Author Archives: Nick Fellers

The Ask as a Dialogue, Not Always a Singular Moment

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:

  1. You have the commitment matching the opportunity presented. (Eg. You asked for $250K for a project and the prospect has committed $250K for that project).
  2. You have a roadmap for the commitment. (eg. The prospect says, “I’m very interested in helping but have a few more questions first and I would like to make that decision in Q3…” Key idea is that you know what it would take to move toward commitment… you have a roadmap.”)
  3. You receive new and concrete information that adjusts your understanding of the prospect’s capacity or relationship / interest to the organization or project. (Eg. “Nick we can’t make that level commitment.” You continue the dialogue to determine more about capacity and relationship. “We want to help but $20K would be a very large gift for us right now.” You now have new information forming a new rationale – can continue the dialogue to create a wonderful opportunity around a $20K project or $20K/year.)

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.

  1. Does not address THE ask. $100K for Science Program. He hasn’t said yes or no.
  2. You don’t have any information about whether or not you can get to $100K. No roadmap.
  3. You don’t know if he’s saying he doesn’t have $100K or if he’s only 1/10th as interested as you thought.


“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?


The Unreasonable Institute

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.


The World’s Greatest Philanthropists Plan to Spread the ‘Giving Bug’

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.


How to ask funders to follow a deadline

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. “


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:

  • “We need to have decisions by [Date] which will help us determine how to phase the project.”
  • “If we can secure $3M in commitments before May 16, we can go ahead with the build on the school starting this summer. Otherwise, we wait for another year. I’m going to be following up with you as we approach May for this reason.”
  • “Nick has agreed to match all pledges (up to a total of $1M) that we secure before Dec 31. I would like to follow-up with you ahead of this date because we could DOUBLE your commitment.”

The Takeaway: Include a ‘timing rationale’ in your request, or in your follow-up, that you can use as a deadline for a decision.


The Last Piece of the Puzzle Close

This is part of a series of ‘closes’ I’m assembling. I’m posting some on the blog at 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.

Use The Last Piece of The Puzzle Close when the funding goal seems overwhelming to prospects. With this close you begin with the big goal and then break it down into puzzle pieces – accounting for each piece until you have only one piece remaining. You then ask the prospect: Would it be possible for you to help us with this piece of the puzzle?

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.

  • “We learned after our initial round of asks that we should try to look at this in phased pieces to make the plan more digestible. We worked with architects to split this into two phases – with the first phase at $8M.”
  • “We have $1M secured and we believe we can raise at least $1M from our broad community – this includes some 800 on our mailing list.”
  • “This leaves about $6M. “Based on our conversations to date, we think there are about 25 committed families and supporters with whom we can have these types of sincere conversations. [Translation – you’re not the only ones that way under gave relative to your capacity.]
  • Tim would then draw out a funding pyramid that required 19 commitments (of the 25) for a total of $6M+.

    1 @ $1M
    2 @ $750K
    3 @ $500K
    5 @ $250K
    8 @ $100K

  • “Last week we met with a family and asked them to consider taking THE LEAD on this project [checkmark next to $1M]. We also met with several families to build some momentum toward the plan [putting checkmarks next to the lower levels. “

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.


The Steve Jobs Close

I’m assembling a number of closes we cover at our Boot Camp and in our training/strategic coaching. Hopefully, I’ll end up with a solid guidebook we can share with readers. Over the next few weeks I’ll publish a few closes to the blog. Most closes come from a 70 minute audio on closing I recorded last year.

The Steve Jobs Close is really about closing at the highest level. Understanding this ‘close’ begins with an urban legend.

In 1984, Apple was looking to hire new CEO. The company was growing beyond the reaches of the young Steve Jobs. The board wanted some seasoned leadership for the journey ahead. They set their sites on PepsiCo VP John Scully and, as the legend goes, the board spent two days talking about compensation, market segments, business plans, products, etc. At the end of two full days Scull said thanks but no thanks.

Jobs, still looking out for the best interest of his ‘baby’ is befuddled at the board’s inability to close the deal. The story then says Jobs flew out to meet Scully. They went for a walk and Jobs asked Scully to share his thoughts. He spent the duration of the walk just listening to Scully. When Scully finished, Jobs turned to him and said, “Let me ask you one question, ‘Do you want to sell sugar water to kids your whole life or do you want to change the world?’”

Scully go it. He took job. He was CLOSED.

How it works:

The Steve Jobs Close is about closing at the highest level. Ultimately each For Impact organization is saving lives, changing lives or impacting lives. There are times when you just have to look someone in the eye and say, “Let me ask you one question, ‘Are you willing to help us change the world?’”

Unfortunately, Scully went to Apple and tanked it. That’s a different story that ends happily enough with Jobs retaking the helm and inventing the iWorld.

I love this story. I use it often. The Steve Jobs Close is really a story about closing at the highest level.

The board was mulling around with strategy and tactics.

People don’t BUY strategy (think: 14,000 ft). They BUY vision! They BUY purpose!

As Zig Ziglar says, “People buy on emotion and justify on logic.” Don’t lose site of this. You need both emotion and logic but sometimes we need to jump back up to the emotional hook or you can get lost in the logic.

A story from the field.

I was working with Junior Achievement — an incredible organization –- to fund a vision that included the expansion and renovation of a building. I teamed up with our board chair to visit with our very best prospect… the person we hoped would make the lead investment on the project.

On the visit, we started to get really deep into the minutia of one program. It didn’t feel like we were off course – the prospect was enthusiastic – I just knew there way to transition from talking computer terminals to teach kids ethics to an ask for $1M

I worked to reposition the flow so that I was able to move to a Steve Jobs Close. I said, “Mrs. Investor, being ethical is a decision and a commitment – we’ve made it and we’re not straying from it. [Long pause] Everything we’ve talked about today is about transforming Cincinnati and that’s the opportunity we believe we have with this plan in its entirely. [Pause] In that sense, I almost want to transition to a really high level question… to ask if you can help us with that transformation. If so, we’d like to talk to you about being the lead in that vision. “

This transitioned to a dialogue about leadership at $1Million. Mrs. Investor laughed a little (because I wasn’t as graceful as Steve Jobs). However, she felt the gravity and sincerity in what we were asking. After thinking for about 30 seconds she then asked us a series of very introspective questions and ultimately agreed to lead the vision… and lead it with a $1Million commitment.

The takeaway: If you find yourself lost in the weeds, ask yourself, what would Steve Jobs do? Move to a much higher level. Bring it back to the highest purpose… the highest cause…

  • Transforming the community
  • Ending homelessness
  • Saving lives
  • Reinventing healthcare
  • Changing the way education works in America

Note: As I write up real stories from the field I always alter little things – like a name, an organization or a city because I’m talking about real people and real funders. Though I’ve changed some names and places, the story really happened – exactly in this way.


The Goonies Close

The Goonies Close

I spent Monday and Tuesday with an organization in Minnesota that’s been trying to get a campaign going for the better part of two years. They’ve engaged volunteers, built committees… done a feasibility study… All the traditional prep stuff but can’t seem to get any momentum.

After visiting with them, I’m convinced they have prospects and a decent case. At this point – two years into project, – everyone is loathe to commit because there is no momentum.

Someone needs to be a leader. Someone (in this case the executive director) needs to stand up and say, “Ms. Prospect, now is the time. We’ve talked about this. It’s our time. I / we are drawing a line in the sand. I’m going to be leading several other conversations just like this and I’m asking you to follow me. We have a choice to make and I need to say – this is our time.”

I call this The Goonies Close.

Sadly, I’ve convinced 4 out of 5 people age 35+ have not seen the Goonies. (How? I don’t know. ) It should be a right of passage for every American. Spielberg + 80’s = ET and Goonies.

I encourage you to watch the Goonies for it’s own sake.

I encourage you to watch for the scene in which the Goonies (the geeks featured in the movie) have a choice to make. Mikey, the lead character, emerges to take a leadership role. The team is on a treasure hunt. They are at a crossroads, they can abandon the hunt – saving their dreams for another day – OR, they can go for it… now… a no-turning-back all-in commitment to the opportunity ahead.


Don’t you realize? The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Troy’s bucket.

I know my friends in Minnesota aren’t the only ones in need of a leader to step up and say, “It’s our time!”

Note: I tried to embed the youtube clip but can’t – presumably because it’s copyrighted material… fair enough.


Hire people that are passionate about the product

One of my daily reads is Brad Feld is an entrepreneur turned tech VC who lives in Boulder. He’s sponsored a bathroom at CU Bolder – now has his name on it. He’s also a source for great reading recommendations and the one that turned me onto the idea to run 50 marathons in 50 states (I now have five under my belt in just over one year).

On Monday Feld posted that he finds successful investments tend to be in entrepreneurs that are completely and totally obsessed with the product. Today, as I give advice for the third time this week about profiling a director of development for a younger organization I think about this idea.

You want someone that is obsessed with the cause. Who will talk to anyone and everyone about the cause. Who doesn’t see this as raising money (loathing) but telling the story over and over and over.

The other bullet points that we tend to share re: profiling the right ‘development person’….

  • Not so big on ‘nonprofit fundraising experience’. The industry standard is letters and events. You want a sales person.
  • We love people coming from the for-profit world that are aligning a change in career with purpose.
  • Ideally someone with business development experience or intangible sales / high-end sales experience.

Though it may seem vague, I would say just focus on getting someone so passionate about the cause, with the right attitude, that can write and is wicked smart (TALENT). There is a reason why Jack Welch just told GE to hire the best and brightest.


Exploring Eagle Creek – Googleplex of the 3rd Sector

We have quite a collection of Eagle Creek pics – we’ll be starting to share on the website with a new tab: Eagle Creek.

EC is our headquarters. More completely, it’s 50 acres minutes north of Columbus in the country that includes: Tom’s home (a castle), a farm, ropes courses (we don’t use these for the funding boot camp), two meeting centers, an outdoor office + pool and our offices.

We don’t host many gatherings and guests in the winter but throughout the rest of the year this makes for a really inspiring environment to host clients and our annual Funding Boot Camp. The rest of the time, it’s a great place for brainstorming and thinking. I think the pics will give greater context for things we post at

Join us anytime – April through October. Eagle Creek is back in season.

See all the pictures.

A special hat tip to one of our newer team members Mark Weber. I asked him why he decided to work with us. His response: “Are you kidding me? Look at this place, it’s like the Googleplex of the Third Sector! Different amazing people each day drumming up innovation in an awesome environment.” Mark got me thinking… we probably need to tell that story more 🙂


Inc Mag: On the Road With a Super Salesman

I have a love affair with Inc. Magazine – (and, for perspective, I think Tom has a love affair with Fast Company). More than any other mag Inc gives me great stuff time and time again.

If you follow the thoughts we put out on fundraising using a sales process please pick up this months’ issue of Inc (April 2010). It’s all about sales. I just read the feature article: On the Road With a Supersalesman. It’s one of those articles I wish I wrote. It mixes real sales stories with pithy advice from the article’s sales guru ‘Grizz Deal’.

  • “My role in the beginning of the meeting is to say just enough to get them talking, and once they start talking, I shut up.”
  • “The key is, you have to make people believe you believe. Like a sermon, you have to let it flow out. And then let it come back to you from the audience.”
  • “Never worry about how you’re doing in a meeting. Forcus on the other guy. Otherwise, it’s like watching your feet while you’re running. “

Ummm… it’s all great stuff.


Selling as a team – 3 important tips.

Some things to think about among team members before you go on a visit.

  1. Clarify the goal.
  2. It’s paramount that you clearly articulate the goal of the visit for everyone on your sales team. Remember, the goal determines what you say. I did a coaching call yesterday in which we established two objectives:

    1. To get the prospect’s permission to discuss the funding plan
    2. To ask for a gift to fund the vision.

    About the strategy above: The prospect visit was not set-up to be an ask so we needed to get permission to talk numbers. That could be permission to come back and talk about the funding plan on a next visit or, if the prospect were to say, “How can I help?” we need to be prepared to move on to objective 2 on this visit.

    I hope the example seems simple. The key is that we didn’t just send in a team to do ‘stewardship’. Nothing worse that a visit with no goal alignment and tons of opportunity.

  3. Identify the leader to manage flow

    There can be one and only one person managing the flow of the visit. Identify that person within your team then trust in that person.

    No sales call or presentation ever goes as planned. Someone is going to have to make adjustments and control tempo, altitude and flow. Trust in the leader, follow the leader.

    When I’m leading I will say to the other person (executive director, board member, etc), “No matter how chaotic the visit might seem at any point I will always be in control of the flow and navigating toward the goal.”

    If I’m leading I’ll cue the other person along the way:

    “Bill, could you talk about your experience in starting summer camps at other organizations? I would like to share with [prospect] some of your experience and the approach we’ll incorporate to start new programs.”

    Note: I think it’s fine to change the leader in the middle of the visit – but the point is to know who is navigating.

    I will also review the PRESENTATION FLOW before each visit as a reminder of the general flow.

  4. Identify key questions
  5. Actually, number three should read: REMEMBER TO LISTEN

    We typically outline some key questions with the team as a way of forced listening. Tendency will always be to talk too much. We review some key questions as a way of coaching everyone about the importance of listening… of letting the prospect talk.

    For a visit we strategized on Monday.

    • “I know you’ve often spoke of the need to increase impact in your giving. Could you talk a little bit about what that means to you now?” — Clearly the prospect was thinking strategically – asking this question not only gets the prospect sharing information, it’s also incredibly relevant. Probably some hot buttons and land mines to avoid.
    • And, if we’re not sure what to ask for, “NAME, I would love to share the funding plan if that’s okay. Before I do, could I ask you to speak to how this might fit with some of your current funding priorities?”

Incongruent that you’re not with top funders to your cause.

Just caught myself using the word ‘incongruent’ for about the 15th time in two days.

It’s kind of a long geeky word but I’m stuck on some sort of soap box with it.

As in, if you really have a plan to transform education it’s completely incongruent that you would not be in conversation with Eli Broad, Gill & Melinda Gates and the Ford Foundation.

As in, if you believe you can do it, it just doesn’t register on my radar that you would not be working together.

As in, forget about the money for a second. Seriously. These three names (examples) are putting TONS of resources into transforming education (example purpose) – the idea that you would not be at the table together… I don’t know how you will make this impact happen without having that conversation.

Our For Impact refrain: Impact Drives Income

In strategies, we too often worry about how to ‘make the pitch’ or ‘get the angle to get in the door’. We need to go up a few levels – think about the impact. At the IMPACT level we need to be talking to with the top funding stakeholders – also means we need to be prepared to talk (and listen) re: IMPACT first.

This is what we mean when we say working ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with others. For me, it’s often the REASON for the introduction or meeting.

Substitute example above for you.

If you’re about promoting entrepreneurship – would be incongruent that you NOT have top entrepreneurs in your city or sector at the table.

If you’re about technology to change nonprofits – incongruent that you would NOT be a major face at SxSW interactive – where some 13,000 tech leaders just gathered to talk about new ideas and changing the world.

If you truly are a top innovator – incongruent that we would not be having conversations with other top innovators (amazon, google, apple).


Tom’s interview with Unreasonable Institute at SoCap

The guys at the Unreasonable Institute dialed up for a skype chat last week about social entrepreneurship, raising a lot of money and the key For Impact insight: Impact drives Income.

I think they did a great job of parsing this down to 10 minutes of great stuff
– About For Impact
– About Starting 19 businesses
– About Making an Ask

Here’s an excerpt: “I’ve made over 6,000 visits and nobody’s ever shot me.”

Here is the link.


The Grass is Always Greener… eh?

