Simplify Your Message

Simplify Your Message

Please, please, please. Don’t blow off this ‘LESSON’!

The SIMPLER the MESSAGE … the STRONGER the CASE/RATIONALE FOR SUPPORT. You’ve heard this from me (ad nauseam):

“If you can’t SAY IT … ON A NAPKIN … you can’t SELL IT!”
(Suddes)

‘Elevator Pitches.’ ‘One-Minute Selling.’ A ‘Napkin.’ The ‘Blue Box.’ ‘3 Buckets.’ I don’t care what you call it. Just SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE.

FUNDING THE VISION is very different than ‘BUILDING CAMPAIGNS,’ ‘CAPITAL CAMPAIGNS’ and ‘CAMPAIGN CAMPAIGNS.’ It’s ALL about the VISION of the ORGANIZATION … and tied directly to the MISSION/MEANING/MESSAGE.

A quick ‘story’ from the field: Colorado College President Dick Celeste took less than a year to bring the entire campus together for their MAPPING PROCESS (AGENDA). Out of that came these THREE THEMES:

  • RIGOROUS INTELLECTUAL EXPERIENCE
  • DIVERSE & RESPECTFUL COMMUNITY
  • NEXT GENERATION CAMPUS

Those 3 THEMES became these 3 BUCKETS:

  • BEST FACULTY
  • BEST STUDENTS
  • BEST CAMPUS

…which required a $300 Million Investment...to FUND THIS VISION.

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What’s in a Message?

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

  • Not asking
  • Not being with the right prospects
  • Not having the right message (which usually makes number 1 much easier and makes number 2 much more apparent).

Message should be simple, fit on a napkin – clear, concise, compelling. That being said,not sure we have our own crystal clear napkin definition of MESSAGE. In fact, when someone says they need help with their message, we first ask them to define what they mean.

We’ve been referring to ‘message’ as:

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

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

Think about it. UNDERSTAND. It’s not:

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

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

  • CHANGE LIVES
  • SAVE LIVES
  • IMPACT LIVES

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

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

Yes it can.

Sometimes the ‘message derivative’ could be:

  • ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
  • TRANSFORMING EDUCATION
  • ENDING CANCER

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

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

So how do you make me UNDERSTAND?

  • Be simple and don’t make me work to UNDERSTAND why your program is awesome.

    Don’t use big, complex words. Don’t be an academician. Concept everything up to its highest purpose. “Ultimately the reason we’re doing this is because it SAVES LIVES.”

    How many times do we read someone’s case statement only to SEARCH for the WHY.

    We’re not a fan of case statements – largely for this reason. However, if you HAVE to do one, don’t fall for pretty prose. Bold your message, then put a lot of white space around it to make it stand out from all the other stuff.

    Note: Google ‘Steve Jobs keynote’. The dude puts up slides with one word and or one visual – very good at making SIMPLE message points. While most of our thoughts address the 1:1 or small group setting, this shows how they can apply to a large group presentation.
  • Repetition.

    Just because the idea that you’re CHANGING THE WORLD didn’t sink in the first time you said it does not mean you should change your message.

    • Listen to any GOOD politician. She will repeat her message over and over.
    • Listen to any Zig Ziglar audio (random reference). Zig often says, “I’m going to repeat this three times to emphasize that it’s really important.”

    Key is that you don’t move OFF message just because you hit on it once.

  • Conviction

    I think repetition must be coupled with conviction.

  • Show – don’t tell.

    Sometimes it’s not about finding the WORDS to help me understand. Sometimes you just need to SHOW – either because there are no words or because you/I/we can’t find words to do any justice.

    This could be visual. Better than 50% of us are VISUAL. Use PRESENTATION TOOLS or VISUAL concepts to communicate concepts.

    For some, pictures and visuals may be just a start but an EXPERIENCE could be even better.

    We worked with a start-up school taking a very novel approach to learning. We probably visit 15 schools each year, and have never seen anything like this – kids in 7th and 8th grade would’ve outperformed most college kids. Everyone who walked the halls of the school felt/saw/understood the magic … We made it our strategy to get people to the school. We used words AFTER the visit to have a dialogue about the impact.

