should fit on the back of that napkin.

    *Drucker was even simpler. He said every organization should have at most TWO priorities … WOW!

  • A 100-day (near term) plan of action tied to each priority and a 1000-day plan of action with benchmarks that run more fluid for quarterly review.

    This should fit on one sheet of paper (maybe two) if you stay at the strategic level.

Every day I talk with someone who needs or wants a ‘strategic plan.’ I can’t identify with that term anymore because it means so many different things. In each case though, they need clarity and simplicity. Only about half the time do they need to do a lot of consensus building (think: visits, dialogue and time) to bring everyone on the same page.

Over simplified? No.


Visit: 3 Keys to Success

Nick shares the three universal keys to success for every visit.


There are three universal keys to success on a visit:

  • Listen and Discover – it’s not about you talking, it’s about asking questions and letting them sell themselves. Listening implies them talking, while discovery implies asking questions like What are your priorities right now? or Is it possible for you to do this right now?
  • Share the Story – always go to the highest level in altitude and share your story to get them sold on your impact.
  • Be Authentic – be as transparent as you possibly can be, even go so far as to tell let them how you are nervous or excited to visit with them because it is so important.

Visit Flow – Share the Story and Present the Opportunity

Nick presents the visit flow centered around the framework of sharing the story and presenting the opportunity.


The flow for your visit is as simple as sharing the story around your impact and presenting the prospect with an opportunity to help.

The first step is the opening – it’s a relationship, not a transaction; people sell to people. Establish an authentic and personal connection with someone – talk about who you are and talk about them. Spend as much time on the opening as it takes to open a comfortable line of communication.

The second step is dialogue – it is not a monologue, it is not a spiel, it is a dynamic conversation based upon asking questions and listening to what the prospect’s answers. Ask powerful but simple questions like What do you know about our organizations? Remember that selling is not telling.

The last step is present the opportunity. If your impact is to save lives, change lives, and impact lives, then present the opportunity for the prospect to help to maximize the relationship. Don’t ask for money; ask for leadership, ask for underwriting, ask for transformation, but remember that it is not about the money.

Related Documents: On Engagement


Follow Up

Follow-up is a crucial part of engaging with a prospect that begins before a visit and is implemented during and after the visit.


Follow-up is everything that happens after the visit but must begin before the actual visit and be integrated during the visit. It is important to confirm the follow up in three ways:

  • Follow up with the prospect to confirm the details of the visit and provide a course of action toward closing. During the visit, capture key parts of the conversation, including quotes, that can be used in a handwritten letter that is not only a thank-you, but advances the relationship.
  • Follow up with your organization by creating a memo or record of information about the prospect on a personal level, their engagement with the cause, and steps forward. After each visit, conduct a braindump of all your thoughts through notes or on a voice recorder to immediately capture your thoughts and the details of the conversation before you forget them.
  • Follow up with yourself. Coach yourself in the form of a sales diary of what you could have done differently and what you did well. Simplify and confirm the content of the visit to better communicate and make it easier to follow up.

What do you do if the prospect was not expecting you to make an ask?

Nick provides the solution to the question – ‘What if the prospect wasn’t expecting an ask?’


What if you sit down for a visit and the prospect was not expecting you to make an ask? Sometimes this happens as a result of miscommunication while setting up the visit, but this doesn’t need to be a hindrance to the visit.

Acknowledge that although it may have not been their intention, you would like to continue, and if it is a fit, the prospect will often offer to help without you even asking. Present the financial plan and continue to pursue if it is a good fit, whether now or in the future.



Nick shows several predisposition methods to prepare for a successful visit.


A cold call to a potential prospect is not only unenjoyable, but often fails to produce results. It is important to do everything possible to ensure that the visit does not feel like a cold call, but instead is a warm invitation to join your organization to make an impact. This will predispose the prospect to the cause, to the ask, and to the case and will provide the opportunity for a sit-down visit.

You can’t explain everything about your organization in a short visit, so introduce your organization by creating a memorable experience to build a relationship through a specialized event, by sending material in the mail, or through a brief phone call.

Related Documents: Predisposition Samples, How To Get the Visit


Qualified Prospect Index

The Qualified Prospect Index is a mathematical rating and ranking system that produces the numbers to build a Master Prospect List.


The Master Prospect List (MPL) is a list of your most important prospects in descending order of importance. The Qualified Prospect Index (QPI) is a numerical ranking system that is used to build the MPL. There are five factors that must be taken into account in the QPI, the two most important being capacity and relationship. Capacity is simply the financial capacity of the prospect, while the relationship is the strength of the connection the prospect has with your cause or case. If they have these two factors, they are a prospect. The other categories are timing, gift history, and philanthropy.

A weighing system of 1-5 is assigned to each category and multiplied by a numerical factor to produce a scale of 1-100, with capacity and relationship being weighted heavier. Some examples:

  • If a prospect has high capacity and a strong relationship, but are about to go bankrupt, then they would produce a low score in timing.
  • If the prospect has already given a gift, then they would score highly in the gift history, but if it was an especially high value gift, then they might also score highly in capacity and relationship.
  • If they don’t have a gift history, it means they probably haven’t even been asked. Account for their commitment to philanthropy, but they don’t give away any money, then they will produce a low score in philanthropy and you should not waste your time.
  • Ranking prospects according to their numerical score creates the MPL, which is important because it identifies the best prospects – so you know what to ask them for. If you need a lead gift of $1M, you know who to approach.
  • The biggest way to boost funding is to look at you top 10 prospects every day. As Earl Nightingale says, ‘You become what you think about!’

Related Documents: On Prospects



Nick shows the power of the creative thinking strategy of The Last Investor.


The Last Prospect will help you to think out of the box to acquire visits with high-capacity prospects: What if you were down to your very last possible prospective investor?

If you can convince that person to get on board with your organization, he or she will bring all the money and prospects in the world; but if you fail to acquire this prospect, you have to shut your doors. If this were the case, what would you do to get an opportunity to sit down and visit with them? Whether you rent a limo, host an extravagant dinner, or show up at their doorstep, you would do whatever it takes and to whatever extent to get them face-to-face.

Approaching your top prospects like they are the last prospect will motivate and inspire you to find a way to sit down with them and deliver a powerful visit.

Related Documents: On Prospects


Find Your Transcendent Purpose

Nick discusses the importance of finding your transcendent purpose and how going up in elevation will transform your organization’s success.


What’s the highest purpose for someone to invest in your organization? Why do you exist? These high altitude questions are aimed at discovering the Transcendent Purpose of your organization and when answered, will push your prospects to make a philanthropic investment, not a charitable donation.

If you can find your transcendent purpose, you can increase the quantity and range of prospects, as well as the quality of engagement. For example, if you are trying to raise the funds for a new school building, your purpose has nothing to do with the building, but has everything to do with training and educating students to go out and transform the community. People care about the ‘why,’ and when you show them that the cause is bigger than the case, it becomes possible to push their current $100K investment to their full $1M capacity.

Related Documents: Ask On the First Visit Role-Play Video



Nick describes 8 ways that you can rationalize the number, timing, and ask to achieve the goal for your funding plan.


The funding plan lays out how you are going to deliver on your priorities and provides the justification for asking for the funds to achieve this goal. It is crucial to explain what you are going to do with the money, not only to justify the amount you are currently asking for, but also to explain how you will acquire the rest of the funds necessary to complete the goal.

When preparing for a visit, most anticipate that the biggest problem will be overcoming the objections from the prospect, but really it is getting the prospect to give more. It is important to first lay out a pyramid framework for funding to present different options to a prospect; for example, ‘We need seven people to give $3M, one at $1M, two at $500K, and four at $250K.’

There are 8 ways to use the funding plan to rationalize the number, the timing, and the ask; each is dependent on the context of the visit and the capacity of the prospect.

