Author Archives: Nick Fellers

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.


Think Big: Transformational Funding

We’re doing some work with a college access program. Founded about six years ago, it’s now looking to raise $4M over the next 1000 days (in effect, doubling the operating budget). Insofar as every organization is perfectly designed to get the results its getting, these next 1000 days are about DESIGNING our intents, our team, our programs to move from helping 500 seniors get to college (and graduate with success) to 2000 students (note, this is simply a number based on serving the total need at several schools.

We have a funding plan that calls for a $500K lead gift (over 1000 days).

L. emails “I’m not sure we have someone that can do a $500K lead gift… maybe we need to lower our leadership levels.”

My email back:

Isn’t this next chapter about CHANGE/INNOVATION/AWESOMENESS? Isn’t it about TRANSFORMATION? Can we be thinking bigger? Is there not someone in [our city] that could give $150K++ to this (x3)??? Shouldn’t we provide the space for that possibility?

I really truly believe that top number… at this stage of the game… within our team is about the visceral connection to the vision. Is this about a MOVEMENT? CHANGING LIVES? SHAKING others in [our city] by their necks saying, “Come on people, wake up, this is a BIG DEAL?” If that’s the tone, the belief, the pitch, then $150K+ per year is about TRANSFORMING THE WORK THAT WE’RE DOING!

I completely accept that we don’t know that gift will be at this point. I also acknowledge that we don’t have a LEADER for that level. For you, at this point, I don’t think this is about the ‘old school definition’ of LEADER but it is all about the other word ‘TRANSFORMATION’.

I would keep a higher level… if someone asked me, “Do we think we can get that?” My answer would be, “We must! I don’t know who it will be but I’ll be damned if we don’t bring some urgency and audacity that can bring someone on at that level… if we can’t then I think it’s more a statement about our vision and plan than funding capacity.”

[incidentally, L. was asked this on a visit yesterday and she gave her version of this response!]

Can we say for sure that you’ll find that person? Hell no. Worse case scenario, we alter the funding plan at a later date to reflect the gifts you’re collecting. We go with a wider base – more visits – more gifts – but setting as an intention to play it safe is not how we create the kind of change we need in the community.

I think a ‘Leadership Commitment’ can be limiting in terms of thinking. I’ve sat with funders who have said, “I don’t want to take the lead.” (eg. $1M+). I’ve had conversations with these same funders who have then committed $1M to TRANSFORM the organization. While the $1M (in this instance) is a ‘lead gift’ its purpose is different, in a profound way.

Just something to think about.

I think we’ll continue to see more and more opportunities for TRANSFORMATIONAL FUNDING. As the decade long trend of more wealth ending up in the hands of fewer people there will be less leadership and more transformation. Think: Gates. The Gates Foundation can’t LEAD everything. Yet, I can think of several projects we’re working on in which Gates has made gifts to organizations at transformational levels.


The Story for the Visit

What’s the narrative that brings you and the prospect together? The reason for the visit?

We’ve been using this a lot in our discussions around prospect strategy. Absent of the framing the story looks a little like this: I’m Nick, as you can see from my title, I’m a major gifts officer and so I’m coming to talk to you about money.

Easy to see how that one might create a little call reluctance on the part of the major gifts officer and lot of objections from the invitee. Impact drives Income… absent of the why-we’re-meeting it’s ALL about the income.

The Story for the Visit should be authentic, interesting and communicate a reason to meet face-to-face.

An incomplete list of storylines for visits.

    Storytelling: This is one of my favorites. Very earnest. Very literal. We can’t advance our impact unless we’re out – on the street – sharing our story.



Your Hospice Question

We’ve done a lot of work with Hospice organizations. Pretty emotional/moving stuff.

As you know, our approach starts with the IMPACT… the MESSAGE. Every Hospice asks, “How do we possibly communicate everything we do in one message? People get confused when we talk about palliative care… we want people to know it’s about more than dying… etc. etc. etc.”

Every Hospice organization needs a message… but here’s where it gets interesting. Remember – the best message… the best story… is the one that comes FROM the prospect. In the case of Hospice we should never be out convincing people that Hospice is a worthy cause. We should ONLY focus on those that have had a ‘hospice experience’. Then, instead of trying to jam a message down their throat we need to: engage, listen and ask.


  • “Would you mind sharing with me a little bit about your experience with Hospice?”
  • Be quiet… listen… probably exchange and share a few tears.
  • Keep listening.
  • Keep listening.
  • Ask: “I’m out listening to people. That’s our job…. to connect the stories and let people know that generous support is what makes that extra TLC you described possible. Would you be willing to help other patients and families benefit from that same experience?”

Is there is a ‘Hospice Question’ for your organization? The Hospice Question is about engaging someone that already gets it…. letting their experience or frame speak for the purpose and funding rationale. It’s about getting out of the way. It’s about saying in the SIMPLEST WAY, “That’s what we do… can you help?”


