Just Engage


“Success is a result of Good Judgement.
Good Judgement is a result of Experience.
Experience is a result of Bad Judgement.”

– Will Rodgers

The last couple of years have been challenging and difficult…and have led to a lot of EXPERIENCES. (Good & Bad)

Now is the time to use those EXPERIENCES to focus on ‘ENGAGEMENT’!

As Goose said to Maverick, in Top Gun:


In our world, (just so there is no confusion) ENGAGE means VISIT…SHOULDER TO SHOULDER…OUT OF YOUR OFFICE… with your BEST INVESTORS and PROSPECTS.

Andy Grove, of Intel fame,has created a 3 word battle cry that changes everything,


*Remember Martin Luther King said,

“I have a dream!”

*He didn’t say, “I have a Strategic Plan.”

Newton’s Law states,

“A body in motion tends to stay in motion,
A body at rest tends to stay at rest.”

I’m no physics major, but I get this: ENGAGE means GET IN MOTION!!! You can hide under your desk because of the economy, fear, call reluctance, whatever… OR, you can buy into our IMPACT DRIVES INCOME insight and epiphany.

  • More VISITS (with BEST PROSPECTS) means…
  • More PRESENTATIONS (to Share the Story/Present the Opportunity) means…
  • More MONEY (to Fund the Vision) means…
  • More INCOME…creating much more IMPACT.

Go Forth and ENGAGE!

GUARANTEE: IF you commit to ENGAGE with your CHAMPIONS and your MOST QUALIFIED PROSPECTS… your entire organization will be TRANSFORMED!


Rules of Engagement

Here are the 9 Rules of Engagement, without any supporting text or thoughts.

1. IMPACT drives INCOME. Not the other way around.



4. Different RESULTS require a different DESIGN.







3 Ideas to Help You Ask

1. Get Something On The (Proverbial) ‘TABLE’.

  • Here’s another of Nick’s ‘BRILLIANT’ ways to make the JUST ASK point:
  • Just get SOMETHING on the ‘TABLE’.
    • Get the ‘level of engagement’… on the table.
    • Get a ‘dollar amount’… on the table.
    • Get a ‘priority or project’… on the table.

2. Get a ‘ROADMAP’ to the gift.

  • Again, Nick has been using this as a HUGE part of our training and strategy with sales teams.
  • Don’t leave the visit without a literal ‘ROADMAP’ to the gift!!!
  • “Are you in?” “What can we do to solidify commitment?” “How can we confirm amount?” Etc.

3. Try for a TRIPLE ASK on every visit!

  • In our world, the ‘best of the best’ learn how to make a ‘Triple Ask’ tied to Today | Tomorrow | Forever. They use this to answer “How can I help?”… and frame this around Annual Operations, Priority Projects and Legacy.

10 Action Steps to Help You Engage

Here are 10 Action Steps, to help you ENGAGE:




4. Create a simple, powerful PRESENTATION… STORY LINE… and ENGAGEMENT TOOL

5. Finalize your MASTER PROSPECT LIST!







An Action Plan

*Warning: It’s pretty easy to run down this list and blow off a number of these with a “We’ve already got this/done this” attitude.

If you’re truly committed to ENGAGEMENT… do these action steps to the best of your organization’s ability, in a timely fashion and as SIMPLY as possible.


  • Create a clear, concise and compelling MESSAGE… in order to ENGAGE people at the highest level of DIALOGUE… around your VISION and PURPOSE and CAUSE.


  • What is the VALUE PROPOSITION? What is the CASE FOR SUPPORT? What is the RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT? (‘Both/And’ Left Brain/Right Brain. Logic/Magic. Tangible/Intangible.) What are your PRIORITIES? Your 3 Circles or 3 Buckets?


  • Do your ‘Blue’ MATH around your Impact and your ‘Green’ MATH around your Cost of Delivery and Funding Model.
  • Here are some simple examples to get you going.
    • What would you do with $1 Million???
    • What kind of impact will a $10,000 President’s Circle investment make?
    • What does the specific impact of $1,000 have on the people you serve?

    * I know. It’s RULE #5, but it’s a different spin, and worth a repeat.

4.) Create a simple, powerful PRESENTATION… STORY LINE… and ENGAGEMENT TOOL

  • Use a Napkin, Vision Card, Map, Engagement Tool, or whatever to provide a FRAMEWORK and FLOW for the VISIT.
  • Hope is not a strategy. Selling is not telling…unless it’s a STORY! It is our responsibility to control the FLOW of the visit. The absolute best way to do this is to have some kind of one-on-one ENGAGEMENT TOOL that allows you to move from PURPOSE to PRIORITIES to PLAN… and then PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY to help!!!
  • *If you need more help with this, there are examples at www.forimpact.org. You can also contact us directly for specific assistance.

5.) Finalize your MASTER PROSPECT LIST!