I hear the following:

From colleges: It’s a hard case, we charge $35K annually and we have an endowment. People think we have all the money we need.

From everyone else: It’s not like we’re a college with years of alumni relations.

From the ‘biggies’ (who shall go nameless): We need more brand awareness. That’s how Susan Kohmen does it.

From everyone else: It’s not like we’re [insert biggie name].

From the small, nimble start-up: We’re not the big guy, we don’t have all the big guns on our board.

From the big guys: We can’t go talk to XYZ. That’s [insert red tape reason].

From everyone that doesn’t deal with kids: Kids are sexy and sell, we don’t have that. How are we supposed to compete?

From the kids orgs: Putting a cute kid on a poster is not enough, people really get after us about our measurement… how are we supposed to compute all the numbers? We’re not transactional, we deal more with emotion and subtle things that change lives.


The Goal of the Visit

Having the visit is not the goal.

Visiting with a potential prospect is not a goal unto itself; it’s the means to an end.

What’s the end? What are your goals? It’s so important to have clearly defined goals – especially if two or more from your organization are going on the visit together. The goal determines what you say.

I just got off the phone with a coaching client. When I asked about the goal the client said, “Well, I guess our goal would be to share the message.”

Again, sharing the message is an activity – not the goal.

In her case, we established three goals for this initial visit. May help you…

  1. Qualify the prospect. (Financial capacity and interest).
  2. Have her help to identify the correct players in the city to get on board.
  3. Get her help in getting to some or all of those identified in number two.

The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part III

Part I was about the next generation of ‘change leaders’
Part II was an unsolicited attempt to tell you how Gen Y sees the world.
Part III is about the economy, culture and the future Gen Y could provide.

Our work has taken us to just about every corner of the planet – either directly or indirectly – in helping an NGO that works on the ground in India, China, Bolivia… you name it. I’ve been having a lot of discussions about the ‘entrepreneurial culture’ or lack thereof in other countries. Have also been talking a lot about how that will be an enduring strength for us as we work through a new economy – one in which the economic norm of the past 50 years is not what we will have in the next 20+.

Spending time in other countries provides the enough contrast to highlight that ‘American entrepreneurial spirit’ and particularly just how rooted it is in our culture and systems. For example:

  • Other parts of the world are really down about the global economy. I mean really down… Despite the headlines in US newspapers we still have a widespread assumption that ‘we’ll get through this’. It’s not that way everywhere else.
  • Our government is designed to help entrepreneurs. I know, that sounds laughable. Travel to India though – it’s billed as an enterprising and rapidly developing place. Has a lot of entrepreneurs, etc. The government and its systems are total chaos. Two of my former business partners tried to start businesses there and gave up because it was such a joke to do anything – even something as simple as incorporate.

I point to both of these examples because they’re cultural and systemic. These attitudes and systems didn’t just happen and they’re not going to change in 10 years.

So this creates a simple premise, we will continue to have one of the most entrepreneurial culture systems on the planet and we’re about to add a[nother] generation of humanity-driven individuals full of the entrepreneurial spirit.

At just the right time.


The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part II

Read part I and Part III

I’m still a young pup but squarely at the end of the Gen-x era, which offers a pretty cool vantage point from which to reflect on upcoming Y-generation.

This part of my thinking is framed from questions I often get from boomers, usually leaders of organizations, that want to know what’s “wrong with kids these days”.

  • “They’re always looking for the next job.”
  • “Job security used to be a selling point, it’s like they don’t even care.”

I try to bridge the gap… I think we have to start with a completely different foundation to understand what lies ahead with this next generation and realize not what’s wrong but where there is immense potential for any group, company or organization.

Imagine you are 24 years old today. From the time you were 16-18 and beyond you’ve seen some interesting things that have framed your worldview:

  1. The dot-com crash & the housing bubble. Most generations see one big bubble and this generation has seen TWO by the time it’s entering the ranks of the real world. If you’re 24 your “adolescent to adult life” has been capped by bubbles.
  2. Enron / Detroit. You’ve seen big institutions crumble and vanish. Both because of mistrust and the changing world. Either way, the idea of trusting an institution is not something you disagree with.. It’s not even something you comprehend – you haven’t really seen a model in your lifetime.
  3. The Great Depression is lost (probably). Your grandparents probably didn’t live through the great depression.

    Those of us in our 30’s and certainly those older all had someone in their life that was impacted by the great depression. I know this shaped my parents and hence me in a way that has always made me/us a little ‘on guard’ or live with throttled optimism. Not all a bad thing but just very different, I would imagine if you never had this experience shaping you directly the throttle for optimism could be wide open.

  4. 9/11 – You were all set to take on the world, go to college, get a job… An event happens that forced so many of us to take pause and search for meaning and purpose in our lives.
  5. The web. For your entire ‘social life’ you’ve never not been connected to the web. You’ve never been more than a computer screen removed from anywhere else on the planet. It used to be that young adults were encouraged to ‘get out of town’ so that we would see some more of the world. The experience would open our eyes and make us think bigger about possibilities. Gen Y has ONLY lived beyond the walls of town, it’s ONLY wired to think bigger about possibilities….

Generally speaking, it’s not that this generation ‘doesn’t want a job’ or that they are lost on the internet. It’s that they are wired to see a bigger picture – one constructed in the ‘world is flat era’ — and more possibility with fewer restraints that we may have had because of our need to live within the walls of institutional safety. They aren’t shunning the systems we know, they just don’t know them – at all.

This is a generation that favors cool projects — full of meaning — over ‘career jobs’.
This is a generation that only knows the entrepreneurial spirit, not much by choice but more because the inverse of this spirit – whatever that may be – isn’t defined.
This is a generation that isn’t charting a course for retirement, 401k benchmarks and social security. Absent of this mode they are more free than you and I to think about meaning, purpose and significance.

This is a potential cocktail for that I think results in this new generation of social entrepreneurs — how the rest of us ride the wave is something we’ll have to figure out but it should be fun.


The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part II


Funding Guide Directory – at

We’ve posted a new page on our website for ‘Funding Guides‘ — this is a selected and sorted list of about 150 funding nuggets posted to the website over the past eight years along the lines of:

Leadership and Boards
Funding Model and Funding Plans
Message and Case for Support
Sales (Major Gifts) Process
Making the ASK
On Prospects
Visual Engagement Tools
Personal Development

You can find the funding guides at any time by clicking on ‘Funding Guides’ from



Momentum Rounds

Time is money – true enough… but what if you don’t know the relationship between the two? What if you’re embarking on a new major gifts effort – engaging leadership for the first time? How long will it take to reach the goal?

Sometimes it makes more sense to reverse the question.

How much money can we raise in X amount of time?

In three campaigns we’re working on right now we’ve implemented a ‘momentum round of funding’. In some ways, you could find parallels to the old ‘silent phase’ of a campaign – the idea there was that you were trying to see how much money you could raise before ‘going public’ – but typically you had a set time frame, say 6-12 months. The momentum round is a little different – not about ‘silent’ – all about momentum.

  • “We’re asking each person to make a commitment by March 31, 2010.”
  • Note: doesn’t have to be ‘THE’ commitment. You could keep working toward a million dollar figure while securing a $200K commitment.
  • Can say to your very best, “We’ve met with some 20 prospects and have numbers on the table. I can leverage your commitment – IMMEDIATELY – with 19 others.”
  • Provides a TIMEFRAME in the rationale. HUGE! Otherwise, gifts could be pending FOREVER and you don’t know what to make of them.
  • Also gives you a great baseline on which to build your major gifts / campaign / funding model (goal and timeline).

Mailbag: If you know prospect has a number, do you ask first?

Got this one from a boot camp alum.

QUESTION: When is it appropriate to do a preemptive BIG ASK?

Going into this visit I knew [prospect] was going to offer $10k. I knew I didn’t even have to ask. In fact, I didn’t ask b/c I was concerned that if I did go for $100k he would say, “Geez, I came here to offer you $10k! Isn’t that pretty generous for a 1st-time gift?”

I don’t think it’s about trying to be preemptive vs. reactive.

I think the answer, instead, is all about nailing the funding rationale.

To make a point that will translate via the blog to all readers…

Let’s say you needed $100,000 to fully fund a project that would save 30 lives. You (for whatever reason) need that money from one funder. You meet with this funder – and know he has capacity. He agrees that this is an important project and gives you a check for $10K before you ask.

What do you do????

Say, THANK YOU. And then proceed to make the case for $100K — because you can rationalize it.

Or, let’s say you’re running a $1M funding round that needs a $100K leader. You meet with someone, he says he loves what you do and you feel he’s your absolute strongest candidate to represent that lead funding position. You need to tell him as much and rationalize to him why you would like to be so bold as to see about the $100K — because it will allow you to bring in other funders… have XYZ impact, etc.


Year End Exercise — 100 Memories

I posted this last year – got a lot of positive feedback so I’m posting again this New Year’s Eve.

Every year-end I make a list of 100 memories from the year. These could be events, moments, firsts, lasts, etc. etc.

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

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

The same is true of the 100 memories list. After you get past obvious moments like weddings, travels and births the really some great insights about what you value/treasure start to emerge. Watch those themes and design your 09 to make more memories like these!

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

I won’t bore you with my list except to say many of my memories come from meeting cool For Impact leaders on-the-road… so many smart, passionate and inspiring people changing the world. Thanks for 2008.

I would love to hear about some of the adventures/memories/reflections from this year. We have some pretty ‘crazy’ (cool) social entrepreneurs reading the WOW. What’s on your list?


In the Absence of A Vision

I’m cleaning out some old files this week winding my way down through 2009. I came across an article from Portfolio Magazine about Eddie Lampert and the restructuring he was doing with Sears and K-Mart in 2009.

There’s a great line about vision… or the lack thereof.

“In the absence of a vision, what comes out are multiple ideas being tested. On the one hand, that’s better than nothing but there comes a time when the time to test runs out, and you have to lock and load with the best answer for the company.”

What a great line. I came across a lot of organizations in 2009 that were testing ideas.


Judge People By What You See, Not Hear.

I read something a few weeks back about the wisdom and philosophy of Mike Singletary – stud linebacker for the Bears and now head coach leading the turnaround effort in San Francisco.

I can’t find the exact quote so I’m going from memory. He basically said:

I don’t put any stock into what I hear about a guy. I only go by what I see.

The article went on to talk about all the rumors that circulate in the NFL. Rumors about how a guy is in the locker room, his heart on the field, etc.

He gave some examples. [Made up quote] “If everyone says a guy is a jerk and he’s nice to me… then he’s a nice guy.”

For whatever reason this point really stuck with me. The NFL is a lot like the nonprofit world… or, I’ll bet ANY workplace. I think people misread others 70% or more of the time. It’s done me no good to take the word of others in evaluating a relationship. Too often I’m told, “He’s a really difficult board member. Very disruptive and always wants to cause a problem,” only later to SEE that he’s really the only that gives a damn and he’s just moved by passion… being objective. Or vice-versa.

I was reminded of this on a recent road trip. Had to make the conscious decision to just ignore all the intel that was piled onto me about a room of board members. To make meaning of the pre-opinions would’ve put me in an impossible situation. Turns out everyone was great 🙂


What’s In A Message?

I believe 90% of the funding challenges organizations have are a function of

    1. Not asking

    2. Not being with the right prospects

    3. Not having the right message (which usually makes number 1 much easier and makes number 2 much more apparent).

Message should be simple, fit on a napkin, clear, concise, compelling. That being said, I’m not sure I (Nick) have my own crystal clear napkin definition of MESSAGE is. In fact, when someone says they need help with their message I first ask them to define what they mean.

For the past year I’ve been referring to message as:

That, and only that, which a prospect needs to UNDERSTAND in order to say, “I totally get it!”

*And, if a qualified prospect, to also say, “I’m IN!”

Think about it. UNDERSTAND. Not:

    • What you SAY
    • What you PRINT
    • What you put in a 10 page case statement.

If you can work with that definition then 99.9999% of those reading this can resolve their message (ultimately) to one of the following:


If I, as your potential investor, could understand that I can SAVE LIVES then it’s game over. No longer about ‘fundraising’, no longer about ‘cultivation’, no longer about ‘asking for money’.

Common response from those too close to the issue: “It can’t be that simple.”

Yes it can.

Sometimes the ‘message derivative’ could be:


Again… all SIMPLE. These are all applications of SAVE LIVES. CHANGE LIVES. IMPACTING LIVES.

I don’t want to lose a very important word in the definition – UNDERSTAND.

So how do you make me UNDERSTAND?



9 Types of Funding Pitches

Made a reference list this AM of some of the framing devices or pitch types I/we often use to rationalize the ASK. In an abridged form:

The Gap: Using a gap number to justify the ASK.

    o Tuition: Tuition is $6K, cost per student is $8K. Gap is $2K. Could ask someone to underwrite THE GAP for five students.

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

Leverage: We need to raise X to generate 10X.

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



Announcing: Board Workshops

At workshops and boot camps the number one comment on our feedback forms is: “I wish I could share this with my board.”

We’re launching a new way to address this feedback: The For Impact Board Workshop.

What is it?

A focused session, led by a For Impact field coach, with your board+senior staff to do the following:

  • Cover the For Impact Point of View / Framework.
  • Get everyone ‘on board’ with a Funding Road Map.
    • Thinking Big/Thinking Different… about what a Quantum Leap would mean!
    • Simplifying a funding process
    • Learning how to simplify a message for the organization
    • Ideas for Prospects and Prospect Strategies
    • How to build a relationship-based development model.
  • Develop a simple/clear strategy and action plan for near-term and long-term funding results.

How does it work?

  • A For Impact field coach will lead your organization through a brief discovery process to make the most of the session.

  • Coach comes on site to facilitate the workshop.
  • Board members received materials, training and work to build the funding road map for your organization.
  • For those of you that have attended a Boot Camp it will be similar to the first half-day at Camp.

We’ve priced this to be very reasonable, starting at $1000 for most organizations + travel costs.

To learn more:

Our capacity to deliver this new solution is limited by timing, travel, etc. To express an interest and to learn more complete this short form.

*I will be posting more about this in the coming days and months. For now, wanted to get the message out.


Think: Chipotle, not Max & Erma’s

Chipotle – One product (meat in preferred wrapper with toppings) – lots of options: taco, burrito or bowl. Same toppings to choose from for every product. One line. Move. Fast.

Max & Erma’s: Infinite products AND infinite options. Choice is overwhelming.

Chipotle has one of the highest revenue per sq ft numbers per store. Max and Erma’s filed for bankruptcy this week.

This is a metaphor for simplicity.

How does this apply to funding? Your funding message should be more Chipotle less M&E. I’m working now with a youth organization that works in schools. We’ve developed one message around a ‘School Partnership’.

The School Partnership: $10K/yr for 3 years. Sponsors two schools (20 classrooms/500 students) for three years.

We have 15 employees at this org – all of whom come in contact with potential funders each day. Now, when someone says, “This is incredible, how can I help?” We don’t wait to schedule a meeting with development… anyone can communicate this message.

One message – many choices: Of course the prospect can come back and fund ONE school. Of course the prospect can chose to fund only one year. However, now we have ONE baseline ask for $30K with a ton of options.


Read Now: Rules of Thumb by Alan Weber

Tom and I recommend a ton of books. However, note this as an über-recommendation. Alan Weber’s Rules of Thumb – 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself is the best book for entrepreneurs I’ve read in five years… hands down.

Usually you read a business book and you can boil it down to a few juicy nuggets or takeaways with a lot of filler and fluff and the token story about Southwest Airlines or Dell. I’ve been chewing on every sentence in this book. The last time I remember doing that was when I first read Marcus Buckingham and before that, my first encounters with Peter Drucker.

