“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.
– Antoine de Saint-Exuper.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.
– Antoine de Saint-Exuper.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
Southwest Airlines founder, Herb Kelleher, once said that a big part of success is treating your employees like customers.
Dwell on this idea for a bit. It can run past you as a nice MBA cliche so it’s worth putting some neon lights around it to make it stand out.
TREAT YOUR EMPLOYEES LIKE CUSTOMERS
Implications and considerations: HUGE.
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:
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.
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.
Read: The Ask as a Dialogue to help with this concept.
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:
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:
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:
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’.
In the words of our great friend and leader Bob W, “Leaders Lead!”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
How can we maximize 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 Buckingham disciple. He tells you to focus on your strengths.
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? 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:
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).
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???
You don’t know until you ASK.
So many ways to ask. Just ASK. Let the prospect make the decision.
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 ForImpact.org 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.
“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 TechCrunch.com who pointed out ‘It Just Works‘.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Tom and I were together this week (a rare event with our respective travel schedules) and we were talking about how the training, the frameworks, the work we’re doing in the field to transform organizations is all principle-based. We’ve literally tested and refined this with over 5000 organizations of all sizes from all over the world.
With that in mind, it’s worth revisiting some of the GUIDING PRINCIPLES.
At the highest level – we can summarize the transformation we’re driving and they key to funding results with this perspective:
IMPACT DRIVES INCOME
It’s all about your impact. It’s not about asking for money. It’s about being believing, emoting, communicating how it is that you’re going to change lives, save lives and impact lives. When you do that – it’s a game changer. (Almost) everyone wants to have an impact and (almost) no one likes asking for money. Thinking in terms of the impact means:
From this, we then offer some guiding principles. As principles, they’re applicable to EVERY organization reading this.
Malcolm Gladwell explores the Bystander Effect in The Tipping Point. He recounts the 1964 New York (Queens) stabbing death of Kitty Genovese. Reportedly, dozens of witnesses heard Ms. Genovese and her cries for help; however, no one called the police.
The story is used to paint a picture of a phenomenon called the Bystander Effect – which has been well studied since. The Bystander Effect is one in which as more people are present at a scene of distress the responsibility for action becomes proportionally diffused.
38 people heard Genovese cry for help. Each knew others heard the cries. They were loud, in the middle of a big city. Each person assumed that someone else was making a call to police. So no one called the police.
Apply our understanding of the Bystander Effect to special events. Have you been to a special event where people are crying, overwhelmed by the impact of the organization? What’s the average gift size?
Alternatively, we know that if we simply change the context and visit with our best people one-on-one the responsibility does not become diffused. The action – whether it be financial or other is increased ten-fold (at least).
There is a world of difference between a plea for help to a group and a similar request to an individual (or individual corporation/foundation).
Understanding the Bystander Effect has changed CPR training. You used to shout, “Someone go call 911!” Now you’re instructed to point at a person and say, “YOU – go call 911!”
If we need to direct the request for a simple phone call – to save a life – stands to reason that it would go the same way for philanthropy.
“Foundations always want to support a new program. We don’t have anything new so we are now getting denied.”
This thought was shared with me by the founder of a Foster Care Agency that places about 100 children into loving homes each year. She had just been denied funding. The reason – the foundation officer said – was that the foundation wanted to fund new projects (read: programs started from scratch).
I’m not sure foundations always want to support something new. I believe it SOUNDS like they do. I believe some foundations officers chase ‘new programs’ because the perceived upside FOR IMPACT is greater. However, it helps to keep this perspective. Foundations (most) and funders in general (all) want to have the biggest possible impact. What they usually see are hundreds of grant applications from organizations with the same message: WE NEED MONEY.
This is not an apologist post on behalf of foundations. It’s encouragement to this foster care agency to be stronger. To stand up for its impact.
If I were this foster care agency, I would be enraged. I would be disgusted with the foundation but also disgusted with myself for failing to communicate the impact. I would call the foundation and communicate the disgust. “I’ve failed you, I’ve failed us and most of all I’ve failed 100 families. Somehow it was communicated that we don’t have any new projects this year. WE HAVE 100 BEAUTIFUL NEW PROJECTS THIS YEAR!”
Two notes: (more…)
“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”
-E. B. White
(thought this would be a good spring time / monday quote)
Being authentic makes you an immediate sales expert.
You all know the story of the Little Engine that Could. Great little engine that pulled the big train chanting, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” It’s about the little guy overcoming odds with attitude and proving something for himself.
It’s great. But it’s not YOUR organization’s story.
The Little Engine
Story Sydrome for nonprofits looks something like this:
We’re really tiny but we don’t give up. We make good use of everything. We’re struggling but we’re going to make it. We believe we can. We believe we’re doing good work! Can you support us?
Represent a better story. The Little Engine That Could story is a narrative about confidence. We want a narrative about purpose. No time for you to tell us you can give yourself a pep talk… with all due respect to the little engine, we’re not pulling a train, we’re saving lives, changing lives and impacting lives.
Channel Ghandi. Inspire like MLK. Heck, charge forward like Braveheart. They were driven by a sense of purpose, not self-discovery.
David Brooks wrote a really cool op-ed in the Times, Tools for Thinking. He writes about a question, “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”
A bunch of really smart people debated this question and highlighted several concepts including Path Dependence. Path dependence, as David writes, is “something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.” He uses the example of a keyboard. When typewriters were first invented, they needed a keyboard that would SLOW typing – so the letters didn’t jam. Today we still use the QWERTY keyboard but without any need to ‘slow typing’.
Actively thinking about ‘Path Dependence’ in your business or organization could be radical (and simple).
Seeking path dependence within our sector, our company and our lives gives a framework for identifying actions toward which we should re-visit the WHY and the WHAT.
Most people (not ‘nonprofit people’… just people in general) don’t know HOW to engage… how to create engagement… how to be deliberate in communication so that the other person is engaged. At the same time, most people will tell you they want more engaged customers, staff, funders, relationships and board members.
Let’s define ENGAGEMENT as a dynamic within a relationship in which the dynamic holds attention, heightens interest and motivates action.
Attention! Interest! Action!
How do we maximize Attention, Interest and Action?
How do we MAXIMIZE ENGAGEMENT?
Note: Hard to listen to a room full of 200 people. It’s hard to listen to 12 board members at a meeting – for that matter.
If we focused on ENGAGING it would change some things….
I’m currently reading The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get the Big Things Right. Great read… simple but powerful concepts. Explores the power of checklists, in airplanes, the operating room and life. Checklists have enormous power for the ‘important routines’. They relieve tremendous burden in processing information and they provide a formal way for a group to ‘check off’ each point.
In one story, the author describes operating room situations in which surgeons skip protocol, leading to infection. By simply adding a checklist it created the power for a nurse to address a skipped step.
A checklist… getting the big things right… reminded me of our Presentation Checklist. We use this ahead of every visit just to frame communication amongst the team and make sure we haven’t skipped any important steps. Note: This would be separate from a prospect strategy.
Half of the ‘not-for-profits’ exists to exist. Or so it seems to me many times, living in the field.
A classic case is the ‘not-for-profit’ that was started by a passionate founder 20 years ago. There was a catalyst… a purpose… a vision.
Forward 20 years and today the board and staff get together to figure out how to meet the operating budget. They do strategic plans that articulate priorities that include capacity (growth) and quality… to what end?
Does your organization exist to exist?
What is its raison d’être?
When was the last time we asked this question?
For many organizations, answering the WHY question is the first and most important step really having more impact.
It’s been a busy first quarter. I’ve been in 20 states coaching and training around the For Impact point of view, major gifts and organizational strategy. Looking at the activity of our coaches we can add another 13 states to that count.
This level of activity provides for constant and heavy feedback — I’m reminded at the power and value in helping people know HOW TO ASK.
Today I’m posting an audio that was first shared two years ago: 20 Ways to Ask.
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
Yesterday we were with 70 grantees, partners and friends of the San Diego Social Venture Partners. In terms of live engagements, being with a great group on a sunny day at Mission Bay was not shabby.
We devoted an afternoon segment to ENGAGEMENT. ENGAGEMENT around the message. ENGAGING the right prospects. Maximizing ENGAGEMENT on a first visit.
One of the exercises we did was intended to illustrate how much more you can communicate 1:1 through questions.
We had participants split into pairs that didn’t know each other. We then gave one person from each pair a goal. Within a five minute time frame the goal was to COMMUNICATE – that and only that – which you need to in order to get the other person to say, “Wow, I get it. I think I understand what it is that you do. That’s pretty cool.”
On a first run the presenter usually starts spewing information. The listeners are all visibly overwhelmed… as a facilitator I can see them struggling to make sense of the information coming at them.
After the exercise listeners said they felt rushed, overloaded, confused… and those that where able to ‘understand’ generally said they had to WORK HARD to understand.
Should a funder have to WORK HARD to understand what you do?