  • Your Master Prospect List (MPL) is your top prospects in Descending Order of Importance! The list is fluid and the order will change. However, you need to start out with your best shot at your MPL
  • Of critical importance is your TOP 33 (the top 3 plus your next 10 plus your next 20!)
  • Once you have IDENTIFIED and PRIORITIZED these prospects, you need to STRATEGIZE each prospect in Descending Order of Importance.
  • *For much, much, much more on this entire process, see here


  • These goals need to be SPECIFIC, WRITTEN and MEASURABLE. Here are 3 Examples:

    • The ‘33 GIFTS’ Plan. (Example)
      • We will ENGAGE with our TOP 50 PROSPECTS in order to generate 33 COMMITMENTS, which will provide 90% of our funding needs!
      • This will be a SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY.
      • E.g. We will generate $5 Million from:
        • 1 Gift of $1 Million
          2 Gifts of $500,000
          4 Gifts of $250,000
          10 Gifts of $100,000
          16 Gifts of $50,000+
          33 Totaling $5 Million
    • The ‘Spartan 300’ Plan. (Example)
      • We will ENGAGE with our BEST 300 prospects (including our Top 33), which will generate bags and buckets of money to Fund Our Vision.
      • E.g. We have (3) members of our SALES TEAM, and we will collectively make 30 VISITS (ENGAGEMENTS) a month for 10 months (using August and December for R&R).
      • We will use a 3x3x3 goal which challenges us to collectively make 3 visits a day, 3 days a week, 3 weeks out of the month.
    • The ‘1,000 ENGAGEMENT’ Plan. (Example)
      • As a larger For Impact organization with 6 committed Relationship Managers, we will make 1,000 VISITS/PRESENTATIONS this year.
      • Each of our 6 Relationship Managers will have a Portfolio of 300 Qualified Prospects. Each of us will make 167 VISITS/PRESENTATIONS (ENGAGEMENTS) this year.
      • We will average 15 QUALITY VISITS a month and do all of the appropriate preparation, predisposition and follow-up.
      • We will do ‘DISCOVERY’ on every visit and with every prospect. We also commit to make the FULL PRESENTATION around the TRIPLE ASK for TODAY, TOMORROW and FOREVER (Annual Operations, Campaign Priorities and a Legacy/Planned Gift.)
      • *20% of these 167 visits will become our TOP 33 gifts for each Relationship Manager.

7.) Commit to better PREDISPOSITION.

“I can’t get a visit.”
“They haven’t returned my call.”
“They won’t see me.”


  • None of these excuses are acceptable in THIS ENGAGEMENT MODEL.
  • Do better PREDISPOSITION to set up the VISIT. Get your best prospects to a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE… and then FOLLOW-UP!
  • You are away from any QUALIFIED PROSPECT! Use your Board, Natural Partners, and WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!


  • Set up your next month’s visits right now!
  • Don’t ‘think’… DO! Once you have your Funding Plan and ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY laid out… EXECUTE! (ACT!)
    • ‘10,000 PUSH-UPS’
      • Use this ‘Push-Up’ analogy to help reinforce ACTION.
      • If you commit to do 10,000 push-ups a year, the SIMPLEST and most SUCCESSFUL way to achieve that goal is to do 30 PUSH-UPS A DAY. (1 set. 3 sets of 10. 2 push-ups an hour the 15 hours you’re awake. Whatever.)
      • To reinforce this point even more, let’s say you wanted to do 63,000 push-ups a year. (1,000 push-ups x your age). The SIMPLE EXECUTION is 3 sets of 63 a day…every day.
      • The point is that you can’t skip 3 days… or you’re screwed. You can’t wait until June to begin. Nor can you wait until November to make 100 visits (because you’ve only made 3 visits a month up until then).


  • STOP ‘CULTIVATING’! (Spreading manure on your prospects). Start to SHARE the STORY on every VISIT. PRESENT people the OPPORTUNITY to HELP!!
  • Remember: They get more out of helping you than you get from helping them!
  • Special, Special Action Note: Start by CHANGING THE WAY YOU TALK!
  • THINK Impact, Cause, Philanthropy, Investors, Investment, Presenting Opportunities, Visits, Predisposition, Sales… and, of course, ENGAGEMENT!!!


  • Again.

Look Back for Feedback

Take a few hours to review last year’s RESULTS!

List all of your ‘SOURCES OF REVENUE’… and the COST (EXPENSES) to generate that REVENUE.


(Direct/ Indirect)
NET $$$
Direct Mail/Annual Fund
Special Events
(Golf, Gala, etc)
Planned Gifts

*Be sure to include ALL PERSONNEL COSTS under Indirect Expenses.
(If you want an even bleaker picture, include ‘volunteer hours’!)

The point of this exercise is to reinforce the concept of ENGAGEMENT (VISITS with your best PROSPECTS) as the most cost effective way to generate the most INCOME. You also might use this to review the ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES of your team.

REMEMBER: The GOAL of every Development/Advancement Office is to write a net, net, net check to the IMPACT side of the organization. (The ‘Green’ people help the ‘Blue’ people)


Show. Listen. Engage.


We have pioneered the use of a simple, visual ‘ENGAGEMENT TOOL’ to replace your PowerPoint, brochures and existing material.

  • The GOAL is a simple, visual ‘TOOL’ (MAP) to help present a powerful CASE for SUPPORT… on a ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ VISIT.
  • The PURPOSE of the Engagement Tool is three-fold:
    • It is a specific, visual way to ENGAGE the Prospect in CONVERSATION and DIALOGUE. (Thus, ‘Engagement’ Tool vs. ‘Presentation Tool’.)
    • It’s a great FRAMEWORK for the VISIT/PRESENTATION.
    • It puts the ‘CLOSE’ (HOW YOU CAN HELP) right in front of the Presenter(s) (Sales Team) and the Prospect.
  • The STRATEGY with the Engagement Tool is to CONTROL THE FLOW of the Presentation! (Think of it like Linus’ Security Blanket!)
    • NOT a ‘brochure’!
    • NOT meant to be a ‘stand alone’!
    • NOT a ‘collateral piece’!
    • NOT a text-heavy, small print, multiple-page ‘document’!
(Don’t Tell)
(Don’t Talk)
(Don’t Pitch)

Engagement Tool: Notes and Thoughts

* Following are notes and thoughts to help you understand this at the conceptual level… as well as how best to USE the ENGAGEMENT TOOL to produce ‘closes’, ‘commitments’ and ‘cash’.

