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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

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.

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.

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).

If You’re Out There…

Nick and I knew we were on the right track with our Now More Than Ever message. What actually amazed me is that the is an incredibly high number of people who have responded with actual stories of raising significant dollars… by just being out there! Many are giving us some credit for the motivation and the message, but really it’s about their willingness to get out and JUST ASK!

So far, no one has written in and said they had a bad visit, or that economy was the major issue.

Remember, if you’re not out there… you really can’t weigh in on this discussion.

Giving USA Data Reinforces People Still Give When Economy Down

Steve sent me a great report by Giving USA about fundraising and hard economic times. Steve’s summary of what organizations need to do during tough economic times boiled down to:

“Your loyal investors and leaders are more important than ever.”

Ditto. Echo. Agree.

The report is great RESOURCE for your board, your senior staff and your development staff. (Contact Giving USA to order a copy $45 – Issue 3, 2008).

Some quick highlights:

  • Total giving has increased in current dollars in every year but one since recording began.

  • When the economy shows stress, whether it’s a recession or not, giving may grow more slowly… but it’s important to note that giving still grows!

  • Giving USA suggests under a heading of What Organizations Need to Do, that the most important step is to ask people for ‘contributions’ (Their word. Mine, obviously, is investments.) in a clear and focused manner.

    They go on to say to work closely with the board and to develop and follow a plan! As they say, it’s easier to stay focused and maintain momentum with a plan.

  • Here’s the closing line. “News reports often focus on negative stories, yet data shows repeatedly that donors continue to give during a recession or downturn and that nonprofit organizations continue to raise funds successfully!”

There’s a lot of good DATA but this line is the most important takeaway.

Transcript: 3rd Sector Funding & The Economy


This is a transcript of an address by Tom delivered on Friday, October 3. To listen/download audio or view discussion & feedback click here.

I’m a scarred veteran of 35 years of funding visions, dreams and impact. I’m not a financial expert. I’m not an economist. I don’t know the difference between macro, micro or macaroni. I have nothing to offer on solutions to this economic mess. I’m just an OLD GUY who has been in the field for all these years and wanted to share some thoughts with other For Impact Leaders and Social Entrepreneurs.

For the last 25 years, The Suddes Group has been engaged in helping organizations and institutions raise over $1 billion. In the last five or six years, Nick Fellers and I have also been involved in coaching organizations towards another billion dollars.

‘GYA’. To grab your attention quickly, I would urge you to do the exact opposite of what most 3rd Sector Leaders and Development Staff are doing right now… which is hunkering down, hiding in the office, using “market turmoil” as another fabulous excuse for not getting out and visiting and presenting and asking your best prospects and your champions to continue to invest in what you do.

I was just with a wonderful group of dedicated development professionals, part of the Sales Team at a liberal arts college, and I used the phrase “THIS TOO SHALL PASS”…

“THIS TOO SHALL PASS…” is based on fact. The economy is cyclical. Always has been. Always will be. Full of ups and downs. You’ve just got to ride it out.

According to a recent article in Inc. magazine, I have survived 10 recessions in my life (if you count 1949 which was both a recession and the year I was born). This makes me both old and able to share some of these experiences with you.

  • I was Director of Development during The Campaign for Notre Dame. $130M Goal. $50M over goal. This was also during a “recession”. I just didn’t realize it because I didn’t pay any attention to it.
  • During an entrepreneurial stint in real estate, athletic clubs and other businesses, I had the joy in 1980 of going through Jimmy Carter’s gas shortages, high unemployment and interest rates that climbed from 11% to 22.5%!

    For perspective, I had loans totaling $6M… at 2.5% over prime… paying 25% interest. That’s $1.2M a year, $100,000 a month. (I did not have that factored into my ‘business plan’. The good news was that it allowed me to write the first 3 chapters of a book: Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13.)