On the second go around I over-facilitate the exercise. I instruct the presenter to ask at least 10 questions within the five minutes of the other person – such as, “What do you know about the Red Cross?”
I don’t know how the experitiantial exercise will translate to you in print but the lessons are POWERFUL.
As humans we seek order. There is actually a principle for this called Gestalt. If we’re just talking (spewing) one-on-one without a framework then we’re actually DISTRACTING the person we’re trying to engage. That is, their brain must leave our conversation to start sifting and parsing the information – discerning a framework.
We could offer a framework – through the use of a visual or the rule of 3. The best bet is to actually give the other person all of your information using his or her EXISTING FRAMEWORK. Ask questions to find out what they know and then build your message around that.
Bonus: When a person talks, he or she is ENGAGED. By asking questions you’re not also ENGAGING them at a much higher level.
Double bonus: People like to hear themselves talk. If you can get the other person talking it’s never a bad thing.
We’re in the early stages of building a support network and resources for consultants.
Each day I wake up and think about how to add more value to the sector. The reason we added a huge training component to our work 15+ years ago was so that we could leave a functioning sales operation in place after we worked with a client. That evolved to become ‘For Impact’ — an initiative through which we provide a lot of education and training — not only to clients engaged with us around organizational development and strategy but to anyone via our bootcamps, teleseminar and workshops.
I think there is an incredible opportunity to formally support, train, coach, etc consultants that are already within the For Impact Community. On the road I meet consultants in every city who say, “I’ve been following For Impact for years” or “I used idea XYZ to help a client at a board meeting.” I hear a lot of stories about the indirect impact we’re making which only makes me wonder what kind of a ‘ripple impact’ we could have with more formal and directed support for those that have dedicated their lives to helping numerous causes. At a higher level, I think formalizing a network could be transformative to the sector.
Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your story if you’re a consultant that’s already leveraging For Impact in some way. I’m not sure where this will go yet but envision a Boot Camp for consultants and a host of other resources.
Just got off the phone with an org that impacts individuals and familes affected by mental health.
The VP had a great line, “We’ve always been in the habit of making decisions based on the budget. Now that we have that stablized we need to figure out how to make decisions based on the vision.”
I had the chance to meet this organization over office hours a few weeks ago:
It’s a good thing when you can move from budget driven to vision driven.
Impact Drives Income.
Not too long ago I was told on first visit with a prospect that we should not come back and see him until we had a folder ‘just like the one the boy scouts used on their campaign two years ago that was very successful’. On this same visit we were told we should then plan to visit with the prospect for about a year before we even thought about asking for money and that the way in which we illustrated return-on-investment (ie. impact) was not sufficient for him… we needed much more data.
He was what we call The Irrational Investor.
The Irrational Investor is the person that might ask for financials from seven years ago or some cost ratio that you (and nobody else) ever thought to compute.
The Irrational Investor prevents us from getting out and making visits because we keeping coming up with the next ‘but what if they ask this?’ question and answer. The WHAT IF’s quickly become irrational and never ending.
Here’s the thing. You WILL encounter The Irrational Investor. I can tell you I encounter the Irrational Investor about 1 out of every 40 visits. I can also tell you that you will never have enough information for the Irrational Investor so don’t worry about it. Stop preparing for the Irrational Investor and focus on getting to the other 39 that are going to be great.
Tip: The Irrational Investor is a lot easier to spot when you have 39 other visits for comparison.
When you DO come upon the Irrational Investor just smile… enjoy your thirty minutes and be polite. Enjoy it because you’re going to have a good story to tell… like the time that I met with this guy that wanted us to redo all materials (even though everyone else thought they were great) and do a lot more data crunching (which made no sense) and then keep courting him for a year.
When we’re on the road we try to meet up with followers, past clients and alumni. Last Friday I held some ‘office hours’ in Chicago and met with four organizations in consecutive sessions. Three readers sought advice on their development plans.
Each plan called for x number of cultivation events this year.
The coaching on this one:
The best way to build and maximize relationships is 1:1. See 1x 10x 50x.
Even if we do an event, your ‘network’ is going to expend a ton of energy getting people to the event… I would rather expend that collective energy on getting 1:1 intros.
Say you do the event… you’re still going to have to work to get the follow-up… which is the goal… just go to the goal.
You can do this:
With a good message and story. Absent of these what people hear (and what creates our reluctance to go to the goal) is “Can I come and ask you for money?”
With champions and predisposition. No cold calls. Rather than asking my board to fill a table I would rather ask them to be invite others to meet with me for a 30-minute intro. I would provide a process / tools to help them make the intro:
In my 15 years living in Boston, I’ve never met anyone like [Nick]. The work he and his team is doing is amazing and disruptive. The thinking and approach to serving youth and changing lives reminds me more of something I would expect to see in Silicon Valley than the ‘not-for-profit’ arena.
I’m reaching out to you because I think you would be interested in hearing what Nick has to say. For my part, I’m also committed to introducing Nick to a wide network of business leaders. To that end, I think an introduction would be mutually worthwhile and mutually enjoyable.
I’ve asked Nick to follow-up with you directly and ask for 30 minutes of your time.
The first visit doesn’t need to be an ambush for money. Quite the oppositve… the goal should be to ENGAGE. To LISTEN. And then to overwhelm the other person with the IMPACT so that he or she says, “This is incredible, how can I help?”
When pushed, we found a way for the three organizations in this story to go super simple in the approach. We navigated around and through the ‘but-what-about-objections’ by bringing back to the core perspective that informs this approach: IMPACT driving INCOME. Hopefully, we’ll save hundreds of hours, thousands and thousands in fundraising costs and dozens and dozens of lives (because we will generate much more INCOME for our IMPACT).
Last week we were with an organization that helps the homeless find and secure permanent housing. The executive director of this organization had spent the last 10 years – off and on – trying to get three specific area foundations ‘on board’. In that time some $10K grants had been awarded but for the most part the foundations said, “We don’t fund projects like yours.”
The mission statements for the foundations were almost identical to the that of this homelessness organization. As well, each foundation had funded similar agencies working in the homeless arena.
After asking some questions I suspect the challenge has been one to do more with vocabulary, than ‘fit’.
This homelessness organization receives about $1M annually from the government — to be used for ‘capital’. It turned out that ‘capital’ in this definition meant anything that had to do with the actual home or residence (including programs to get into the residence). In the case of this organization the ‘home’ was the OBJECTIVE of the program. Kind of hard to end homelessness without a home somewhere in the equation… no?
The foundations avoided ‘capital’ projects. It turned out the ‘capital’ meant ‘capital campaign’ to the foundations… bricks and mortar, campaign committees, fancy office chairs, etc.
The homelessness organization had structured all of its internal vocabulary based on conversations with the government. These vocab words were deal killers with the private foundations which heard, “capital campaign” and wanted to focus on more “programs for the homeless”. [I’m not making this up.]
Here’s what we/they did:
We coached the organization’s senior leadership to go back to one of the foundation. This time the organizations was to ask questions, listen and use the foundation’s vocabulary to advance a discussion.
The key questions to ask (in this instance) were, “What is the biggest challenge you’re seeing with respect to ending homeless in this area? How are you working to address that challenge?”
The foundation said it felt a lack of ‘housing opportunities’ were available to the working poor and that it was trying to identify agencies that worked as a catalyst to create more opportunities. Note: The most critical point of this entire story is probably right here. The organization has to LISTEN to the foundation to pull off this conversation.
The homeless organization’s leadership was able then to position its work as a ‘catalyst to create more housing opportunities’.
Both the foundation and the organization leadership described the ensuing conversation as ‘electric’ and ‘exciting’. They will be meeting again next month to talk about a multi-year financial partnership.
For 10 years would-be partners failed to align for what amounted to a vocabulary war. At times the relationship was even contentious there were debates and arguments between foundation heads and leaders in this organization about right/wrong and ‘justice’ in funding.
It’s important to realize in this story that at 30,000’ they were in COMPLETE alignment: all parties were trying to end homelessness. The fact that the homeless organization was getting a token $10K here and there was an indicator that there was alignment on the CAUSE (WHY), but not the CASE (WHAT). The relationship was advanced – light speed – by really really listening and aligning our solution in terms the funder understood.
The way to avoid a vocabulary war is to listen.
Note: In the actual coaching I said to the ED, “I want you just to listen.. to really understand the foundation’s challenges. When you hear a word you don’t understand, ask them to define it. Keep listening until you can say, ‘wait a minute, we can help solve that!’”.
I used to say engaging at 30,000′ was about the WHY (or Purpose) and the WHAT. I’m starting to use WHY/WHAT/WOW as another great way to communicate to people how to think and frame at 30,000′.
WOW: Anything else that makes me go WOW! I HAVE to learn more about this… could be:
Mega important: There’s still some hierarchy. In most cases you need to establish the WHY and WHAT first… on a napkin. Otherwise, the wow factor doesn’t have context.
“Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it’s getting.”
