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For Impact | The Suddes Group

Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

The For Impact Fellowship

For 36 years, For Impact has been creating and supporting levers for change behind the most important causes of our lifetime, including climate restoration, international development, health care access, health equity, community resilience, education reform, reproductive rights, and social justice.

In support of these causes, For Impact has helped raise more than $2 Billion! Perhaps more importantly, we’ve provided leadership development and fundraising training to more than 10,000 leaders from every state and 40+ countries.

The For Impact Fellowship is a key part of our commitment to transforming the sector — to develop the next generation of talent necessary to change the world!

What is the For Impact Fellowship?

The For Impact Fellowship is a paid one-year employment program that mentors individuals with promising leadership potential. Fellows will receive intensive training.  They will work ‘in-the-field’ on funding campaigns, and they will engage directly in sales (think: selling a mission or vision — fundraising), owning a portfolio of prospects. Fellows will receive intensive training and mentorship in the areas of:

  • Sales / Major Gifts Fundraising
  • Message Building
  • Team Building / Leading
  • Entrepreneurial Thinking

The myriad of connections and priceless experiences Fellows gain will advance any career path.

Does this describe you? We created this fellowship to fast-track the development of the person who feels a general or a specific calling to help others. These are people who:

  • Know they have strong interpersonal and communication skills (excellent writing abilities are a must) — but school didn’t fully show them how to leverage and apply those skills.  
  • Are entrepreneurial, in that they’ve started and built programs — or even a business — in the past. Even if they didn’t succeed!
  • Feel the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ They don’t need to have a clear direction for their energies (that’s why we developed this fellowship!), but they feel restless — they need to get busy making an impact in the world (somehow).

Fellowship Details

  • Fellows will be full-time employees of For Impact | The Suddes Group. One fellowship will be based at our headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, and the other will be based at our Denver, Colorado, office.
  • Fellows will be paired with a For Impact Partner to work on projects throughout the U.S. (so… there will be travel).
  • Fellows will be paid an annualized salary of $40,000, and receive standard health, vision and dental benefits, as well as vacation and sick time, and can participate in other really cool benefits.
  • Fellows are responsible for their own housing but we will support the housing process with recommended locations.
  • Application is open to all but we are looking for individuals with a college degree (any field of study), two years of work experience and/or a partial or completed graduate degree (in any field of study).  Work experience does not need to be in the not-for-profit field.

How does the application process work?

Our selection process will begin July 1, 2019 and operate on a rolling basis until we’ve identified two emerging leaders. We’ll be evaluating candidates through several steps:

Application: Submit a resume, as well as a cover letter that shows your thoughtful – and authentic – explanation of: 1) Why this Fellowship is right for you; 2) Your passion for changing the world; 3) Anything else that’s important to share about your story. Send these materials to

First Interview: An in-depth video interview with our Director of Talent, Jessica Gemm, so we can talk about what’s behind your application (and a few additional questions we’ll have), and answer your questions about the Fellowship.

Second Interview: A final interview with our President, Nick Fellers, and his senior partners Traci Bruckner in Ohio and Steve Elder in Colorado.

References: Conversations with a few key references to understand different perspectives on your background, contributions, and potential.

Fellowship start dates will be flexible.


Contact our Director of Talent, Jessica Gemm –

Help Us Find the Right People

To send us a recommendation for a potential Fellow, contact

Visit Strategy – Put more energy and focus into predisposition and follow-up

A solid and complete visit strategy has three parts:

  • Predisposition (before).
    Predisposition is what you do before the visit to set the context for the visit.

  • The Visit (often including the ask).
    Strategy about the visit focuses on how you will navigate the flow of the conversation toward your goals.

  • Follow-up (after).
    Most commitments are generated through timely and persistent follow-up.

So, the context of a visit is set before you visit with the prospect using predisposition and the outcome is cemented after the visit using follow-up.

Think about how much focus and energy you devote to each part of the strategy. For most of us, it looks something like this:

Compare that to this image, which spends more total energy on the prospect strategy by putting more energy into predisposition and follow-up:

It’s natural to focus our attention on the visit, since it’s where the emotional connection happens – we gear up for that and then exhale after the visit. The visual above helps us to be deliberate in our focus. Most of us need to be investing a lot more energy into predisposition and follow-up.