  • It grabs their attention! The SIMPLICITY and VISUAL nature of this ‘piece’ is so totally different than most material being used on Visits (which are not designed for one-on-one Presentations!)… that it commands attention! (Most likely, this will be the first and only actual ‘Presentation’ Tool for your organization.)
  • It is all about the ‘REAL ESTATE’. (Location, Location, Location) Using the constraint of limited space, the Engagement Tool tries to capture an organization’s IMPACT POINTS and many of the TALKING POINTS necessary to make a great Presentation and, at the same time, provides for meaningful ‘white space’ to allow for emphasis, additions, or clarifications.
  • It actually allows for a ‘TRIPLE ASK’!!!
    (Annual Operations)
    (Priority Projects)
    (Legacy Giving)

    [As opposed to ‘cultivation’, multiple visits and never getting ‘dollars on the table’, much less ‘in the bank’!]

  • It is designed at ALTITUDE. (See here for more.)
    30,000′ Why Purpose Blue
    14,000′ What Priorities Red
    3′ How Plan Green

    We have used this ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK as an integral, critical part of our presentation FLOW with hundreds of organizations on thousands of visits. It works.

    • Start with, the WHY. Once they’re on board…
    • Move to the WHAT. Once they understand …
    • It’s on to the HOW. HOW you will execute and HOW they can help.

Engagement Tool: Altitude and Notes on How to Use

Here is a deeper explanation of the power of ‘ALTITUDE’ on a visit/presentation:

  • Always go (back) up. Nick Fellers has a really great way to use ‘altitude/elevation’ on the presentation. When training or coaching, Nick makes this very clear: When in doubt… when challenged… when questioned… ALWAYS GO (BACK) UP TO 30,000’! (The Vision…The Message…The Purpose.)
  • Get ‘buy-in’ at the highest level. As you make the Case for Support, the prospect/ potential investor needs to understand and acknowledge their acceptance of the ‘blue’ VISION and ‘red’ PRIORITIES. Sometimes this is “You had me at hello.” (Renee to Tom Cruise) Other times, it may take the entire first visit to get them to understand and agree that this is an important cause and case. Regardless, it doesn’t make any sense to talk about the Plan or How They Can Help if they don’t ‘get it’ at the highest level.
  • Dissent on the descent. To put this in another way, there can be no ‘dissent’ on the descent! I think of this as kind of the opposite of getting the ‘bends’. If a diver ascends too quickly, they get a case of the ‘bends’. It’s painful and many times life-threatening. During a presentation, the prospect can get the ‘reverse-bends’ if you descend too rapidly. “Hello. Thanks for seeing me. Here’s our campaign Can you give $100,000?”
  • ‘Permission to proceed’. We have actually incorporated this specific terminology into the presentation. (It’s actually the words used to complete a ‘transfer’ on a high ropes challenge course!) “It seems like you’re fully engaged with both our Mission and our Message. Would it be okay (permission to proceed) to go deeper and talk about our Strategic Priorities and our Plan to make all this happen???”
  • Altitude is not always top-down or hierarchical. You can ‘enter’ at any level. You can focus on any level. You can travel up and down… and even side to side, especially when you’re using an Engagement Tool.
  • Learn to draw! The Engagement Tool is meant to be used with markers, colored pens or some writing instrument. You can add visuals such as arrows or circles or words as you use this framework. Write on it! It encourages participation and conversation!
  • Ask questions! Again, since this is all about ENGAGEMENT, CONVERSATION and DIALOGUE, the Engagement Tool should allow for multiple ways to ASK QUESTIONS!!!
    • 1. The ‘Blue’, 30,000’ Question:
      “What do you know about… our Organization/our Current Vision/New Goals?”
    • 2. The ‘Red, 14,000’ Question:
      “Which one of these ‘3 Circles’ (Priorities) is most important to you?”
    • 3. The Green, 3’ Question:
      “Based on your understanding of the Purpose, Priorities and Plan… would it be okay to talk about how you can help?”
  • Transition is important: Always use questions to transition from the levels of dialogue or engagement. E.g.
    • “What does your involvement with (Org) mean to you?”
    • “Did you have a unique experience at (Org)?”
    • “Are you willing to be a ‘CHAMPION’ for (Org)?”
    • “We are asking everyone in our family to help in 3 ways. Can we go there?”
  • ‘Permission to Proceed’
    We also call these ‘transition questions’ – because they TRANSITION within the flow.

    • “Would it be okay?”
    • “Would it be possible to?”
    • “At this time, I’d like to talk specifically about the Funding Plan if that’s okay with you.”
    • If there was a poor job of predisposition, you might even be able to get away with: “I know we didn’t come here today to talk about numbers but it certainly seems like we’re in sync about the projects. Would it be okay if I were to share the Funding Plan?”

    Asking for permission to proceed allows you to be comfortably assertive.

  • Customize it. Put the person’s or company’s name at the top, write in the specific Priorities or Projects to be funded, or whatever.
  • Leave it with them. Many Prospects will actually ask if they can keep this ‘visual’ representation. You can leave them ‘their’ copy… with all the handwritten notes… and a clean copy that they can share with others (if needed).
  • Fold or front/back. You can fold the Engagement Tool so only the ‘blue’ is showing. Keeps their attention/focus at 30,000’! (Then, I open it to ‘proceed’).*We also have put a (Campus) MAP or ‘drawings/sketches’ of Building Projects on the back.
  • Size matters. We (almost) always use this as an 18 x 24 or at least an 11 x 17. Plenty of room to write, draw, etc. Plus, you can stand up, move around and ‘engage’ your way through the Framework.
  • Finally, PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. The more you use the Engagement Tool… the better you will be able to control the FLOW of the visit. And, you will figure out what works and what doesn’t.