  • Leadership: offer for the prospect to be a champion for the organization to take the lead at the top of the pyramid, validating the plan and giving incentive for others to stretch themselves to reach the goal. It is a philanthropic investment, not a charitable gift.
  • Project: if the prospect is excited for a particular project, tell the story and present the opportunity for them to underwrite the project if possible.
  • Transformation: an opportunity to completely raise the operational bar in the organization and leverage the money to create a greater impact.
  • Momentum: a rationalization based on timing by presenting a number to the prospect that would enable the organization to build momentum for a project or priority at that point in time.
  • Participation: a reason for the prospect to be invested in an annual operating fund by increasing the participation number or percentage; for example, getting all the successful entrepreneurs in a community to participate in a giving-based membership society.
  • Strategic Partnership: this rationale is highly successful with corporations or foundations who would rather invest big numbers into one focused effort over a longer period of time on a strategic level, centered around the impact and income of an organization.
  • Legacy: this is a planned gift emphasizing leaving a legacy impact that could be formalized by creating a heritage society that the prospect can enter when giving a particular number.
  • Seed Money/Angel Investor: this rationale is used primarily for start-up organizations or projects and is used to get a handful of investors to come together with a large number to cover an entire project or get it off the ground.

Related Documents: Engagement Tools, Junior Achievement



Nick explains how to simply communicate where the money goes in your organization using the three-bucket framework to categorize of your organization’s priorities and programs.


The bucket methodology is a holistic way to communicate the answer to the question ‘Where does the money go?’ The priorities of an organization can always be divided into three “buckets” or categories, following the template of People, Programs, and Place.

For schools, these buckets are almost always translated into Students, Faculty, and Campus. Or for a ministry-oriented organization, it could be Ministry, Community Outreach, and Church Campus.
Asking the question ‘Which one is most important to you?’, engages the prospect and determines the best way to get them on board to create a bigger impact with your organization.

Financial objectives should be assigned to the the buckets, which must always be nouns, to provide a holistic framework to deliver your organization’s many programs to the prospect.

Related Documents: Engagement Tools



Nick explains how to discover and package the purpose of your organization to create a Napkin Message by hosting a Vision Day.


The Napkin Message is the condensed form of your organization’s purpose; it is not an eloquent paragraph but is usually just three words or bullet points that you could write on a napkin.

To construct this message, it is often helpful to conduct a Vision Day, a “town hall” type of meeting with board members, community leaders, and anyone who has served or been impacted by your organization.

This 3-4 hour brainstorm meeting should be framed around several questions, the first being ‘Why do we exist?’ Record key phrases and words (for example, save lives, better the community, or women and children).

The second question is ‘What is our cause?’ Though it may seem similar to the reason for existence, the cause focuses on topics like homelessness, domestic violence, or justice.

From these answers, take the top three bullet points and write them on a napkin so that you could clearly communicate to someone the purpose of your organization, even if you only have 30 seconds together in an elevator.

Related Documents: Presentation Tools


Introduction To Altitude

Nick shows how to build a case for support using the altitude framework to create a powerful message to save lives, change lives, and impact lives.


If we are passionate about our organizations, then why aren’t we talking to more people? This major problem is usually caused by three things:

  • We don’t know what to say
  • We don’t know how to say it
  • We don’t know to whom to say it

By using the Altitude framework, Nick Fellers shows how to build the Case For Support to clearly, concisely, and compellingly communicate this message. This message creates impact, and impact drives income.

The Case for Support is the main reason why someone would invest money into your organization and can be built using the three levels of altitude: purpose, priority, and plan. This tiered altitude framework can be used not only for income development, but also for organizational development:

  • Purpose is the cause or vision of the organization and answers crucial questions like ‘Why does your organization exist? And to what end?’
  • Priorities deals with questions such as ‘Where does the money go?’ and ‘How much money do you need?’
  • The plan is directly tied into the priorities with questions such as ‘How are you going to get there?’

Answering these questions helps to rationalize for someone why they would
invest money into your organization and can be used for strategic planning, leadership consensus building, major gifts efforts, and campaigns.

Related Documents: On Altitude


Community Leadership Role Play

  • Nick demonstrates how to share the vision and offer the opportunity for help.


    Nick has just met with a prominent community leader on behalf of Circles, a new organization whose mission is to stop the cycle of poverty.

    Key Learning Points:

    • Predisposition – send an email ahead of time i.e. I’m really excited to sit down with you tomorrow, here are some materials for you to look at, I’d like to get your feedback and input and talk about how you can help.
    • The people you meet with are great people, they might not say yes, but they want you to succeed.
    • Mentally, the visit is shoulder-to-shoulder – “We have to do this together!”
    • Ask questions! i.e. Does that make sense? What do you think about this?
    • Start with them where they are – Give them permission to be skeptical if they need to be.
    • Engage, Then Plan – i.e. Based on my math, I made a determination that it would be worth my time to get 10 people on board.
    • Listen and Always Take notes! Write down specific words they say and turn their words into the message.
    • “Forget about the money, I actually believe that our program and impact cannot be as successful without you.”
    • Follow-up immediately after the visit.
  • Message is what people hear

    What is ‘message’?

    A message is not necessarily WHAT YOU SAY, it’s WHAT PEOPLE HEAR.

    This is the simplest definition I can offer. It’s adapted from Words the Work.  It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. By Frank Luntz.

    If you geek-out on message, this is a terrific read.

    I’ve been using this definition to make people aware of their message.

    What do you want people to hear? Ultimately, I suspect it’s that you’re changing lives, saving lives or impacting lives.


    We’re looking for a Visual Communicator/Design Thinker … who wants to Change the World.

    For Impact readers: We’re using our ideal-profile approach to help find design talent.

    I would love nothing more than to find someone within our own community.  Thanks for reading and sharing this.

    – Nick


    Who do you know who has these three things?

    1. Insane graphic-design talent. (This person’s doodles belong in the Smithsonian.)
    2. A super-hero-like power to simplify complex ideas. (The person could summarize the bible on the back of a business card with a few sketches.)
    3. An infectious JOY for making a difference in the lives of others.

    What is visual communication to us?

    Think master of whitespace, symbols, icons and infographics… a typography, simplicity, wizard. (Less: Branding, Marketing, Retail.)

    What is design thinking? This is where creativity and motivation are brought to bear on a ‘problem’, and the ‘solution’ is replicable and scalable. (If you know who Roger Martin, John Maeda and John Medina are [without Google] … we will interview you immediately.)

    Can you help us find this person? He or she is critical to helping us scale our impact. He or she is critical to helping us package and share the lessons we’ve learned from working with 5000 organizations around the world and raising over $2 Billion for causes that range from freeing child soldiers to ending homelessness to advancing treatments for cancer.

    We (For Impact | The Suddes Group) are a small social enterprise that does amazing work working directly with and for the top social entrepreneurs and philanthropists on the planet.

    We are also a Design firm where we help with:

    • Business Models
    • Sales Strategies
    • 1,000-Day Action Plans
    • Engagement Tools
    • Experiences
    • Teams
    • Boards and more

    There are over 1.8 Million ‘nonprofits’ in the US alone; we need someone with the talent, smarts and commitment to help us SCALE OUR IMPACT … to offer to global-change agents the encouragement, motivation, resources — in print — when where we can’t be in person.

    Some more details:

    • Location: Columbus, OH
    • Travel: Occasional – we have offices in Colorado Springs, San Diego and Dublin, Ireland.
    • Examples: Types of things we need help with.
    • Experience: Not as important as talent and attitude.
    • Team player: A given. We function like a S.E.A.L. team. Except, instead of being a demolition expert this person will have a different tool set.
    • Status: Looking for talent. Would like to test a project (to see how this person fits on the team) and then dive in full-time with great benefits including health and lifestyle – work from anywhere and unlimited vacation days. (We’re all so motivated to do what we do that ‘work’ is never the issue.)

    Referral bonus: Everlasting good karma.


    Meet Farnam Street. And, think.

    I’m excited to share with you the crown jewel of the Internet.

    Meet Farnam Street: (Seeking wisdom by mastering the best of what other people have figured out).

    It’s not really a blog.  It’s more like a feed of incredible tools to help you THINK.