For each top-prospect-strategy ask yourself, “What else can we be doing in predisposition and follow-up?”

  • How can we use our champions (more) before or after the visit to create excitement? Or to validate our project? Perhaps it’s a simple phone call placed as part of the follow-up strategy: “Thank you for taking time to meet with Nick. I’m invested in this project and just wanted to share how important it is to me and offer to answer any questions you might have. Thanks for your consideration!”

  • Can we send something else, before or after the visit? Perhaps we make a care package containing copies of testimonial letters from those impacted by our work. What if we sent a package to arrive 24 hours before our visit?

  • Get them to campus! This can be literal or it can be useful as a metaphor. Get them to see your impact as part of the predisposition and/or follow-up strategy!

Sample Visit Schedule

“How should I structure my time?”

Once an executive or senior development officer makes a commitment to sales this is the question that’s often asked.

Recently, we interviewed For Impact alumni and past clients who have demonstrated great success with the For Impact (Sales) approach. This sample visit schedule is a composite of several calendars we studied. It demonstrates the PRACTICAL routine and focus for a true salesperson.

Coaching Notes:

  • Green and Red Time. Green represents time inside the sales process doing the activity related to predisposition, making visits and follow-up. Red time is planning, prep and strategy time.
  • Use the calendar to manage activity.EVERY successful salesperson we interviewed used their calendar to manage activity. They scheduled routines and blocked out time (sometimes months in advance) to think and prepare.
  • Focus and Routine. I’m often asked how much time sales should take. That’s a difficult question because it doesn’t take much time at all. (In fact, this calendar only blocks out 20% of the time!) Instead, it takes two things: Focus and Routine. On the IDEAL calendar, visits are focused on one day of the week. The ideal week rarely happens but the best salespeople know how to FOCUS their time.The other highlight is a daily routine to answer emails, adjust calendar and priorities.For more on focus and routine read: Batching, Flow and Focus.
  • Block time for strategy.

    A big, important WOW – actually block out time for strategy! We rarely schedule time to THINK but it pays off, big time.

  • The Math! What’s not apparent is the math that drives this schedule.At first glance four visits (in a week) might not look like much — if sales is your job. But it all adds up, if it becomes a routine.Suppose you did:
    • 4 visits per week
    • 3 weeks out of the month
    • 11 months out of the year.

    This would be 132 visits per year!

Focus, Batching and Flow


“Effective executives do not splinter themselves. They concentrate on one task if at all possible.” – Peter Drucker from What Makes an Effective Executive

To be effective at fundraising — to generate RESULTS — you do not need a lot of TIME, but you need the ability to FOCUS your time.

Again calling upon Drucker’s wisdom, he observes that effective executives “consolidate their ‘discretionary’ time into the largest possible continuing units.” They BLOCK their time around a task.

Here are two scenarios:

Scenario A: Executive devotes 20% of her week to fundraising activities. Scenario B: Executive sets aside two 4-hour blocks in her schedule to focus on fundraising activities.

Scenario B will be more effective every time.

I have books, stacks of research papers, and years of observation to support this; one interesting nugget that summarizes it all is from Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work:

“The problem… is that when you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task.” This creates Attention Residue.

AND it turns out task-switching requires enormous energy! We have to redirect millions of circuits in our brain — in effect — loading a new activity into our conscious mind. That takes real mental energy, and we can only do this so many times in a day until we are faced with task-switching fatigue.


We should also think about how we block time to focus. It’s not reasonable to carve out large chunks of time for each task. However, we can carve out time for similar types of mental activities, which is called ‘batching.’ Here’s a great story about Wharton professor and author Adam Grant (also from Deep Work).

Though Grant’s productivity depends on many factors, there’s one idea in particular that seems central to his method: the batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches. Grant performs this batching at multiple levels. Within the year, he stacks his teaching into the fall semester, during which he can turn all of his attention to teaching well and being available to his students. (This method seems to work, as Grant is currently the highest-rated teacher at Wharton and the winner of multiple teaching awards.) By batching his teaching in the fall, Grant can then turn his attention fully to research in the spring and summer, and tackle this work with less distraction.