  • Start with ME – not you.

    This is about ME (the prospective investor) understanding. Not you. You know everything about the project and the organization and I know nothing. Of the 632 things you could say TO me, I probably only need the right THREE to help ME understand. This is why LISTENING is so important.

    At our trainings, we do an exercise where we pair up two people who have never met. They have five minutes in which person A is to communicate everything she needs to communicate to get the other person to say, “I get it. I understand what you do. I could share that with others.”

    In some groups, person A will talk – fast, nonstop for five minutes. In those cases person B looks worn out and lost after five minutes.

    In other groups person A will introduce a talking point then ask a question – allowing person B to give feedback … Person A listens and uses that feedback to share even more targeted and relevant message points … and on and on. After three minutes, person B usually says, “Got it! Really cool!”

    The point? Helping someone understand is not about talking at them.

After the SIMPLE definition there is room for deeper conversation/definition. A great message (APPLIED to FUNDING) must answer the three questions of EVERY investor:

  • WHY?
  • WHERE is the MONEY GOING?
  • HOW WILL YOU GET THERE?
    • What is the plan? AND/OR
    • What do you need from me? AND/OR
    • Why are you asking me for XYZ? (Rationale)
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No More Mission Statements

 

 
No one, and I mean literally no one, can recite their organization’s Mission Statement. This is not just true in the “Not-for-Profit” world but in the “For Profit/Business” world as well.

Mission Statements are WORDY, ALL INCLUSIVE, POLITICALLY CORRECT STATEMENTS WRITTEN WITH A THESAURUS BY A COMMITTEE.

If you don’t believe me, TEST IT! Ask three or more staff and volunteers to recite, in unison, your Mission Statement (without looking)!

 

 

*Compare this to Mother Theresa’s Mission Statement: “We must radiate God’s love.”

Your real goal is to have a MESSAGE that is CLEAR … COMPELLING … and CONCISE … and can be delivered in a CONSISTENT fashion! 

“The true Mission Statement expresses your raison d’etre, the purpose or reason for your existence. It should be the invisible life force that drives and unifies.”
Soar With Your Strengths,
Donald Clifton, Paula Nelson

It’s not just your organization that has trouble with Mission Statements. It’s a universal problem in the ‘real world’ of ‘for-profit’ business as well. (I’m wondering what ‘Mission Statements’ motivated Enron, WorldCom, Lehman Brothers???)

My favorite example is from a great company … that is 100 years old … and has a following that we all would die for:

 

 

This is my favorite company because it’s my ‘vehicle of choice’. But, this could be the ugliest, least inspiring, can’t believe they wrote it … Mission Statement ever.

However, look at the message, tagline, battle cry that is engraved, inspired or tattooed(!) somewhere on their ‘iron horses’, ‘hogs’, or bodies:

LIVE TO RIDE. RIDE TO LIVE.

You get the point.

Special Note: The Harley-Davidson mantra can be paraphrased for all your investors:

LIVE TO GIVE. GIVE TO LIVE.

It’s not about your MISSION STATEMENT … it’s about your MESSAGE.

The real goal is to have a MESSAGE that is CLEAR… CONCISE… COMPELLING… and can be delivered CONSISTENTLY.

Your MESSAGE should be able to be captured on a NAPKIN… and communicated in as few words as possible, ideally with a picture (visual).

Take a tip from the political world and STAY ON MESSAGE!

P.S. Don’t worry about trying to ‘change’ your Mission Statement. Leave it alone. It’s too painful a process. Just work on your MESSAGE!

“A customer can say ‘NO’ because the offer doesn’t apply to them; but NEVER because they didn’t UNDERSTAND IT!!!”
Jumpstart Your Brain,
Doug Hall

In our world, that means someone can say, “not now” or “not a priority” for legitimate reasons, but never because they didn’t UNDERSTAND the VISION/MISSION/ MESSAGE!!!