I wish I could/did write this book. It’s awesome. Some randomly picked nuggets:

  • “If you’re a leader, your people need three things: clarity about purpose, honesty about values, and focus on metrics.”
  • Rule #5: Change is a Math Formula. “Change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change: C(SQ)>R(C).”
  • Rule #10: A Good Question Beats a Good Answer.
  • Rule #20: Speed = Strategy
  • Know the difference between text and subtext [extended discussion about].
  • “Numbers, charts, and graphs appear to be specific, but without verbs it’s hard to know what the numbers actually mean. The numbers may look “hard,” but they’re actually soft. Stories may appear “soft,” but the verbs make them hard.”
  • “When in doubt, leave it out. Less is more and more is too much.”
  • Rule #36: Message to Entrepreneurs – Managing your Emotional Flow is more Critical than Managing your Cash Flow.
  • “If you don’t ask, don’t expect the investor to make the pitch for you.”

I’ve put through a bulk order for this book with Amazon. Will be giving away many copies… leave a comment below (first three to do so) and I’ll mail a copy to you.


How to: Planned Giving

I’ve watched development officers come back from planned giving seminars with four D-ring binders full of options, vehicles and mechanics… no joke.

Some people go to school for years to understand those D-ring binders – they’re called accountants and lawyers!

Your job is to get the person/prospect/family to agree they want to leave a legacy – then have the people that went to school for this stuff figure out the mechanics. Stay high level. Stay simple.

Personally, I’ve never done anything with a CRT or creative insurance policy. I know that some gifts have ended up using those vehicles – the ‘how’ was just completed by someone more qualified than me.

I noted to someone the other day that I pretty much only use two ways to close a planned gift.

  1. PROTECT CLOSE: Asking someone that gives a regular and recurring amount to ‘protect the investment’. Example: Let’s say someone is giving $10K annually. You could rationalize a $200K planned gift to ‘protect’ that annual commitment. Idea is that if you had $200K and you wanted to use that as an endowed gift it would generate about 5% every year — or $10K.
  2. COMPLETING THE BALANCE: If someone wants to get to a funding LEVEL… say $5M but just can’t because of mechanics you might ask them to work for a gift level and commit to the balance via a planned gift. Example: Perhaps she can figure out how to pledge $3M in cash. The remaining $2M could be planned gift (note: may not help your immediate funding plan but does create a rationale for the gift). Of course, this planned gift pledge could also be converted to a cash gift at a later time… always creative options.

The coaching: Spend time getting people to WANT to fund your impact… COMMITTED to funding your impact… this is what YOU do well. Then, team up with others that do their job well to figure out the HOW-TO.

Complex things don’t work. Simple things work. Look at the D-Ring binders on your self. Look simple?


FACT: Change Organizations are Designed to Not Change

I’ve been very torn about nonprofit boards for several years.

You have a bunch of people that barely know each other. They get together once/month – take 60 minutes to review some info and then they’re asked to make decisions. Really no incentive to take risks… to leap for change. Adding to that, these board members – because they’re are disconnected the rest of the month – feel they need to inject a token voice for concern about the decision de jour. It’s easier to point out how something could go wrong than to try to grasp an idea enough to figure out how to make it work.

One board member voices a concern – the others don’t know him well. No one wants to be the one to say, “That’s ridiculous.” Instead, someone layers it on – this offers both some camaraderie/support for the first objector AND demonstrates active participation by the second board member… and so on and so on.

I mean for this to be less of a rant than it would sound, I’m sure. I’m on boards. I can vouch first hand for the dynamics above. I’m sure I’ve even been ‘guy 1’ or ‘guy 2’. The structure and perceived risk/rewards lend themselves to these dynamics.

This means CHANGE is often killed dead in the water.

Perception: No upside to taking a risk… to changing… only downside… what if it doesn’t work?

Different perspective: What if we don’t change? How many lives do we NOT impact? So what if we fail spectacularly? Isn’t that better than slowly dying?

There is a solution. Simple. Not easy. Be a LEADER. Tell the guy or gal that you respectfully disagree with the WHY NOT… stand for the WHY IT WILL. Be the CHAMPION for change. Be passionate about VISION and moving forward.

Note: I visited with a board about one year ago – at the time of the financial melt down. 14 voices in favor of hunkering down… doing less… changing none. One voice – the board chair – saying, “NOW is the time for CHANGE!”. One year later I was in the same board room – org doing great… changed… I heard one board member whisper, “This VISION thing actually works.”

Absent of strong leaders, nonprofit boards are designed to maintain the status quo – with minutes and reports to back it up. Leadership takes courage, conviction and the ability to take some criticism.

No new wisdom here… Leadership (Rah! Tah!) Vision (Rah! Rah!). That being said, let’s just call this a REALITY and a FACT for the third sector: Change organizations are designed to not change.

Ergo: FACT, need a LEADER!

Good News: Easier to CHANGE when we deal in facts.


It’s a boy!

Update: My wife, Anna, and I welcomed our first child to the world (very) early Friday morning: William (Will) Xavier Fellers.

Will and mom are doing great. He’s a big baby – coming in at 10lbs 11ozs! He’s built like a tight-end with long legs and big hands. It’s clear he will make an excellent addition to Fighting Irish recruiting class of 2027. Though, growing up around Tom he may just turn those long legs and arms into become a golden glove boxer…

Thanks all for your well wishes and support. Send an email – I’m happy to pass along a picture of the little ‘X-Man’ as many have taken to calling him… though I’m an internet geek I’m still weary of posting Will for the world at three days old 🙂


Sales Process (A Visual)

Wanted to share this illustration of a customized sales process Kerry and I did with a client. If you’ve been to a workshop you will recognize Predisposition > PTO (Present the Opportunity) > Follow-up from the Roadmap: Sales Process.

Though we made it for one client, I think it’s pretty near universal.

  1. Leads feed into a PREDISPOSITION STRATEGY
  2. VISIT! Do Discovery and then PTO… could be two visits or one but not more.
  3. The GOAL is a big deal to me… if we can get them to say, “Wow, this is great, what can I do to help?” Then it’s not about cultivation, time or a chess-like gambit. It’s about communicating the ‘how to help’… now/today.

    If they don’t say, “Wow!” then we effectively JUST ASK around the goal… and get permission to talk about the funding plan on the next (second) visit.

  4. Follow-up – is a STRATEGY, not an ACTION ITEM.

Download the Visual


Goal of the First Visit

My goal is pretty much the same on every first visit. It’s to get the other person to say, “Wow, this is great, what can I do to help?” Tom embedded this simple goal early on – and it’s stuck.

If you can get the other person to say – in effect – “I’m in!”, then it’s not about cultivation, a series of complicated chess moves or backroom meetings about ‘timing’. It is about answering the question: What can I do to help?

You can get there in two years or twenty minutes. It often comes down to your message or how long it takes you to do discovery and make a connection to your message. To get to this goal means:

    * Clearly communicating the CAUSE.

    * Laying out a tight CASE. (Think of CASE as a solution or address to the CAUSE.)

    * You’ve created ENGAGEMENT. In all likelihood, you’ve listened your tail off to do so.

    * Bonus: Brought a level of PASSION to the first visit. (more…)


How to Get a ‘Nonprofit’ Job

As an entrepreneur, people often come to me for advice on ‘getting hired’. As someone that lives in the For–Impact-World (read: often, not always not-for-profit arena), people often come to me for advice about getting into field.

I’m posting this primarily as a reference point – some points are unique, some are not. Although first person, I’m just offering an employer’s perspective. I’m 11 for 11 this year in helping friends find something that really works for them. Good luck!

You want a job. I don’t.

Don’t email asking about ‘job openings’… looking for a job. Etc. As someone that hires people, I’m not really motivated about writing another paycheck.

This means most of the traditional ‘job hunting’ stuff is not relevant.

Instead, I’m trying to align myself with people that are super passionate about changing the world – that see this as a vocation, a calling, a purpose. If it’s a job, then YOUR purpose is a paycheck. Substitute ‘Changing the World’ with ‘Serving People’, ‘Inventing the Coolest Technology’, ‘Shaping Young People’, etc.

Don’t send a resume. Do start a conversation. (more…)


To Be In A Campaign Or Not To Be In A Campaign – That Is NOT The Question

“When should we start the campaign?”

I spent Wednesday morning with the board and leadership from an 11-year old private school. They had asked me to help them facilitate the answer to this question. Some of the board members wanted to start months ago and others wanted to wait – for the economy, for planning, for a variety of reasons.

More than a ‘timing thing’ it was a ‘perspective thing’. Some leadership said, “We need to be having conversations NOW.” Other leaders didn’t want to budge until all the stars were aligned.

The debate is not unique. “When do we pull the trigger?”

I think this is the WRONG question and so it’s going to be hard getting consensus on an answer. So, for you and for this board, I want to RE-FRAME the issue.

Some more about this school:

    • K-12 Catholic – on East Coast.
    • About 200 students – enrollment steady.
    • Tuition @ $12,500 (just raised 10%).
    • Gifted 100 acres on which to build a new school. Currently have something of a duct-taped campus that spans the creative use of three church spaces.
    • A ‘phased-approach’ to the building would require about $6M to functionally move all students to the new location.



Quantum Leap Framework (updated)

I posted a first iteration of QLF in July. Have updated below…

Have a look below at our Quantum Leap Framework. We use this as a FRAMEWORK for conversation, services, training, solutions and more (just about everything, really, that involves taking some sort of a QUANTUM LEAP with your FOR IMPACT organization.)

Hopefully you will find this transcends funding issues and offers a framework for organizational IMPACT and INCOME. Moreover, this is applicable to any organization/business/movement looking to Take a Quantum Leap.,

FRAMEWORK: A framework can be adapted to situations and organizations. It’s not a one-size fits all process. It provides a pathway for thinking through a challenge or complex issues including but not limited to:

  • How to make a quantum leap with your organization
  • How to re-design
  • Facilitating training/coaching/strategy sessions
  • Launch a campaign
  • Start-up or re-start
  • Jumpstart funding
  • Engage board members or stakeholder groups at a higher level
  • Strategic planning
  • Designing a launching a start-up venture (any sector)

I think the applications are limitless.

Here are some example applications:

On Campaigns: A campaign is a strategic component of the framework. (The campaign ‘process’ is determined by the VISION/PEOPLE.)

Strategic Planning: Most strategic plans talk about the how-to without ever going up to the ‘vision level’ to get consensus about the ‘where to’ or ‘why’ which is needed for SIMPLICITY.

People/Process/Performance: A little bit of Jim Collins’ notion – get the right people on the bus first – then you can drive the bus anywhere (perhaps with a clear process and ways to measure performance).

Board Meetings: Use this framework to differentiate between Vision/Strategy/Execution. (Hint – stay at Visionary level with time to dip down / frame strategy.)

Decision-Making: Action/Execution starts by ‘drawing the line in the sand’

For me, this FRAMEWORK captures components of BIG CHANGE… BIG LEAPS!



Create and Own Your Own Reality

Last week Amazon announced the purchase of for $850M. CEO, Tony Hsieh, has been making the rounds for months as the leader of the newest darling company. I really enjoy his outlook and admire his achievement. Following the Amazon announcement he posted this tweet:

The biggest (and hardest) lesson I’ve learned in life is that the external world is just a reflection of the world within.

Pretty profound.

Posted above my computer: In the absence of utter clarity, create your own reality.

Tony pushes that a step further. (Always) create your own reality. Own your own reality. And… he’s absolutely right!

PS – A first. Blogging about a tweet. We’re @forimpact


A Thought on Major Gifts Officers

Stance: I’m ALL FOR adding more sales people… investing in sales, etc.

A thought/question as it relates to ADDING more sales people (major gifts positions). Should you add another position? Or, should we re-design some of the top-level priorities so that an ED and senior advancement officer can allocate more time to the top of the pyramid?

Catalyst: I’m out west working with a For Impact org that is about three months into making the quantum leap. ED gets it…. totally. He says, “Nick, I can see how this is going to continue to be HUGE. I’m thinking we should add ANOTHER major gifts person.”

I challenged the ED (and share with you). To date, he’s only been able to spend about 1% of his time on top-level relationships (up from 0%). My suggestion was that he hire a high-level support person (eg. ‘Director of Special Projects’) to free up his ability to create a 10% focus. Even if he were to hire another sales person, he is a leader, a visionary and consequently, the dude that needs to be part of the presentation for the many $1M+ relationships. Adding someone else (without adding leadership focus) isn’t going to max the return. Interesting though, I’ll bet it would still have a strong ROI.

This is no different than asking a CEO to make it a priority to service the top-level accounts for a company. He/she can add more sales people but to really maximize the potential time could be well spent checking in on the top 10 accounts.


The Vision Can Be The Project

Everything’s a Project! If you’ve been to Boot Camp you’ve probably heard us use that mantra.

You should be able to package literally EVERYTHING as a project, priority or program.

No such thing as ‘unrestricted’ – it all goes toward SOMETHING… Some IMPACT.


Well, take up yet ANOTHER level. If you’re really CASTING A CLEAR AND COMPELLING VISION then THE VISION can be THE PROJECT. It’s a 30,000’ sale. It’s saying, “Nick, I need ten people to get behind this vision… to underwrite this vision.”

Where does the money go? To the VISION. To the CONCEPT. To the great VISIONARIES you’re entrusting to make this happen.

You talk about the Vision, the funding priorities and the plan and then literally go back up to 30,000′ for the ask. It’s Steve Jobs asking John Scully, “Do you want to sell sugar water all your life? Or, do you want to change the world?”


Is it a Pimple or Cancer? Know the Difference.

I was listening to ESPN radio host Eric Kasilius (a mensa genius and witty guy – filling in for Colin Cowherd). He was sharing some grandfather wisdom. In dealing with a problem his grandfather would always advise that you try to identify it as either a pimple or cancer – then respond accordingly.

If you do nothing to a pimple, it will go away in a few days on its own. If you pick at it – it’s going to become a bigger problem.

Cancer, on the other hand, you should treat as aggressively and swiftly as soon as it’s identified. Ignoring it can let the problem spread beyond control.

You must ask yourself re: each issue and problem, is it a pimple or is it cancer?

For what it’s worth, spread this idea around. Tell everyone to stop picking at their pimples.

Note: Eric was using this in reference to the NFL and MLB. He says the MLB has always picked at pimples and ignored cancer.


Marathon Running

(Picture: Being directed to the finish line.)

I just finished up two marathons in two weeks (and third in three months). Big challenge. Big fun. Naturally, I find myself making a lot of training and running references day-to-day. Some thoughts/lessons below – I think the For Impact and life corollaries are self-evident.

  1. Keep moving: A race is one of the few activities in our life where measuring progress is very very clear. With every step you are closer to the goal. If nothing else, keep moving and (eventually) the finish line appears. I’m not always spot on in pacing, fluid consumption or any other area but I know movement is a good thing… so I just never stop moving.

    Mentally, I find myself breaking down other activities in this way. What can I do make clear progress toward the goal? Re: Funding – it’s getting out of the office…

  2. Q. Do you ever want to just stop because it hurts or it’s too hard?
    A. Yes, at mile seven!

    Somewhere between miles 7-15 my body says, “Stop! You idiot!” The distance part is mostly mental. In fact, I think much of training is really conditioning your mind to know what pain is real and what is not. What amazes me is that your mind can go far past that bar set by your body. So far in fact that it leads to more questions like, “Is there a bar in the first place?” [Lots of linked thinking to Quantum Leap]

    On Monday 90+ runners competed in the Badwater Ultra Marathon. 135 miles in Death Valley at 130 degrees and ascending more than 8000 feet over the final 25 miles. In a post-race interview with a blind runner Geoffrey Hilton-Barber he says – paraphrasing – “I think anyone can do this. The issue is whether or not they’re willing to open up and ask the question.”