– Tim Kight
Want different results? Want different funding results? Re-design.
In 2005 Fortune Magazine did a cover story on Andy Groves – founder of Intel. In reference to Intel’s success through the 90’s and early 2000’s Mr. Grove summed up the strategic approach in this way.
We had to ENGAGE and then plan!
Understanding comes from action. So “be quick and dirty,” he said. “Engage and then plan. And get it better. Revolutions in our industry in our lifetime have taken place using exactly this formula. [Full Text]
Some quick reminders and primers coming into this post:
When it comes to 1:1 Sales (major gifts, grants, campaign, planned gift, etc) here are eight common messaging challenges we see.
The message (engagement) starts at the wrong altitude. Engagement begins at 30,000’ – about changing, saving and impacting lives. A quick assessment of the way most ED’s are talking about the organization and you see that it’s so programmatic (think: 14,000’). We do a lot of coaching to get people up to the 30,000’-changing-the-world-level.
No simplicity. Not able to state 30,000’ on a napkin. Not able to communicate three priorities. Not able to articulate a simple funding rationale.
Special note: One way to simplify your message is through the use of visuals!
No engagement. Several times each month I look at an organization’s message and say, “That’s actually pretty damn good! I’ll bet you’re just not ENGAGING anyone with the message.” What I mean is, you don’t need to wordsmith or reframe anything. Instead, you have a message problem in that no one is actually HEARING and INTERNALIZING the message. This could be because we’re not out visiting with or it could be because we’re out talking and not LISTENING. Listening allows us to frame our message in a way that makes sense to the other person.
No funding rationale. No math or no story to support ‘the ask’. This is identifiable when we have a funding goal only and we’re either saying, “Can you give?” or we’re just picking a number out of the air. See my earlier post on 9 Types of Funding Pitches.
No WOW. Only commentary here is that most organizations DO have a WOW factor. They often don’t see it because they focus on what’s not perfect.
Story is not awesome. By this I mean your 30,000’ narrative is not representing your transcendent purpose, your BHAG, your audacity. Note: here I speak of the gravitas that you already possess. I’m not encouraging you to make something up for messaging purposes.
Framing is about the INCOME. Not the IMPACT. A common 14,000’ example. Whereas we should be communicating how ALL of our funding supports specific projects, priorities and programs we say something like, “We need funds for staff salaries… admin… overhead.” YUCK. You frame everything around your excel spreadsheet and not the PURPOSE or INTENT of the expenditure. Again: Yuck.
Another example is the message that’s all about the business plan. WHY do you exist and WHAT do you hope to achieve with said business plan (around the IMPACT).
All CAUSE, no CASE. (Or, All PROBLEM, No SOLUTION). This refers to a message that is heavy on selling me on the problem. So much so that I never really engage with the CASE – either because it’s not there, or because you’ve lost my attention.
Note: Hitting all three altitude levels actually makes a simple and complete CASE FOR SUPPORT.
Most organizations are faced with one or two challenges – not eight.
We were right on the southern line of the storms that moved through the midwest last week. Some snow but lots of ice. We were without power for a few days but we’re now back up and running.
Coming out to the office this AM I took these picts with my iPhone. Sharing for those of you that have been with us at Eagle Creek.
Tree down over Churchmouse (name of horse)
Walkway from the Big Rock Center to the Challenge Center
Big Rock Center
See full set of picts
Who are they?
There are no rules.
How to create a funding rationale tied to impact.
Essentially there are three ways to create funding rationale – three P’s. You can ask someone to invest in:
Commonly used with the ‘campaign mindset’, you cast a vision, attach a dollar amount, articulate a funding plan then ask someone to be a piece of the plan.
This could include seed funds to launch a program, sponsorship for a program or gap funding for a program. The cost of the program is set against the impact of the program. You’re selling the impact of the program.
It would be more accurate to refer to this final rationale as a ‘unit’ but then I would lose alliteration. You can do the math to figure out the cost to impact one student, one class, one session, one exhibit, one visitor, etc. This could be a total cost or a ‘gap cost’.
You can use one, two or all three. The message is to HAVE a simple funding rationale. Having worked to transition thousands of messages into a funding rationale, they always incorporate these core concepts.
You can expand and mash-up these three core concepts to get to 9 Types of Funding Pitches.
I’m going to be in Manhattan on Feb 15 for a few meetings. Have several hours to meet-up with local For Impact readers and alumni. If you’re in the area and interesting in meeting up for some (free) coaching send an email to me: email@example.com.
What are ‘office hours’?
I was in Denver for a week last June. I had an open day in my schedule and sent a similar invitation to WOW readers in the Colorado area. I held ‘office hours’ in my hotel lobby and visited with one organization at a time — helping them simplify message, overcome funding obstacles and work through some prospect strategies. It ended up being a $260,000 day — meaning those that left generated $260,000 (that I know about).
Why do this?
We form relationships by trying to have the biggest possible impact.
Some of those I met that day became For Impact clients and others simply became better acquaintances. In all cases, it added value and made a big impact to the For Impact local community — an objective of ours that drives the WOW Emails, Daily Nuggets blog, teleseminars and gatherings.
If you’re interested please include something you would hope to get out of our time together (examples: a specific challenge, re-charged, strategy, simplicity, etc).
Today I’m highlighting some of Tom’s thoughts on Energy/Time from the archives
This comes from one of my favorite authors Jim Loehr and is captured on the cover of his book, THE POWER OF FULL ENGAGEMENT. Everybody knows about the RETURN ON INVESTMENT. Very few people understand RETURN ON ENERGY.
Managing your ENERGY includes figuring out when you are most productive (early a.m. for most people) and then doing your most important things at that time.
It’s also about practicing OSCILLATION. Jim Loehr says this OSCILLATION means the constant BALANCE between INTENSE ACTIVITY and RECOVERY. Building RECOVERY time into your day such as exercise or meditation or a walk or even a nap (as W. Clement Stone used to do) provides RECOVERY. You can practice oscillation on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. (Funny thing. I’m actually dictating this as I’m walking down to feed the horse and the miniature donkeys.)
I wish everyone would grasp this idea as soon as possible. It’s amazing what happens when you focus on your ENERGY LEVEL instead simply allocating time during a 10, 12, 16-hour “day”.
Note: Something to think about. TIME MANAGEMENT is all about lists and priorities and Quadrant II activities vs. Quadrant IV. It doesn’t take into consideration your ENERGY, your ATTITUDE or the INTENSITY in which you function.
Funny thing. TIME management ends up using a lot of TIME, while ENERGY management ends up being about FOCUS and FLOW and takes a heck of a lot less TIME.
P.S. This oscillation, intense activity combined with recovery is tied back to the whole both/and thing. Every elite athlete knows that intense “muscle burn” needs to be offset with ‘muscle rest or recovery’. You don’t work out 10 hours a day every day. World class boxers who are “in training” mix in Road work and Ring work and Rest. (Often taking naps during the day. George Foreman was supposedly really good at this. ?) This concept can be applied to your life and to your business day. Even a few moments to work on pranayama or yoga breathing, meditation, counting to ten or whatever can re-charge your energy system.
Special Note: ROE is a great LIFE principle… and an important BUSINESS and SALES idea. It’s Eduardo Pareto’s 80/20 on steroids. It’s Ivy Lee and Andrew Carnegie writing down the most important things they have to do that day and then doing it (with maximum ENERGY). It’s particularly applicable to WHO you work with, WHERE you work, and WHY you’re working.
Newton’s First Law of Motion States:
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
Your business… your organization… your team… your job… your life stays at rest or it stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
Kerry and I were with an organization yesterday working on its funding message and then role playing visits. The executive director sounded like he was trying to CONVINCE me (and maybe himself) about the greatness of every program. As he spoke it felt like he was listing of all the great things about the program… an endless and unorganized litany of things about the program… I was lost.
I represented someone who had taken the meeting… with whom he’d already had an engaging conversation at 30,000′ about saving lives. At that point he should not be trying to CONVINCE me that the programs are great and wonderful. The mental exercise instead became to focus on CLARIFYING how we have the impact…
Moving from CONVINCE to CLARIFY was a transformational mental exercise. In a second run through he was punchy, convincing and clear. I saw the order in what they were doing and, in receiving less information I had fewer questions.
If you haven’t CONVINCED me around your WHY and WHAT then I’m not going to be convinced in the HOW. At that point the only real risk you lose is in losing me. Keep it simple.
Two REQUIRED READINGS from the last two weeks.
First, The Atlantic cover story: The Rise of the New Ruling Class – How the Global Elite is Leaving You Behind. This story describes the global entrepreneur and how – on the one hand we are losing the middle class in the states – the ‘upper class’ is thriving in this global playground. The real trend-spotting looks at the global implications for business and philanthropy. The takeaways for me:
The second ‘grab your attention’ cover was from last week’s Economist. If you’ve committed your life to the social sector, or your work intersects with philanthropy or global change, then take the time to read this. Some takeaway implications for me:
Note: The other day I heard from an ED who had just secured a big gift. The ED said, “I got a taste of what it must be like to fundraise in the good times.” Arggh! We ARE in the good times. I intended for this post to be a jolt to those that think we’re still in a recession. We’re sooooo not in a recession. Or, at least the people that have the true capacity (financially) to help you change, save and impact lives are not in a recession. Stop using that as an excuse.