3 Big Keys:

SIMPLICITY BREVITY CLARITY

“WE CAN’T POSSIBLY DO WHAT YOU’RE SUGGESTING, TOM. WE ARE JUST ‘TOO BIG’, ‘TOO IMPORTANT, TOO COMPLEX’.”

It takes 3 pages just to ‘introduce’ your organization as a preface to a 30-page proposal or grant request!!! (for $10,000!!)

Think about these ‘taglines’ as a Message:

“We’ll put a man on the moon before THE end of decade.”
“I have a dream.”
“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
“He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.”
“1,000 Points of Light.”
“Just Do It.”
“Like a Rock.”
“Live to Ride. Ride to Live.”

Bottom line: WHAT’S your MESSAGE???

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Nick’s Note: Strategic Planning v. Strategic Clarity

 
I’m tired of reading lengthy strategic plans that don’t derive-from or result-in real strategic clarity.

  • In past year I have been with several foundations that have asked organizations 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 the point, then simply becomes about execution. We can coach and train people to execute.

Strategic Plan vs. Strategic Clarity

Think about the difference in these two terms.

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

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

    This should fit on a napkin.

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

    These should fit on the back of that napkin.

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

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

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

Every day I talk with someone 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.

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Make Your Vision a Reality

It all begins with VISION. Having a great VISION, a great idea that can impact the world, help people, save lives.

To make that vision a reality, you must be able to clearly articulate it. You need a CLEAR, SIMPLE MESSAGE.

Then you’ll build on that message … with the storylines, the math, and last of all, the presentation tools that put it all together to COMMUNICATE your VISION to prospective investors … volunteer leadership … your team … anyone who will help make your vision a reality.

You need to:

  • Have a clear, compelling VISION/PICTURE of the future … and your impact.
  • Be able to articulate that vision as a powerful MESSAGE … with 3 great STORYLINES.
  • Have the accompanying MATH and PLAN on how to get there.
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‘FRAMING’ … It’s a BIG DEAL!

FRAMING a message … FRAMING a story … FRAMING an issue.

FRAMING is about CHOOSING THE LANGUAGE to define the subject.

FRAMING is about FITTING priorities/issues INTO broader story lines.

This is huge. You need to THINK ABOUT the way you:

  • FRAME … Your MESSAGE (With a great story, Grand Metaphors, Visuals, etc.)
  • FRAME … Your priorities, projects and programs
  • FRAME … both your CAUSE and your CASE

WHY do I think this is IMPORTANT???

Because the bottom line is you’re FRAMING your IMPACT … the IMPACT which drives your INCOME!

SHARE THE STORY PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY

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Altitude Awareness

We use an Altitude Framework to order thinking, communications and storylines.

30,000′ The WHY VISION
14,000′ The WHAT STRATEGY
3′ The HOW EXECUTION

In sharing this with others, one goal is simply to make everyone aware of 30,000′ and what it means to share the message and story at 30,000’.

People respond to you at whatever level you communicate. So, if you’re at 3,′ talking about where the architects are placing bathrooms, this will frame the conversation. Instead, if you’re at 30,000,′ talking about changing and saving lives… the conversations will be different.

One example: We worked with a well-respected social entrepreneur and Ashoka fellow. A driven individual and true visionary, he gets up every morning trying to change the face of poverty. Whenever he went to make an ‘ask,’ however, the conversation always turned into a debate about the business model (at 14,000′). The Altitude Framework helped him to see why this was happening.

Being an award-winning social entrepreneur, his message had taken shape around ‘doing business in a different way’… about ‘earned income’… about ‘not relying on philanthropy’… about being ‘best in the world at being sustainable.’ Naturally, prospects were engaging him at this level (14,000′). The 30,000′ WHY wasn’t coming through in his message. His story needed to be about being best in the world at changing the face of poverty (30,000′) — first — and then incorporating a different business model (at 14,000′).