  3. Practice and Form. In Chi Running (see bottom) one concept is practice. Each run is a practice in focus and form. This focus gushes over to day-to-day ‘work’ and ‘life’.
  4. Decide the Outcome: This all about the mind/body thing. Your must make a decision about where you will go and then execute – without rethinking the plan (trust me, if you re-think the plan on mile 20 you will decide to stop).

Other notes:

  • I’ve never been a runner. However, this spring I discovered two books that have changed my life. I have been that guy that runs once per year and gets shin splints. Then I picked up Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (as an audio book) followed by ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running.
  • Travel is totally different. Nothing like being in Seattle and going for a 10 miles run to explore the city!
  • This past Saturday we ran in the Grandfather Mountain Marathon (Boone, NC). It was uphill (elevation profile below). Note, no part of the course if flat and after mile 12 there is no downhill. I was fortunate to run this race with my sister, her husband and Tom’s son-in-law. Tom came down on his Harley to cheer us on.


Rationalizing the Ask

I’ve written in the past about the importance of the funding plan as part of your case-for-support. I think there is a broader and more fundamental concept which is simply to be able to rationalize the number or rationalize the ask.

The simple concept: Rationalize the Number.

  • Don’t just pull numbers out of the air.
  • Tie the number to a project, priority or overall funding plan for the vision.

The difference between rationalizing the number and not rationalizing the number is the difference between asking for money and presenting the opportunity (a BIG DIFFERENCE.)

Reminder: Don’t make decisions for the prospect. Let the project/priority drive the ask. Focus on the impact and not on trying to make decisions about ‘what funding level to ask for’ – present the opportunity around the rationale and let the prospect decide!

I’ve attached a simple framework (PDF DOWNLOAD) with some self-coaching questions you can use to help you rationalize the number and ask.


A simple measure: How many one-on-one asks at $1,000+

One of the discovery questions for boot camp attendees: How many times have you (or org) sat down with someone one-on-one in the past three months and asked for more than $1,000?

For MOST organizations and even the BUSIEST funding professionals and largest colleges this number rarely tops five!

One simple way to think about boosting productivity is to literally drop everything that doesn’t help you boost this number (by a lot.) What if your ONLY goal were to have ten great visits in which you shared the story of your organization and presented the opportunity to help or make an impact (this month)?


Quantum Leap Framework

Have a look below at our Quantum Leap Framework. We use this as a FRAMEWORK for conversation, services, training, solutions and more (just about everything, really, that involves taking some sort of a QUANTUM LEAP with your FOR IMPACT organization.)

FRAMEWORK: A framework can be adapted to situations and organizations. It’s not a one-size fits all process. It provides a pathway for thinking through a challenge or complex issues including but not limited to:

  • How to make a quantum leap with your organization
  • How to re-design
  • Facilitating training/coaching/strategy sessions
  • Launch a campaign
  • Jumpstart funding
  • Engage board members or stakeholder groups at a higher level
  • Strategic planning
  • Designing a launching a start-up venture (any sector)

I think the applications are limitless.

Here are some example applications:

On Campaigns: A campaign is an execution component of the framework.

Strategic Planning: Most strategic plans talk about the how-to without ever going up to the ‘vision level’ to get consensus about the ‘where to’ or ‘why’ which is needed for SIMPLICITY.

People/Process/Performance: Are functions of the Vision and Strategy.

Decision-Making: Action starts at the HIGHEST LEVEL with leadership making decisions and drawing the ‘line-in-the-sand.’

For me, this FRAMEWORK captures components of BIG CHANGE… BIG LEAPS!



  • Quantum Leap
  • Re-Imagine
  • Re-Design

  • Message
  • Model
  • Math/Goals

  • ‘Drawing the Line’
  • Decision Making

  • Why (Purpose)
  • Where $ Goes
  • What (the Plan)

  • Organization Dev
  • Fund Development
  • MATH

  • Impact/Income
  • Decision-Making

  • Sales Team
  • Sales Culture

  • Campaign
  • Sales Process
  • Sales Roadmap

  • Training
  • Metrics
  • Accountability
  • Share:

    Thinking Bigger with your Vision, your Board and your Funding

    We’ve been on the road doing a lot of training and speaking the last two weeks. While in Albany at NYCON’s Money for Mission I packaged some content in a new way to focus exclusively on the importance of THINKING BIG.

    Conference Session Title: Thinking BIGGER – With your Vision, With your Board and With your Funding.

    Some of the FRAMEWORKS used:

    Here are few nuggets and remainders/reminders from the session.

    Go back up to 30,000’.
    Planes fly at 30,000’. It’s an altitude at which you can see ‘the big picture.’ Offers blue sky thinking, vision, etc. Making you aware of 30,000’ we can then also discuss 14,000’ and 3’. Think of these as VISION – STRATEGY and TACTICS respectively. Most of us communicate at the 14,000’ and 3’ level. The BIG sale, the BIG vision, the BIG conversations happen at 30,000’.

    On Strategic Plans:
    Really tough to talk about where you’re going to go at 14,000’ if we don’t have consensus and clarity at 30,000’.

    We spend every day at 3’.
    Your prospects don’t. We have a context for every detail [[in OUR heads]] but when we communicate in the details (without first having clarity/framing at the higher levels) it sounds a bit like the school teacher from Charlie Brown.

    The Steve Jobs Close
    I use this one a lot. Love it.
    The story: 1984. Apple board looking for a new ‘seasoned and readied CEO’ (I guess they didn’t think Steve Jobs knew what he was doing.) They zeroed in on John Scully – VP of Pepsi. Spent some time with him talking about market segments, HR, product lines, business plan, etc — the 14,000′ and 3′ pieces. He eventually turned them down. Steve Jobs goes for a walk with Scully and asks one (30,000’) question, “Do you want to sell sugar water to kids all your life or do you want to change the world?” Scully signs up for Apple. Incidentally, that didn’t work out so well. It turned out Steve Jobs was a pretty good leader after all. But, that’s a different story.

    Asking for $1M.
    We need to actually be able to communicate what we would do with $1M. Simple concept.

    Getting Buy-In at 30,000’.
    If someone’s not buying in or on at 30,000’ then you can’t move on to the strategy and the tactics of how they can help (the ask). However, once they do, you can move to these levels.

    People respond to the level at which you communicate
    Going to talk about blue prints? Everyone will talk about the angle of the door. Or, you can talk about the VISION. Your choice.

    Not saying don’t have 14,000’ and 3’.
    Just need to know the flow. Remember – there is an order: CAST a VISION. STAFF a VISION. FUND a VISION. Can’t fund a vision you don’t have 🙂

    Think BIG actually makes things EASIER


    Nobody wants to fund ‘case management’

    Two years ago an ED said to me, “Nobody funds case management.” That’s because nobody understands case management – and neither do I. Case management is like ‘management’, ‘overhead’, ‘operations’, etc.

    We spend the better part of 30 minutes talking about all the things that a case manager enabled clients to do/achieve. For this org, it was helping women (w/ children) deal with obstacles to permanent housing and family issues such as getting kids to school, domestic violence, nutrition, etc.

    We re-branded our case management as a ‘Healthy Families Initiative.’ Allowed us to focus on the IMPACT of the program. Much easier to talk about, sell and share.

    Test yourself, if you’re doing something that’s hard for others to understand then work on the MESSAGE. Start with the IMPACT or OUTCOME or WHY of the program and go from there.

    This came up again last week. I was with an organization that helps homeless men and women. We asked the same questions and realized that it was not case management but building a Life Track. We are going to get our Life Track Program funded (and they can spend that money on case managers).


    Reminder: Get Numbers On-The-Table Early

    A reminder about the value of getting numbers on-the-table early in an ongoing conversation. This is as opposed to waiting until the seventh visit.

    • If forces qualification: If a prospect seemed fantastic but says, “Oh, I/we wanted to help in other ways.” Then you at least know what approach to take and you’ve qualified the ongoing and future conversations.
    • A goal – In subsequent conversations (follow-up) you’re working toward a real goal… something concrete… not this ethereal idea of a gift, someday/maybe. This even works if the prospect ‘isn’t there yet’. At least you know where THERE is and you can have an going conversation about THERE and HOW!
    • Get it out of the way! Take a deep breath and get the number/project/level on the table.

    Making Business Decisions about Relationships

    A note: It’s okay to make business decisions about funding relationships.

    The context for my note: I was working with one organization to put together a $6M project and revamp the development operation. This particular org had 1.5 development positions and received about 40 gifts annually from corporations and foundations in the ranging from $2500 – $10K. The problem was the development was spending too much time ($$) and energy to secure those gifts. Sometimes a $5K grant would take three meetings, two days of grant writing and as much time to complete reporting.

    This is not a ‘not-for-profit issue’, it’s a business issue. Spending a lot of time for a little money—or to lose money—is not good business.

    I told the team we needed to change and heard common objections:

    • “But these are relationships. Mr. XYZ loves us and he’s done this for several years. We can’t just change.”
    • “But we know we’ll get the grant. We can’t just not take the money.”
    • “We can’t just walk in and say, ‘we’ve made a business decision and now things have to change!’”

    Yes you can. Make a business decision AND explain the business decision to your funders. Making business decisions and having strong relationships is not mutually exclusive – it’s responsible. You’re not here to be some charity… you’re here to make a difference by leveraging resources effectively. At the same time, you can decide where if and when you need to move the line to accommodate a relationship… so long as you have a line.

    If Hoops Then > $30K Rule:
    For this organization we created a new rule. If we have to jump through any hoops we need to set a $30K minimum (as a goal). Otherwise, the hoops aren’t worth the hassle.

    Factor into the cost:

    • All the staff (sales) time needed to write request, have meetings and submit requests.
    • In many cases a controller’s or CFO’s time who needs to crunch a bunch of numbers to make data look pretty for a request.
    • Delivery of the CORE program time – you want to maximize money toward this. If you have to create a bunch of new programs for the money then consider whether or not it’s worthwhile.
    • Reporting time
    • And most of all the OPPORTUNITY COST of not finding and meeting with better prospects.

    The Result: We went to each recurring funder and explained that we had made a business decision that we needed to set a minimum threshold for ‘partnership’ at $30K. We explained the rationale.

    Sometimes we walked away (or were turned away).
    Sometimes funders got rid of the hoops (in which case it made it ‘profitable’ for us to accept a smaller gift)
    Sometimes we turned $10K commitments in to three year commitments
    More often than not we were told in some way, “Sure. No problem. This makes sense.”
    Bonus: The team is now thinking bigger about every opportunity. No longer chasing mice – because they can’t.


    Simplicity – Gall’s Law

    I came across Gall’s Law on simplicity this AM.

    “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.”

    Build simple.


    The 4-Hour Workday

    I really enjoyed this article on PRODUCTIVITY from Think Simple Now.

    It reinforces the idea that you should manage your energy not your time. I shared it with some development officers and ED’s earlier this week and the concepts seem to be powerful for others so I’m re-posting here.

    Here’s the really cool thing about sales / nonprofit-development-sales. If we JUST focus on the PRODUCTIVITY we can actually have 2-hour workdays.

    “”In knowledge work, time input isn’t the point, your value comes from your output”

    Read the article. Be productive.


    20 Ways to CLOSE

    Here’s a new audio that is being mixed (in post-production). It will be released and sold later this summer as a packaged CD (yet to be named) around ‘Closing the Ask.’ Blog readers stream the audio for free below.

    This is something people have been asking for. I’ve long refused… pushing the importance of being AUTHENTIC (vs. a parrot). Now coaching for many years I’ve come to realize some people will be parrots and others will draw up their own conclusions, their own closes (I hope you share them). My favorite is the Goonies Close!

    Here’s an outline of the closes – audio is 70 minutes.

    Download the MP3

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


    Selling at the Highest Level – Cause Hierarchy

    When I was at Notre Dame we would enter the Basilica of the Sacred Heart under an arch that read: “God, Country, Notre Dame.”

    Simple. Three’s. God (Highest cause/service) –> Notre Dame — A simple hierarchy.

    I think there’s a more global cause hierarchy when you’re selling your vision.

    1. Kids
    2. God / Country
    3. Cause (eg. Cancer, Homelessness)
    4. Politics

    What is meant by ‘kids’ is YOUR kids. People will do anything for their kids — including change their beliefs on any of the three points below.


    Strategy + Action Plan with For Impact

    I’m somewhat muted in our blog about funding solutions. Mainly because I want it to be a freewheeling forum for thinking. It’s time to un-mute for a moment. It’s time to say TIME OUT. If you want CHANGE, we can help! If you need CHANGE… I want to help!

    The reason for this little outburst? Everyone needs help right now… but not in the usual way. Now, more than ever it’s about QUANTUM LEAPS! I just finished my forth conference call of the afternoon. Same story: “We need to change [read: the-way-we-do-business and results$$$]. No one’s sure what to do.”

    My dear friends and long time readers: We help organizations make A/THE quantum leap in: funding, infrastructure, message, leadership, the development model and the organizational culture. I’ve bolded funding because I think it’s one big part – but only a part – of the change.

    In today’s discussions I’ve been very focused on helping each client or prospective client get their hands around a 100-day-action-plan. A plan that deals with STRATEGY: FUNDING MESSAGE, PRIORITIES, PROSPECTS and ACTION: SALES TRAINING (TEAM), VISITS, MOMENTUM and TRANSFORMATION.

    I believe many if not most For Impact readers/leaders HAVE A VISION. What keeps you up at night is certainly the funding — but that is one piece of the HOW… ‘how are we going to get from point A to point B?’ In listening to all the point A’s and B’s right now the cool thing is that EVERYONE is in need of a quantum leap.

    We offer strategic coaching to help organizations of every size make a quantum leap in funding. The path forward is about thinking big with strategy and the having a coach to drive home a dead simple action plan.

    We’re very interested in helping those that have fire/passion but not the clarity to drive home a 100-day funding plan. We schedule 30-minute discovery and coaching calls with prospective clients in which we listen, provide some direction and then outline a custom coaching/consulting solution. To schedule one of these calls just complete the online discovery form (it just creates a nicely formatted email that’s sent to me.)


    No More Feasibility Studies

    This nugget is an excerpt from from Tom’s Campaign Book.

    Image of Campaign Book

    No More Feasibility Studies

    Having watched hundreds (maybe even thousands) of ‘nonprofits’ do feasibility studies… I still don’t get it!

    INTERNAL staff gets together. Agree they need more money. INTERNAL group decides to do a campaign to raise more money. INTERNAL leaders enlist EXTERNAL consultants to do a feasibility study… for justification, CYA and backup.

    Think about this ‘feasibility’ scenario:

    • No Sharing of the Vision
    • No Engagement
    • No Dialogue
    • No Involvement
    • No Presentation of an Opportunity

    From the ‘consultant’ to the ‘prospect’:

    If ‘XYZ NONPROFIT ORG’ were to do a HYPOTHETICAL Campaign with a HYPOTHETICAL goal… how much HYPOTHETICAL money would you HYPOTHETICALLY give to this HYPOTHETICAL Campaign?

    One alternative to consider is true LEADERSHIP CONSENSUS BUILDING

    Get your top stakeholders INVOLVED in the building of the PLAN… for both IMPACT and INCOME!!!

    This OWNERSHIP will translate into a huge return on the time, energy and resources you INVEST in the process.

    I’ve chosen these three words carefully, and used this process effectively for the last 25 years.

    1. LEADERSHIP. It is what it is. It is what is says. Engage your best LEADERS in the process of message clarification, prioritization and the funding plan.