Two years ago I attended an event for an organization I support. The board chair – who’s awesome, dyanmic, visionary, etc – gave a ten minute speech. He incorporated a lot of big visionary themes but the speech wasn’t very engaging. The carefully scripted and crafted delivery strayed too far from his strengths. It missed the mark. By the conventional measurement he did fine. I thought it was disappointing. It was stale.
Still board chair the next year he was up to speak again. This next he was totally relaxed and totally dynamic. His speech was four minutes and if it was scripted, I couldn’t tell.
I asked him if he had been coached.
His coach told him not to write a speech. His coach said to focus on three points you want to make. Then visualize talking about those points. Do some dry-runs… make a few supporting bullet points but focus EMPHATICALLY and SUCCINCTLY on those three points.
Much shorter. Much better. And, people HEARD the message to boot!
This uses the rule of three and leverages authentic passion.
No leader or manager will contest the notion that you should be hiring really smart people.
How do you determine smarts?
Two great nuggets in this interview with Jeremy Allaire, How the Shape the DNA of a Young Company, in Saturday’s New York Times. Jeremy Allair is an entrepreneur out of Boston. He founded Brightcove media.
A side note: Jeremy’s first company was called Allaire media. The core product was ColdFusion, a programing tool on which I built my first company.
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.
Ask for “Permission to Proceed”.
This concept helps you TRANSITION in the flow of a visit and ACCELERATE the pace of your ongoing dialogue in a relationship.
The use of this is pretty literal. At the end of a first visit with someone you might say, “This was our first visit. My only goals today were to establish a relationship, take some time to learn about your interests and make you familiar with our impact. It seems like there were some good connections, based on that would it be okay if we explored ways to help in our next visit?”
If there was a poor job of predisposition, you might even be able to get away with: “I know we didn’t come here today to talk about numbers but it certainly seems like we’re in sync about the projects. Would it be okay if I were to share the Funding Plan?”
Asking for permission to proceed allows you to be comfortably assertive. How do you know if it’s okay to ask? You ask.
I’m reposting this nugget from the archives.
“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 someone 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 always reduce this to a simple story in order 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 with full commitment 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. So stop cultivating and start communicating.
Impact Drives Income: Half of our methodology focuses on helping you COMMUNICATE the IMPACT. If you can do that then it’s not about taking three years to make someone feel important enough to want to give. Your job is to take that three years down to 30 minutes – in many cases. You want someone to say, “WOW, this is INCREDIBLE IMPACT. HOW CAN I HELP?” (Then, you have to answer their question, not sprinkle with compost.)
PS – 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 stole that from noted philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer who wrote an amazing article last year 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.
We coach and train organizations and individuals to sell… to sell their vision, their projects, their impact.
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 2011.”
Get out. Visit. Ask. Read more here.
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:
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:
Via SundayMagazine.orgI came across the Jan 1, 1911 New York Times article recapping Philanthropy in 1910 (Visit the site and click on PDF to read the full article). It’s pretty interesting to read… tons of information – includes giving from the Rockefellers, JP Morgan, Carnegie.
Some other notes:
Last week I tried to talk share with you some thoughts on why ‘sales’ was so important to our business of saving lives, changing lives and impacting lives.
This am, saw a tweet from Bob Burg (@BobBurg). He nailed it in < 140 characters: "Selling - at its core - is not a business transaction. It is first and foremost the forging of a human connection."
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/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 and company.)
Extracting this DNA — then putting it to words — it reads: THINK BIG. BUILD SIMPLE. ACT NOW!
This entrepreneur’s mantra is powerfully guiding in the work we do and the work you do every day.
Tom brings a more powerful voice to the ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT than I. 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 Tom shared with a gathering of 200 young social entrepreneurs earlier this year.
Here is a format we use for sales meetings – for example, a weekly review of activities from the sales team.
These metrics provide an objective dashboard that speaks volumes.
It’s very easy to get sidetracked. Make it very clear (for yourself) and for your sales team that the first measurement will be number of times we got out of the office to go visit with people. Even without the perfect materials, we know (at For Impact) this will have a tremendous positive impact on your organization.
Following on the first point, if you’re a manager you can set goals with your team around number of visits/asks. This ties back to accountability and performance.
Two months ago I was working with an organization that was making 15 visits per week. It was logging only a few commitments and declines. We were able to zero in on this and it turned out the staff wasn’t really asking. It was walking through the numbers and ‘hoping’ the prospect would select to give. We did another training session around ‘the last three feet’ and the numbers then improved.
This is a pretty important point. You can deal with real issues as they arise – instead of planning and planning for months/years with no activity.
After the numbers we then review:
Here is an updated version of the For Impact Funding Model.
Based on relationships… funding Today, Tomorrow and Forever.
The Today/Tomorrow/Forever matches to your message for each type of giving. More than that, this model illustrates a COMPLETE funding model. This gives you the tool to maximize relationships at any given time:
Action: Turn the model into a funding plan.
You are in sales! Not everyone wants to hear that but it’s the truth.
What is sales? Sales is the responsibility… the calling… the opportunity to carry the story of your organization… how it’s saving, changing and impacting lives… and share that story with people… 1:1… to build relationships with them to ASK them to help save, change and impact lives.
Sales is about ATTITUDE!
A great salesperson:
So…. Commit to Sales! Have some fire in your belly! Change the world!
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that… I could FUND your annual operating budget.
Typically, I ask these three questions.
If you haven’t done these three things then it’s probably not about the board, the culture or [insert other challenge].
When we do these three things — Have the STORY, ENGAGE 1:1 and ASK — then the ‘culture’ seems to change.
In general, organizations spend way too much TIME prepping for fundraising. We’ve seen organizations take TWO YEARS to create systems, hire the right people, put together plans.
Two years later, they’re ‘ready to start’. In that time they’ve made ZERO visits. As an organization, they’ve built a culture of ‘getting ready’… not making any visits. Unfortunately, this never translates into action in the sales arena.
Sales is about speed. It’s about being in the field and modifying your way to perfection. It’s about ALWAYS growing/learning/building – as an individual and as an organization. Sales is about relationships. You don’t build relationships by planning. You build and maximize relationships by talking to people.
As you COMMIT TO SALES we would urge you to ‘Engage. Then Plan!” in the words of Andy Grove.
Or, it it helps, give yourself TWO WEEKS to simplify your message and clarify your plan. Then start making visits. The only way to better the plan, get better at sales and (through both) raise a lot more money for your impact is through more TRIAL, not more TIME. It shouldn’t take you two years to build momentum with a sales plan. It should take you 20 visits. Do the 20 visits… THEN build a model around what’s working. Oh, and as a bonus, you’ll actually HAVE FUNDS to help you build your model because you’ve been in the field selling along the way.
“Should we plan on doing fewer visits with prospects this month, because of the holidays?”
“Should we keep pushing because people give at year’s end?”
We get a lot of questions about this every year. Our coaching advice:
Keep working your list. It’s a great time to be engaging (1:1) with your prospects/relationships.
Whatever you do… don’t make excuses for not making visits.
We begin each Board Experience by asking each participant to share what he or she perceives to be the biggest funding obstacle. We also ask each person to single out the greatest asset we have to leverage or opportunity to transform funding.
Quite often someone will bring up ‘awareness’ as a challenge.
One person might say, “I think we don’t have enough awareness in the community.. This is our problem. I think we should build awareness?”
Another person might say, “We’re so visible and successful that everything things we don’t need any help. How do we change that?” (Note: I received two of these emails this am.)
Awareness translates into awareness. Not sustained revenue from relationships. We’ve had several clients that have been on Oprah –which, as you might know, equals some awareness. They get a BIG HIT, though this usually comes more in the form of traffic that crashes a website than funding revenues. We’ve also worked with some of the biggest social/nonprofit brands you can think of.
The real (funding) challenge is not awareness. It’s that we’re not making any visits. The jump in revenue comes from making 1:1 visits, sharing your story and presenting the opportunity (read: ASKING around the impact) for someone to make an investment that will change lives, save lives or impact lives.
Lack awareness? Find and visit with the best 10, 20, 30 prospects to share your story (making them aware of the incredible things you’re doing) and presenting the opportunity to help.
Have a lot of awareness? Find and visit with your best 10, 20, 30 prospects to share your story (making them aware of how much more you COULD be doing) and then presenting the opportunity to help.
I was reluctant to post this. Reluctant because organizations trend to fall back on MORE marketing instead of picking up the phone to schedule a visit.
Just appreciate this one for the creative MATH.