O.G.’s Notes: The Need to See Prospects

I love the magazine Selling Power (mostly just because I love the idea of sales). Gerhard Gschwandtner is the founder and publisher of Selling Power and has had a tremendous influence on my thinking. The subtitle of the magazine is “Solutions for Sales Management,” and they provide a lot of solutions!

I was skimming an old issue (May 2005) looking for more stuff on PROSPECTS and came across this article by Geoffrey James called:


Post-9/11 Everything Changed EXCEPT THE NEED TO SEE PROSPECTS!

(Those are my caps and my exclamation point.)

Here are the guts of the article:

  1. “It’s never been more difficult to get through to an executive to make a FORMAL APPOINTMENT.” In our For Impact World, we deal with that in a number of ways. Most importantly, we don’t look for a “FORMAL APPOINTMENT”
  2. but rather a VISIT!!! ‘APPOINTMENT’ (especially a ‘FORMAL’ one) immediately triggers your synapses to think ‘DOCTOR!’ Or, worse, ‘DENTIST!’
  3. “You have to do a better job of making prospects want to see you.” The way we do that is making a big, big deal of PREDISPOSITION!!!
  4. The absolute best PREDISPOSITION for all of us in the For Impact World is to actually bring the ‘prospect’ to where you deliver your service. Let them SEE, TOUCH, HEAR, SMELL WHAT you do. Make it palpable. Make it memorable. Make it an experience.
  5. “Once you do get in, however, you’d better be prepared to build a LASTING RELATIONSHIP.” WOW! As most of you know, our GOAL with all of our PROSPECTS is to create a RELATIONSHIP … ideally a LIFETIME RELATIONSHIP … and, then MAXIMIZE THAT RELATIONSHIP …AT EVERY GIVEN MOMENT!

The article goes on to talk about working to get a ‘VISIT.’

I love their “warning:”

“Working this system requires PREPARATION and PERSISTENCE.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


O.G.’s Notes: Learn By Going

I was re-reading some stuff by Julia Cameron, who is one of my favorite writers, authors, thinkers. (Her ARTIST’S WAY is one of my favorite books and favorite gifts.)

Julia shares a terrific quote from poet Theodore Roethke that fits perfectly into our focus on ENGAGEMENT!

“I LEARN by going where I have to GO.”

“Where you have to GO”is on VISITS with QUALIFIED PROSPECTS.

P.S. If Roethke is a little existential for you, listen to Brian Tracy, one of the world’s best sales trainers, writers and thinkers, when he summarizes all of sales training into this ‘SIMPLE’ challenge:


In Suddes-speak: ENGAGE!


Everybody Has a Plan Until First Contact With The Enemy

I hope you have all now seen or read one of our absolute favorite quotes by Andy Grove:


We’ve been astounded over the years by how many people PLAN, PLAN, PLAN … RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH … CULTIVATE, CULTIVATE, CULTIVATE</br> …</br>and never ENGAGE!


Perhaps these two quotes by a legendary warrior/philosopher and a not-so-legendary boxer might also help.

Sun Tzu
(The Art of War)

Leon Spinks

The ‘PLAN’ is not the answer.

GET OUT AND ENGAGE. MAKE FIRST CONTACT! (It’s not the enemy!) GET HIT. (Make visits. Take your best shot.)

Your ‘PLAN’ will be a thousand times better after you have had this first contact and gotten hit than it is right now if you’re writing it in your office or conference room or in a bubble.


O.G.’s Notes: 100 Visits in 18 Days

Jim Yoder is one of my closest friends (since our days together at Notre Dame) and a former partner of The Suddes Group. Jim has been running/managing large campaigns for over 20 years.

When he was working on a $1.5M Campaign for Economic Development (over 5 years) in a small community in North Carolina:

He spent 3 DAYS …



working on the Funding Initiative.

He made:

100 VISITS!!!


Oh, and by the way, Jim had never met any of those prospects/potential investors personally before he made those visits … AND he Presented the Opportunity for them to make an investment (JUST ASK) in almost every single instance!

I told Jim that 100 visits in those 18 days was more than most Development Officers and Major Gift Officers Make in a year.



O.G.’s Notes: You Can’t Screw Up, If You Show Up

My partner and President/Leader of For Impact | The Suddes Group, Nick Fellers, is a borderline genius. Smart. Action-oriented. Authentic.

He has many great lines, but I heard him say this on the phone once and it just struck me as so freakin’ right on in his role as COACH.

“You can’t SCREW UP … if you just SHOW UP!”

While Nick was speaking with one of his coaching clients, I think that message needed to get out to everyone.

Before you can JUST ASK.



You need to SHOW UP! (JUST ENGAGE!)


Raising Money with Martial Arts Wisdom

It happens at every organization, every day, every where. A founder, executive director
or fundraiser is trying to gather support (financial and otherwise) from someone, such as
a board member or community leader. He or she should be the perfect prospect and easy
visit … instead we encounter ‘objections.’

I’ve always struggled with this concept: objections. We have a terrific opportunity. The
people with whom we visit (prospective investors) WANT to SAVE LIVES, CHANGE
LIVES and IMPACT LIVES. What are widely viewed as objections are more often (1)
real questions, (2) ways of saying “I don’t understand” or sometimes even (3) “I don’t
understand but I want to help so let me suggest a lot of stuff that I’ve seen work

How you address these situations is critical. For that, turn to philosophy + martial arts.
Turn to Aikido. Aikido translated literally means “the way of harmony of life energy.”
It’s a form of martial arts in which you join incoming thrusts and redirect them with
minimal effort
and without inflicting harm on the aggressor. According to Aikido’s
founder, it is literally the Art of Peace.