    Farnam Street is run by Shane Parrish.  I know three people who read as much as he does: Charlie Munger, Bill Gates, and Tom Suddes.

    For Impact | The Suddes Group is sponsoring Farnam Street. We’re really proud of this partnership because we feel like it gives us a chance to invest in the sharing of ancient wisdom and modern thinking – in the form of digestible nuggets.

    The Suddes Group has been working ‘in the field’ since 1983, delivering funding results for organizations. We have been packaging and sharing our thinking via For Impact (website, training, publishing) since 2000.

    Clients tell us again and again, “We chose to work with you for your clear thinking, simple approach, and transformational results.” I don’t need to hire a branding consultant to see the value in more statements like that.

    “Thinking is the hardest work there is, that’s why so few people engage in it.” – Henry Ford

    So brand-building, partnerships… all that’s great.  On a more meta level I believe, simply, Shane and Farnam Street are providing tons of value to the universe. That’s impact.
    We’re FOR  IMPACT. I’ll invest in that.

    Thanks, Shane.


    The Visit Story.

    How To Get Visit
    A few months ago we published a guidebook: How to Get a Visit. 

    This is a nugget about the story to secure a visit.  Really though, it’s a reminder about WHY we are trying to get a visit in the first place.  (Hint: it’s not about the money.)

    Perhaps your process to get a visit goes like this:

    [A phone call or email from the ‘development officer’.]  “Could we come and see you to talk to you about our annual campaign?”

    There IS a story here… But it’s a BAD (VISIT) STORY. 

    • Development
    • Annual Campaign
    • No ‘WHY’.  No ‘IMPACT’.

    Here are some thoughts to help you create a GREAT (VISIT) STORY.

    • Go back to our core message: Impact Drives Income. WHY are we visiting?  WHAT are we trying to do [IMPACT]? WHY do we want this person’s time?  Is it to ask for money? Or, is it to help change lives, save lives and impact lives? 
      • “We are visiting with people to talk about HOW to transform education in our community.”
      • “We are engaging key stakeholders in a conversation about the future of health care in our community.”
      • “This is a movement; you are part of it.  We have light years to go to change [insert cause].  This is an important conversation and we hope to have thousands more like it throughout the country…. “
      • “We will be sharing where we’re going and asking for your help.”
    • The story you tell yourself is AS important  – if not MORE important – than the story voice.  You must BELIEVE this is a phone call to change and save lives.  If you believe this, your SPIRIT will trump any script.  If you don’t believe this, a script will not help.
    • Be Assumptive. 
    • Nobody wants to have a visit to talk about money.


      And yet, some $300 Billion is given away in the US each year. 

      Why is this?

      Because just about everybody wants to make a difference.  Just about everyone wants to help.

      Everyone your meeting with (or hoping to meet with) WANTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD!  They want to have exhilarating discussions about making a difference.  They just don’t want to have a meeting about ‘giving money’.  Giving money is a means to an end.

    • Don’t make decisions for the prospects!  Just a reminder.

    • Bonus thought: Part of the STORY is about the PEOPLE on the visit.

    This is a great team-selling tip.

    YOU are a cool person!

    Have a board member or natural partner help to open the door with this story, “You’re going to really enjoy spending 30 minutes with Stephanie.  She’s a rock star… one of those people that makes us all want to do more to change the world.  Stephanie and her team are amazing social entrepreneurs. “


    Teleseminar this Thursday: Make Your Story Awesome

    “We fail to realize that everything we say is a story — nothing more, nothing less.”
    “Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our experiences…
    Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”

    “Your life is your story. Your story is your life.”

    From The Power of Story, by Jim Loehr

    You have control over the story. That’s the WOW!
    This week think about:

    Story – if you get it – is a pretty big deal. We’re devoting a lot of time, direction, and resources to helping the sector with ‘story’. Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing practical examples that help you clarify your vision, articulate your message, inspire your team, and transform funding.

    Teleseminar: How to Make Your Story Awesome
    Thursday, March 7 @ 1:00 PM ET
    Info & Registration


    Time to THINK

    "The Thinker" by Auguste Rodin

    I’ve found that one thing For Impact coaches bring to our clients — force, (really!) — is time to THINK! Most of us don’t often enough call a time-out on the madness to think and record our thoughts. This is something Tom models really well. He starts almost every day this way. During the day, he takes walks to think and dictate. During group meetings, he pulls people out of the mix to get feedback, dialogue, and seize outcomes. And he does some of his best work at 30,000 feet!

    Here are some thoughts from a plane on this:

    • Make Think Time.
      Since he’s The Old Guy, Tom can use that as an “excuse” to pull out. (As in, “I’m really old. I have to go away and think about this.”) We all have these excuses if we need them. Make the commitment to yourself, your team, your boss, your family. It’s GOLD.
    • Use FI principles and frameworks to ORGANIZE, SIMPLIFY and LEVERAGE your thinking.
      The ALTITUDE framework and Entrepreneur’s Mantra (Think Big, Build Simple, Act Now) are great for this. I just had a breakthrough the other day with two leaders using our PROSPECT framework (ID/Prioritize/Strategize) — on the design of their organization! At the beginning of the session, we only knew we needed a breakthrough. We had no idea where it was going to come from. The framework LEVERAGED our thinking about prospects to the ORGANIZATION.
    • Think time is not rest and restore time.
      Thinking takes muscle! Sometimes we say to ourselves, “I’ll think about that/plan that on the weekend/during my vacation.” How’s that working?! Rest and restore time is just as important as think time. (For more on this, see “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy Not Time,” by Loehr and Schwartz. Tom introduced me to this book years ago and it changed everything for me.)
      I like to do whiteboard or flip-chart sessions to get my whole body involved in thinking. Some people like to walk and think. My daughter Kit likes to dance and think! Find what works for you. (For more on the brain-body connection, see “Brain Rules” by John Medina.)

    Make time to THINK!


    The Power of Story

    “We fail to realize that everything we say is a story — nothing more, nothing less.”
    “Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our experiences… Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”
    “Your life is your story. Your story is your life.”

    From The Power of Story, by Jim Loehr

    You have control over the story. That’s the WOW!

    This week think about:

    Story – if you get it – is a pretty big deal. We’re devoting a lot of time, direction, and resources to helping the sector with ‘story’. Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing practical examples that help you clarify your vision, articulate your message, inspire your team, and transform funding.

    Teleseminar: How to Make Your Story Awesome
    Thursday, Dec 6 @ 2:30 ET
    Info & Registration


    Teleseminar: How To Make Your Story Awesome

    The story you use to maximize funding…

    The story that brings rockstar talent to your doorstep and fully engages your team…

    The story that you tell yourself every day to stay focused and fulfilled.

    Story adds passion, purpose and urgency to your message, plan and 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.

    $45 or free for the first 90 participants
    Thursday, Dec 6 2012 @ 2:30PM ET
    Sign up here.


    Congrats Tom, World Boxing Champion!

    Frequent readers will know that Tom has been the boxing coach at Notre Dame for over 35 years. This past weekend he traveled to Kansas City to compete in the Ringside Masters World Championships… and WON!

    Tom’s been prepping and training for months… we’re all really proud of you Old Guy!

    Going into the fights I teased him about his journey to the AARP tourney. As it turns out, the fights were pretty serious. Contestants weren’t shabby. They included life-long boxers and a number of boxing coaches like Tom.

    The fights consisted of three one-minute rounds. Tom advanced to the finals after scoring a TKO early in the second round on Saturday night. He won the title fight in a unanimous decision.

    We’ve setup a special email account Pass along your congrats!

    Congrats OG!

    Nick and the team.


    Thought of the Day: The “Perfect” Presentation

    This thought is internal… but makes a point.

    Having raised over $2Billion and worked with organizations all over the world…

    • Takes about 15 minutes to get a presentation (message/math/engagement tool) to about 80%.

    • Takes about 15 hours to get to 90%.

    • Takes about 15 visits to get to 97%.