The Altitude Framework was a simple tool that made him aware of his 30,000′ message. We’re happy to report his funding conversations changed considerably based on this conscious framing exercise.

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The Three Big (Business) Questions

Here are three big questions to think about:

  • WHY ARE YOU IN BUSINESS?
  • WHAT BUSINESS ARE YOU IN?
  • HOW DOES YOUR BUSINESS WORK?

We have worked with a lot of wonderful organizations … especially helping them with their MESSAGE, PRIORITIES and FUNDING PLAN.

IF every one of us and our organizations could answer ‘THE THREE BIG QUESTIONS’… it would help:

  • COMMUNICATE OUR MESSAGE.
  • FOCUS ON OUR PRIORITIES.
  • MAKE BUSINESS DECISIONS/CHOICES.

These questions are driven by Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Tom Peters, and others.

Our CHALLENGE for you:

ANSWER THESE THREE BUSINESS QUESTIONS (as best you can)!!!

  • WHY are you in business? … is all about your VISION and your IMPACT andyour RAISON D’ETRE.
  • WHAT business are you in? … should be answered at the HIGHEST LEVEL!!! (Drucker’s old line about being in the ‘RAILROAD’ business or in the ‘TRANSPORTATION’ business might help.)
  • HOW does your business work? … is all about your BUSINESS MODEL and your BUSINESS PLAN and your FUNDING/REVENUE STREAMS.

P.S. Collins uses three CIRCLES.

 

 

We think this also works.

Let me know if this helps CHANGE THE GAME!

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Drucker: 5 Most Important Questions

Peter Drucker was certainly the management guru of all gurus and master of simplicity. (Although his book MANAGEMENT is 568 pages!)

Drucker talks about THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS YOU WILL EVER ASK ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION. Jim Collins, Philip Kotler and Francis Hesselbein all contributed here.

Here are Drucker’s 5 self-assessment questions:

  • WHAT IS OUR MISSION?
  • WHO IS OUR CUSTOMER?
  • WHAT DOES THE CUSTOMER VALUE?
  • WHAT ARE OUR RESULTS?
  • WHAT IS OUR PLAN?

We love Peter Drucker’s thinking and his ‘stuff.’ Although he has positioned these 5 questions for any ‘ORGANIZATION,’ we think they could be slightly re-worded or re-positioned for all FOR IMPACT ORGANIZATIONS.

  • WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE?

    Vision. Impact. Mission. Reason for our Existence. Highest Level of Engagement.

  • WHO DO WE IMPACT?

    Directly. Indirectly. Ripple Effect. Individuals, Families, Community, Diaspora, the World.

  • WHAT ARE OUR PRIORITIES?

    Goals. 3 Circles. 3 Buckets. Focus.

  • WHAT IS OUR PLAN?

    Action Plan. Funding Plan. Math.

  • WHO SHOULD INVEST?

    Impact Drives Income. Ideal Profile. Master Prospect List.

We’re always amazed that some incredible organizations we’ve worked with have trouble with ANY of these 5 questions. The fact is, almost no organization we’ve ever worked with has simple answers (that are clear, concise, and compelling) to these questions.

Once you’ve thought about these ‘answers’… you can turn them into a wonderful PRESENTATON TOOL around PURPOSE, PRIORITIES and PLAN.

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Get Those Who Get Your CAUSE, Then Sell Your CASE.

Cause: Your reason for existence. The big problem you’re trying to solve or change.

Case: Your approach. Your model. The way in which you impact the CAUSE.

Think about the difference between CAUSE and CASE.

The goal is to be with people who already understand the CAUSE. Then you can spend time engaging them with the CASE.

Granted, some of you have a very niche cause … or a ‘not-pretty cause.’ There are people out there who get it. THESE are your prospects.

We watch a lot of organizations try to build case statements and the bulk of the message is about the CAUSE. If someone already gets the CAUSE, then you’re wasting your message. If someone doesn’t get the CAUSE, then you’re wasting your focus.

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Nick’s Note: Stop Cultivating and Start Communicating

“Why do we cultivate people?” As Tom always reminds me, “Cultivation is that thing you do with plants and manure.”