If you get a zinger of a question or a response that could take you off course – work with
it. Don’t try to ‘oppose it.’ Don’t get defensive. Raising your hands to block a person
means you absorb the blow … you literally have to push back with equal and opposite
force (wasted energy) to absorb the blow. Instead, practice Aikido and redirect the
incoming zinger back to your impact, your message or your plan.

Note: Politicians practice Aikido every day. Watch ANY political debate. Instead of
getting defensive when a tough question is asked, the politician redirects toward his or
her message.


Stop Trying to Get an Appointment

I cannot begin to count the number of times we have been told/asked “This is all great, but… we can’t get an appointment. They won’t see us. How do we get in the door?”

Our first response is always the same: “Stop trying to get an ‘APPOINTMENT’!”

The word ‘appointment’ itself is a problem. It conjures up visions of doctors! Worse, dentists!

Think about the idea of a VISIT. This is not just semantic gymnastics. It’s a mind-set. A VISIT implies friendship, conversation, mutual desire to be together and much more.

You can read this in a melodramatic tone:

Stop trying to get APPOINTMENTS… with DONORS… to ASK THEM FOR MONEY!

A simple vocabulary change creates an entirely different dynamic.



OGs Note: A Story to Get you Started

The most visits I’ve ever made in one day is 13. Here’s the story…

Jim Frick was my boss and mentor at Notre Dame. As Vice President for Development, Jim was one of the early pioneers in the college and university fundraising arena.

One day at a meeting with the entire Development Team, he was encouraging (in Jim’s case it was more exhorting and prodding) the five Development Officers to get out and make more visits.

He said he had made 12 visits in one day… and couldn’t understand why we weren’t making more visits.

I was a ‘young pup’ Regional Director of Development. I was also pretty competitive. I decided I was going to try to break Jim’s record. I set up 13 visits in one day in Indianapolis. I asked my two best Champions and Natural Partners to help me set them up. It turned into a ‘game’. I was running around downtown Indianapolis. Never got in a car. Had a number of people meeting me in Bill McGowan’s office. Started with a 7:00 a.m. breakfast and finished with a 7:00 p.m. dinner.

Visits were brief and not very productive. I think I might have raised $50,000 or $75,000 that day. All about QUANTITY over QUALITY


Our 3X3X3 strategy is a practical and productive approach to this paradox. 3 visits a day… 3 days a week… 3 weeks out of the month. This allows a full-time Major Gift Officer or Development Officer to make 25 to 30 visits a month… and allows quality time for setting up the visit and for follow-up.

Getting a Visit is both an ATTITUDE and a ‘SKILL’ (or even better a ‘SYSTEM’).

With that said, I’ve tried to summarize 40 years in the field (20 of them trying to get ‘appointments’… and the last 20 having much more success getting ‘visits’) in a way that will help you get visits with your best prospects. Following are some nuggets and ideas framed within


I hope this helps.


The Visit Story

Perhaps your process to get a visit goes like this:

[A phone call or email from the ‘development officer.’]
“Could we come and see you to talk to you about our annual campaign?”

There IS a story here … But it’s a BAD (VISIT) STORY.

  • Development
  • Annual Campaign
  • No ‘WHY.’ No ‘IMPACT.’

Here are some thoughts to help you create a GREAT (VISIT) STORY.

  • Go back to our core message: Impact Drives Income. WHY are we visiting? WHAT are we trying to do [IMPACT]? WHY do we want this person’s time? Is it to ask for money? Or, is it to help change lives, save lives and impact lives?
    • “We are visiting with people to talk about HOW to transform education in our community.”
    • “We are engaging key stakeholders in a conversation about the future of health care in our community.”
    • “This is a movement; you are part of it. We have light years to go to change [insert cause]. This is an important conversation and we hope to have thousands more like it throughout the country …”
    • “We will be sharing where we’re going and asking for your help.
  • The story you tell yourself is AS important – if not MORE important – than the story voice. You must BELIEVE this is a phone call to change and save lives. If you believe this, your SPIRIT will trump any script. If you don’t believe this, a script will not help.
  • Be Assumptive.
    Nobody wants to have a visit to talk about money.


    And yet, some $300 Billion is given away in the US each year.

    Why is this?

    Because just about everybody wants to make a difference. Just about everyone wants to help.

    Everyone you’re meeting with (or hoping to meet with) WANTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD! They want to have exhilarating discussions about making a difference. They just don’t want to have a meeting about ‘giving money.’ Giving money is a means to an end.

  • Don’t make decisions for the prospects! Just a reminder.
  • Bonus thought: Part of the STORY is about the PEOPLE on the visit.

    This is a great team-selling tip: YOU are a cool person!

    Have a board member or natural partner help to open the door with this story, “You’re going to really enjoy spending 30 minutes with Stephanie. She’s a rock star … one of those people that makes us all want to do more to change the world. Stephanie and her team are amazing social entrepreneurs.”



We are professionals. We do not make COLD CALLS!

We always PREDISPOSE the prospect/potential investor to our phone call to set up
the visit… to the visit/presentation itself… and to the follow-up.


The word PREDISPOSE means exactly what it says. (Weird, huh?). We are literally (not figuratively) predisposing the person or persons in advance, to our contact.