    I don’t know that I ever really feel like the presentation scores 100% until after we’ve finished a campaign or funding goal.


    Number of Asks: The ONE Lever

    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.


    Change Takes 18 Minutes and 18 Months

    “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it’s getting.”

    – Tim Kight

    We redesign organizations and teams for results. Redesign is about CHANGE.

    • Change to the ORG: Vision, Mission, Message or Priorities
    • Change to the TEAM: Roles, Seats-on-Bus, Skills, Team
    • Change to the FUNDING APPROACH: Sales Process, Funding Model, etc

    When in the midst of change, I’ve been sharing with leaders that change, for teams in particular, will take 18 Minutes and 18 Months…

    There are things that teams will latch onto right away (think: 18 minutes). In the For Impact world these would be the Point of View, Vocabulary or some Nuggets. Teams will start to implement them ad hoc. Over time (think: 18 months) the team will come together around a cohesive system… the team will be working ‘as a machine‘.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot and seeing anecdotal support for the 18min / 18month rule in business and in the sports world.

    It seems helpful for team communication and team development to be able to talk about immediate change and long-term change. “What can we choose to act upon in the next 18 minutes and what can we aim to work toward over the next 18 months?”


    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 a call.)

    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.


    • 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 take no 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.

    Looking for a Visual Communicator who wants to Change the World.

    Who do you know who has these three things?

    • Insane graphic-design talent. (This person’s doodles belong in the Smithsonian.)
    • A super-hero-like power to simplify complex ideas. (The person could summarize the bible on the back of a business card with a few sketches.)
    • An INFECTIOUS joy for making a difference in the lives of others.

    What is visual communication to For Impact?
    Think: Master of whitespace, symbols, icons and infographics… typography wizardy. (Less: Branding, Marketing, Retail.)

    Can you help us find this person? He or she is critical to helping us scale our impact. He or she is critical to helping us package and share the lessons we’ve learned from working with 5000 organizations around the world and raising over $2Billion for causes that range from freeing child soldiers to ending homelessness to advancing treatments for cancer.

    We (For Impact | The Suddes Group) are a small social enterprise that does amazing work working directly with and for the top social entrepreneurs and philanthropists on the planet. There are over 1.8Million nonprofits in the US alone. We need someone with the talent, smarts and commitment to help us scale our impact… to offer to global-change agents the encouragement, motivation, resources — in print — when where we can’t be in person.

    Some more details:

    • Location: Columbus, OH
    • Travel: Occasional – we have offices in Colorado Springs and Dublin, Ireland.
    • Examples: Types of things we need help with.
    • Experience: Not as important as talent and attitude.
    • Team player: A given. We function like a S.E.A.L. team. Except, instead of being a demolition expert this person will have a different tool set.
    • Status: Looking for talent. Would like to test a project (to see how this person fits on the team) and then dive in full-time with great benefits including health and lifestyle – work from anywhere and unlimited vacation days. (We’re all so motivated to do what we do that ‘work’ is never the issue.)

    Email: Nick Fellers
    Referral bonus: Everlasting good karma.


    The Clueless Close

    Three years ago I recorded an audio with 20 closes.

    I’m working on turning this into a pamphlet… wanted to share with you THE CLUELESS CLOSE.

    This is how to ask when you don’t know what to ask for.

    The Clueless Close has raised more money for more causes than all the other ‘closes’ combined. Anybody can use it…. Hoping this little ‘guide’ is of value to you.

    READ IT! Give me feedback… Working on style / framing that would allow me to share 20 closes. Looking forward to your thoughts/feedback.

    PS: You can download / listen to the audio here.


    The Three Roles of the Sales Manager

    Note: Tom and I (but mostly Tom) write these ‘nuggets’. I have to shine a lot of light on our newest partner, Steve Elder, who has spent 20+ years building sales teams at health care organizations and throughout higher-ed. Much of the latest ‘sales team thinking’ comes from Steve as we diagnose organizations as a Suddes Group team. The three roles of the sales manager are a result of months of conversations with Steve (and other team members) about this function.

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

    A CRITICAL position on a sales team is THE Sales Manager.

    IF you are committed to a sales team then you should identify THE sales manager. This is the person who fulfills these duties:

    • Is 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 ultimately ACCOUNTABILITY: This person is 1) accountable for the sales team results, and 2) the person to whom each sales person is ultimately accountable.
      • There are also cases in which the sales manager can use others to support this function. Example, let’s say your team has ten sales people: they can report to a deputy but ULTIMATELY report to the sales manager.
    • Is the ultimate PLAY CALLER (or referee): If three sales team members want different changes to the engagement tool (for instance) the SALES MANAGER 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.


    On the Power of Clarity, Specificity and Persistence

    Joyce sends us this great nugget today from Joshua-Michéle Ross on the painstaking up-front work of achieving a CLEAR PURPOSE before he begins his work as an author.

    Joshua writes:

    I just read read a fantastic Esquire article about Robert Caro, author of the magisterial, multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson. Caro, despite being a self-admitted “fast writer” doesn’t begin his writing until he is perfectly clear on his purpose:

    “Caro knits together his fingers until he knows what his book is about. Once he is certain, he will write one or two paragraphs — he aims for one, but he usually writes two, a consistent Caro math — that capture his ambitions. Those two paragraphs will be his guide for as long as he’s working on the book. Whenever he feels lost, whenever he finds himself buried in his research or dropping the thread — over the course of ten years, a man can become a different man entirely — he can read those two paragraphs back to himself and find anchor again.”

    Read more from Joshua.


    The Sales-Driven Funding Operation

    I’m preparing to lead a training for a 14-person development operation. We’re going to start off by painting a picture that illustrates WHAT a sales-driven funding operation looks like…what a sales TEAM looks like.

    This picture-painting is important because there aren’t any models in the NFP sector.

    More than introducing the frameworks, the exercises, and lessons, I believe that if we can challenge the mind to see what a sales culture, performance, and team look like (RE-IMAGINE!), then these bright people will do things that a training can’t.

    My notes… you’ll get it.

    At 30,000′: Culture/Attitude/Model

    • Team: The very idea of a sales TEAM is radical for most organizations. Who’s on the sales team?
    • Simplicity and Speed (Simple presentation, tools, ask).
    • Celebration! I can’t tell you how many organizations we see that don’t have ANY IDEA how to celebrate. Live a little, people!
    • Audacity (YES we’re asking on the proverbial first date. Because we aren’t here to cultivate, we’re here to save and change lives!)
    • Motivation: Constant! from leadership and from each other. There’s a reason why the motivational/personal development industry is a $26B sector!

    14,000′: Strategy

    • Goals: team first; individual goals support the team goals.
    • No silos! When you see a SALES-DRIVEN funding operation you DON’T see a planned giving officer, a major gifts officer, and a principal gifts director. You DON’T see people assigned to different projects. You see ONE TEAM, the members of which can sell ANY PROJECT.
    • Clear Message, Clear Math: It’s impossible to imagine a high-functioning TEAM if we can’t imagine what the ask looks like. It’s got to be clear, simple, repeatable.
    • Metrics: We get what we measure.
    • Master Prospect List: This is the SACRED driver for your operation. It’s the ONE list that ranks and rates your prospects in descending order of importance. HAVE a list. WORK the list.

    3′: Execution

    • Listening
    • Engaging
    • Authenticity
    • O3: Stands for “Out Of the Office.” People are not sitting around. They’re OUT OF THE OFFICE making visits, telling the story, selling the vision.


    • SFP: A belief in the self-fulfilling prophecy. Write down goals. Get clarity. Make them happen.
    • Persistence: You get it.
    • No rules: At least not conventional development rules – like the idea that you have to visit seven times before you ask.
    • Infectious enthusiasm – of/from EVERY sales team member. You believe you’re changing the world or you don’t. Those who don’t bring other people UP — elevate the team — are off the bus.
    • Attitude. Attitude. Attitude.

    Share Your Story FOR IMPACT

    Tell us your story For Impact!