I got a Groupon notice this morning about Kiva. I could “Save $10 on a $25 Microloan Gift or Credit to Help Global Entrepreneurs through Kiva.org.“
My immediate reaction was to think it was absurd. People should be doing this HELP. Not to save money.
Then I did the math.
That’s pretty great math.
On Monday led the Washington DC For Impact Experience (think: workshop, but way better).
Most organizations in the room were new to the concept of sitting down with someone and making a 1-on-1 visit and ask (a ‘targeted solicitation’ – as one attendee put it). When you’re new there can be fear of the unknown that translates into reluctance. You’re not sure what to ask for – for one thing.
I never know what to ask for until AFTER I ask. It took many asks – and mentorship from Tom – for me to understand that you’ll never know what to ask for. It will always be unknown — until you ask. Hopefully all of us at For Impact can pass this lesson on to you. This insight was a big epiphany for several attendees just as it was for me.
Sometimes the ask is for too much and sometimes too little but you know this because you asked. While most development officers or executive directors are huddled in their office trying to do more research you can go out and have a REAL conversation… build a REAL relationship and make a REAL ask. Because you’re building a relationship, this will lead to several more requests and investments over the next 3, 6, 9 months and following years…. while other organizations will LITERALLY take YEARS to figure out exactly what to ask for (which will never happen).
I stumbled on a great read: If Disney Ran Your Hospital.
It caught my attention because one of the first lines of the books reads:
“The job of marketing is to provide qualified leads for sales.”
Think about that line as it relates to your organization.
I wanted to explore the word ‘mantra’. Google pushed me to wikipedia. Wikipedia defines mantra as: a group of words that are considered capable of “creating transformation”.
I’m going to give wikipedia the thumbs up on this one, that’s a pretty powerful definition. A mantra is also something you REPEAT. It becomes ingrained. It rolls off your tongue. Perhaps it’s the embodiment of the phrase which leads to transformation…. I digress.
I’ve been encouraging people to think about ‘Champion/Invite/Invest‘ as a mantra… a phrase in their back pocket they can pull out when someone asks, “How can I help?” This mantra would be instead of 1) having no answer or 2) just blurting out some other mode of engagement hoping an even stronger indication of interest will appear in the future. Problem is, the prospect is asking the question NOW.
You can simply say, “Whenever I’m asked that question I tell people there are three things they can do that will have a huge impact: Champion. Invite and Invest.”
Champion/Invite/Invest provides a simple and quick answer. It invites the relationship to move forward in the appropriate way. Often someone is saying, “I’m ready to write a check.” If you’re not sure, just talking about the investment and getting permission really helps with confidence and therefor accelerates the dialogue. At worst it gives you a roadmap for the relationship.
If you keep this mantra in your back pocket I’m pretty confident in its ability to ‘create transformation’.
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.
I’ve just started working with a youth-serving organization in the midwest. This organization 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 I’m 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.
I should note, the four pages did have other filler that wasn’t as harsh.
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.
Steve posted a comment on Wednesday to Tom’s post on ‘ No More Boards‘. It’s worth pulling to the top for some Friday thinking
You [boards and staff[ both work for the MISSION. Both boards and staffs can get too focused on “managing” the organization vs. ADVANCING THE MISSION.
WOW. Get a cup of java and think.
Add this to the list of books I wish I wrote but didn’t: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs – How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.
This is a book about dead simple and inspiring communication… it’s messaging GOLD. Steve Jobs and Apple provide a lens through which to teach you frameworks.
The book reinforces so many For Impact Concepts: Selling at 30,000′, Altitude, Simplicity, Visual Engagement, Finding the Transformational Purpose.
If For Impact were a university this would be required reading for For Impact Communication 101. In class we would discuss how to apply these concepts to the 1:1 selling setting – mostly by setting them in a dialogue context.
From Gallo’s intro:
You will learn how Jobs does all of the following:
- Craft messages
- Presents ideas
- Generates excitement for a product or feature
- Delivers a memorable experience
- Creates customer evangelists
To this I would add one superseding bullet: “Changes the world.”
“If you pay close attention to Jobs, you will see that he doesn’t “sell” products; he sells the dream of a better future.” (See Steve Jobs Close)
“The most inspiring communicators share this quality—the ability to create something meaningful out of esoteric or everyday products. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz does not sell coffee. He sells a “third place” between work and home. Financial guru Suze Orman does not sell trusts and mutual funds. She sells the dream of financial freedom. In the same way, Jobs does not sell computers. He sells tools to unleash human potential. Throughout this book, ask yourself, “What am I really selling?” Remember, your widget doesn’t inspire. Show me how your widget improves my life, and you’ve won me over. Do it in a way that entertains me, and you’ll have created a true evangelist. Along the way, you’ll also discover that Steve Jobs is motivated by a messianic zeal to change the world, to put a “dent in the universe.” In order for these techniques to work, you must cultivate a profound sense of mission.”
So… yeah… you can see why I like the book!
A quick post about running and the practice of following a CLEAR plan.
I’m trying to run 50 marathons in 50 states. See: Update I.
The weather and race conditions were perfect – making for my fastest and most enjoyable marathon yet. Growing up and living in Columbus, OH this was also a ‘home course’. It was motivating to see friends, family and familiar terrain.
Marathons represent one of the few areas of our life where progress toward the goal is VERY CLEAR. If you take a step, you’re closer to the finish… it’s that simple. Somewhere around mile 18 or 19 you repeat this mantra over-and-over… it’s the faith in this simplified plan that gets you to the goal.
Obviously, a lot of correlation between this insight and other areas of life. I think this is one of the reasons why many marathon runners are older (when compared to other sporting feats)… as life becomes more scattered with work and family a CLEAR goal and plan (from training to race-day) provides a release.
A marathon is a pretty clear goal: Go 26.2 miles. 16 weeks in advance of a marathon you commit to a CLEAR training plan. If the plan calls for six miles, you run six miles. No thinking. You have a CLEAR goal. This makes it easier to TRUST a CLEAR plan. You then put all your energy into executing.
For me, marathon running offers a way to PRACTICE the art of goal setting, planning and execution… followed by a the celebration!
Special congrats to our For Impact Coach in the northeast, Mike Gemm, for completing his first marathon (Providence, RI) on Sunday
Any runners out there in the For Impact Community? Let’s run a marathon in your state! Let me know. Just can’t be OH, VA, MD, NC, MI, IN or CA 🙂 I will be in the northeast on Nov 6 so thinking about running in the Manchester, NH race on Nov 7.
A short referral today. Read this post from Daring Fireball on message/language/simplicity.
Microsoft on releasing a new phone: 48 words running on.
Apple on the release of the iPhone: “Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.”
We’ve worked with some 5000 organizations over the past 25+ years — if you include the thousands that have attended Boot Camps and signature trainings. We see that 97% of the funds for any organization come from just 3% of that organization’s ‘family’.
I believe this number would be closer to 99:1 but so many organizations spend their time, energy and effort focusing (disproportionately) on the 97% that make up only 3% of the funds.
Where are you spending your time? Where can you get the most return-on-energy?
Sometimes people want to point me to organizations like NPR and Salvation Army — as if to challenge this point. One answer: Joan Kroc. She committed $200M and $1.5B to these organizations, respectively.
Tom has just finished a For Impact Guide ON BOARD(S).
This short 35-page monograph is meant to be a quick read and provide motivation, as well as a ‘how to’.
ON BOARD includes nuggets like:
We’re focusing on providing more board solutions – people frequently ask about ways to share the For Impact Point of View with boards.
This guidebook is a great start. Download for free through Nov 15.
Here is a framing device to help you answer any question in a calm and confident manner. It’s called The Rule of 3.
The Rule of 3 is simply the framing of THREE things to simplify a concept.
Yesterday a coaching client described a ‘tough question’ received from a board member about an upcoming project. In response to a plan about expanding into three new cities the board member asked, “How EXACTLY how the funds will be used in each of those three cities?”
The organization has a complete business plan that details every penny for each city. However, it would’ve been too vague to say, “Yes, we a complete business plan… it’s here in 40 pages.” So the ED froze.
Now that the ED has The Rule of 3 in her bag of tricks! She can simplify 40 pages on-the-fly by limiting herself to three bullet points. With the Rule of 3 the ED tried her first impromtu response, “Yes Nick… all the funds will be used to do these three things. 1) Purchase the curriculum 2) Provide Training and 3) Deliver ongoing assistance to partner organizations).”
Simply by summarizing the 40 pages in three bullet points the ED delivered confidence and clarity in her response.
The Rule of 3 is a magic framing device. Studies have shown that we as humans are wired to receive and remember three’s. Four bullet points seems like ‘too much’ and two seems like ‘not enough’.
Action: I want you to think about a tough question you’ve received in the past few weeks. Force yourself to go back and answer the question by saying:
You will sound confident in your answer. You will be more confident in your answer. The person asking the question will be impressed by your answer — often saying, “Wow, you really have this down!”