Note: Predisposition is not ‘cultivation’! (Cultivation is when you spread manure on crops.)

Here are 3 ideas to help you with PREDISPOSITION (#1), to set up visit.

  • The Goal
  • G.T.A.: Grab Their Attention
  • 3° of Separation



The goal is to GET THE VISIT! It is not to ‘sell on the phone’!

With a really strong predisposition e-mail or letter, the follow-up phone call becomes very assumptive/presumptive!

“I’m following up on the note that you received from (Natural Partner) and I’d like to see if you might available next Tuesday morning? Or would Wednesday afternoon be better?”

This is not a Tom Hopkins (Sales Training Guru) spiel. It Works. Idea: Have someone else set up the visit! I know this is somewhat sacrilegious to many people, but I’ve found it to be the single most effective way to get visits.

*This is especially important if you are full-time Development Officer/Major Gift Officer/Chief Development Officer with a portfolio. You should be making presentations, not setting up visits.

In the predisposition note, the sender/Natural Partner simple closes the end of the note with “I have asked Phyllis to follow-up with you to set up a visit with (MGO).”

Note: I believe my ‘boss’/administrative assistant, Phyllis, can get me a visit with anybody! Having worked together for 19 years, we use this exact system. When Phyllis calls, she is not ‘worried’ at all about answering a bunch of questions or trying to ‘sell’ someone. She’s doing exactly what we communicated to the prospect/potential investor… following up.

Tip: Sometimes the easiest way to schedule is by using someone else you are visiting with that day or week. “Tom is going to be visiting with Jim W. at 10:00 on Tuesday. Could he meet with you before or after that?”

Or, use geography, “Tom will be in Cincinnati next week, and would love to spend 20 minutes with you if that works.”

*Assumes this is a trip.

GTA means be creative… set yourself apart… stand out!

One of the best ideas on this is using a ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ as predisposition.

Turn that gala/signature event into both predisposition and grabbing their attention! Actually say that evening that someone will be following up with you to set up a visit. Or, ‘cherry picking’ 50 or 60 of the very best prospects out of the 1,000 people who attended who get a very customized follow-up note… setting up the phone call to schedule the visit.

We have also used a WOW PACKAGE to ensure that the person knew how important this visit was. Rather than an e-mail, actually sending a letter, with some visuals, and then indicating that this is what we want to share or talk about. Just thinking creatively will set you apart.

Fun Note: *I’m not suggesting you go as far as the extraordinary ad man, Jay Chiat, did. He said this his secret for getting people to take his calls was to call the person’s secretary and say, “Tell so and so his DOCTOR is on the line, and I have the results of his test.” (Chiat claimed that they would rush to the phone.)

My personal favorite creative story is around that busy, always traveling executive, whose secretary/gatekeeper always responds with, “Sorry, he’s traveling or he’s out of town.”

I simply ask the gatekeeper where the prospect’s next trip is going to be. She always asks, “Why?” And I respond, “Because I’d like to get a ticket and just fly with him so that we can talk while he’s on the plane!” (It’s really hard for someone to not be engaged at 30,000’. And, if you can get them on the window and you get the aisle, you can ensure there’s nowhere for them to go.)

The whole Kevin Bacon, 6° thing is just wrong. It’s been determined it’s actually 2.78
moves or connections between Kevin Bacon and any other actor.

Please pay attention: You are only 3° away from anybody who is a QUALIFIED PROSPECT!

First, it is very important that you note the term ‘QUALIFIED PROSPECT’. That means that there is a STRONG RELATIONSHIP to your CAUSE or CASE. (It does not mean a ‘relationship’ with you or another individual!)

Then, IF they are truly QUALIFIED PROSPECTS… you can use your NATURAL PARTNERS (Champions, Board Members, Key Volunteer Leaders, other Current Investors, etc.) to make the contact and the connection… and help set up the VISIT!!!

Here is the best way to explain this.

I am only 3° away from the Pope, the President or the Prime Minster of Israel.

I reach out to one of the most amazing human beings on the planet, Fr. Ted Hesburgh (with
whom I had the incredible experience of working with on the Campaign for Notre Dame). Fr.
Ted calls someone in the Vatican… who then sets up meeting with the Pope.

To get to the President, I simply hit speed dial for Dick former Governor of Ohio, Ambassador
to India, President of Colorado College and now Senior Counsel with The Suddes Group. Dick
has Bill Clinton on his speed dial. Bill calls President’s office and sets up visit (since he worked
really hard to get President elected,)

For the Prime Minister of Israel, I call anyone of a handful of Jewish leaders that we have
worked with and ask them to make a phone call or reach out to someone in Israel who can
then reach out to the Prime Minister. (I know. Probably not a good time to do this. He’s busy.
Just trying to make a point.)

One last story. I am only One Natural Partner away from the Dalai Lama.

At an international conference, I poured (fire hose?) my energy, heart and soul
into a keynote talk. Afterwards, a wonderful woman came up and said, “Thank
you. I learned so much… I will never forget this day.” Then she put her long
white scarf around my neck and said, (BTW) “My brother is the Dalai Lama.”

*If you want more on this, there are two great books on this phenomena, 6 DEGREES by
Duncan J. Watts
and LINKED by Albert Barabasi.


Team Selling

As you can see, this PREDISPOSITION thing is about TEAM SELLING.

This simple visual should give you an even better understanding of how this works.



To get a visit (for the Sales Team), you can set up the visit by using:

  • The Actual Sales Person
  • A Strong Support Person
  • An Even Stronger Natural Partner

This is the opportunity for your board, volunteer leaders or campaign leadership to do something that they can do and then even want to do (especially if you give them a choice of ‘asking for money’ or ‘setting up a visit’!!!)