    “Dear Tom:
    Thanks for the For Impact daily nuggets. I was feeling a little beaten down when I went to the first day and uncertain if we would make that months payroll. You gave me a real kick up the ass and we’ve had a stunning two weeks since – secured our funding to year end , been identified as a network for change in Irish Education by the National Council for Council and Assessment (with funding). – won our first co-research contact, had two brilliant Smashing Victorian Classroom workshops with 40 young people, architects, educators and artists and we are talking a different talk!
    When I get back I look forward to lots of productive meetings to a whole new agenda with a new language!”

    John. Dublin, Ireland

    We receive a dozen or so unsolicited notes like this each week. To you, readers, I can’t tell you what this does for our drive. We write at For Impact and publish resources as a way to support those individuals and teams that are changing the world. We do this to scale our impact beyond direct client work.

    In the next few months we’ll be launching STORIES FOR IMPACT. This platform will capture and share stories like the one above and those at the end of this post. It will serves three purposes:

    1. It will be a place where others can visit and be enticed to drink the kool-aid. When organizations clarify their message, think big, commit to sales (focus on IMPACT), then more lives are saved, changed and impacted. I’m hoping you can help us put bright neon lights around the message!

    2. It will inspire and inform other readers and alumni. We got a note this morning from a training alum:

      “I want you to know that every time I come back to the office with a contribution, I turn this on and dance for everyone.”

      (Song is Salt n Pepa’s ‘Push It.’)

      That’s funny. We want to share this funny, human stuff.

    3. It will speak to Tom, Nick, Kerry, Mike, Carol, Tim, Georgina, Steve, Christie-Marie, John, Robb, Dick, Phyllis, Melissa, Wolfie… all of us at For Impact and The Suddes Group. We pass this stuff around the office. It’s how we get high.

    I’ve pasted a few stories at the bottom of this post but here’s the call to action:


    • Take one minute and tell us how For Impact (Daily Nuggets, Teleseminars, Training, eBooks, Partnership) has benefited your team.
      Send your story to (this will go to Tom and Nick directly).
    • Can be any tone. Serious… constructive feedback… fandom… pictures. We’re looking to hear how our words / thoughts are having an impact after you leave Eagle Creek. Remember, these will posted for the benefit of the rest of the For Impact community – imagine you were posting to a Facebook wall.

    • COME TO BOOT CAMP. Our team will vote on the top ten stories (no criteria). Three of those top-10 will be randomly selected to attend boot camp. I’ll underwrite the attendance fee.


    “In 9 months [since boot camp] I have raised 320k!!! – which is 70k more than my goal. I have also been promoted from Leadership Annual Gift Officer to Major Gift Officer covering the West Coast.”

    – Jason H. Colorado Springs, CO


    “I attended your presentation at the JA National Leadership Conference in Boston last July. I was so impressed with your ideas and your methods and I’m becoming an advocate of keep it simple and straightforward.

    I’m NOT a fundraiser by nature – when I was little, my parents bought ALL my Girl Scout cookies, wrapping paper, and popcorn. And I was terrified of taking on that primary role when I let my VP of Fundraising go. To prepare, I used the model you gave us. And guess what? It worked! I am able to present our program and our outcomes in a new and engaging way. My investors see what we’re doing through the lens of solving drop outs, skills gap and free enterprise misinformation. Invariably I get “I didn’t know you were doing all that” and the meeting almost conducts itself. I’ve been asking for more and actually get it (some of the time).

    I’ve also very successfully used this presentation (actually speech — I don’t use fancy visuals, etc) at Rotary / Kiwanis/ Optimist presentation as well as school boards.

    Just wanted to let you know that you have definitely been “For Impact” in my career!


    – Barbara V. Moline, IL



    I wanted to thank you again for taking time to ensure that I had your resume, for offering to talk to the President of Global AFC, and FOR GIVING ME THE CONFIDENCE TO KICK BUTT!!!!!

    Thank you so much for helping us do this Kerry. I raised 45K in one month through GlobalGiving & this grant/partnership b/c of your fabulous/inspirational work. Now, off to work – I have a goal to achieve! 🙂

    I really appreciate your being there for us unreasonables*. THANK YOU!”

    – Maria. Nairobi, Kenya

    *We get to mentor incredible people at the Unreasonable Institute each summer. Maria was an unreasonable.



    Since your team worked with us two years ago we’ve had a lot of funding results. You have to know that the real transformation has been several levels higher than that — and it’s significant. It’s in our culture, our attitudes… how we talk… what we believe… it’s in our impact, just like you preach.

    We’ve had several ‘consultants’ over the years – they all did their thing and left. The Suddes Group messed with our DNA. That’s powerful stuff… lasting and really important work.

    Preach on!”

    Phil M. Orland, FL


    Sales Team Vocabulary

    We’re big on vocab. Team vocabulary is especially important. [Think: CLEAR COMMUNICATION.] Here are some vocab terms for SALES TEAMS. In our roles as coaches, we see a correlation between the adaption of these phrases and the emergence of a true sales culture.

    1. Predisposition: Everything you can do ahead of the visit to make it NOT a cold call or surprise ask.

      Critical to be able to ask a teammate: “Has this prospect been predisposed?” Or, “Is there any more predisposition we can be doing ahead of the visit?”

    2. Ask: Take some time to define what an ask is with your team. See Checklist. Most salespeople don’t make asks – our definition. In the broader sales world, Brian Tracy pointed out that 90% of the time sales people don’t ask for the order!
    3. Roadmap: As in “Our goal on this visit is to get a roadmap to the commitment”.

      There is nothing more frustrating than to get a report from a salesperson that says, “Prospect is not ready yet.” What does that mean?

      Or, equally frustrating is getting a report that you’ve met with a foundation and been invited to submit a grant request.

      • For how much?
      • Focusing on what program or priority?
      • Including what key language?

      A good sales person doesn’t always need to learn with a checklist but he or she should always learn with a commitment, decline or a roadmap!

    4. “Numbers on the Table”: This is a term that we use to get clarity. E.g., “We were able to get numbers on the table”. Or, “We had a great meeting but it just felt too forced right now to get numbers on the table.”

      Either way, I can get a great sense for where we are in the sales process and what to make of the report.

      Note: To be clear, we’re almost always trying to get numbers on the table – tied to a project or plan

    5. Discovery: Discovery is the process of listening and learning about:
      • Relationship (to case or cause)
      • Interests
      • Capacity

      When in discovery mode, there is an even greater emphasis on asking questions, engaging and listening/learning.

      It’s important to be able to communicate to a partner before a visit, “We’re going to start out HEAVY in discovery mode and then flip to the presentation.”

    6. Visit: A phone call is not a visit. An email is not a visit. Also, being in the presence of a prospect without any attempt to maximize the relationship at this given moment is not a visit.

      A visit is a structured one-on-one that includes discovery, dialogue around the [plan/vision/program/story] and some progress toward a relationship goal.

      I see too many sales reports that indicate 22 visits for the week when, in fact, all 11 visits were simply ‘points of contact’.

    7. Green Sheet (Dashboard): Each team needs a dashboard – for clarity, speed in communication and accountability. In fact, with great teams, the dashboard is more important as a fast communication tool than an accountability process.
    8. Commitment: You need to define ‘commitment’ for your organization. I have a loose definition. Anytime I can stand before a board and say, “We can count on Jeff for $X”, this is a commitment. There will always be an ongoing relationship, stewardship, etc. For my definition, I just want to get to the point that I knew how the funder plays into the plan (and you could call the funder to verify).

      This is important especially as you coach each other. “What do we need to do to get the commitment?” This is a great question to smoke out other issues. Maybe there hasn’t really been an ask.


    Leadership Lessons from Abraham Lincoln, General Patton, and more.

    Following up on Friday’s nugget about Leadership Development, wanted to recommend a great Leadership Read.

    Leadership Excellence: The Seven Sides of Leadership for the 21st Century. Author Pat Williams has been aggregating, applying, and sharing Leadership Wisdom for 30 years.