    2. CONSENSUS. CONSENSUS is about the RIGHT DECISION… Not (necessarily) about ‘unanimous’ agreement on a politically correct, watered down, something-for-everyone mission statement/plan. CONSENSUS (on Vision/Priorities/Goals) creates commitment… generates momentum… and forces engagement (vs. passive participation).

      Nota Bene: “PASSION IS CONTAGIOUS!” (Nick Fellers)

    3. BUILDING. This is the kicker. This is the ‘action word’ that makes this idea worth millions! You must provide a framework to let your stakeholders help build.

      *This approach also serves as the most powerful form of PREDISPOSITION.


    The Economy: One Great Question

    ‘C-M’ is absolutely one of my favorite Relationship Managers, Sales-Superstar and just all around Wonder-Woman. She is part of one of the best Sales Teams in the Third Sector/For Impact World.

    After getting “beat up, challenged and sob-storied” about the Economy on so many visits… she decided to turn things around by asking ONE GREAT QUESTION:


    WOW! According to C-M and her teammates, this ONE GREAT QUESTION completely changes the DIALOGUE and CONVERSATION!

    It immediately allows people to RE-FRAME their thinking around the FUTURE… instead of bemoaning the Dow or their 401(k) or the housing market.

    I think this is also a terrific lead-in to talking about LEGACY GIFTS, MULTI-YEAR COMMITMENTS BASED (on future ability to invest), PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE, etc.

    I beg, urge and encourage you to try this ONE BIG QUESTION when somebody starts talking about the “economy, the recession, the bailout, the deficit, etc.”

    P.S. This assumes that you’re actually still out there making VISITS and PRESENTATIONS and ASKS.

    If you’re not, C-M’s ONE GREAT QUESTION is merely a worthless nugget.


    Remainder Ideas on the Nonprofit Market

    These are ‘half-thoughts’ I’ve been toting around in my head. I’m hoping others will comment/challenge… or use.

    • Colleges and Universities have been in something of an arms race and increased tuition at 6% – 7% annually.
      • Hard to maintain that pace forever unless what we’re seeing is a change to a completely different model.
      • I think funding model is changing (or has changed) from ‘work hard to pay your way through school’ to student loans/financing to a philanthropy model (those that went before are paying the way now) and on it’s way to a venture funding model (schools will end up with all the wealth and fund more businesses – generating income which will fund ‘tuition’).
      • Amazed we’re not seeing MORE start-up colleges. Perfect time – education changing and incredible demand.
    • I’ve read that some 100K nonprofits will close their doors during this recession. I’m okay with that – while there will be some stories of orgs failing that shouldn’t the marketplace has needed a correction. Too many orgs trying to do the same thing. I’m not a big fan of the WAY collaboration is being talked about right now (sounds too much like a fad) but I’m a huge fan of it as a fundamental – in any economy.
    • On social media: Someone asked me how I’ve see facebook and twitter change fundraising. To be completely honest – I think there is a ton of noise around the subject. In my thinking though these are VEHICLES. Like the telephone and/or the checkbook. One is communication and one is a mode of payment. I just think online giving is a vehicle. Play madlibs and substitute telephone for ‘twitter’ and ‘paper checks’ for online giving and you’ll see my point.

      To be clear, this is new and exciting stuff! In the same way the telephone or email changed communication so too are things like twitter (which, I do love and of which I’m a huge evangelist – for other reasons). And, while the broad world has not fully adopted twitter or facebook I don’t think the amount of noise should be an indication of funding potential. It doesn’t change the fundamentals of FUNDING/REVENUE – relationships, message, model, math, visits/sales-approach.

    • “Capital Campaigns” could change forever. This could be cool. In many markets we’re seeing ‘capital campaign pitches’ dry up. Some funders are saying ‘we have a really hard time funding buildings right now’ (for a variety of reasons). Orgs will adapt – but so will funders. We’ve been talking about this for a while – the future lies in funding the vision – with partners – vs. trying to get others to fund a building (old capital campaign pitch).
    • Stimulus Money – I marvel at what this will do to the marketplace. Still don’t know. What I do know is A LOT of money has to be spent in a very short time and no one is really sure how that’s going to happen or who’s going to get it.

      Is your org applying for stimulus money? If so, email me ( I’m doing a little survey of orgs in this boat… going to aggregate info and share with respondents.


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

    This nugget comes from an email I prepared for a specific organization implementing a SALES process and SALES approach to funding. I think the points have a wide application – so I’m sharing here.

    1. 24-Hour Follow-Up Rule

      We need to get out our follow-up emails/letters within 24 hours… no matter what. If we wait to write the perfect proposal or pitch, with time, it (1) takes more effort and (2) we lose momentum. I’ll take 80% perfect at 24 hours over 90% perfect in three weeks.

      Speed doesn’t kill… time does.

    2. It’s a RELATIONSHP

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

    3. Re: Referrals – think about ONE ACTION item and a manageable timeline.

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

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

    4. “Can you get me a proposal?”

      If someone asks this we need to simplify on the spot.

      • “Sure thing… are you an email person?” (everyone is)
      • “Would it be okay if I summarized points from our conversation in bullet point form and shot that back by email?”

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

    5. Ball is always in your court.

      We’re getting a lot of great ‘pending requests’… if someone says, “give me a few days and I’ll get back to you.” We need to say, “That’s great. If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll follow-up next week.”

    6. Email is for follow-up notes. Use the phone to make things happen.
    7. Be a closer. Always.

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


    Not-for-profits: Do-gooders always looking for money

    At a speech last week I did some word-association drills with a room full of nonprofit leaders, board members, funders and development officers.

    First up: ‘Not-for-profit’

    Word Associations: Do-gooders, charity, ‘looking for handouts’, untrustworthy, poor business, well-meaning, ‘always wanting money’.

    Mind you, I was with a room full of people that classified themselves as nonprofit professionals. Someone in THAT room said ‘untrustworthy’… wow. I wasn’t looking for that one… but okay…

    Obviously we’re big on words and framing – hence ‘For Impact’. This was the first time I let a room do an open-word-association on ‘not-for-profit’. I was hoping to make the point that you need a better message than, “We’re a not-for-profit.” I was hoping to illustrate that funders are largely unresponsive when they hear about untrustworthy, poor-business-running, do-gooders, always wanting money. I think that point was evident as was one more point – a new message is equally (if not more) important to those IN the third sector.

    Something to think about – Be For Impact. Be about Saving Lives, Changing Lives and Impacting Lives. Be about a really cool business that’s transforming the community. Be about a movement that inspires the best and brightest to get on board.


    How to Be a Social Entrepreneur (updated)

    A few months ago I shared Tom’s poster on ‘How to Be a Social Entrepreneur’. A few times each week I receive emails asking if it would be okay to print and share.

    Yes. Please print and share. We’ve also updated the file for those of you printing out at home – should give a much more vivid/rich print.

    Again – as always – design inspiration from Sami Sunchild.

    Download 11X17 PDF


    Three (daily) self-coaching questions for fundraisers

    It’s really easy to lose the day/week/month/year putting out fires… or always RESPONDING.

    I’ve been encouraging development officers to self-coach through these three questions EVERY morning BEFORE email – over a good cup of coffee.

    1. What can I do to bring in more money today?
    2. What am I doing to advance the ball with my top 10 prospects?
    3. What are my next action items to line up visits?

    What can I do to bring in more money TODAY?

    I (Nick) don’t care about more prospects if we’re not doing follow-up with existing and previous relationships… if we’re not closing. Adding more to a bad process does nothing. Trust me – much easier to ‘close’ that visit from three weeks ago than it is to open a new door.

    Top 10 prospects…

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


    Visits and asks (advancing and maximizing relationships) is the lifeblood of philanthropy. If dollars-raised is a productivity measurement then this is the measurement on the way to productivity. Are you scheduling visits this week? If not, you will not have new funds to show for it in 6-8 weeks (plus or minus).

    If it helps, think of these three as CLOSING. HOMERUNS. ACTION.


    Too Many Nonprofits Exist to Exist

    And I think that’s a problem. Don’t you?

    Maybe an org was founded by a passionate person with a grand vision 25 years ago. Now the M.O. appears to be meeting the operating budget or finding the next grant.

    Why do you [org] exist? We don’t return to this question often enough – if ever. We do strategic planning — which means nothing if there is no clear purpose.

    • The french have a wonderful term for this – Raison d’etre. Reason for existence.
    • If we don’t know our purpose, how can we evaluate our progress toward an end?
    • In the for-profit world this answer is answered more often – but still not often enough. However, when cash flow gets tight we find a way to look at the big questions.
    • Sequoia Capital (big VC) thinks this is THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION for ANY company: “Summarize your company’s purpose on the back of a business card.”

    This is a big question that impacts:

    • Funding: Your funders what to know WHY. Not WHAT. Knowing your CAUSE also helps to identify funding sources.
    • Morale: Maybe if we did a better job of connecting to this on a regular basis we would not have such a high turnover rate. I believe people get into nonprofit jobs with a sense of purpose then lose it – and move on.
    • Board meetings: Again, without a WHY there is no framework for high-level dialogue.
    • Real Impact: If we don’t know where we’re going we’ll wonder aimlessly

    Some questions to help drive clarity:

    • Why do we exist? (on back of napkin)
    • What is our cause? (again, simply)
    • What would we do with $100B? In other words, don’t focus on money for a second. Look up and out. This question is so much more productive than ‘What are our strategic goals for next year’.
    • What are we best in the world at? (via Jim Collins)

    I believe this is THE question that has forced foundations to ask for mountains of data, reports, crap, etc. Unfortunately, they’re just not doing a good job of asking the question — and to be fair, we’re not doing a good job of giving the answer.



    We are in the Aloha state all week working with different organizations. Yesterday we had the good fortune to be with Keiki O Ka Aina (Children of the Land). The team is doing amazing work to transform education and transform Hawaii — impacting thousands families each year.

    To the entire team at KOKA – Mahalo!

    (Kerry, Momi & Poli, Nick)


    Ten Nonprofit Funding Models

    I think the Standford Social Innovation review is improving – markedly. When it first launched I thought the brand and concepts were strong but articles were way too academic/theoretical — as a ‘field guy’ I didn’t relate much. I’m starting to come back in to the fold. Thought this was a really cool article on Ten Nonprofit Funding Models – thumbs up to the framing these authors put around various funding models.

    Quickly the ten models are:
    1. Heartfelt Connectors
    2. Beneficiary Builder
    3. Member Motivator
    4. Big Bettor
    5. Public Provider
    6. Policy Innovator
    7. Beneficiary Brokers
    8. Resource Recyclers
    9. Market Maker
    10. Local Nationalizer

    Read through the article, you will see that these are (for the most part) really about how the fund development operation builds its case-for-support and funding base. For example, a University is a Beneficiary Builder. They offer services and provide enough value that people who have benefited in the past (alumni) will fund the model. We’re seeing huge success in this model and a marketplace that is something of an arms race (as every college competes to build the latest and greatest)… you’re seeing the funding model shift from student workers to alumni philanthropy… hence some of the ivy’s starting to announce that students will graduate debt free.

    I think this article has a lot of legs. Very few organizations ever stop to think about their funding model and even fewer stop to think about it in this way.

    Thanks to Sean Stannard-Stockton | Tactical Philanthropy for finding this article.

    Share: Shakes Things Up

    Larry and Sergi, the Google guys, founded three years ago with the aim to have a greater impact on the world than They have the vision, clout and cash to be very innovative / far from ‘old-school’ in their approaches.

    This week the head of, Dr. Larry Brilliant, is moving aside to be the Chief Philanthropy Evangelist. I’m not sure what that is either but it’s a really cool title.

    The blog post announcement is worth a quick read. What I find most interesting is how envisions its next chapter. While they have all the cash in the world they’re pointing to using more ‘in-house’ talent to achieve impact. It looks like the greatest impact has come from trying to leverage what they’re best in the world at — engineering and information technology. This would be akin to Accenture saying, “We have a really strong consulting model to solve problems, the best in the world. We’re going to focus that model (and talent) on solving problems.” I think something more is happening. Google is a talent company. It’s well known for mind bending interviews and recruiting. I think they’re saying, “Time out. We have the smartest people on the planet. We could use them to change the world!”

    A nod to Jim Collins’ bus metaphor… get the right people on the bus and in the right seats and you can drive that bus anywhere.

    Keep watching – I’m sure we’ll see a lot of innovation in the coming years.


    Surviving the Recession

    This month’s Inc. Magazine column (Surviving the Recession) from Norm Brodsky is required reading for any organization struggling right now due to the economy. Brodsky is a veteran entrepreneur who offers some fundamental advice.

    Some gems from the article:

    • Know your math: How much do you need? It’s not enough to say, “We’re losing money.” You can’t respond until you figure out exactly what that means. It’s simple and yet most orgs can’t tell me exactly how much they need.

    • “It’s a terrible idea to cut back your sales efforts in a recession.”

    • “You can’t borrow your way out of debt.”

    • At the end of the recession, the winners will be those who have taken advantage of their most important resources—imagination and creativity.”

    Strong Fundraising Boards Don’t Exist

    I’ve never seen a strong fundraising board.

    We’ve worked with colleges, national organizations, start-ups, orgs in every sector – and not seen it.

    Maybe organizations with ‘strong fundraising boards’ don’t need help so they don’t come to us. I think it’s more likely the case that they don’t exist.

    This is important to understand. Many organizations are waiting until they have a strong fundraising board to really kick things in to high gear. That might be like waiting for the big three auto makers to return to dominance using the same old business models.

    • We can’t wait. Else, we’ll always be waiting.
    • Instead of trying to build a ‘fundraising board’ shoot for getting a few champions on board with your efforts.
    • This is why we say your board is not responsible for fundraising.

    9 Tips to Help You Get to the Ask

    You just made a great visit… did you ask?

    This morning one executive director answered, “Well, no. They [insert prospect] started talking about the economy and I just got uncomfortable.” Yesterday it was, “I can always get some fired up but then I don’t know how to get to the money.”

    This list is some coaching for everyone who has ever said, “I felt uncomfortable getting to the ask.”

    1. Always ask.

      It may not be the right time to answer yes but it’s always the right time to ask. If this bothers you, see #2.

    2. If you’re uncomfortable you can soften the ask, but (again) always ask.

      Asking advances the ball. More than that, a prospect cannot guess what you need. That being said, sometimes we’re just really uncomfortable or worried about messing up – especially in the first few visits. If you need to, here are some ways to soften the ask.

      • “Would it be okay to have a follow-up conversation about ways to financially support this project?”

      • “We’re going to need 10 Angel Investors (@$100,000 each). I know this is one of the first times we’ve really had a serious conversation about XYZ. Could we have a talk about the Angel level some time this year?”

      • “Based on everything you’ve seen here today, are you in?”

    3. Be authentic.

      Being authentic makes you an immediate sales expert. It can also help you work through your discomfort in getting to the ask.

      I do a role play at every Boot Camp. I think a big takeaway is for people to see me fumble my way through parts of the visit search for ways to get to the ask. It’s sometimes even awkward – but always authentic and so it works.


      • At start of call: “I really want to cover three points on our call if that’s okay. I would love to share where we’re going, get your feedback and talk about how you can help.”

      • “I’m not really sure how to transition at this point but I think it’s important that we cover the funding plan.”

      • “If I may, I’m going to circle back to the funding level. I need to be so bold as to push on this a little bit because, quite frankly, there are not a whole lot of people to talk to about this.”



    Right Now Is A Great Time To Learn

    Right now is a great time to learn.