  • I’ll never forget kicking off a $5M Economic Development Campaign in Orange County, California, the day after the county had declared bankruptcy! (I think we went 30% over goal.)
  • I remember going to Cleveland and working on their Economic Development marketing effort right after the mayor had also declared bankruptcy and the river had caught on fire. (Again, goal achieved.)
  • I remember, as we all do, September 11, 2001. And, I remember 9 days after those World Trade Center attacks giving a speech/talk/presentation in California with a large group of incredible staff and volunteers from the American Cancer Society. I wasn’t sure there was even going to be any flights nor that I wanted to get on one. But, I flew out and gave the talk. In essence, I said that nothing will change what happened; and that as horrible as we all felt, we had to march on… because the 6,000 plus people who had died on September 11th was the same number of people who die every single day from cancer. I told them that the work that American Cancer Society does was so important that, now more than ever, they needed to continue the Research, the Education, and the Service that ACS provides. (I’m sure you remember how the financial markets plummeted at this time as well.).

Every one wants to know WHAT TO DO. While not using these words, I think many of you also want to know how to stay positive in what are obviously negative times.

The first thing I’m going to encourage you to do is to:


“How to stay bullish in bearish times.”

I was reading an article this morning in Selling Power by Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup fame.

The article was all about staying POSITIVE in negative times.

Here are 3 ways to stay BULLISH in BEARISH TIMES.

  1. THINK BIG. Asking 10 or 100 people for a $100,000 project… is 1,000 times harder than finding the one person who loves the project and wants to see it happen.

  2. BUILD SIMPLE. The clear, concise, compelling message around Purpose, Priorities and Plan. That’s ‘all’ it takes.

    *Some fun alliteration: Complexity, Complaining and Confusion Create a Cacophony of Contradictions that Condemn a Clear, Concise, Compelling Case.

  3. ACT NOW. Don’t ‘bunker’ ‘hunker’. (Hunker down in your bunker.) Don’t hide in your office. Successful achievers in this financial climate are out making visits, making great presentations and making money (for their organization).

This Too Shall Pass

To:    All Social Entrepreneurs, For Impact Leaders & Development Staff
with less than 10 years experience.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS.  In a coaching call yesterday, a wonderful young lady on the sales team at a leading Liberal Arts college mentioned the turmoil of the market and the impact that was having on people she was meeting with.

3 Gentle Reminders:

  1. The “economy” is cyclical.  It always has been.  Ups and downs.  Ride it out.  According to Inc. magazine, I have “survived” 10 recessions in my life.  Yes, that makes me both old and able to say from experience that “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.”
  2. Not everybody has their life savings or their wealth tied up in the stock market or Lehman Brothers or AIG, etc.  (I, for one, don’t have a single dollar tied up in the stock market.  Of course, I also don’t have one dollar tied up anywhere except in our business.)  Not everybody’s house is being foreclosed.  Not everybody is waiting for their government check.

    Our very best prospects are usually smart, successful people who are trying to move from SUCCESS to SIGNIFICANCE.  Let them figure out the “mechanics” of how they’re going to do that.  Our job is to “JUST ASK” (PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY).

  3. This story either reinforces my point or is another sign of the Apocalypse.  Sotheby’s Auction House announced yesterday that the two-day sale of British artist Damien Hirst’s work raised $198 Million, a record for an auction of work by a single artist.

    The article I read from London said, “The turmoil engulfing the global financial market did nothing to dampen prices as more than 600 prospective buyers packed the showroom and others bid by phone.”  The $198 Million bought a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde ($17M), an embalmed calf with golden hoofs and horns ($18.5M), and some stainless glass and manufactured diamonds ($9.4M).

    To me, this is the same thing as one of the wealthiest people in the world putting $88 Million into what is, in effect, the Jimmy Hendrix Museum.

    The point isn’t about Jimmy or pickled sharks and butterfly paintings from Hirst.  It’s about why that money didn’t go to your FOR IMPACT ORGANIZATION.  It’s almost always because we didn’t JUST ASK.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

I just got back from Monterey, California from a session with a wonderful group of social entrepreneurs, change agents and For Impact leaders. Also, Kerry and I just got some terrific follow-up from our training session in Ireland. Based on these sessions and some very recent conversations, I would offer up the following 3 (connected) things this week:

1. RES IPSA LOQUITUR: THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. This is some kind of Latin legal term. Loosely translated by me, it also means IT IS WHAT IT IS.