    Of all the leadership books, I really like this one because Williams takes a story-telling approach. He’s pulled the best leadership stories from some 500+ books and years sharing the podium with modern-day leaders from Colin Powell to Richard Branson.

    Selected nuggets:

    • “Leadership is about the future, so all true leadership begins with vision.”
    • “There is no such think as an emotionless vision.” – Andy Stanley, founding pastor of Atlanta’s North Point Community Church
    • “Great leaders rally people to a better future.” One of my favorites from Marcus Buckingham (with stories about Jobs, Disney, and Henry Ford)
    • “Never mistake a productivity target for a vision. Numbers don’t excite anyone.” We see a lot of people grabbing onto the Jim Collins BHAG concept and mistaking ‘the big number’ for a vision.
    • “Management is about the present. Leadership is about the future.”
    • “Walt Disney once said, “I resent the limitations of my own imagination.” Disney would cast a vision and if everyone went along with it too easily, he knew he wasn’t thinking big enough.

    On Leadership (Development)

    Most of our work is around organizational and team development. Getting this stuff right dynamically supports and drives funding.

    This is a mash-up of the coaching conversations we’ve been having with leaders – in particular emerging/developing leaders.

    • Be decisive.

      The leader’s job is to make decisions.

      If you make a wrong decision, it can be addressed. There’s no way to address indecision.

    • Cast and hold a VISION.

      “Leadership is about the future, so all true leadership begins with vision.”
      – Pat Williams

    • Communicate the vision… constantly.

      The vision lives in YOUR head. I see leaders who are frustrated that others can’t just ‘get it’. “We went over the plan at the retreat. What don’t they get?”

      Are you that person?

      Spend every day, take every opportunity, to clarify the vision…. Communicate the vision. It took you a while to build in your head and you expect someone else to get it in ONE meeting?

    • Don’t be Eeyore!

      You get it… right?

    • Hire people around you that compliment your strengths.

      Emerging leaders need to be aware of their strengths. Hire people that complement your strengths. Are you a frenzied, synaptic thinker? Hire a linear-thinker to support you.

      You can offload things that aren’t your strengths – freeing you up to LEAD.

    • Let Fires Burn.

      This is a shorthand to emerging leaders. They often want to jump in and fix everything. Sometimes you have to let the fires burn.

      Don’t you dare go put out that next fire! Instead, figure out how you can support your team of firefighters.

      Funny thing happens. When they’re empowered and you stand back, there are fewer fires.

    • Treat people on your team as ASSETS.

      You can treat people like a liability or an asset and where they fall on the balance sheet depends upon how YOU treat them.

      Our friend Bill Strickland is changing the world with this simple insight. I will be forever grateful to Bill for explaining it this simply.

    • Finally. BE. A. LEADER!

      “LEADER’S LEAD!”

      – From an incredible philanthropist and leader, Bob Werner


    Information Design. Annual Reports. Nicholas Feltron.

    Designer Nicholas Feltron published his annual report yesterday.

    Probably not the type of annual report you’re thinking of.

    Nick Feltron has been publishing his PERSONAL annual report for seven years. His visual thinking has been pretty influential (pick up a copy of Fast Company mag or Good, much of the information design is ‘Feltron-ish’). He was picked up by Facebook last year. The addition of the Facebook timeline is his work.

    Take a few minutes to click through the information. Notice how ENGAGING information design can be. It’s a great way to mix stats with some of your stories – perhaps in your own annual report.

    None of what Feltron does is EASY, but you can still draw inspiration… you can still think about HOW you’re communicating your IMPACT in a visual and engaging way.

    I think of Feltron as an emerging influence. If you like his stuff, also check out Edward Tufte, the grandfather of information design.


    Eat for growth, Lift for strength, LIVE for the moment.

    A departure from the normal Daily Nugget stuff today…

    I want to introduce you to Steve Wolf (aka Wolfie) and a For Impact Publishing Project: Wisdom from Wolfie.

    Wolfie leads our design efforts. He’s also our resident cross-fit / life-performance coach. He comes to us from the Indy Car circuit where he spent several years helping drivers optimize fitness and then helping teams design (evidently neither is a ‘full time focus’).

    We recruited Wolfie about a year ago with the mandate that he keep his second life as a performance coach. He runs his own cross-fit gym (pictured below) and lately has turned our office into much of the same. It’s not unusual to see tires, kettle bells, sand bags and-the-like tucked away throughout our 50-acre campus. In plain terms – Wolfie’s been kicking our butts!

    If you’ve met us or been to Eagle Creek then you have a sense that we’re trying to build something much more interesting and fulfilling than a ‘consulting company’. Every person on our 14 member team is a COACH first. It starts with Tom; he’s been the men’s boxing coach at Notre Dame for 34 years. (The boxing explains all the BOLD CAPS. They’re verbal jabs!)

    As we grow and scale our IMPACT I’m committed to doing so in a way that amplifies our life-entrepreneurial spirit. Wolfie contributes to that spirit.

    Read / follow WISDOM FROM WOLFIE if you’re into personal performance. I’m posting Wolfie’s wisdom at a second blog but suspect that much of our community may enjoy his wisdom – we do.

    “Eat for growth, Lift for strength, LIVE for the moment.” – Wolfie

    – Nick


    Strategic Planning v. Strategic Clarity

    Note: I first posted this last year. Posting again because I’m still tired of reading lengthy strategic plans that don’t derive-from or result-in real strategic clarity.

    • In past year have been with several foundations that have asked orgs for ‘strategic plans’. Speaking to the foundations directly, I can say that what they’re really asking for is STRATEGIC CLARITY — not 40 pages of ‘stuff’. It’s a vocab issue.

    • IMPACT drives INCOME. In order to get funding results we [The Suddes Group] always have to back our way into helping an organization get REAL strategic clarity so that we have a clean strategy, message and case for support for funders. Funding, at the point, then simply becomes about execution. We can coach and train people to execute.


    Strategic Plan v. Strategic Clarity

    Think about the difference in these two terms.

    Every organization needs strategic clarity and a 1000-day action plan. They need to have everyone on the same page about:

    • The purpose (the WHY) and the vision (the ultimate goal) (at 30,000’).

      This should fit on a napkin.

    • No more than THREE* simple strategic priorities (at 14,000’) that advance the organization toward the goal, aligning with purpose.

      These should fit on the back of that napkin.

      *Drucker was even simpler. He said every organization should have at most TWO priorities… WOW!

    • A 100-day (near term) plan of action tied to each priority and a 1000-day plan of action with benchmarks that run more fluid for quarterly review.

      This should fit on one sheet of paper (maybe two) if you stay at the strategic level.

    Every day I talk with someone that needs or wants a ‘strategic plan’. I can’t identify with that term anymore because it means so many different things. In each case though, they need clarity and simplicity. Only about half the time do they need to do a lot of consensus building (think: visits, dialogue and time) to bring everyone on the same page.

    Over simplified? No.

    Easy? No.


    Own Your Own Story

    A follow-on to Tom’s sharing of the For Impact Guidebook: On Boards.

    Last fall I was in Boston helping a friend (executive director) look at his organization strategy, board leadership and funding plan.

    I sat in on a board meeting to observe.

    There were several board members that kept saying things like,

    • “Just tell us the story we should be using.”
    • “We need ‘the script'”.

    The staff – for its part – was laying out MORE GOALS for the board and MORE ACTIONS.

    The energy felt pretty negative. Almost confrontational.

    One board member, quiet for the first 45 minutes, finally piped up and asked, “How many board members have been down to volunteer at our after school program? How many have taken the time to have lunch with one of our graduates?”

    Only one had.

    She then said,

    “As a board, all we need to do is each take one hour and do one of those things. After sitting with Margaret [a now successful alum of the program]

    I can tell anyone MY STORY. How I WAS MOVED. The IMPACT of meeting Margaret.

    I may not yet be a great fundraiser but I’ll sit with anyone and tell MY STORY.”

    We work with boards and leadership every week. We have a lot of frameworks for story/message… I think we’re pretty good phenomenal at getting clarity and coaching around each of these points.