Also, observe the Rule of 3 in action with any great speaker, marketer or politician. Now that you’re looking for it… it will appear EVERYWHERE!
Tom first shared the Rule of 3 with me about ten years ago. It’s since proven time and time again to be the most powerful framing device there is because 1) It’s simple 2) Easy to use and 3) Humans are hard wired to positively receive groups-of -threes.
Once you’ve made an ask (numbers on the table), the prospect status can be either pending or committed/declined. Pending implies that we’re working toward a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The challenge is that so many requests never get to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’… they fade into pending oblivion.
Pending into oblivion sounds like this [my commentary in brackets]:
“Well we didn’t want to harass the prospect after we asked.”
[so we didn’t follow-up to see if it was a yes/no and so it went nowhere]
“The family says it’s still thinking.”
[16 months is a long time to be thinking, do you think something’s going to change about that next month?]
“If we forced them to a decision, I’m worried they would say no.”
[but we don’t know that for sure, so instead we let the relationship function in this grey area — moreover, without dialogue we can’t actually deal with objections]
There comes a time when we need to force a decision. When it’s been 16 months… when you’ve made four visits… you’ll know it when you come to it.
You can simply say, “Prospect, we’ve had some great discussions about this project and it’s time to come to some sort of decision about a commitment. We [as an organization] are moving forward and we just need to know where we stand. We need A commitment [TODAY].”
If we can’t ultimately report each request as a pending or a commit, it’s likely we didn’t really ask in the first place or we’re not doing our jobs.
There is a greater danger than getting a ‘no’. It’s not having dialogue, not having any real sense of what’s working in your system, and leaving relationships in a grey – stagnant area.
Tom is helping a college wrap-up a huge campaign. The five-person development team has about 70 sizeable gifts pending. Tom rallied the troops in August and said, “We’re in a phase in which there is no more pending.” For the last six weeks the team has been out having commitment conversations with each family, prospect and foundation. This has generated $14M in commitments over the last two weeks.
We use an Altitude Framework to order thinking, communications and storylines.
In sharing this with others one goal is simply to make everyone aware of 30,000′ and what it means to “share the message and story at 30,000′”.
People respond to you at whatever level you communicate. So, if you’re at 3′, talking about where the architects are placing bathrooms, this will frame the conversation. Instead, if you’re at 30,000′, talking about changing and saving lives… the conversations will be different.
One example: Last year I worked with a well-respected social entrepreneur and Ashoka fellow. A driven individual and true visionary, he gets up every morning trying to change the face of poverty. Whenever he went to make an ask, however, the conversation always turned into a debate about the business model (at 14,000′). The Altitude Framework helped him to see why this was happening.
Being an award-winning social entrepreneur, his message had taken shape around ‘doing business in a different way’… about ‘earned income’… about ‘not relying on philanthropy’… about being ‘best in the world at being sustainable’. Naturally, prospects were engaging him at this level (14,000′). The 30,000′ WHY wasn’t coming through in his message. His story needed to be about being best in the world at changing the face of poverty (30,000′) — first — and then incorporating a different business model (at 14,000′).
The Altitude Framework was a simple tool that made him aware of his 30,000′ message. I’m happy to report his funding conversations changed considerably based on this conscious framing exercise.
Tom’s been pushing for a ‘change’ in the sector and a change in the vocabulary for 15+ years. In the past five years we’ve seen the dialogue about a new language explode. And, recently I’ve been able to imagine a day in which ‘not-for-profits’ don’t exist because a different identity shapes those devoted to changing the world.
We give a big portion of our time and resources to helping young leaders change the world. Tom’s been the boxing coach at Notre Dame for 35+ years and I built and sold my first company (at Notre Dame) before I was 22. We’re sold out for young people.
Thinking back over the past two years we’ve had young social entrepreneurs to our boot camps, mentored at the Unreasonable Institute and worked closely with another 26 young leaders at Eagle Creek or on-the-road. Not one of them would describe what he or she is doing as a ‘not-for-profit’. When you listen to them describe their ambitions the message is about
The really interesting thing is that I think greater than 80% have been incorporated as 501c3 organizations.
This is not an observation about vocabulary. It’s an observation about identity and being. (more…)
You’ve just had the fourth straight board meeting in which you asked for names… but you didn’t get any. Yes… I AM psychic! [sarcasm]
This happens in hundreds of meetings everyday. It’s not fruitful. What board members hear is this question, “Who do you know that has money that you could go ask?” There is no context for the names… we don’t have a grasp on what will happen with the names (story, process, etc) and we’re not sure what a prospect really looks like.
At a higher level, we need to think in a more strategic way about all prospects… about maximizing relationships… the definition of a prospect and how to generate more qualified prospects.
For prospecting, think about how you can use these big questions internally and externally.
Who are our top 10 best prospects?
Before you think about new prospects the most important thing you can do is write down you top 10 beest prospects (in descending order of importance). Most organizations… most businesses… don’t do this. Having a top 10 is fundamental. Then we can ask the next strategic question…
Have we maximized our best relationships?
If not, why?
As For Impact coaches we’re adamant about getting you a working story and process before adding more names. More names won’t do any good if you’re not maximizing the names you have already. If orgs aren’t not maximizing relationships it’s usually because
What would it mean to maximize this relationship?
Take any prospect, new or existing and work to answer this question. It’s very different from asking, “How much should we ask for?” It’s strategic and looks at the RELATIONSHIP in a bigger context.
“Can you think of 2-3 names that match our IDEAL PROFILE?”
I was in New York City last week facilitating a day-long strategic funding retreat for a board and senior staff.
This organization doesn’t have a very extensive fundraising history or culture. It was beginning to think about some major needs in the coming years — and possibly a campaign. Our goal was to go from the starting line – a discussion about the need for funds – to have the entire team on board with a story, a strategy and an action plan.
The Framework served as our agenda for the day. We started with the Impact -> Income napkin and worked our way to mapping out the story. Conversations about the WHO and the HOW are completely different after everyone see’s the compelling story and how a case-for-support could be exciting.
We then moved to the WHO. Prospects and Team. Before laying the groundwork there were lots of questions about prospects. AFTER we had a story and message the number of prospects seemed to triple (as it always does).
Finally we moved to identify the HOW. There was no way to launch this org into a campaign at the end of one day. Instead we defined success as getting the organization started with a sales process. That is… the ability to identify prospects, engage them with a great story and get some really big gifts for projects.
How are you using the For Impact Approach? Take a minute to tell us and other For Impact readers. We’ll set you up with one of our Motivational Mugs and possibly and Amazon Kindle.
The action: Tell us your For Impact Story in under two minutes..
The background: We engaged with some 300 organizations last week via Campaign Week’s teleseminars and coaching calls. Regular readers will know I am a reader/follower of VC Brad Feld. Several years ago Brad talked about ‘Random Days’. These were days filled with random meetings and calls in an office-hours-fashion. Over the years this has led to some exciting connections, some business opportunities and also really expanded Brad’s thinking about the world in which he lives (technology, VC, Boulder).
Brad’s Random Days offers the inspiration for our annual week of free seminars and open coaching hours.
More than other years we were blown away at how people were using FI. We heard from people that were leading trainings using the For Impact sales model, innovating on the engagement tools and some that were now using napkins everywhere. In previous years I had a pretty good lead on these folks. There were several times last week I heard previous strangers say things like, “I’ve been following you for three years. Came from a sales background and now sit on a board. I have everyone in our organization using your system…”
In a word: AWESOMENESS.
It’s time to start a system to capture and share these stories with others. If you’ve used anything from a boot camp, seminar, blog entry… take a moment to let us know using this form.
I have no idea where this project will go but I’m pretty confident you will make it pretty remarkable.
For Impact Message: Impact Drives Income.
As it applies to the ask… one example. Use a project to drive the ask. That is, if you have a project that is going to require $80K to fund, ask for the project… the IMPACT (rationalizing $80K) instead of just trying to guess a number that you think ‘will be a stretch but not too much of a stretch’.
You will never know EXACTLY what to ask for so instead of guessing, communicate the need.
“The program we just discussed would require about $80K per year… impacting about 300 women and families. Is that something you could help us with?”
If it’s too much, the prospect will let you know. If too little.. that’s okay, you have a lifetime relationship and you can certainly talk to the prospect about other projects.
Paul Graham is reinventing funding and start-up culture in Silicon Valley with Y-Combinator (see Inc article).
In July he posted an essay on ‘The Top Idea in Your Mind‘.
I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That’s the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they’re allowed to drift freely. And this idea will thus tend to get all the benefit of that type of thinking, while others are starved of it. Which means it’s a disaster to let the wrong idea become the top one in your mind.
The concept is spot on, I think. I think he’s also essentially supporting to our main message point: Impact Drives Income. He explained that when you’re raising money, that’s the thing that becomes ‘top of mind’. Then, the product suffers.
What’s interesting for those reading this however, is that for us the funder, making an IMPACT is top of mind.