Visit Prep: Plan YOUR Questions More than the Prospect’s

We recently started working with a national education reform organization. We’re structuring a sales system and process on the national level. We’re also providing coaching/training to regional executive directors. Over time, we’ll have a simplified sales system, a cohesive funding culture and a developed team that generates more revenue, more effectively (greater return-on-energy).

I had a first call with John one of the regional ED’s. He was prepping for a site visit from a major foundation as part of the foundation’s grant making process.

John asked, “What questions do you think she [program officer] will ask that I could prepare for?”

My response: “In terms of strategy, I’m much more concerned about what questions YOU will ask.”

We came up with these power questions to engage and learn from the program manager:

    1. “Obviously, I’m familiar with your guidelines but would you mind bringing me up to speed on the foundations key priorities?”

    There’s alignment already or the program manager wouldn’t be making a visit. Let’s get a sense of the foundation’s vocabulary and priorities.

    2. “We’ve submitted grant applications in the past. This was the first one to make it to the site visit stage. What caught your eye this time?”

    The grant narrative was 15 pages in length!!! No way to know what the heck foundation was interested in. Theory of change? Education reform? The schools in which we worked? The programming officer’s answer is pretty important on this one.

    3. The grant was a one-time grant for $75K. Foundations (like any of us) want relationships, partnerships and a return-on-investment. Advised John that if things were going well to ask, “Would it be possible to look at this as a three-year partnership? In other words, how do we talk about helping us with this impact for this year and the two years after?” I guarantee the foundation’s already thinking bigger picture anyway – let’s ASK the question! Let’s have the dialogue.

    Also gave John a really authentic line, “Of course, we would love to explore that but forget I even asked if it makes this request muddy.”

    4. And a get out of jail card: If for some reason the program manager starts to go down the well-we-don’t-fund-that-route, bring the conversation back up to 30,000′. “At the highest level we see to be in strong alignment around what we’re doing. How do we structure a request in a way that makes sense for XYZ foundation?” Then just be quiet; you will get the roadmap you need.

I think John’s first inclination – to focus on HER questions – should be resolved using the Messaging Framework. It addresses 95% of the questions ever asked by any funder. You should then engage with questions to tailor that message to the prospect.


Running Contrary with Speed and Simplicity

I received a call from Kevin, a past client with 20+ years of funding experience. Kevin completely changed his organization’s approach to fundraising after working with For Impact three years ago. He streamlined its approach and message. The organization cut down on all the events, it started making a lot more asks, and it started generating a lot more revenue.

His words:

I still tell everyone I meet about For Impact… that’s it’s the real deal. For whatever reason, I think most people [in the funding biz] can’t comprehend what I’m saying.

I think the entire industry and all the trainings perpetuate this idea that our job is to be friends with everyone. Instead of focusing on selling, fundraisers try to think up more and more ways to be friends.

I’m always telling everyone about For Impact… about how it changed our outlook… focused us on results… all the while making STRONGER relationships.

People can’t comprehend a lot of the things you teach:

  • That it’s okay to ask without a board member.
  • That it’s okay to ask on a first visit.
  • That you can actually share everything you need to share from one piece of paper.
  • That it can be this simple.


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

There is a lot of room to define this one… you should take the time to define it within your organization.

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 – Something specific to ask for.

  • 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:


The Manager and Leader As Two Different Job Functions

One big challenge we see with organizations and individuals is the lack of intention around the role of a manager or a leader.

Marcus Buckingham provides the clearest distinction I’ve seen:

  • Job of a Manager: Turn talent into performance. To make other people more productive.
  • Job of a Leader: Rally people to a better future.

Separating the two jobs is not to say that one person can’t perform both jobs (although, most strong leaders don’t have management as a strength).

Separating the two jobs does more to help senior staff or board members identify and be intentional about each function.

In the field we often see:

  • Great leaders who are poor managers. Often, they don’t understand the distinction between the two and don’t address a management weakness – perhaps because they think that as a leader they must also be great managers.

    Management is not my core strength but I manage every day. Acknowledging the weakness either forces me to find others to manage, or to be more focused (deliberate) in my execution while wearing the ‘manager hat’.

  • People in leadership positions that could lead but don’t – mostly because they’re not aware of the leader’s role. Leaders make decisions. Leaders hold a clear image (the vision) for the future. They see and relate the image of the finish line, not the obstacles.

    In the words of our great friend and leader Bob W, “Leaders Lead!”

  • So called managers who are ‘drained by dealing with other people’. If this describes you, try to get out of managing. If that’s not feasible (due to size, for instance) at least acknowledge the difference and manage your energy accordingly.
  • Uncertainty about leadership – who is it? A leader MUST step up to assume a leadership role. No such thing as passive leadership. One easy question to ask of a team is, “Who is the leader?” Bill Gates once said that a vision must ultimately live in ONE person’s head. Who is that person within your organization? Does that person know it? Do others?