    Those questions… that leadership… that simplicity… were probably betting than anything I could’ve offered that night.

    Worth noting: I don’t think this is purely a ‘board issue’.


    Top 33 + Routine

    This is a shorthand funding strategy we’ve been using with many organizations.

    Focus on your top 33 prospects.

    In any given year, be in front of all of them. Have a specific strategy… focus… persistence… you will be where you need to be in terms of funding.

    Beyond the top 33 focus on ROUTINE. Much like a yoga practice, focus on the habits and discipline of making x number of visits per week and asks per month. As coaches, we might have you (or your team) focus on your top 33 and then focus on the systems, routine, habits that get you out of the office making FIVE visits each week and a total of 10 asks per month.

    97% of the funds come from 3% of your prospect/relationship family. So, focus on the top of the pyramid. The first part of the strategy is all about QUALITY and RETURN-ON-ENERGY.

    The second part of the strategy is all about PROCESS and ROUTINE.

    “Focus on the process, not the outcome.” – John Wooden.

    The importance of routine and process should be obvious; perhaps focusing on routine is not. If you focus on the routine of making visits I can promise these results:

    • Funding momentum
    • The discovery of more and better prospects
    • Volume (in relationships and all metrics including dollars-in-the-door)
    • A more engaged leadership
    • Awareness in the community
    • The emergence of the all hailed ‘culture of philanthropy’
    • A tremendous sense of personal achievement, growth and fulfillment tied to the skill set and tied to the impact you will have on your mission

    I think too many organizations try to focus on the outcomes above and not necessarily the process.

    Focus on the process. You can control that. Focus on developing a routine and bettering that routine. It will generate results.

    Actually, both ends of the strategy will achieve these results, independently. And, this point is crucial for those organizations that don’t have the knowledge or confidence to focus on a ‘top 33 first’.

    Important: This works for you and your organization… Whether you’re the head of sales at Oracle or the head of a small community-health organization in rural Iowa.

    Focus on your Top 33 prospects and then focus on the routine of sales. If you don’t know your top 33, start with routine.


    The Master Prospect List

    A Master Prospect List is a list of your most important prospects rated and ranked in descending order of importance (DOI).

    This is a very important part of our sales system. Rarely, do we see an organization with a TRUE Master Prospect List when we start working with it.

    This is a tough concept for most organizations to embrace but it’s a simple concept:

    • MASTER = ONE LIST. Not ‘one list for the gala’ and ‘one list for annual fund’. 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.
    • Re: Individuals, Corporations, Foundations… a gift received yesterday does not remove the ranking of 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.
    • (more…)


    The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part I

    I’m reposting a series of series of essays from 2010. You will be reading a lot more from us ‘on talent’ in the coming weeks/months. It’s a great time to revisit ‘The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur’. (originally posted Feb 2010).


    Talking about social entrepreneurship in our sector is like talking about clean energy in the energy sector… tons of chatter and conceptually, not new. Until recently I’ve dismissed much of the conversation as ‘change chatter’.

    To be clear, I LOVE the concept of social entrepreneurship… the idea of people thinking creatively and with an entrepreneurial attitude about changing the world! I actually feared (and maybe still do) that all the hype will elevate to a level of buzzword jargon (and maybe it has).

    Lately, I have a new perspective on ‘change chatter’. And this perspective is that it IS our future. Social entrepreneurship (esp the young SE’s) will define or re-define the ‘change sector’. It will probably continue to wash away traditional lines of not-for-profit and for-profit and continue to organize around ‘for-impact’ or any other jargon – I’m open.

    Last summer I had a chance to be with Robert Egger in New York. He shared a narrative about how the activism of the 60’s and 70’s gave rise to today’s nonprofit sector. The passion that was seen in the form of protests and marches matured to result in much of the nonprofit sector growth in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

    This got me thinking about all this ‘social entrepreneur’ stuff and ‘change chatter’. From Ashoka to David Bornstein’s book to the Stanford Innovation Social Review… a lot of stuff. From what we, at The Suddes Group, are seeing in-the-field there is CLEARLY a swell from those in their 20’s.

    Literally, out of nowhere, we’ve had a number of new young-social-entrepreneur-movement-type-orgs pop up on our radar – either they’ve attended boot camp or we’ve met up with them in the field.

    As a side note, if you ever get to hang out with any of these orgs or any other Gen Y social entrepreneurial orgs – do it. Incredible energy, passion, enthusiasm. Pretty damn refreshing.

    It’s cool to think about the nonprofit sector as we know it today and think about the DNA injected from the chatter of the 60’s and 70’s and then think about what it will or won’t be in 10-15 years.

    Who cares how one defines ‘social entrepreneurship’? I’m up for the downstream effect of the ‘chatter’. Here comes a generation that only knows of the world as flat and one that isn’t caught up on for-profit or not-for-profit but going at the goal to save lives, change lives and impact lives in the best possible way…. That simply by using the word ‘entrepreneurship’ entertains an entirely new vocabulary and way of thinking.

    They’ve already given a cache to the movement. In and of itself, that is an achievement. We have two new Notre Dame grads working with us The Suddes Group. When I came on board ten years ago (also out of ND) people seemed to look at me with pity for ‘wanting to spend my life with charities’. Pat and Mark – they’re like rock stars – jumping into the new world of social entrepreneurship!

    Read The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part II


    Getting Things Done

    Getting Things Done (GTD for short) is a system for organizing your thinking and increasing productivity. As described by the David Allen Company, “Implementing GTD alleviates the feeling of being overwhelmed, instills confidence and releases a flood of creative energy.”

    I read Getting things Done. The Art of Stress Free Productivity several years ago and attended the seminar in 2009 with Kerry. I would recommend both.

    GTD allows you to:

    • Only process information once. We frequently read emails on our blackberrys and then think, “I’ll come back to that.” This wastes brain power. You processed the email without an outcome. At best, you will have to do this again. At worst, you’ll forget.
    • Arm yourself to always be productive. Using the GTD system you have readily available action-steps. For me, I always have a list of calls and phone numbers that I can make from an airport. I also always have a list of things to think about over coffee.
    • Return to your priorities on a regular (weekly) basis. A critical part of the system is the weekly review — a pattern of revisiting your key priorities and activities.
    • Dump or Delegate. This is a great rule for an activity that does not support a key priority.

    Very few people seem to follow the system perfectly. I probably use more of the mental processing tools and fewer of the scheduling routines. Every referral that’s skimmed the book or attended a seminar has received value I’m mentioning it here as a great recommendation to start 2012.


    Tell Your Story Enough and You Will Change the World

    Kerry and I were in Pittsburgh this week exchanging ideas with social entrepreneur Bill Strickland and his team at the Manchester Bidwell Training Center.

    Bill’s credited as a terrific social entrepreneur and a visionary; he’s both. More importantly, his program to transform the lives of poor youth individuals and the community works. Harvard’s done four case studies exploring the success. (By the way, Apple is the only other ‘organization’ to be the subject of four Harvard Case Studies.)

    What I really appreciate about Bill is his ‘persistent story telling’.

    I’ll bet he’s shared his slide show 3000+ times. I know for a fact he’s shared his story in front of every audience that will have him… in hundreds of cities… around the world.

    I share this with you for two reasons. First, Bill is a great storyteller and you need to hear his story. (Here’s the link to his TEDtalk.) Second, the dude works hard and you can too!

    Sharing your story 3000 times is hard work. It requires persistence and conviction to your message. Sometimes you end up speaking to a room of five people and sometimes Jeff Skoll is in the audience. Bill’s stories frequently include something like, “And this [insert famous/influential name] was in the audience; she came up to me and said, ‘I’d like to help!’

    If you tell your story 3000 times I promise these things will happen to you as well.

    Here’s the thing… you don’t need to share your story 3000 times. You don’t even need to share your story 1000 times. It’s just the idea of committing to MASSIVE ACTION (as Tony Robbins calls it).