You can use all members of your stakeholder group to help get the visit. It could be your CEO, President, a well thought of doctor, a key dean or faculty member, a teacher or coach with 25 years of relationships… whomever.

This is also a wonderful way to engage your current investors and build upon their relationship! Have them make the call to set up the visit for you … and if they’ll go with you, that’s awesome. If not, that’s okay.

*Look at the examples in the outer circle of Natural Partners… and determine who would
be best ‘connector’ to get visits for your very best prospects.


OGs Note: Practice

Julia Cameron is one of my absolute favorite writers, authors, and thinkers. She shares this great quote from Theodore Roethke.

“I learn by going where I have to go.”

The best way to set up a lot of visits is to set up a lot of visits.

‘Practice’ as it relates to getting visits, is to actually ‘practice’ what you’re going to say, how you say it, how to respond, etc. Then, go where you have to go – on the phone, working through your ‘words’ to get the visit.

Here are 3 ways to think about this idea of PRACTICE.

  • The Message and the Words
  • Handle Objections
  • Do the Work


One of the best books I’ve read recently is ‘PRACTICE PERFECT’ by Doug Lemov. One of his big points is that the best teachers and coaches focus on small and seemingly mundane aspects of the work… especially on the right ‘words’ they use!

The idea here is to actually practice/test, the ways and the words.

  • Keep it simple. (Again, goal is to get visit!)
  • Keep it at 30,000’. (High altitude. No detail on phone.)
  • Keep it about the ‘story’. (Selling is not telling, unless it’s a story!)

Commit to being able to articulate your message… clearly, concisely, compellingly…in :30 seconds! Then, add ‘story’ after they have responded.


Important to be able to pre-think (not sure that’s a word but you get my point) how you’re going to handle the normal objections.

  • “I’m in. We don’t have to meet.” (Response could be as simple as “I know you’re in. We just haven’t met in a while and I have some really cool stuff to SHOW YOU around _________, ____________, __________.”)
  • “What is this about?” (Response: “We have a plan called Vision 2015 that I would love to share with you. You are one of our most committed Champions and we really want to get your feedback.”)
  • Why do we need to meet?” (Response: “We’re meeting with Community Leaders, like you” or “I really want to show you how we are presenting our Message and Story…”)

Bottom Line: We need to convince them that we need a little bit of their time… for a really big impact.


Steven Pressfield’s DO THE WORK is another one of those great books that captures everything you need to know on the cover/in the title.

In this case, SOMEONE just has to DO THE WORK. Block out 90 minutes. Get on the phone. Make your calls. Do the follow-up. Do the work.


Phone Tips From a Pro

Anyone making phone calls to set visits will benefit from these GREAT tips from Nicole, a
For-Impact visit-setter extraordinaire. Share these with your team to sharpen skills and boost
confidence before picking up the phone.

  • Be Authentic. It’s not about following a script, but about putting it in your own words.
  • Your passion shows through on the phone.
  • Don’t think of the reasons why they may not give. Think of the reason they WILL give.
  • You cannot play out every scenario in your head of the questions that you will receive on
    the phone. Just make the call and see what happens.
  • It’s OK to not have all the answers and to say, “Let me find out about this.”
  • It is all about the change/impact that the prospect can have on the organization.
  • Your prospect may already support you and are champions for your cause. You do not need
    to sell them on the cause.
  • Learn as you go.
  • The best way to start is to pick up the phone and call.
  • In case you only have a few minutes on the phone and they do not want a meeting, know
    in advance the message you want the prospect to take away from your call. You may be the
    only opportunity to talk about the impact/message.
  • Every investment has an impact.
  • Never perceive you know the prospect’s capacity. Let them tell you.
  • Based on your conversation, some people will be inspired to send in a check without
    needing to meet.
  • Everyone wants to feel that they are making a difference.
  • And, the more predisposition letters you send out, and the more calls you make,
    the more impact it will have.


Everything good in life doesn’t come easy or just happen. Getting a visit takes FOLLOW-UP and PERSEVERANCE.

Here are 3 things that might help you with this.

  • Attitude Is Everything
  • Whatever It Takes
  • Yes or No


Getting a visit is all about SFP: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy! If you’re trying to a get an ‘appointment’ with someone you are convinced doesn’t want to see you… that’s exactly what will happen.

The person responsible for getting a visit must go at this with the attitude that the:

  • Qualified Prospect wants to be with you.
  • Qualified Prospect wants to hear the opportunity.
  • Qualified Prospect will be the big winner after the visit.

This ‘attitude’ will come through on the phone.

Special Note on Authenticity: You cannot mess up a contact to set up a visit if you
are authentic!!!

  • “Really important that we meet with you.”
  • “Been trying hard to set this up because of urgency, importance, etc.”
  • “Sorry we have missed connecting so often, I’m feeling like a stalker.


I know. Old and cheesy coaching cliché. However, if you take ‘perseverance’ and ‘attitude’ down to the ‘how’… the answer is to do WHATEVER IT TAKES! Call back until they tell you not to call anymore. Stay in contact until you’ve got the visit set up. Call in all of your SUPPORT team. WHATEVER IT TAKES.

3.“YES OR NO?”

We have something we call the ‘RESPONSE TREE’. Usually only 3 answers once you get through on the phone:

  • “YES.” Awesome. Get date and time set. Follow-up with a note to confirm. Send
    any additional predisposition (#2) material for the actual visit itself.
  • “MAYBE.” “What else could I do that might help you decide on getting together? I can meet you anywhere, anytime. Would it help if you spoke with (Natural Partner) to understand more about why they are engaged with us?”
  • “NO.” If this is No – No time but still likes your organization… then you could send them a President’s Circle invitation or even a really strong follow-up letter… with a request.