    By many accounts we’re in the midst of ‘economic turmoil’ like most of us have not seen in our lifetime. Two ways to think about this.. For me /for us/ for our orgs this is all opportunity. We can learn things now that we couldn’t learn for… we can learn things now that will be leveraged by our companies/orgs for the next 50 years!

    So many people are freezing right now. Keep running. It’s a great time to learn about:
    – ‘these conditions’
    – functions of the marketplace
    – ways you can strengthen your system
    – relationships in your community.

    Jan 1 I jumped in to function as a ‘development officer’ at an organization. I’m usually a trainer or a strategic coach (read: outsider). However, right now is the most incredible time to innovate, test, try and learn — in the field. It’s the ultimate challenge – producing results in this environment (is proving VERY POSSIBLE) and it can translate to success in any environment.

    One thing I’ve had reinforced is that entrepreneurs move the world – not ‘companies’. Most companies are like cold-blooded animals that slow-down or hibernate when things get cold. They literally go into preservation mode by not moving. Entrepreneurs are like warm-blooded animals. They run faster to stay warm! The lesson: work with more entrepreneurs or ‘entrepreneurial companies’. Not only are they actually moving – they’re going to be much better ‘conditioned’ when things heat up.


    Remain Aggressive (via 2-Speed)

    I don’t read a lot of ‘fundraising blogs’. Most of my blog list includes sifting through entrepreneurs, business builders, innovators and designers…

    Brad Feld is a fun funder/tech entrepreneur/cool guy in Colorado to read @ He directed me to 2-Speed (Will Herman) and this post: Remain Aggressive. You need to read this post – it’s strong enough to balance out a lot of the other ‘negativity’ out there around ‘this economy’.

    Some bullet points:

    • Play offense, not defense. Not a time to batten down the hatches – successful companies move fast and innovate (especially in these times).
    • “You can’t save yourself to success.”
    • Make sure you respond instead of react, you never panic.
    • “You have to assume that nothing is coming to you – people, business or new ideas – you have to aggressively go out and hunt down everything that will move your company forward.” — See Tom’s entire message about the economy – Now More than Ever we need to be out, making visits, on the offensive, building and maximizing relationships. See my post last week about HOW to respond.
    • “think” (that’s all I need to excerpt of that line)

    Read full blog post.


    1X 10X 50X

    If an investor is giving you 1x in response to a mail campaign, any sort of an event or ‘totally unsolicited’ then he or she would likely give 10x in response to a one-on-one (personal) visit-with-an-ask and 50x if the visit includes a dialogue around the funding plan (as part of the full case-for-support and ask).

    This is not scientific but it’s far from arbitrary. This is my own little way of thinking about potential based on what I’ve seen at many organizations (start-ups to colleges). It’s a way of thinking about

    1. The potential of your current relationships.
    2. The potential of new relationships (if we visit!)
    3. Why we need to be visiting

    Everybody says they need more prospects. Instead of trying to get more people to give 1x think about how you can get more people to give 50x!

    • 1x is clearly emotional. I’ve seen a lot of people cry at events – but the giving is still impersonal and ‘charitable’ in nature.

    • Sitting with someone one-one-one (or 2-1 / 2-2) allows you to listen and respond. It makes the ask personal and seems to trigger another level of discernment in giving – increasing a commitment to an organization ten-fold (10x).

    • But to really get the big big gifts (50x) we need to do a better job of walking our prospects through a funding plan and going back and forth, having a dialogue about the ask… giving context and providing the FULL case-for-support. These conversations are much more strategic.

    At my seminars I share a story of a school that met with parents and supporters. They asked everyone to “prayerfully consider giving at a level that was significant”. Those that had previously contributed $2000 through the auction responded with $20,000 gifts. The school was still frustrated. They had $1M prospects giving $100K and $100K prospects giving $20K.

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

    This school went back to each supporter with a complete funding plan. For a $1Million dollar ask, for example, they would ask for the $1Million (a specific number). More than that they would have a discussion around WHY the $1Million and what it would enable the school to do (leverage, leadership, timing, etc). The prospects had a broad context in which to consider the ask and many of them increased their gifts by five times and some by 20 or 30 times!

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

    A rhetorical question: Is it easier for you to visit with every current funder and ASK (10X) or to get ten more prospects to give? From there, is it easier to get your best prospects to 50X or to get 5-10 more visits?


    Binary v. Analog and STARTING a development operation

    This is an excerpt from an email I just fired off to one of last week’s boot camp attendees. Her organization has a $5M operating budget – mostly covered by government funds. They are ‘new to fundraising’. I’ve encouraged them to focus on the process of making visits — to get the funds flowing and then focus on a bigger plan for $1M/ $5M or $10M (whatever the goal is). This is in contrast to most orgs where I would encourage them to identify a funding goal and work backwards (doing the math).

    Binary v. Analog. Right now your goal is to start fundraising. It’s not to generate $10Million (that’s the vision). In other words, it’s more about getting out a process and success around bringing in gifts (binary) at $10K+ than it is raising $3M v. $4M (analog).

    Once you get the process going and you have some comfort, a process and some traction I would then take a step back and look (again) at the big picture and put together a funding plan for the bigger goal. Right now an organization like [ORG] doesn’t know what it can and can’t do… everything’s a guess. I’m okay with that. To your team though, it ‘feels like a guess’ — that makes it more difficult to act on.

    Just like a runner would – get in the habit of running, then choose a marathon training program. Start running (binary) then get strategic and adding distance (analog).

    With that in mind, in your case I would not focus on the HUGE BIG NUMBER. I would focus on your PURPOSE and the MODEL (still three buckets) and then a goal to get 100 members in the LEADERSHIP SOCIETY. The message could be around $2,500+ — the cost to deliver the model to one family. You could ask for more by asking people to underwrite X families.

    I use the Binary v. Analog all the time — especially to frame a goal. For instance, some times the goal is to get a prospect IN (invested) NOW. It’s not about trying to get $100K v. $140K.


    Notes from the Field: On the Economy

    I’ve been living ‘in the field’ for the past few months. Here are a few thoughts on the economy and some stories about how we’re responding.

    • Massive Action
    • This is a Tony Robbins principle. Basically, do what works and do a ton of it – massive action and you will be successful. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. It just requires discipline and faith. The discipline (in this case) to keep lining up visits and the faith to know it will be very good for your organization.

      On one campaign we’re ‘activating’ 20 prospects every week (new + existing relationships). This means we’re doing strategy, sending out predisposition and following up to schedule visits. Our goal is 60 visits in the next 100 days. That’s massive action… and proving to be successful.

    • Trendwatching: The ‘economy’ is the current objection.

      It’s natural to hear an objection (at first) in any economy. A lot of people/gatekeepers are using the economy as the objection-de-jour. In several months, or a year, you’re going to hear, “Now that the economy is turning around we’re being flooded with requests… it’s not really a good time.”


    San Diego Boot Camp – Day 1

    Last night we wrapped up at our first day on the campus at The University of San Diego. It was great but I think the weather was even better. While much of the country is being hit by an Alberta Clipper and frigid temps we are having a heat wave – mid 80’s every day. We have attendees from Alaska, Minnesota and Green Bay – can you imagine coming from -20 to 85? We also have attendees from Hawaii (they bough coats – no joke).

    Some quick bullet points – or discussions that have been unique to this class (a very partial list)

    • Designated giving: I’ve rarely, rarely ever had a gift designated. I know this is something many others deal with all the time. I really think this is because we’re not communicating where the money goes and so the investor has to put some sort of framing around this on their own.
    • On that same note, only one person has EVER asked me how much money goes to overhead – I immediately asked him if he had ever worked with The United Way and he said, ‘Yes, why do you ask?’ 🙂 Again, if you communicate your purpose + where the money goes + funding plan then it’s not about overhead.

      INCOME = Communicating your Purpose and / or vision
      DRIVES = Communicating Where the money goes (your buckets, circles or priorities – for those that have been to camp)
      INCOME = Communicating your Funding Plan and having a discussion about how the prospect could fit in to that plan.

    • 1X 10X 50X
      1X = What is given without a case for support + dialogue (one-on-one). Perhaps through mail or event.
      10X = What is invested as a result of your showing up and having a dialogue around 1-2 pieces of your case for support (purpose/priorities/plan).
      50X = What is invested when you walk through ALL THREE PIECES of your case for support – only when you enter into a discussion about what is really needed and talk about serious funding can a prospect begin to discern, think-about or work towards a leadership gift or transformational gift.

    • What economy?
      One of our attendees from last year’s San Diego camp called in to report presenting the opportunity for $2.0Million AND closing. The prospect HAD been impacted (negatively) by the stock market but was committed to the PURPOSE/PRIORITIES/PLAN of this organization – they asked – and worked through the mechanics (it was not a given – had to have a DIALOGUE about how to make this happen).

    • And this one’s just for Alums.
      Calculator Time? 15 Seconds.

    Deveopment IS Relationships

    I spent some time talking to an ED this morning. We really focused on thinking about development = RELATIONSHIPS.

    Historically, this organization ‘turns over’ relationships to the development officer once they’re ‘ready for funding’. It doesn’t working that way. Funding (at a higher level – sales) is not a step or moment in a relationship – it IS the relationship.

    Even if you’re not ‘asking for money’ you are always building and then hopefully maximizing the relationship. This is what we mean when we say it’s about RELATIONSHIPS not TRANSACTIONS. Is is the job/role of development to manage the relationship (more broadly) not just the manage the requests for money.


    100 Memories – Make a List for Year’s End

    Every year-end I make a list of 100 memories from the year. These could be events, moments, firsts, lasts, etc. etc.

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

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

    The same is true of the 100 memories list. After you get past obvious moments like weddings, travels and births the really some great insights about what you value/treasure start to emerge. Watch those themes and design your 09 to make more memories like these!

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

    I won’t bore you with my list except to say many of my memories come from meeting cool For Impact leaders on-the-road… so many smart, passionate and inspiring people changing the world. Thanks for 2008.

    I would love to hear about some of the adventures/memories/reflections from this year. We have some pretty ‘crazy’ (cool) social entrepreneurs reading the WOW. What’s on your list?


    10 Travel Tips

    Tom and I spend a good deal of time on the road traveling to just about every city in the U.S. Three times in the past week I’ve been talking to clients who have asked for travel tips. It never occurred to me that large part of our community travels and can benefit from, and even contribute, to this list of tips for travel.

    1. Never schedule a connecting flight through Chicago in the winter time.

      It’s just too unpredictable and you’ll spend a lot of time de-icing. Besides that, O’Hare is just generally a mess.

    2. Never schedule to depart New York City (JFK/LaGuardia) after 3:00 p.m.

      3:00 p.m. is rush hour. You may have a 4:00 flight but chances are you’re not getting out until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. Just plan on losing that time and stick in the city, enjoy a show, etc.. It really decrease stress.

    3. Stay at hotels that have restaurants. Our good friend Phil C. (a developer) shared this tip. A restaurant in a hotel automatically raises the level of service and ensures, despite the chain, that you’re going to be staying at a half-way decent place.

    4. Use Between rental cars, hotels and all sorts of other reservations, Phyllis, our office manager, just forwards all the information to and it creates a wonderful itinerary. It automates weather reports, directions, etc. It’s an incredibly efficient way to organize your travel and, again, decrease stress.

    5. Never check luggage. This one goes without saying.

    6. Store all airline numbers in your phone. On numerous occasions, I’ve been at the gate only to see my flight cancelled. Everybody lines up to reschedule… 50, 60 or 100 people deep. If you have the phone number stored, you can schedule to get on the next flight right away. Otherwise, you might be out of luck. If you have a stored number, you might be lucky enough to be one of the 6 or 7 people to get on the next flight. Otherwise, good luck with the line.

    7. Almost always have a GPS included with your rental car. If you’re going to be out on the road making visits with prospects, it’s worth it. Too many times, I’ve been driving through cornfields or urban jungles calling a prospect I haven’t met and apologizing for being lost and late. The advent of GPS has been a game changer. Plus, often times you’ll get in very late at night and have no idea where you’re going. Again, it’s all about minimizing stress on the road.

    8. Take tennis shoes (from Kerry). Running around/walking around is the best way to see a city. You’ll have to do this. Otherwise, you’ll go crazy on the road. See also Tom’s notes on how explore a city.

    9. Give up on being productive (mentally) the day after an intense road trip. It takes a lot of mental energy if you have an intense road trip with a board meeting, a presentation or visits with prospects. Your brain is a muscle (at least it is for the purpose of this point). If you use it a lot one day, it’s going to be fatigued the next. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re going to fly back late at night and be productive the next day at the office. We need oscillation.

    10. Other random stuff I’ve noticed.

      • If you’re staying at a hotel and conference center, this automatically means you will pay for internet. For some reason, it’s never free at a conference center.

      • It’s okay to use Hotwire when staying at an airport hotel. They’re all basically the same. So go with Hotwire and get yourself a 4 or 5-star hotel.

        On a recent trip to Denver I ended up at LaQuinta Inn & Suites at the Denver Airport. I would usually never stay at a LaQuinta but it was awesome. On par with any Marriott or Hilton out there. I think airport hotels have to compete against one another because they are generally all pretty good.

      • A lot of people like to talk about scrimping on-the-road. Those are the people that don’t travel much. No matter which way you cut it, travel is stressful. It took me a long time to understand (from Tom) that the extra $60 to $80 to $100 for a great hotel room makes all the difference in the world in terms of productivity, return-on-investment and general health.

      • Rental cars. Go with your trusted brand and just stick with it. It’s not worth trying to save money going to a new city with Dollar Rent-A-Car. You just never know what you’re going to get. For instance, I was heading out to West Texas and found that my Dollar Rent-A-Car was only open for four hours out of the day. This did not help me. You’re paying a little extra for great brands but what you’re also paying for is the insurance that you’re going to get where you need to be.

      • Get an iPhone or a CrackBerry. I got an iPhone last January and it has saved my tail on the road dozens of times… checking flight information, making changes, etc.

      • Procedural. Tom and I have Phyllis make all of our travel arrangements. This works out very well. Then we have a running list of local knowledge. When we return from the road, we share stuff with her like how different airports work in Los Angeles, whether it’s better to fly out from JFK or LaGuardia at different times. Phyllis refers to this running list and our preferences and handles travel for us. If you have someone handle your travel for you consistently, it makes a load of difference.

        When doing this, it’s helpful to have Phyllis’ name on the reservation somewhere, whether there’s an email confirmation to her or wherever else available. This provides her access to make changes to the reservation for you.

      • Credit cards. It’s also helpful for the travel arrangements to be made on a credit card that you are carrying for purposes of making changes.

    11. BONUS: When flying back from the west coast always leave room to pack some Fat Tire Beer (only exception to the no-checking luggage rule).

    Add your tips to comments below.


    My Social Entrepreneur Identity Crisis… And, Philanthropy is Sustainable

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

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

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

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

    This is a VERY IMPORTANT question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We need to show communicate impact – always.

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

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


    It All Started With Bootcamp

    I continue to chew and feed on the W.O.W. emails. They are GREAT! They challenge the way I think and operate… and they do so on a consistent basis. I need regular intervals of “interruptions” to keep me on track and focused. They also keep my For Impact mind fresh and up to date.

    I also refer back to the manifestos, pdf notes, booklets, mantras, and everything else I’ve gotten my hands on. Those things continue to be vital tools to our success.

    One small thing… is my napkin. I have the “IMPACT drives INCOME” napkin on my wall above my desk. As a “non-profit” I already knew in my heart and mind that it was all about the IMPACT. BUT, I didn’t talk that way, I didn’t act that way, which means I didn’t LIVE that way. You guys put words, ideas, and REAL practices around values I new to be true. Without that… I’d still be flopping around wondering if I understood what was going on; thinking everyone else gets it but me.