    What if you told YOUR story 100 times? You WILL raise some funds and change some lives.

    What if you told YOUR story 1000 times? You WILL change your sector or city.

    What if you told YOUR story 3000 times? You WILL change the world.

    Two weeks ago Bill was awarded the 2011 Goi Peace Award. This is Japan’s equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.


    In the Community vs. Of the Community

    We’re working on a project that would launch a proven education and workforce development model in an urban Boston area. The team’s leaders have visited with over 500 stakeholders – including community leaders, families, schools, funders and government officials.

    A funder shared that they reason this project appears to be working is that it is ‘of the community’ not ‘in the community’.

    In. Of.

    World of difference.

    In the US (and perhaps globally) we don’t have money problems. We have effectiveness problems. How often have we seen philanthropy or government throw money at a problem without any solution?

    For the project in Boston, this has become an important part of the message to funders; I believe we all now understand that whether it be impacting a slum in Kenya, transforming Newark’s schools (see: Putting Zuckerberg’s Millions to Work for Schools) or launching an innovative workforce development center in south Boston that the solution must be OF the community, not IN the community.

    Sharing here because I know many of you can use this frame in your work and your message; many of you are facilitating change that is OF the community. Tell that story. Have THAT conversation.



    Among the other things, we’re trying to teach people how to listen.

    • Listening doesn’t always mean having to respond.
    • Listening doesn’t always mean having to correct the other person.
    • Listening doesn’t always mean having to incorporate and change your approach based upon the other person’s feedback.
    • Sometimes listening can just be about being quiet and letting the words soak into your head. Sometimes we don’t have to do anything for listening to have a profound impact upon the other person speaking.

      In fact, sometimes it’s more powerful NOT to say anything or simply say, “I hear you.”


    “How big of an impact do you want to have?”

    While in San Diego last week I had a chance to have breakfast with Chris M. who was indoctrinated into all this For Impact stuff about two years ago.

    I need to write about the broader success story of Chris and the great work they’re doing at Solutions for Change in North San Diego County. For now, I just want to shared a quick nugget.

    Chris just finished raising $20 Million in 1.5 years. (Goal was to raise this in 3 years.)

    Over breakfast, Chris walked me through how he does the pitch on a blank sheet of paper.

      • He lays out the Problem – very simply.
      • He lays out the Solution, which has 3 parts.
      • And he lays out the Funding Model and the Math. For them to get one family out of homelessness, it costs $22,000 via the Solutions University. One-third of this is paid for by the government, one-third of this is paid by the families and one-third of this is paid for by private supporters.

    After Chris lays all this out, he simply asks somebody, “How big of an impact do you want to have?”

    I think this goes along with Tom’s note the other day about a client in Colorado that is asking everybody if they would consider a ‘Leadership Gift‘?

    What I love about both of these stories is the amazing simplicity of the Ask. The hospital is on its way to raise $90 Million and the Solutions Team just hit a $20 Million mark.

    It can be that simple.


    The Puzzle is the Vision. The Piece is the Ask.

    This is a metaphor that came out of some work we’re doing with a large community health center.

    The center sees over 100,000 patients each year. It also provides comprehensive wrap around programs, including Mental Health, Wellness and Education. To my eyes, it does so in a way that illustrates that healthcare doesn’t have to be broken. Furthermore, each of clinical environments is outstanding. Considering the demographics (poor/marginalized) that are served and impacted, one is struck immediately by how the place feels more like a “Googleplex with creative health specialists” than a “Greyhound Station with doctors”.

    It’s a WOW!

    The Suddes Group was called upon to help the organization devise a strategy to raise $2 Million a clinic construction project. One could quickly see that this one clinic (in the context of 17 existing clinics) was just a project – a piece of an entire health ecosystem (which, in total, had some $60 Million in projects on the horizon).

    With the team, we re-framed the story around the bigger picture: the innovation ecosystem that was successfully challenging the healthcare paradigm. Talking about the entire scope and vision made the clinic much easier to talk about. It gave it context, which is what a story should do.

    I asked the team how things were changing at the organization through our engagement. One of the grant writers had a great line. She said, “I used to always get hung up on how to position the piece. Now it’s a lot easier to talk about the puzzle than just zero in on one piece of the puzzle for the ask.”

    I love this. It’s a great metaphor. The puzzle is the vision. The piece is the ask.


    Philanthropy is ‘Sustainable’

    Today I want to share a thought posted three years ago. From 2005-2008 I saw a lot of debates about the term ‘social entrepreneur’. At times it took on (and still takes on) a discussion about the role of philanthropy. In particular, I wrote this after being with an organization that was hell bent on ‘not needing philanthropy’… so that it could be sustainable.

    Thoughts and facts on the matter haven’t changed much…


    Lately, I’ve been having something of identity crisis with respect to ‘social entrepreneurs’ and ‘for impact leaders’. A consensus definition is forming that a social entrepreneur includes using some sort of earned-income model. Moreover, I see a general attitude from those consensus circles that fundraising/philanthropy is somehow ineffective or even, in some cases, undesirable because (as I was told by someone last week) ‘it’s not sustainable’.

    The traditional nonprofit paradigm needs to change (and is changing). Tom and For Impact have been sounding that horn for a long time along with many others – I don’t think we’re the first and we certainly are not the only.

    I have a slightly different take on what a social entrepreneur is–the definition. To me, it’s someone that thinks like an entrepreneur and puts his or her efforts into changing the world. It’s not about the business model, it’s about the attitude. It’s not about earned-income, it’s about ‘changing the performance capacity of society’ (Drucker’s definition).

    Social Entrepreneur v. (For) Impact
    I was working with an org that’s actively implementing a ‘hybrid model’ including a revenue stream and some private funding support. This organization is tackling poverty and has a pretty kick ass approach (making a HUGE impact). The leaders of this organization run in the social-entrepreneur-world there was a huge romance with finding sustainability through earned income. So much so that that became their message and focus. My question: Do you want to be best in the world at building a hybrid or do you want to be best in the world at ENDING POVERTY?

    This is a VERY IMPORTANT question.

    On Philanthropy.
    It’s sustainable. That is, there is plenty of money and I think many are wrong (fools?) to shun this as a readily available resource to be leveraged. What’s not sustainable is working with that capital and not being able to communicate the impact, the ROI.

    • Last year the US gave away $306 Billion. According to the Giving USA this number has gone up every year since 1987. Even this year it was going up (just not at the same rate as previous years).

      We’ve also done work in Europe and while I’m not as familiar with the climate I can offer a field-level view that philanthropy is exploding. In Ireland, for example, they’ve changed laws to make giving tax-deductible. While this isn’t the REASON people give it does elevate awareness and the culture of philanthropy.

    • Last January Businessweek interviewed the worlds top philanthropists who said their number one challenge was giving away money effectively, not making money. Think about that… plenty of money… challenge is to do good.

    • I’ve attended Social Enterprise gatherings and am always struck by this point (made by a speaker – I forget the attribution), “It’s hard enough to start a business with people that have their lives together than to try to pull that off with those that are struggling.” More

    So what is the answer?
    Philanthropy is VERY sustainable for those that show ROI in terms of IMPACT. To offer one example, it can come in the form of long-term strategic partnerships (think City Year and Timberland).

    And, to be clear, I am an entrepreneur. I LOVE creative revenue streams. I just want to raise the point about focus, return-on-energy and the trend I’m seeing.

    We need to show communicate impact – always.

    I’ve been with the foundations and funders that say things like, “We only like to start programs because we don’t want the organization to be dependent on us for operating.” I’ve asked these same funders: “WHAT IF we could show you how that money saves lives every year?” They look at me with a loss for words… as if no one has ever presented this challenge and quickly assure they would more than happily look at such an investment.

    Rockefeller… Gates…*. It ain’t going anywhere. I think a real entrepreneur would always leverage these resources. It’s quite sustainable so long as we’re having an impact.

    Note for the 2011 edition: isn’t sure what it’s doing these days. My point, however, is that there will be NEW players coming to the table again and again.