Book recommendation: The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success. One of my top five biz books of all time.


Badwater: Do Something Ultra

Do you know about the Badwater Ultra Marathon?

Considered to be the most difficult foot-race on the planet, it’s a 135-mile ultramarathon held each summer. It starts in Death Valley, crosses three mountain ranges, and finishes at the summit of Mt. Whitney – 8300′ above the start. Daily temperatures soar above 110F. It’s so hot that participants run along the painted lines on the road to keep their shoes from melting. Runners battle countless mental and physical obstacles — wildly swinging high’s and low’s — pushing beyond what we are told is possible. They do all this and must finish in under 60 hours.

Crazy? What’s your definition of crazy?

The first Badwater run was not a race. It was a challenge. Al Arnold covered the distance in 1977 (on his third attempt), primarily because people said it wasn’t possible. In 1987 it became a race. Now several hundred runners apply each year for limited spots. Of the 80 runners last year, 73 completed the course! Astonishing.

As I’m typing this, the first of the runners is crossing the finish line, 25 hours after he started. Also at this time, 69 year old Art Webb is only ten miles from the finish!


Each year I mark Badwater on my calendar. I’m a runner but I’m not aiming to run this one… just be inspired… just be in awe… just be reminded of what the human body and mind can do when it refuses to accept limits.

Note: Some GREAT videos on this. Here and here.


How many visits should we make? It depends. Focus on your top 10.

Recently a board member with an organization asked:

“Based on your experience in working with hundreds of organizations, how many visits should we make? How many requests should we shoot for? Then, how many yes’s and no’s should we plan to receive?”

I gave that great ‘outside expert answer’: It depends.

I then shared some thoughts that I hoped would offer more guidance.

I’ve never seen an organization commit itself to visiting with its top ten prospects… doing whatever it takes to make these relationships a top priority… maximizing each relationship… in a given year… and not be totally transformed financially.

A lot of clauses in that but the big point is: most organizations don’t focus on their top 10 prospects.

    First, most organizations don’t take the time to really determine what their top 10 prospect list looks like.

    If they do, they typically decide (without cause) that 3-4 prospects will be impossible to visit with. They put energy into other areas (like events) because its easier (not simpler) to do so.

    They make decisions for other top prospects. For example, I heard someone say last week, “She made a three-year pledge two years ago so we can’t go talk to her.” Huh?

    They drop-the-ball on follow-up when they do visit. It’s as if the organization puts so much energy into securing visits that it completely forgets about follow-up and closing. Often we will see organizations trying to go out and find/develop new relationships instead of following up with best prospects that have already been asked.

    Finally there is a tendency to AVOID visiting with the prospect for fear of messing things up. You don’t visit… you don’t ask… you can’t maximize.


9 Big Board Questions (republished)

Today wanted to re-share a popular post from a few years ago: 9 Big Board Questions


I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats (leader/observer/participant), meetings and planning sessions in the lasts 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?

  1. What is our purpose or raison d’etre? 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’etre literally means REASON FOR EXISTENCE. It’s the WHY question. If you can’t answer WHY then WHAT and HOW are irrelevant.

  2. How can we (intentionally) go out of business? As 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.

  3. What would you do with $100M? Or pick a number that is a factor of 10x higher than anything you’re thinking about now. I attended a board retreat last weekend 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.

  4. 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 we’re somewhere in excess of 2million 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.

  5. How can we maximize our impact? Simple and open-ended… but not asked enough.

  6. 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 Buckingham disciple. He tells you to focus on your strengths.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. What is our business model? Or, 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:

  1. Board engagement / Staff communication: It works both ways.

  2. 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.

  3. The proverbial rat race: Incremental thinking gets incremental results (some times).


Don’t Make Decisions for your Prospects

We held our annual For Impact Funding Boot Camp last week here at Eagle Creek. This is our capstone training where we spend two days covering the practical nuts and bolts of sales and the sales process.

We’re constantly asking the group for feedback / takeaways. This is often a good reminder to us about important points (to reinforce here). Malik, from a college advancement team, called out an important lesson: DON’T MAKE DECISIONS FOR YOUR PROSPECTS.

How often do WE decide???

  • It’s not the right time to ask… or the prospect isn’t ready
  • We can’t ask for THAT much
  • The prospect probably isn’t interested in that program

You don’t know until you ASK.

  • “Could we talk about ways for you to support a program?”
  • “Would it be possible for you to help underwrite this program?”
  • “I know this is the first time we’re together and talking about this but… with your permission… I would love to show you where we’re going and ask for your help.”

So many ways to ask. Just ASK. Let the prospect make the decision.