Grant also batches his attention on a small time scale. Within a semester dedicated to research, he alternates between periods where his door is open to students and colleagues, and periods where he isolates himself to focus completely and without distraction on a single research task. (He typically divides the writing of a scholarly paper into three discrete tasks: analyzing the data, writing a full draft, and editing the draft into something publishable.) During these periods, which can last up to three or four days, he’ll often put an out-of-office auto-responder on his e-mail so correspondents will know not to expect a response. “It sometimes confuses my colleagues,” he told me. “They say, ‘You’re not out of office, I see you in your office right now!’” But to Grant, it’s important to enforce strict isolation until he completes the task at hand.

My guess is that Adam Grant doesn’t work substantially more hours than the average professor at an elite research institution (generally speaking, this is a group prone to workaholism), but he still manages to produce more than just about anyone else in his field. I argue that his approach to batching helps explain this distinction. In particular, by consolidating his work into intense and uninterrupted pulses, he’s leveraging the following law of productivity: High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus). If you believe this formula, then Grant’s habits make sense: By maximizing his intensity when he works, he maximizes the results he produces per unit of time spent working.

For you, batching might look like this:

  • Monday / Tuesday: Focus on visits.
  • Wednesday: Focus on follow-up and next week’s predisposition.
  • Thursday/Friday: Batch together (if possible) administrative duties.

I generally try to batch in half-day increments with some time in between to respond to emails. Effectively, this creates three ‘batches’ per day. Today’s batch looks like this:

  • 7:00 – 10:00 Work on writing about sales culture (for website, book, clients)
  • 10:00 – 1:00 Focused time for RESPONDING to incoming requests and administrative requirements (including meetings)
  • 2:00 – 5:00 Scheduled time to follow-up with prospects.

Or, if you’re both a manager and someone in charge of fundraising you might consider the Maker’s Schedule / Manager’s Schedule.


Many readers are familiar with mental state called ‘FLOW.’ It was termed by University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. Most people think ‘FLOW’ is about productivity, but that’s actually not the point. FLOW is first and foremost about personal fulfillment and satisfaction. We are MOST fulfilled when we’re immersed (read: FOCUSED) in something that is deeply challenging. This ‘state’ is what is termed flow state.

EAP: Everything’s a Project

From the archives – This is a piece our founder, Tom Suddes, wrote in 2010. I’ve found myself using the EAP framework a lot these past few weeks. Thought it would be a great time to share with our readership.

Here’s a very simple way to get stuff done: Make EVERYTHING A PROJECT!

This simple concept, guiding principle if you will, is for anybody who is trying to achieve a goal, make a quantum leap or change the world.

This idea has been developed over the last 10 or 15 years within our company and with our clients. It drives everything we do.

Here are the 8 steps of every PROJECT:

  1. Team Leader
  2. Project Team
  3. Goals
  4. Resources
  5. Barriers/Constraints
  6. Time Table
  7. Measurement
  8. Action Plan

Shorthand takeaways:

  1. Team Leader. Obviously, critical decision. This pick needs to underscore the idea of ‘WHO’ not ‘HOW’! The right Team Leader will do whatever it takes to reach the project’s goals. They will be collaborative coaches… but also be able to make decisions. Paraphrasing Bill Gates, the strategy for a given project must be in one person’s head.
  2. Project Team. This is all about TALENT. Diverse. Eclectic. Focused on strengths. Clear roles.
    *Steve Elder, a For Impact Partner and one of the best ‘Team Leaders’ ever, also says, “If your Project Team can’t fit in a mini-van, it’s too big.”
  3. Goals. Clear. Concise. Compelling. Must define ‘success’. Believable. Achievable. Always better if big, hairy and audacious. *Goal should translate into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  4. Resources. People. Money. Tools. Support. Internal and External. Need vs. Want.
  5. Barriers/Constraints. Direct tie to Resources. Scope. Budget. Size. Simplicity. ‘White Space’. Rule of 3.
    *ANYBODY can do just about ANYTHING with an UNLIMITED BUDGET and NO TIME LIMIT! Constraints are what makes this a project.
  6. Time Table. Not just a CONSTRAINT, but a way to set benchmarks, control flow, create AFE’s (Action Forcing Events).
  7. Measurement. Again, Benchmarks. Sub-Goals. Critical Path. Accountability. Evaluation. Opportunities. And more.
    *Ancient cliche, but still rings true: “You GET what you MEASURE.”
  8. Action Plan. Use these first 7 steps to create a simple, understandable, measurable ACTION PLAN that allows for constant FEEDBACK (adjustments, pivots, reallocation, etc.) and FEED FORWARD (Focus on the goals, etc.)