    One of my greatest successes (and failures) is the VISIT. I’m not sure why, but I have it ingrained in my mind that getting someone to visit us here at camp during a session is crazy or impossible. BUT every time someone sets foot on the grounds while camp is session and walks around with me talking about our impact… THEY REALLY GET IT! This past summer we had several church groups, student ministries, and families that came to serve alongside us, each for a week. In a matter of five weeks we had over 50 people who not only understood, but became a vital part of our IMPACT. Not only did they hear our story… they became part of our story. This not only accomplished the “funding” side of camp, but made a huge impact on the staffing, program, and facilities side of camp. Individuals from those groups are now out sharing our IMPACT and they continue to return to camp to INVEST.

    This has created a shift in the method we use for staffing during summer camp. This coming summer (2009) we will be partnering with churches, small groups, student ministries, and families who have the same PASSION for IMPACTING lives. They will each serve for a week – as our support staff, assisting with our programs, and funding our VISION (which is also their vision). We will also be partnering with them to provide them with everything they need to IMPACT their group while at camp. It’s kind of a “For Impact Way of Life”. This is going to be a new kind of camp ministry.

    It all started with a boot camp. Thanks for inviting us to become a For Impact ministry.

    Ben Meyers
    Arrowhead Bible Camp


    New Faces of Philanthropy (For Impact)

    Last week’s Barron’s weekly magazine featured a story on the New Faces of Philanthropy. It’s a look at Gen X and younger/generational philanthropists (‘Next-Gen Givers’).

    The article is worth a read if only for this excerpt (my bold caps):

    These younger givers—entrepreneurs, executives and latter-day members of old-money clans—are intent on leaving a mark now, not in their 50s and 60s. Some are even dropping the p-word itself. “We don’t call what we are doing philanthropy; we call it having an IMPACT,” says Peter Kellner, 39, managing partner of Uhuru Capital Management.

    I’ve been reading more and more about the ‘impending leadership gap in nonprofit management’. I find it difficult to relate to these reports for two reasons. First, pick any point in history and the most-senior leaders will probably be about ready to retire. Secondly, (as a biased gen-x person) it’s just not consistent with what I’m seeing in the field. Although this article spotlights the resource end of the chain it illustrates leadership in the late 20’s through early 40’s noting:

    • Gen X Millionaires doubled the size of giving by their parents and grandparents.
    • Giving is global. “In contrast to grandparents who might have defined “giving back to the community” as contributing to local churches, hospitals and schools, many younger philanthropists think the most compelling projects are overseas.”
      Note: I think ‘The World is Flat’ but don’t agree with this assessment wholesale.
    • The new lens is not just about ‘business models’ but about effectiveness. Horahh! This is HUGE. I think the conversations about social entrepreneurs are focusing too much on ‘business model’ (means) and not enough on impact (the end) AKA–FOR IMPACT.

    Don’t un-start your Campaign because of a Recession

    I’m on a west coast this trip, meeting with and working with several organizations. This morning, I’m having coffee with the leadership from an organization that has been prepping for a $75M campaign for three years. The org was ready to ‘launch’ and then decided to hold citing ‘the economy’. They were worried it might be ‘insensitive’ to announce a campaign.

    To our friends at this organization (they know who they are): Don’t let ‘a recession’ determine your timeline for saving lives, changing lives and impacting lives…

    • A campaign is a time to build and maximize relationships. This begs the question, when would you NOT want to be building and maximizing relationships? We should be funding the vision – always. Note: Get more on Funding The Vision with Tom’s Campaign book.
    • You need to be out selling. If I were to put that in a softer way that might be more widely received I would say you need to be out telling the story… or even just making visits.
    • 16 months. This is how long it’s taken me to schedule a visit with my best project on one particular project. 16 months of persistence, gate keepers, put-off’s, delays. We persisted because the prospect was our top prospect (we knew/believed this). When we FINALLY got the visit the prospect thanked us for our tenacity… it turned into a $2.1M commitment. If you wait until we’re out of a recession to start ‘working the list’ what happens?
    • 4 months. This is about how long it takes from the time you ASK to the time a six-figure gift is closed. Note: This is of course a little arbitrary and a complete generalization. I took a composite of my own experiences plus stories from funding boot camp alums – representing orgs of every shape and size. My point is, if you need the money in April you can’t start visiting in March.
    • Fine. Don’t call it a campaign. If you’re that worried about perception just don’t call it a campaign.
    • December 6, 1994. This was the day Orange County declared bankruptcy. It was also the same day The Suddes Group started a successful economic development campaign in that same county. I share this and could share dozens of other stories about being out in every economic climate. I’m not just typing a bunch of empty thoughts. We’ve been out there. We are out there – now. I’m damned straight playing the credibility card on this one… now more than ever you need to be out making visits.
    • If you’re worried, be authentic. Let me assure you. No one is going to throw you out of his or her office or home because you’re there on behalf of a worthy cause during “a recession”. And, I PROMISE no one is going to ask, “How dare you come to me right now?” But, if it helps, work up your response and your security blanket. “We can’t stop telling our story because of the market and quite frankly, it’s not the market that’s driving us. It’s [CANCER] [HOMELESSNESS] [EDUCATION] [HOPE] [BEAUTY (arts)].”
    • Finally, remember this is about RELATIONSHIPS, not transactions. The RELATIONSHIP to your CAUSE has nothing to do with the economy.
    • Share:

    Trends v. Fundamentals in Nonprofit Funding

    We’re asked to talk about ‘trends in philanthropy’ or ‘trends in fundraising’ which troubles me because the social sector needs more discussion about fundamentals – not trends. If you ask me to talk about ‘trends’ I will use this as a lens to highlight the lack of fundamentals – think of it as me spinning the conversation – it’s all good.

    Every business in and sector lives and breaths by fundamentals, first.

    • A clear vision/direction (illustrated a clear MESSAGE).
    • A clear revenue MODEL.
    • A clear PLAN including an understanding of the MATH (impact math and income math) to get there (e.g. goals, levels, etc.)

    As I’m writing this to compare and contrast trends and fundamentals I realize most of the trends (that get discussed) are really fads because too often they’re ‘the next big thing’ and don’t have staying power. These could include:

    • Earned Income (Social Enterprise)
    • Lance Armstrong’s bracelets
    • 5K races
    • Social Networking Funding (The Obama effect)

    Maybe if they were backed on a case-by-case basis with fundamentals they would be true trends and not fads.

    Example – Earned Income: I went to a Social Enterprise Alliance gathering four years ago. What I witnessed were some orgs starting earned income ventures without attention to fundamentals, no clear plan and no willingness to do the math to see that they were losing $50 on every widget they produced. On top of that, one speaker cautioned, “It’s hard enough to start a business with people that have their lives together let alone those that don’t.” Four years later 16 out of 17 orgs I interviewed abandoned the earned income stream – each for the lack the fundamentals outlined above.

    The reason most small businesses fail is because they don’t have a grasp on fundamentals. Nonprofits often don’t ‘fail’ in the same sense that for-profit businesses do [running out of money]. Instead, they limp along for years longer, subsidized by passion, volunteerism and employees on the fast-track to burnout (human capital model)… this unique resource model is often a masking agent for a lack of fundamentals.

    If you’re a board member, a senior staff person or development officer you can do a great service to your organization, your team and your cause by leading a discussion on the fundamentals… by leading a discussion to clarify the direction or purpose of the organization, by clarifying the model and by working through the math. This discussion is simple, not easy.


    See How Your Message Might Be Heard

    Marc Pitman/ directed us to in a pretty cool post about message. The power of a simple and visual message cannot be overstated. Using Wordle, you can upload text, a webpage or letter and it creates a visual word cloud on-the-fly.

    This is similar New York Times did on election day. [Excerpt from previous post] It reflects a methodology you can follow to build your message (sans technology). Ask everyone to pick 1-3 words that describe your impact. Aggregate and simplify to identify THE BIG WORDS.

    This tells me we talk a lot about THINKING, IMPACT and CHANGE… I’m okay with that!

    Following Marc’s message, you could also upload a letter, your site or other communication to see how your message might be heard.

    Thanks, Marc.


    Dow Drops… Not Everyone Sings the Blues… Time to Give

    On October 3 we weighed in on the economy. This was during the height of the talks about “the first bailout”. We were receiving dozens of calls and emails every day about how to respond to the economy.

    Message synopsis: Get out and visit with your best people, now more than ever. Don’t make decisions for your prospects and focus on the fundamentals (top of the list, message and the ask)… be a social entrepreneur… don’t hunker down in your bunker.

    I’ve picked three great stories that were posted in comments and emails.

    1. “It’s time to give”: From Rocky at Mission Generation

      “The man I was speaking with told me I came at the worst possible time. He had lost 200 million over the last three days. He was ready to end the meeting with that sentence when I quote the scripture below.

      And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: (Gen 26:1,12-13)

      “I said, ‘it’s time to give.'”

      “The time spent at the Impact boot camp gave me tremendous confidence. We ended up talking for three hours; he cut a check on the spot and committed to helping monthly.”

    2. Don’t Make Decisions for Your Prospects: This comes form Peter Schrappen at the Washington Health Foundation. The foundation’s largest previous gift was $40K.

      “We asked for and received a $400,000 commitment yesterday (yes, yesterday 10/9) while the Dow dropped 400 points).

    3. Be out in field and good things will happen: And finally, this email comes from Armen at the Charlotte Diocese.

      “We’ve been out in the field making visits with your encouragement. I just wanted to report that not every person is crying the blues. We’ve made many visits in the past few weeks and we’ve picked up 9 new Bishop’s Circle members [$1,000+] and a new major gift.

    These notes are all from recent funding boot camp alums. That being said, success comes not from their status as alums but because they’re out in the field, visiting with real people and having real conversations about these prospects can save lives, change lives and impact lives.

    As the media continues to pummel us with story lines about the economy just remember today’s combined message from Rocky, Peter and Armen: EVEN THOUGH THE DOWN DROPS, NOT EVERYONE SINGS THE BLUES. IT’S TIME TO GIVE!


    The Encore Generation

    The Encore Generation is one of those phrases like Tipping Point or The World is Flat. It’s sticky, captures a huge concept and has real staying power.

    This phrase comes from Wilford Welch and Tactics for Hope: How Social Entrepreneurs are Changing the World. The book is strong bid but this one small nugget about the Encore Generation really stuck out for me.

    "Something new and… powerful is happening with men and women of retirement age who are addressing many of challenges around the world. Unlike their grandparents, they can expect to live longer and stay relatively healthy and active for twenty or thirty years past retirement age. They have skills as a result of years of professional work, and may also have considerable financial resources. They know much more about the state of the world than did previous generations, are concerned and want to collaborate with others than did previous generations."

    I like the Encore Generation because it captures those on the talent spectrum looking to move from success to significance. We all know the boomer population is turning into the boomer senior population… what an encore!

    We’re also seeing more and more Encore Generation involvement in the social sector:

    • As organizational mentors: At a level more engaged than ‘board member’ but not one of executive staff.
    • As transitional leaders: Stepping in 2-3 days a week to right the ship for an organization in lead.
    • As ‘sales officers’: Particularly those that came from a sales field – driving funding.

    What I also see happening is the pairing of Encore Generation and Gen Y. The first of Gen Y grew into adulthood under the dot-com bust, 9/11 and Enron. It’s a population that doesn’t know or understand ‘stability’… it only knows change. Gen Y’s are also the first generation to be completely proficient with the web, openness (globally) and technology – and while it has a stigma for being coddled I think any young generation has unparalleled ambition. The Encore Generation teaming with Gen Y – tons of ambition plus the wisdom to fail fast – will have an incredible impact.

    Tactics of Hope: Book | Blog | Website


    9 ACTIONS to Change Your Organization

    Change can be difficult. A lot of the organizations we work with are 40, 50 or even 100 years old. Speaking openly and broadly to those organizations looking to make a change or transform, I would give the following advice:

    1. Make Visits: This is pretty simple. It doesn’t say make a leap to Major Gifts. It doesn’t say role out a ‘culture of philanthropy’. If, as an organization, you simply resolve to make visits, that is — get out, visit with prospects and stakeholders and share your story, present the opportunity to help — most organizations would find themselves completely transformed after one year (or even 100 days) of this commitment. It’s often difficult to “turn the battleship” so let’s start with baby steps. As an organization, commit to making visits.
    2. Get 3 Entrepreneurs “On Board”: Entrepreneurs know how to make things happen. They don’t ask the “what if question”, they ask “What else can we do?” They burst through barriers. They bring the kind of attitude and vision an organizations needed to grow. Entrepreneurs embrace change.
    3. Start Thinking… Stop “Re-Thinking”: Most organization never really stop and take a timeout to think about the really big questions like “Why do we exist?” Regarding re-thinking, most organizations come together and have retreats to create more and more plans and if you look at it, we’re really just re-thinking the same things over and over.
    4. Change People: One of Tom’s favorite quotes is “It’s easier to change PEOPLE than it is to CHANGE people.” Kets de Vries (via Tom Peters). So don’t try to change people. Actually put in different people to help the organization change. This is not a reflection or a judgment on the current people, it’s just that change sometimes requires change.
    5. Think Bigger: We can’t limit ourselves to what’s been in the past. See 9 Big Board Questions.
    6. Create Your Own Reality/Create A New Reality: We become what we think about. Part of this is about vision. I’ve watched hundreds of times as an organization clearly defines where it wants to go. It makes a decision to think about itself in a different light. All actions and decisions end up framing themselves around this reality. Often the change I see as an outsider is that an organization simply learns to think about itself differently and all the pieces then fall into place.
    7. Identify Strengths – Give Them Steroids: A couple thoughts on this. One, regarding Marcus Buckingham (Soar With Your Strengths), find the things you’re doing really well and try to do a lot of it. But two, stop the things we’re really bad at that consume our time, energy and effort and have little to no return at the impact end and/or the income end.
    8. Cook the Cows: The “nonprofit” world is full of sacred cows. (What’s a sacred cow? Look at any ‘nonprofit conference’ and the list of topics – for starters). Almost everyone knows that a lot of what nonprofits do doesn’t make any sense (read Tom’s ebook: Change [the] Rules). Yet, we continue to do them because it’s the way it’s always been done. Don’t do something if it doesn’t make any sense.

    9. Stop Special Events: I’ve watched dozens and dozens of organizations find a transformation in this idea alone. (1) Stopping special events frees up a ton of staff and volunteer time. (2) It requires that we do something different. (3) It really boosts morale and (4) it forces change.

    Napkin Notes – Nov 9

    Napkin Notes Nov 9

    New Book - This goes to 'the community' Think Better / On Amazon Nick Fellers AFP Speaking/keynote this week Visual Data - Very Cool Blog Yep, we're going to go twitter

    Napkin notes are remainder ideas/links, one-liners and chicken-scratch insights that haven’t been fully developed (yet).

    • Started reading this week. Great design, insights – had not heard of the website before.
    • A message is not what you say. It’s what someone hears…
    • Been speaking at a lot of AFP’s. I’m starting to think of the social sector in two (very) different silos: social entrepreneurs and the ‘afp-crowd’. Two types of orgs, types of conversations and ways of thinking. Speak to AFP-ers about CHANGE And SE’s about THINKING BIG(ER).
    • If you like visual data and design, check out and respectively. Also found ‘The Big Picture‘ – a blog about macroeconomic stuff, the world… full of valuable reading.
    • “She only gives to events…” – said by one of my coaching clients (Donna 😉 ). I had to challenge this. People don’t give ‘to events’… they give to your cause, your org, the feeling/emotion/IMPACT. More than that, ‘she only gives to events’ was an assumption.
    • Starting to use more for more informal thoughts and quick conversations – especially with training camp alums and long-time readers.
    • Picked up Tactics of Hope this week, one gem in the book only gets one page but is a HUGE concept: The Encore Generation. Those that are 60+ and heading back out for an encore – to change the world.