    If it’s a No – “No, can’t really see this as a priority, don’t have the financial wherewithal to help”… then you would send a nice ‘thank you’ and MOVE ON!


Voice Mail


My primary response to the question of VOICE MAIL is that it is a function of authenticity.

I believe it is appropriate to leave a voice mail on the first follow-up call:

  • Referencing the predisposition.
  • Leaving a return number.
  • Indicating that if you don’t hear back, you will call again on (day).

After that, it’s a combination of authenticity, good judgment and professional perseverance.

  • “Sorry I missed you again. Let me know a good time to catch up. Text or my e-mail is _________.”
  • “I know we keep missing. I also know how important this is to you. I’ll keep trying until we connect.”

***This is another example of ‘Practice’… and thinking out the exact words you can use.
Nothing worse than hemming and hawing and fumbling your way through a voice mail.


Order of Visits

Deciding the ORDER of your visits is very different from simply starting at the top of your Master Prospect List and working your way down.

‘MO-CO’ – ‘LEAD-CO’ – ‘CO-CO’

Begin like Archimedes on his best day by trying to LEVERAGE your commitments… building on each previous visit and commitment as you move along.

Here’s one way to look at this: ‘MO-CO’s,’ ‘LEAD-CO’s’ and ‘CO-CO’s’:

  • MO-CO’s are MOMENTUM COMMITMENTS. These commitments are not necessarily about magnitude or size but rather ‘COMMENSURATE’… ‘SURPRISE’… and ‘STRETCH’.

    These are the ‘EARLY ADOPTERS’ who get it, buy in, and provide the MOMENTUM to get going.

    In Good To Great, Jim Collins’ world, we would call these ‘FLYWHEEL’ commitments. In order to get a FLYWHEEL moving, it takes a lot of energy at the beginning… but once there is some ‘MOMENTUM’… the wheel flies.

  • LEAD-CO’s are about LEADERSHIP COMMITMENTS that literally TRANSFORM the organization or the project or the campaign. These are ‘Top of the Pyramid’, lead gifts that create a sense of “We can do this.” Many times they prove that our best prospects/investors have ‘stepped up’, and now it’s up to the rest of us.
  • CO-CO: CONNECTOR COMMITMENTS. Going after some of your most important ‘CONNECTORS’ early on is a terrific strategy to not only get their financial commitment (which may or may not be significant) but also to generate REFERRALS and STRATEGY on getting visits with your best prospects.

Take Massive Action

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we will use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!


A ‘Campaign’ is all about ACTION. The literal translation or definition of a ‘Campaign’ probably has its provenance with Napoleon and War. As any great general or military leader will tell you, success in war is about MASSIVE ACTION – NOW.

We’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of organizations screw around for years trying to figure out what to do, when to do it, where to hold the kickoff, etc. There are great organizations out there who, right now, are still debating the “impact of the economy and the recession,” or “somebody else has kicked off a campaign in our community” or “our donors are tired and maybe we should wait” and on and on. UGH!

CHALLENGE FOR THE DAY: What are the 3 ‘MASSIVE ACTIONS’ that you could take RIGHT NOW that would cause an EXPLOSIVE EXPONENTIAL JUMP or a QUANTUM LEAP for your organization?


Then, GO DO ‘EM.


The Elevator Pitch is Dead

“What’s your elevator pitch?”

The lore of the elevator pitch comes from the early days of Hollywood when one would hope to trap an executive in an elevator and ‘pitch.’ The Elevator Pitch is an enduring shorthand that represents the simplest description of what you do.

You need brevity and simplicity… but simplicity alone is not your goal! Your goal is to get the other person to say, “I get it!” or “I want to learn more!”

The Elevator Pitch is dead. What we aim for is Elevator Engagement.

We achieve our goal more effectively and efficiently if we focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds (even if succinct), think about one great question you can ask the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.

At our boot camps we do an exercise to illustrate that you can actually communicate WAYYYY more in 60 seconds by simply asking one or two questions than you can by talking (however concise you may be). It works because:

  • In asking a question, you start with the other person’s construct (or gestalt!).
  • We become fully engaged when we are talking. So, the simple act of getting the other person to talk changes the level of engagement. (This is Dale Carnegie 101!)
  • If you start with a question, you immediately learn what is pertinent and non-pertinent. You can use a short amount of time on relevant information.
  • Finally, we can position our work in their words. LISTENING is one of the most powerful selling skills in the world.

Earlier this year we were helping an organization make a neuroscience pitch to a foundation. The executive director was asked to appear before the foundation board and ‘make a pitch’. We had to reprogram her default, one-way pitch, to instead starting with a question to the panel of eight. She simply asked, “Has anyone ever had experience with a stroke, or a family member that’s had a stroke?” The board chair raised his hand and then spent two minutes talking about the importance of neuroscience research. Others jumped in. They were engaged — fully.

The executive director was able to simply build on the conversation. Though she had eight slides prepared, she found she only needed to use three of them (in response to the conversation). The board said it was one of the best pitches they had ever received – that’s because she didn’t pitch; she engaged.

She was awarded the grant!

Nota bene: There are many circles (usually tied to funding communities, e.g., silicon valley and nyc / financial) where a ‘pitch-deck’ is standard affair. Don’t let the ‘pitch deck’ put you in ‘pitch mode.’ As in the neuroscience story, you should focus on engagement. And, of course, we’re partial to the one-page pitch deck!