Some things we’ve learned:

  • Hollywood. These projects can be like a Hollywood movie. You bring together the most talented people you can, without regard to the department or org chart. Everyone comes together for a movie project and take it from concept to finished film. Then they disband and start again.
  • ‘The Ticket Is Printed’. One of my favorite Disney ideas. When they put together a project and project team for a new ride/experience, the project team is given a date (deadline)… and then told that “The ticket is printed!” In other words, there’s going to be a line of kids (and their parents) waiting on that given day to get on the ride. (Therefore, it better be done.)
  • Scope of a PROJECT. Can range from a $300M Campaign to a 1-Night Signature Event… and everything in between.
    • Every level of the Today | Tomorrow | Forever Model is a project (Leadership Societies, President Circles, Project Initiatives, Legacy Goals, etc.)
    • The 3 Circles/3 Buckets are PROJECTS, as well as the Programs and Priorities within each.
    • Every one of our TOP INVESTORS is a PROJECT… demanding a strategy, action plan, etc.
  • No Team ‘Meetings’
    • Rather, gather team together whenever needed for brainstorming, mind mapping, engagement, whatever.
    • Disseminate information before the gathering.
    • Quick review of goals and status.
    • Make everything actionable. (“We can actually do something when we leave.”)
    • Steve Jobs always challenged WHO attended and WHY people were in a meeting.
  • 3 Parts to a Project.
    • Finally, here’s a great thought from Steven Pressfield’s terrific book, Do the Work. He says that “Every project can be divided into 3 parts: beginning, middle, end.
    • Then he simply says, “Decide what comprises the beginning, the middle and the end… and then fill in the gaps!
    • He also says to constantly ask this question, “What is this damn thing (PROJECT) about? (What’s the goal? What’s the theme? What does success look like?)”
  • CELEBRATE… early and often.
    • CELEBRATE small wins, benchmarks achieved, sub-goals reached…
    • And, of course, every FAILURE! (If you’re not FAILING somewhere within your project… you’re not pushing hard enough.)

The Roger Bannister Effect

Through the first half of the twentieth century, experts thought it was impossible for a human to run a mile in under four minutes. Then, on a rainy day, in 1954, a skinny medical student from Oxford named Roger Bannister became the first person to run a sub-four-minute-mile. He electrified the world when he ran 5,280 feet in 3:59.4.

Sir Roger Bannister passed away this weekend at the age of 88.

Bannister showed others what was possible. In the decade that followed Bannister's run, five more runners achieved a 4 minute mile. And in the next decade… now knowing that the human body was capable of a four-minute mile.. 300 hundred runners would go on to break this time barrier.

This first-of-a-kind achievement, followed by many others that replicated became known as The Roger Bannister Effect.

“If you want to understand the Bannister effect,” says high-performance psychologist Michael Gervais, “you have to understand that the brain tells stories. When most hear about an impossible feat— the sub-four-minute mile— our first reaction is: ‘Not real, no way, not possible.’ But we have a strong need to make meaning out of experience and this new reality forces us to change our story. We move to, ‘That’s crazy, far out, unreal.’ Pretty soon, we accept this new reality and shift our paradigm further and this engages imagination. We start imagining the impossible as possible. What does impossible feel like, sound like, look like. And then we start to be able to see ourselves doing the impossible— that’s the secret…”

(Excerpt from The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler)

Think about The Bannister Effect in the world of social innovation, philanthropy, and impact! What limiting stories do we tell ourselves? What is possible if we ignore those stories? What if we are the FIRST to show others what’s possible?

  • Observe — in your community — how a civic leader makes a $1M gift. Suddenly, everyone is emboldened to ask that person for $1M.
  • Don’t make decisions for your prospects!! Many DECIDE something can’t be achieved. But we only decided that on the basis that it has never been done before.
  • Use the Rogister Bannister metaphor!