  • You need more money. You expect that to happen by doing the same thing you’ve been doing. It won’t.

  • You have a toxic Board member. You expect them to suddenly turn into a CHAMPION. They won’t.

IT IS WHAT IT IS. Deal with it.

2. FACE THE BRUTAL FACTS. My good friend Jeff Bernel, who headed up the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, told this to me very directly one day at lunch. I’ve never forgotten it.

  • You’d like to have endowment to cover your entire operating budget. It ain’t going to happen. Ever. So FBF and start doing a much better job of raising Annual Operating Revenue.

  • You have a member of your staff or team that needs to get off the bus. It’s as much in their interest as yours. FBF and make it happen. Now.

3. DO THE MATH. As we say in our For Impact World, DO THE BLUE MATH around your Cause and Case and Impact. DO THE ‘RED’ MATH around your Staff, People and Operations. And DO THE ‘GREEN’ MATH around your Income, Funding Plan, Pyramid, etc.

  • Your Tuition is T. Your Cost of Education is C. T – C = G… the GAP. Know it. Sell it.
  • You have been operating at a deficit for the last five years, including a record $2.3M for the 2006-07 season.
  • Next year’s projections show a $3M shortfall on a $12.5M budget.

I’m not making this last one up. Headline of an editorial of Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch said: “DO THE MATH”. It proceeded to talk about the Columbus Symphony being “at a crossroads that will determine whether it continues or folds”. “If its members continue to avoid financial reality, the Symphony will fold, probably as of June 1st.”

From what I know, the Symphony (Staff and Board) have gone to the community leaders each year for the last five or six years with a last-minute plea to cover operating deficits. The Dispatch says that the “Musicians negotiated for wages and benefits that now far exceed the resources available…”

I think this is a clear example of a very, very good arts organization that may have failed to DO THE MATH and FACE THE BRUTAL FACTS. Community leadership has finally said they were done bailing it out. Here’s the kicker from the editorial.

“The union disingenuously accuses the Board of being derelict in its duty to seek out more donations, but the Board is realistic in its estimates of what the Symphony can expect from its benefactors.

If anything, the refusal of musicians to recognize financial reality discourages donations because it undermines the confidence of current and prospective donors that the Symphony is a sound investment.”

No kidding.

A not so gentle example and reminder to all of us to:



And, acknowledge that THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

You Will Never Have Enough Information

Remember a powerful quote that Tom and I love:

“Engage, then plan.” Andy Grove

You will never have enough information before meeting with a prospect.
If you’re waiting until you have enough then your approach would be to,
“Plan, then engage.”

I don’t know that I’m every really sure about the ratings and
rankings on my prospect list (including a prospect’s capacity and
relationship) until AFTER I’ve gone to visit with them.

The implications?

  • You can’t determine what you will ask for until you’ve had a real conversation
    with the prospect. Too many times I’ve been told by a board member or
    champion, “You can only ask for $X.” During the visit we learn information
    that would warrant a $10X ask. (So we ask for $10X!)

  • It’s okay to not know everything. You can fill in the blanks by asking

  • Wealth screening, Google, giving history etc. are your knowledge base
    – not strategies. Want a strategy? Go and visit with the prospect. Share
    the story around your impact and present the opportunity to save lives,
    change lives and/or impact lives.

  • Don’t to set a bar BEFORE you share your vision, your impact, your
    raison d’etre. Don’t make decisions for your prospect. The reason for
    sharing your story and your vision is to SET A NEW OR VERY HIGH BAR.

Here is a very powerful question – so powerful we call it the ‘DISCOVERY

After getting the prospect VERY engaged around your impact and your priorities
you can share you funding plan and ask:

“Prospect, I don’t know about your capacity.
This program will require $40,000 a year for each of the next three years.
Is this something you could do?”

After you build confidence in your approach, you can drop the line about
‘not knowing capacity.’

It’s a powerful question you’ve engaged the prospect. The answer
will provide all the information you need to plan. It’s important
that you listen, process and keep moving forward with the relationship.
Implied: Don’t ‘engage… then stop.’