Be Unreasonable

At For Impact | The Suddes Group each team member is or has been an entrepreneur. Collectively, we’ve started over 30 companies… failed at some… succeeded at others. Much of what you read at is really entrepreneurial thinking – applied to the For Impact world.

Our fire and passion for the entrepreneurial spirit has led to some great relationships with young social entrepreneurs who are changing the world through StartingBloc, Sparkseed, Ashoka Youth Ventures and The Unreasonable Institute.

Teju and Nikil, two Unreasonable Institute founders, first joined us at one of our boot camps two years ago. Since then, we’ve been active mentors to the UI team and UI fellows. While we’re supposed to be guiding and leading based on our experience I think we probably get more out of the relationship from the fellows and from the ‘unreasonable vibe’ in Boulder. It’s completely invigorating to be a part of accelerator community.

Kerry was in Boulder yesterday. She led a kickoff session for 27 fellows from 11 countries… sharing with them the Impact drives Income message and challenging them to Think Big, Build Simple, Act Now. Tom will be out there in a few weeks helping the young entrepreneurs seek clarity around their business models and source start-up capital.

These young entrepreneurs… most of whom already have a viable product… will spend the next 10 weeks together in Boulder working with seasoned entrepreneurs… cranking up the audacity of their visions and hopefully leaving with networks, skills and financing they need to help them change the world.

Follow along this summer by watching Unreasonable.TV. Be inspired with us at For Impact while we watch these bold young entrepreneurs grow, learn and change the world.


Steve Jobs and a Simple Message: It Just Works

“It Just Works.”

This is what Steve Jobs kept saying last week when he introduced iCloud – a part of the Mac Operating system that will allow you to access all of your files, all the time, from any of your devices.

Jobs is the master at simple messaging. He could’ve talked about syncing, storage methods, how-it-works, etc. That ‘stuff’ wasn’t important to his message: IT JUST WORKS.

(At one point he talks about Apple’s new data center… he simply says its full of ‘all sorts of expensive stuff’.)

At the highest level Jobs was speaking to anyone that’s ever had a frustration with new technology… whether it be the tech dummy OR the geek that always has to support the tech dummy.

It’s worth noting that Steve was speaking primarily to a room full of geeks when he gave this address.

A fun exercise: Watch Steve Jobs (you will have to scroll to about 1:19:00 in the keynote). Now imagine he’s talking about your organization. What would he say? Can you imagine him up there in jeans and a black shirt saying, “Here it is… WE SAVE LIVES!” Can you imagine him weaving that into his address about 20 times in 20 minutes?

A little hat tip to MG Siegler at who pointed out ‘It Just Works‘.


Meaning Before Detail

This morning I’m re-reading Brain Rules. It’s become one of my favorite books because it provides so much science and explanation for how the brain actually works… how we learn… how we understand… how we engage.

One line really leaps out today:

The brain processes meaning before detail. 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 the 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 really reinforces the Altitude framework for presentations… starting with the core concept most often around the WHY/Purpose.

You can actually say – at the start of the visit – “I would love to just start off by really summing up what we’re trying to do at the highest level…” Share your message. Then have a quick conversation around that MESSAGE.


Have a Funding Rationale: Something to Ask For

It’s important to have a great story and then you need something to ask for — a funding rationale.

If the story is the emotion then the funding rationale is the logic behind the ask.

  • $1,200 to cover the gap in one student impacted.
  • $36,000 over three years to underwrite a family counseling program.
  • $1M to be one of three seed funders that will take your program to scale.

Having a strong funding rationale converts the emotion (of the story) to something concrete. It frames the ask. (See How to Create a Funding Rationale Tied to Impact.)

Without a funding rationale a few things usually happen:

  • There is no real ask… because we’re not sure what to ask for.
  • The ask is so general that you receive a sliver of what you really needed.
  • The funder will restrict the giving… only because he or she doesn’t really understand from you what the money will be used for so it was decided for you.

Channel Your Inner Stuart Smalley Before an Ask

Remember: BEFORE he was Senator Al Franken when he was Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live.

Stuart Smalley was an Al Franken character that led an affirmation / self-help show. He would begin every episode by looking in the mirror and reminding himself. I’m good enough; I’m smart enough and gosh darn it. People like me.

It’s okay to take a few moments before your call or visit and have your own Stuart Smalley moment. In fact, always take a moment and remind yourself of WHY you do this.

Remind yourself:

  • Of what happens if you DON’T ask.
  • Of what happens if we DON’T raise funds… Then take that all the way out to its logical conclusion.
  • Get in alignment with that conclusion. Channel it. You’re there to save lives, change lives and impact lives.
  • The person with whom you’re meeting wants to save lives, change lives and impact lives.
  • Think: Shoulder-to-shoulder. This isn’t about you ‘convincing someone’. It’s not about ‘getting money’. It’s about working together.
  • If you’re