Paul also closes with some good thoughts on wasting brain space with negative thoughts and energy: don’t.
We had some cool mugs made with our For Impact message points. I don’t really want to get into the business of selling and shipping mugs but I would love to get some of these into the hands of regular readers. First ten to comment… we’ll ship you one.
Edit: Okay all.. WOW.. way more responses than I anticipated. Several extra comments below and a lot of emails. Have setup a new way to get a mug… Share your Story. Thanks!
Just off the phone with a team that’s prepping for a big visit this afternoon. We were doing a last minute strategic run-through. On this visit it’s going to be the ED, a Director of Development and the prospect. They’re going to be doing a tour followed by a sit-down discussion about an $8M effort.
As part of the process we always establish ONE leader. This is the person that is responsible for managing the FLOW of the visit.
One thing’s for certain. No visit ever goes as planned. If you’re on the team it’s imperative to know the ONE person that’s responsible for getting to the goal.
Can’t be two leaders. Worse than two leaders is establishing no lead.
If I’m leading I will advise the other person, “If if things seem totally de-railed I will have a plan in my head I’m following. It’s important I communicate that so you don’t panic if we seem way off track.” Having done this now hundreds and hundreds of times I will let the prospect lead a lot… because I want to listen.
If it’s my first visit with a team member I’ll tell them to imagine a physical ball. Just like one of those retreats, you can only talk when you have the ball. I will carry the ball. When the prospect opens her mouth she ALWAYS has the ball. And, in order to manage the flow of the call I will deliberately pass the ball. For example, “Jim, could I ask you to share a little bit with Ms. Prospect about our outreach program?”
One leader. Not two. Not three. Definitely not zero.
This one’s making its way through twitter and the web’s pretty fast… and it should.
You probably already know about the Gates/Buffet challenge to Billionaires, asking them to pledge to give away half their fortunes.
Now they have a dead simple website: givingpledge.org. It includes the pledge letter from each billionaire. I haven’t been through all the letters but they’re pretty powerful and most offer some insight. That is, they’re not just some fluffy PR letter but show a genuine glimpse into the thinking of these committed philanthropists.
Making an ask soon? I urge you to read a few of these letters before heading out. While these may be 40 letters from Billionaires, I assure you the only difference between them and the person you may ask for $100K is the level of organized thinking around common thoughts and desires. Your neighborhood philanthropist has these SAME feelings, thoughts… just hasn’t taken the time to be as formal in outlining the WHY and the STRATEGY.
I’ve had two organizations out to Eagle Creek in the past week (prompting this invitation post) for some strategic coaching around ‘top of the pyramid strategies’. Some key reminders to both organizations — and you.
Don’t make assumptions for your best prospects.
We tend to tell ourselves a story, that there are other prospects out there that we just haven’t located or that we don’t know…. that we’re close to unlocking connections to other connections… and when we do, THEN we’ll really be on-the-road to huge funding success.
Hidden in this story is an assumption that our current prospects aren’t interested or don’t have capacity or simply aren’t going to give at ‘those levels’.
We need to tell ourselves a different story… that there aren’t better prospects on the planet than those under our nose… that these prospects are passionate about our cause… and that the reason they haven’t given is because we haven’t engaged them, illustrated the impact/need and ASKED.
Imagine 50 acres of country with a castle in the middle, surrounded by a creek, decorated everywhere by rock sculptures, and creative working areas… that’s our everyday environment at Eagle Creek. See picts
This summer we’ve had a number of social entrepreneurs, executive directors and development leaders schedule time to come out for one-on-one strategic coaching… it’s been productive and successful. We’re going to be promoting it more via the blog and website so readers can envision getting out of the office to this retreat-like environment.
Drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more about coming to Eagle Creek for one-on-one coaching or strategic coaching with your senior leadership team. It’s a great opportunity to refresh the batteries, jump start a funding plan and leave with actionable high-level prospect strategies.
The property is pretty awesome through late October, then it starts to get cooler… after that we’re better off to meet up in San Diego!
Note: Eagle Creek is in Columbus, OH… you can fly into Port Columbus or Dayton.
“You’re in sales… get over it!”
Tom first said this (that I recall) at a workshop in 2001. He had developed a Sales Process for The Suddes Group several years earlier and we’ve been teaching around this sales process ever since – helping organizations build a sales teams, model and culture.
At a high level this process has two components: PLAN and EXECUTION.
The Plan components are pretty simple:
Case for Support: This is not one-in-the same as a case statement. I’m fonder of the prep work that organizations usually pile into the case statement process than the actual case statement – which amounts to a long document that nobody reads.
To me a case for support is about honing in on your message. It’s about:
Most Case Statements spend too much time outlining the need with statistics. You’re not going to convince your best prospects of the need (the CAUSE). You’re going to sell your best on the SOLUTION (the CASE). As well, I think most case statements neglect to dive into the funding plan. One common reason campaigns don’t succeed is that top prospects aren’t convinced you have a PLAN to be successful with your overall funding goal.
Our case-for-support-shorthand is around simplifying the PURPOSE (at 30,000′). The THREE funding PRIORITIES (at 14,000’) and funding PLAN (at 3′).
Presentation Design: It’s equally important to figure out HOW you’re going to engage people with your CASE. Not PowerPoint’s, not fancy brochures… but experiences, tours, mind-maps… The questions you’re going to ask to create engagement.
In 1952 Walt Disney created a 4’x6′ storyboard illustrating Disneyland at night. This visual design was what finally secured financing for Disneyland. As he said, “Bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all.” After reading this story we’ve often DESIGNED big storyboard engagement tools to draw people into the Case for Support.
Qualified Prospects: Without offering any guidance around our version of PREP most organizations will say they have a challenge with prospects. We find they are better equipped around prospects than they think… and usually we find they need more work around the CASE and the DESIGN. Prospects is about three things:
In terms of Execution you can repeat again and again. I could offer an infinite level of explanation I want to reinforce the simplicity and the discipline in following these three steps:
Predisposition: This is not a ‘step’; it’s a mindset. Predisposition is everything you can do to make it NOT a cold call. It’s also the part of the strategy to GET the visit.
Presenting the Opportunity: In the sales process most prospects can be ASKED on the first visit. With bigger prospects you might move to a two-visit strategy – discovery and then the presentation (ASK) but never 6, 7, 8,etc. visits.
A good litmus test to know if there was a REAL ASK: Could you follow-up and confirm the ask…with a number… in writing? If not, was probably more of a murky exploration than a real ask.
Follow-up: See my notes on How to Follow-up. This is where the money comes in. This is where most organizations drop the ball. If you can’t follow-up then you don’t need more prospects, you need to get better at following up.
If you’ve seen Tom or me 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:
No one ever says, “But that’s our CASH COW!”
The reasons most often heard in defending special events are really tied to MARKTING. 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 it’s 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.
MARKETING and SALES.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS and MAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS.
A reminder: 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?”
We wrapped up our annual boot camp yesterday afternoon. 40 For Impact Leaders have flown back to different parts of the country – a few cleared customs to other countries. We have a few message points we focus on in day II, one of them being the meaning of dialogue and the importance of dialogue throughout every moment of the sales process.
Dialogue is give and take. It’s asking questions and listening… actually taking the time to process the answer. Sometimes it’s just a lot of listening. It’s engaging the prospect in the presentation… it’s making the presentation about the prospect, not about what you have to say. It’s also about discovery, using questions to learn real information.
This is all in contrast to a monologue or a moment . A monologue is one-sided, not engaging and fails to build on any information from the prospect. By ‘a moment’ I mean asking and then waiting for the answer… stopping at conversation with the prospect’s response.
As a reminder, there are three parts to every visit.
– The Opening
– The Story (at altitude covering your Purpose, Priorities and Plan)
– The Presentation of the Opportunity (the ASK!)
When you present the opportunity the dialogue continues until you meet one of the three conditions:
Apply the conditions above to this scenario. You ask for $100K to underwrite a science program for the 2010-2011 school year. You have a great visit, the prospect says to come back in two weeks for a follow-up and a decision. You have your roadmap (condition 2). You come back and he says, “I can do $10K”.
This is A commitment but it doesn’t satisfy the conditions.
CONTINUE THE DIALOGUE.
“That’s fantastic. When we were last together we discussed the program. Would it be possible to talk about funding the entire program?”
CONTINUE THE DIALOGUE until one of the three conditions is met.
There are countless ways to ask the key is to realize the dialogue is not over. If you get this concept (and you’re already asking) it will triple your results – at least.
For thinking’s sake: Would it be easier to tag on a few more questions to someone that you’ve worked months to see, strategize and ask? Or, would it be easier, to do that entire process ten more times?
I want to… I need to… direct your attention to The Unreasonable Institute.
Pretty much that’s all I need to say. Two co-founders from the Institute (Nikhil and Teju) attended our boot camp last summer when UI was an early idea. We all remember them for their boundless enthusiasm. They’re also incredibly smart — I had to tell Nikhil to speak in plain English. He used too many big words… that’s my only knock on these guys… they’re too smart.