    Think about your work. Perhaps you strive to achieve a Roger Bannister Effect for social innovation. What if we could show others what was possible? With changing, saving, or impacting lives?

    “Just as Roger Bannister did in 1954, we want to show others what’s possible!” – You

Strategic Plan vs. Strategic Clarity

Note: I first posted this in 2011. I’m posting again because I’m still tired of reading lengthy strategic plans that don’t derive from, or result in, real strategic clarity.

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


Strategic Plan v. Strategic Clarity

Think about the difference in these two terms.

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

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

    This should fit on a napkin.

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

    These should fit on the back of that napkin.

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

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

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

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

Over simplified? No.

Easy? No.

You haven’t taught it until they’ve learned it

“You haven’t taught it until they’ve learned it.” – John Wooden


Tied to this simple nugget, Bill Parcells (in his biography) describes a lesson from his early days of coaching. Parcells was an assistant coach under Dean Pryor. A player messed up in practice and Parcells recalls ‘unloading on the guy.’

Pryor, voice raised, cut Parcells off. “Well, you obviously didn’t go over it enough, because he didn’t get it.” The teachable moment was the first time that Pryor had ever scolded his assistant, and it happened in front of a bench full of players.

“That cut like a knife to the heart,” Parcells remembers. “But it was one of the best lessons I ever learned.” Regardless of the mistake made by a player, his coach shared responsibility for any lack of execution. The onus falls on the coach to foster an environment conducive to learning—and retaining—instruction. Over the decades, Parcells would convey this same lesson countless times to his coaches when they blamed a player for not following instructions.

Artifacts of Your Funding Conversation

The definition of an artifact is any object made – or altered! – by human beings, where the alteration gives it new meaning or purpose.

Followers of this blog and our publishing will be familiar with the concept of an engagement tool. We advocate for having a simple message and simple tool (1-2 pages, ideally).

More than that, it should feature a lot of white space so you can WRITE and DRAW on the tool with a prospect!

Think about the last time you were in a meeting and someone started drawing as a means of communication. One of you probably tried to keep the indecipherable scrawls (because they captured the experience of the idea sharing).

When you are finished, the marked-up engagement tool becomes an ARTIFACT of the conversation. Your drawing… your scribbling… gives the tool new meaning.

(It’s a hallmark of a good visit when a prospect asks, “Can I keep this?”)
Image of Marked-up Engagement Tool / Artifact
(see this example video @ 7:00 mins for an illustration)

Identifying How Decisions Are Made

Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results they are getting.

This is one of our refrains. Whereas many consulting companies do feasibility studies or manage capital campaigns, at The Suddes Group our aim is to help an organization *design* for the right results — and then help implement to get those results.

As is the case with design work and culture change, this is often messy, iterative, and complex. It requires that we identify leadership and the process by which to make necessary decisions (that will move the enterprise forward).

Drawing on several frameworks, here are the decision-making modes that we seek to identify, name, and direct.

1. Autocratic
2. Input
3. Democratic
4. Consensus
5. Unanimous

Autocratic: While this can have a negative application, there are times when a decision just needs to be made, in order to move forward quickly. Leaders of social impact organizations tend to default to building consensus, but during an organization’s infancy, or when there is no ‘right’ decision, it might require that someone ‘just make a decision.’

Input still has one (clearly defined) decision-maker, but that person gathers input from others first; this style places an emphasis on participation, listening, and openness.

Democratic and Consensus: These are similar in some ways — they both favor a majority (or highest vote tally). Stylistically, a democratic decision-making process can sometimes be polarizing (think: Congress). In contrast, consensus is about finding an option that tries to build the most bridges, and the most understanding of different points of view. Note: Practically speaking, you can see the difference in this way — a consensus-building process requires many more rounds of back-and-forth, revisions, etc.

Unanimous: This is the hardest and most time-consuming option, to get everyone involved to agree on the decision. It requires a deep commitment from the team to listen, to let go, and to move forward as one.

The power of these styles comes from being deliberate about DECLARING them and then COMMUNICATING them within a process or plan.