    • Reading Think Better: One of those books purchased for the title alone. Started out awesome – need for better thinking, stories about better thinking, etc. Middle of book gets really into process/tactics.

    New e-book: Change (the) Rules

    Yesterday, Tom was in Colorado Springs speaking to the AFP with Robbert Egger about Change. Today, I’m at AFP in NW Ohio talking about more of the same. However, I think Tom had more gumption. He put together an entire e-book on change 🙂

    Change (the) Rules (DRAFT) includes all the ‘no-mores’, quotes on change and lots more vocabulary. Tom and I have both been framing our discussions around this quote from Tim Kight:

    “Every Organization is Perfectly Designed to Get the Results that it’s Getting.”

    Our message, this book and just about everything else we’re doing is about CHANGE, specifically the CHANGE we make to get different results…. Change RULES!


    Change Your Vocabulary

    Last week I re-posted ‘stop being a not-for-profit‘. This week I want to re-post another one of the posts from the ‘way back’ (first composed in 1998 and revised several times since then).

    Change Your Vocabulary

    If you get the whole change in thinking from ‘not-for-profit’ to ‘for-impact’ then here are several other CHANGES to help you change the way you think. More than some ‘language game’ this is really important stuff — it represents a completely different attitude!

    Not-for-profit FOR IMPACT
    Charity PURPOSE
    Mission Statement MESSAGE
    Survival VISION
    Inform INVOLVE
    On the board ‘ON BOARD’
    Competition COLLABORATION
    Donor (Donation) INVESTOR (INVESTMENT)
    “Warm fuzzies” RETURN ON INVESTMENT
    Transactions RELATIONSHIPS

    You can also download the PDF


    Simple Message(s) – Powered By Group – Powerful Visual

    Check out this tool at Choose one word (not six) to describe your feeling.

    I wanted to share for three reasons:

    1. Really cool
    2. This reflects a methodology you can follow to build your message (sans technology). Ask everyone to pick 1-3 words that describe your impact. Aggregate and simplify to identify THE BIG WORDS.
    3. Power of language. One, two or three words tells the story. Right?

    Stop Being a Not-for-profit

    Stop being a not-for-profit.

    Why do we define our selves in the negative? It makes no sense. Does your organization exist to ‘not make any money’? Or, does it exist to save lives, change lives and impact lives?

    Stop defining yourself by what you’re not. Start defining yourself by what you are for: impact.

    More than a shift in language we need a different way of being.

    This shift is about attitude. It’s about your purpose (the WHY). It’s about re-thinking an entire sector (or two).

    In 1950 Earl Nightingale wrote The Strangest Secret to Success. The secret (common to many beliefs, all sectors and all definitions of success): "We become what we think about". What becomes of us when our entire thinking is about nonprofit? What if we think instead about changing the world?* What becomes?

    Then there is some great thinking from Peter Drucker who wrote, "Every organization has to prepare for the abandonment of almost everything it does." That’s powerful. We agree. A lot of ‘stuff’ needs to be abandoned**.

    Think not and be not about: Think and be about:
    • Charity, 501c3
    • Tin Cups,

    • Not-for-profit OR for-profit

    • A cool business/entrepreneur- changing the world.
    • “Selling your Vision”
    • For Impact!

    *The Movement: We’ve been sharing this message for the last 15 years and living it for longer than that. The past few years has given rise to an incredible conversation around this VOCABULARY and CHANGE: Social Benefit (Drayton). Social Entrepreneurs/Enterprise. Pierre Odimyer and other change agents are putting resources into ‘for-profits’ that change the world. comes out and says they will have a ‘for-profit’. It’s no longer about not-for-profit vs. for-profit. It’s about For Impact.

    **Abandonment (a start): Direct mail. Lengthy Case Statements. Feasibility Studies. "Volunteer Solicitations". Survival Pitches. Small thinking. Cultivation. Special events (that aren’t special and don’t raise money). Letters that read “We are a 501(c)3” (who cares?). Committee Reports….


    In Defense of Raising Money

    Today, Seth Godin highlighted: In Defense of Raising Money: a Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs. Authored by Sasha Dichter, Director of Business Development for Acumen.

    The manifesto is five pages long and only takes a few worthwhile minutes to read.

    Read the piece. My commentary (an attempt at adding value) is below.

    • “People think that asking for money is all about asking for money.” Sasha says it’s not. The resources come second. This is reinforcement that IMPACT DRIVES INCOME, not the other way around.
    • “People think that storytelling is a gift, not a skill.” I think the skill comes in understanding how to be authentic. You’ve seen a lot of “effective” story tellers and some of them stink at “telling stories” yet they are so darned passionate they’re still effective because people still see the story.
    • “Money = Power”. Nothing to say – Sasha has an AWESOME perspective on this.
    • “I’m terrified you’ll say ‘no.'” I agree with Sasha, get over it. Be more terrified someone will not be fed because you didn’t ask.

    Sasha closes with a call for a new language/vocabulary around fundraising. “If nothing else, then, we need a new word. Fundraising is about a transaction – I raise funds from you, you get nothing in return.”


    I’m currently a fan of “Advancing the Vision.” And, while it may sound academic in some circles, those that ‘Advance the Vision’ can be Directors of Advancement or something similar. That’s what you do.


    The Irrational Investor

    In my experience, maybe 1 out of 40 prospects will be completely irrational. He or she will ask off-the-wall questions – to which ‘coming out of left field’ would be an understatement. The prospect may even appear to be apathetic toward making a difference (at all/ever)… or maybe on a power trip. This is The Irrational Investor.

    Many people spend A LOT of time (years?) prepping for The Irrational Investor. That prospect keeps you in your office planning, prepping, scheming, waiting always until tomorrow.

    • “What if they just aren’t into saving lives?” (are you kidding me?)
    • “What if they want to see our financials from seven years ago?” (they’re making run a fool’s errand)
    • “What if? What if? What if?”

    Stop focusing on the irrational investor.

    Like an exotic animal, the Irrational Investor DOES exist. However, you cannot and should not be focusing on 1 out of 40. You need to focus on the other 39 — RATIONALE investors – the prospects (individuals/corporations/foundations) that want to save lives, change lives and impact lives… the prospects that want to have real conversations… with YOU.

    Think about it:

    • You’ll never have enough info: Seriously, even if you came back with the 3rd quarter financials from seven years ago you would then be asked for something else crazy. You’ll never have enough for an irrational investor so don’t even try.
    • Opportunity cost: Assuming you are doing something to change the world then how many families are missing out on your programs? Students missing out on an education? Or, advances toward a cure? Why does the irrational investor get to hold everything up?
    • Laugh it off: On the VERY RARE occasion that you do come across an Irrational Investor just laugh it off. Make your presentation, get a good story from the visit and then keep follow-up really simple…
    • “We become what we think about”: What a miserable life it is to think about The Irrational Investor. So don’t.

    This concept is freeing for many training camp attendees. If the Irrational Investor is holding you up, let me offer an assurance (again): just about everyone you meet with be and act like a real person. They don’t bite. They want to have an impact. They’ll love the logic of your presentation and help if they’re qualified (… if you ask).


    Do You Believe… or Know?

    “Looking back to when we started this organization two years ago I believed we were doing good things… but now I know we’re doing good things.”

    I was on the phone with Nancy (training camp alum) yesterday when she shared this thought. It’s very profound.

    Nancy started a college access program two years ago. If you’re not familiar with the college access model here’s the napkin message: helps students get to college. (Note to our college access readers: don’t debate me on the message – you’re making it too complex).

    Nancy and her organization are on fire… lots of impact, lots of income. Her statement about moving from believing to knowing is one that can probably only be made in hindsight, it’s very honest and deeply philosophical (google: ‘belief’ and read the first entry that comes up).

    When Nancy believed the organization was doing good things a lot of great stuff happened. It just didn’t happen nearly as fast… advances weren’t nearly as bold. Now, the world needs to watch out. As Nancy said, “Now I’m moved by a very deep connection to purpose and not just hope [that we’re doing something good]” Again… powerful.

    Nancy’s next quest is to get each of her board members to move from belief to knowledge. She’s going to get each of them connected to the purpose. She’s going to show them the impact. They’re going to meet the kids that have been changed by this program. This is another reinforcement of the idea that impact drives income.

    This conversation with Nancy triggers so many thoughts:

    • How can you come to KNOW you’re doing good? Changing the world? Saving lives? Transforming lives?

    • You need to move from belief to knowledge BEFORE your visit. During the visit is not the time to take that leap.

    • Unlike other instances, when it comes to PURPOSE, belief and knowledge can be a flexible position. We are human. We need to be reconnected with purpose and have that knowledge reinforced. Heck, you could be a surgeon and save someone’s life one day and wonder about your vocation/purpose the next. Knowing your purpose is, by definition, absolute but we should not assume it to be permanent. Keep testimonials at your desk… keep pictures… keep sharing these with everyone else!

    • Re: The ASK. This is why you need a clear funding plan to share with your best prospects. A whole different level of engagement if I believe my gift could be great or if I KNOW how my investment will help with the plan (to save lives, change lives and impact lives).


    Put A Wrapper Around It And Sell As An ‘Initiative’

    Put a wrapper on it and sell it as an ‘initiative’.

    Increasing enrollment in economically distressed areas is a mouth full… but what if it you called it an ‘urban schools initiative?’

    (Case management + domestic violence counseling + parenting skills workshops) is hard to explain to funders (and nobody wants to fund case management because nobody’s really sure what it means)… what if all this together were our ‘healthy families initiative?

    Think about the great works you do that don’t fall under a clear project, program or priority and then put a wrapper around it and give it a new name… a new initiative… a way to FRAME your impact.

    This is more than just window dressing and buzz talk. It’s you taking credit for what you do and explaining in a way that communicates the totality, the gravity, the impact of your greatest ‘activities’ that don’t fall cleanly into a bucket.

    “We have a scholarship program and everyone wants to fund that but we need to replace the tiles in our hallway and add another janitor.” So what you’re saying is one of this year’s PRIORITIES is funding a WORLD CLASS LEARNING ENVIRONMENT.

    “We do research and everyone wants to come on board once a trial seems to work but we need to fund our operations for all the other projects.” Ahhhh.. so what you’re saying is you don’t do operations. You do INNOVATION. Let’s drop the annual fund. As of today it’s the ANNUAL INNOVATION FUND!

    In Tom’s campaign book he refers to one of the 33 campaign lessons – #4 EVERYTHING’S A PROJECT. This is what he means. You can put your arms around anything and make it a project, priority, program or… an INIATIVE.

    Action: Do a brain dump to answer the following this question – “Where does the money go?” Most of you will start to create a list… a long list — put a wrapper around some of that stuff – choose a cool descriptor + initiative. Give the descriptor + initiative a price tag and then (like Emeril): BAM!

    We do this exercise at Training Camp. Here is a list and result from a recent attendee:

    • Research best practices for educating kids.

    • Research state content standards.

    • Write lessons and curriculum.

    • We periodically have to review the curriculum and make updates.

    • Print the curriculum.

    • Market to teachers, nationally.

    • Develop a system for teacher feedback.

    • Salaries

    • Develop a professional development course to support teachers.

    • Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Each item alone is – blah. But here’s what we came up with to communicate these priorities, succinctly…

    1. R&D ($130K)
    2. Publishing ($80K)
    3. Integrated Health Initiative ($230K)

    Does number 3 need some explaining? Sure. Is it better than everything else up there? You bet.


    For Impact Films: Strong Bodies Fight

    This summer we launched a new venture to produce some For Impact films. Long time readers and friends will find the first film to be a very natural fit: Strong Bodies Fight. Kudos to Mark and the team that are making this film worthy of its entry to Sundance later this year.

    Strong Bodies Fight

    Since 1931, the University of Notre Dame Men’s Boxing program has provided young men with an opportunity to train their bodies and minds while raising awareness and support for the Holy Cross Missions in Bangladesh, a country the size of Wisconsin home to 150 million people, half the population of the United States.

    In May of 2008, for the first time ever, a group of 5 students broke the barrier between an ideal and its practical impact, traveling across the world to see the fruits of 78 years of sweat and blood and come face to face with their anonymous brethren. This is their story–one of hope, solidarity, and education.

    Produced by Mark Weber and William Donaruma

    Ass. Producer Patrick Ryan

    Cinematography by John Klein

    The trailer is out and the team has a great feature in Notre Dame magazine. Read the feature for a great piece about the Notre Dame Bengal Bouts story and boxing program. Tom is coaching again this year – his 35th consecutive year. (He’s also the ‘man in the ring’ at the start of this trailer.)


    Special Address – On Third Sector Funding & The Economy

    Listen-on-demand: Special Teleconference – Recorded Friday, Oct 3, 2008

    What the financial crisis means to “nonprofit fundraising” and how to respond.
    With Tom Suddes, a 35-year veteran of the third sector.

    In the past two weeks we’ve received hundreds of questions about the economy, funding plans and financial uncertainty. Tom Suddes has prepared a special session to address these questions including:

    • What a ‘bailout’ and economic uncertainty mean to your organization.
    • How to respond (based on field experience from other economic crisis and field experience over the last six months).
    • An action plan including a conversation on the fundamentals which become increasingly important in a downturn.

    As is always the case, Tom presents this ‘state of the sector’ as a challenge to change — giving listeners the clarity to move forward and a ‘shot in the arm’. The presentation lasts 30 minutes followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.

    Click To Play:

    Download MP3 | Transcript (Word Doc)
    Who this is for:

    • Board members and your best champions/benefactors
    • Development directors and development staff
    • CEOs, Presidents and Executive Directors

    The Credit Class and The Asset Class

    As American’s we are suckers for debt. Credit cards, houses, student loans. We’ve known the financial meltdown was coming for a while – just didn’t know when, the rate at which it would hit or how particular dominoes would fall.

    One thing that’s clear – the landscape for debt will change. We’re going through an adjustment now. I think it’s good. I just hope that what we’re seeing now is the band-aid being pulled from the skin quickly and not very slowly – with prolonged pain.

    There are those that will be hardest by this adjustment: "the credit class" and those that will experience changes more than pain: “the asset class”.

    Note: Similar to the Rich Dad / Poor Dad principle around assets vs liabilities.

    When you think about the credit class and the asset class it’s actually pretty easy to imagine who would fall into each. Younger generations are distanced from the great depression, have only known ‘free credit’ and use the credit to facilitate a lifestyle – great house, great car, great education. Older generations have the house, remember the depression (or stories about it from parents), are more cautious and conservative, have been successful, etc.

    The asset class is not always old and the credit class is not always young. The point here is two-fold. (1)Think about WHO falls into the asset class and (2) Not EVERYONE falls into the credit class. Now is a great time to be visiting with the asset class. This could be those that are moving from Success to Significance. The asset class will be impacted by the financial crisis – but not paralyzed. In fact, having been with many, many individuals, business owners and families from the asset class they see this as a time of opportunity – to buy cheap assets! They aren’t consumed by paralyzing fear. They haven’t ended their giving (quite the opposite) and NOBODY is out visiting with them (right now).

    Said differently: Yes, don’t be surprised to see some of the annual fund/events money dry up. The $20/month is more than likely coming from the credit class – not the asset class. Now is the time to go and visit with the asset class.
    Now is the time to CHANGE.