This summer some 20 social entrepreneurs from around the world have gathered for nine weeks at Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
Tom, Kerry and I will each take turns as ‘Unreasonable Mentors’. Kerry was with the team over the Memorial Day weekend. Tom is out there as I type this and I’ll be heading out sometime in July.
Watch the ten minute video below from Unreasonable TV. It’s incredibly well produced like everything else at the Institute. These guys know how to execute. I have a high regard for everything they’re produced so far and it’s early going.
Don’t blink! Look for Kerry at 5:50.
Business to Arts (Ireland) passed along this Fortune article. It details a plan led by Gates and Buffet which asks billionaires to give away half of their fortunes. The article: The $600Billion Challenge supposes this giving pledge could near half of an estimated $1.2Trillion in wealth.
In 2007 I read gathering of the world’s top philanthropists. It was organized by the Rockefellers. One line from the 2007 BusinessWeek article smacked me in the face: “Most philanthropists, even experienced ones, say that it’s harder to give money away effectively than it is to make it.” I wrote then that if you’re effective (at having an impact) then there’s plenty of money out there.
The things I wonder about as they relate to INCREASED PHILANTHROPY…
If Gates and Buffet encourage more billionaires to step up this will mean (given current challenges) that we’ll see even more (maybe a lot more) challenges about giving money away EFFECTIVELY. [Note to social ENTREPRENEURS… this is a HUGE source of UNDER LEVERAGED working capital, I still think people that want to try to ‘be sustainable without philanthropy’ should think twice. This is a PROBLEM and you HAVE A SOLUTION.]
The whole ‘death tax thing‘… and its impact on planned giving.
I had a beer last week with a financial planner who specializes in understanding this stuff. He says the lapse of the death tax this year is not as dramatic as it would seem. Don’t quote me my takeaways (I need to do follow-up research). He said money could flow to heirs this year tax free BUT that taxes on the sale of appreciated assets were MUCH higher… effectively taxing the funds in a different way. He also said that starting in 2011 the estate tax will increase and impact many more households. In 2009 the top tax bracket hit those with $3.5M+ estate, taxing it at 45%. In 2011 the top tier will be expanded to include all those estates valued at $1M+ and the tax will be raised to 55%!!! Think about those implications!!!
At the same time the estate tax jumps and broadens, we move into the era of the boomers that will supposedly account $100T in transfer of wealth (over the next 30 years). In other words, with our without the Billionaire’s challenge we’re going to see market forces that drive an unprecedented level of planned giving — I would think. People will plan differently… thinking, “Heck, if the government’s going to get most anyway we should think more about directing it to go where we want.” Financial planning conversations will focus much more on planning for the transfer of wealth. Just about any homeowner with a pension will qualify for the $1M threshold.
Conclusion??? Philanthropy could continue to explode. Giving USA reported that 2009 Giving in the US dropped to $304B from $315B in 2008. This is a change of 3% (roughly). It was also only the second decline in 30 years. Given that other sectors saw 20% and 30% drops at the same time I’m not sure 3% is even significant! Tech, Housing, Banking, these have seen a MASSIVE correction. With the growth of philanthropy I often wonder if there will ever be a ‘correction’… it’s not speculative, it doesn’t form bubbles like the markets mentioned above.
With the ‘Billionaire pledge’ and the rise of estate giving this gives us some pretty cool things to think about. I can’t pick stocks to save my life so I’m not the best at predicting the future. Would love to have others weigh in on what this all means… or what it could mean.
Use an Action Forcing Event
This one goes back in the memory banks. I can’t remember the project but I know I found myself in the living room of a very decorated and venerated stud (read: people-write-multiple-books-about-this-guy). He served high up in the State Department for many years and may even have held a cabinet position during the Reagan Years. To put it in perspective, he casually recalled a meeting he once had with Saddam Hussein ‘way back when!’
We were putting together a strategy to secure leadership funding when he said to me, “Nick, I think what we need in this instance is an Action Forcing Event.”
“Working in the State Department nothing was even accomplished without an Action Forcing Event. You see… we would just make up events and special ceremonies to create deadlines… to get people to make decisions. “
And so was born: THE ACTION FORCING EVENT.
Every group project, whether it be a homework assignment in college or a $100M funding campaign comes down to getting a bunch of people to do something… in the case of the campaign it’s to MAKE DECISIONS… MAKE COMMITMENTS.
Without some sort of a timing rationale, these decisions are never made. Similarly, homework assignments in college are never finished until the night before they’re due.
Create and Action Forcing Event when you have a bunch of pending commitments and you need a reason to close. For example, after you’ve established the request, “Nick, we’re going to close this round of funding on October 15th [date of ask: July 27th]. Would it be okay to work with you to come to a decision before this date?”
On paper a request in July and a drop dead of date looks like a long time. It’s not. You’ve probably seen within your own organization requests that linger forever… years even. You can certainly close well ahead of October 15th but having this nominal ‘Action Forcing Event’ gives you a backstop… a rationale or reason to be really pushing for an answer at the end of September.
Other examples of Action Forcing Events:
The Takeaway: Include a ‘timing rationale’ in your request, or in your follow-up, that you can use as a deadline for a decision.
This is part of a series of ‘closes’ I’m assembling. I’m posting some on the blog at www.forimpact.org for your input/feedback and hope to have a full collection of 20+ closes to share with the For Impact readership in the coming months.
The Last Piece of the Puzzle Close is way for you to break down VERY LARGE funding goals into digestible chunks and, ultimately, one remaining chunk that creates your rationale for funding support.
Tim Card is one of our field coaches in the Pacific Northwest and he’s particularly effective at using this close. One of my favorite stories is about a re-start to a stalled campaign effort.
We teamed up with a Christian ministry that was two years into a $10M campaign effort. It had only raised $500K from its very best prospects. The campaign chair summed up the effort – they had several one-million-dollar prospects giving $25K – $50K.
We quickly discovered there were two reasons for the disappointingly low gifts. The first problem was a lack of any funding plan. The larger your goal (relative to the confidence of the community) the more important it is to have a funding plan – as part of your case for support. It serves as a road map for HOW you’re going to reach goal WITH the prospect’s support. People aren’t going to come through with big gifts if they can’t see a plan for success… if they are overwhelmed by the size of the goal.
The second problem was a lack of specificity with top asks. At the end of the visit someone would simply ask: Would you prayerfully considering giving whatever you can give? Not only did the $15M seem overwhelming and mysterious, families did not really have a sense of what was needed from them to reach goal.
Tim led a re-tread of the funding effort that began by revisiting top prospects. The message leading into the conversation was essentially, “We’d like to update you on where we are. We’ve learned a few things… one of them being that we need to share the plan for success and revisit support in the context of that plan. Would that be okay?”
Note: Tim was seeking ‘permission to proceed’. I think too, Tim and the organization showed incredible humility, transparency and authenticity in the approach.
Tim immediately set out to draw out the puzzle [read: funding plan].
Leading the visit, Tim would walk the prospects through an updated framework that included a conversation around the vision, funding priorities and then the NEW funding plan. As he transitioned to the funding plan he stood up to use a flip-chart. This became his ‘on-the-fly presentation tool’ where he would literally map out the plan for $13M.
1 @ $1M
2 @ $750K
3 @ $500K
5 @ $250K
8 @ $100K
Tim continued as needed until he felt a degree of comfort in talking to the family about funding to support the final piece of the puzzle. About ten families into the process he was visiting with a $500K prospect – a widowed woman and long time supporter of the ministry. Tim said, “Ms. Prospect, you’ve been so gracious to us. We need to thank you again for your existing commitment and we would like to ask today if you would be in the position to help us with what we think could be a final piece of this plan.”
This wonderful supporter then said what we’ve heard so many times. “I believe I can consider this. You’ve laid out a very clear plan and I appreciate the thought that’s gone into piecing this together. Does this need to be in one year or can it be over three years?”
That’s a close.
The Last Piece of the Puzzle is a concept that relies on having a funding plan. Using it as a close requires that you have tremendous comfort with the math. On the fly, you need to be able to discuss the numbers and make your best case in accounting for each piece. In fact, whether or not you ever use this as a close it will boost your confidence on the ask.
In many cases we’ll tie the last piece of the puzzle to a program as well as a dollar level. In the case above Tim could’ve asked the prospect to consider funding a specific project for $500,000.
The Takeaway: People will shut down when a goal feels insurmountable. Do the math to communicate the plan. Keep subtracting until you have one piece of the puzzle that needs funded.
Special Note: I am deliberate in choosing a Christian ministry as an example. Having worked with hundreds of faith-based organizations there is a tendency to rely on ‘the prayer close’ exclusively. There are many ways to still communicate A PLAN of some degree and you owe it to communicate what it would take from the prospect to make your project or plan happen. In other words, help the prospect to know what he or she is praying about.