I really, truly don’t understand ‘cultivation.’ We are in the business of saving, changing, and impacting lives. If you can help people understand your impact then it’s really not about cultivation; it’s about asking whether or not they want to help you with your cause.

I use a simple story to emphasize my point. Imagine that you and your prospect were walking around a lake and came upon a drowning child. What would that prospect do? It’s likely she would jump in, fully committed to save the life of the child (so would you). I can’t imagine a scenario where you would first try to spend years getting this person interested in saving children (read: cultivation).

So … if you’re saving or changing lives then you can’t really argue that we need more cultivation. I would propose that the issue at hand is really much more about communication. That is, how you communicate your impact in such a way that is clear, concise and compelling. So clear, in fact, the prospect jumps on board (read: into the lake) to make a major investment in your vision.

If you can communicate the impact, the income will follow. If you can communicate the impact, you can ask for any amount of money on the first (sometimes second) visit. The challenge, again, is that we struggle with our message. Or, we might even have the message, but we’re not out visiting with people, one-on-one, to share the message and present the opportunity for them to help (save the child – as it were).

Your job is to communicate the impact, not spread manure. I know that’s blunt but I want to motivate you to action with this idea. You’re doing great things … so present the opportunity for someone to help … now.

People come from all over the world to the For Impact Boot Camp because they need more money. In order to address that, we spend almost half of the Camp talking about HOW to COMMUNICATE the IMPACT. It’s all about communication, and it’s why attendees have success when leaving. They have the ability to communicate their impact in such a way that it is as clear as saving a drowning child.

P.S. If you think my example is too simplistic or unrealistic, please know that this same example is what set into motion the greatest philanthropist of our era – I’ve altered the lake example somewhat but borrowed it from noted philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer who wrote an amazing article in the New York Times, “What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You?” In that article he also explains Bill Gates’ moment of clarity around impact that moved him to action.

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You Need Funds “For What?”

We were brainstorming about a coaching client. Talked about trying to get them to stop begging for money … and start answering the question:

“FOR WHAT?”

We can’t figure out why this ends up being so powerful, but it just is. In the start-up/entrepreneurial world, we call this USE OF FUNDS. It answers the question: “Where does the money go?”

It’s tied directly to packaging your Priorities and Projects and Programs (obviously around your IMPACT) vs. ASKING FOR MONEY!

Stop begging for money. Start talking about the WHAT and the USE OF FUNDS!

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Nick’s Note: If Effective, Then Plenty of Money Available

“Most philanthropists, even experienced ones, say that it’s harder to give money away effectively than it is to make it.”
– Beth Cohen, Director of the Global Philanthropists Circle (GPG)
(An organization created by David Rockefeller’s great granddaughter.)

 

A few thoughts on that point:

  • You should be asking whether or not your organization is an effective use of funds.The answer is either yes or no.
    • If NO – then you don’t deserve the money (pretty simple).
    • If YES – then the issue is that you’re not able to communicate your effectiveness.

    This goes back to one of our principle message points: Impact drives Income.

    I think this is encouraging.

  • Think much bigger about your Impact and Income.Tom always shares a great line from his sales mentor, who came from the life insurance business: “It’s easier to sell a million dollar policy to a qualified prospect than it is to sell a $10,000 policy to a family member.” Thing big about your qualified prospects.

    The greater the capacity and philanthropic interest, the more difficult it is for that person to be effective (evidenced by the quote from Cohen).

    This means there is an entire network of investors out there looking for you (if you are an effective investment).

    This is also encouraging.

  • Trust me, most organizations are not out communicating their impact.While we know there are plenty of people who have ‘short arms and deep pockets,’ I have a tough time accepting that judgment about somebody before going to see them.
    • Most people don’t go visit with the prospect: they send a letter, don’t hear back, call it a rejection, and chalk it up to the idea that he prospect is “getting hit up by everybody.” Or, “It’s a competitive environment.”
    • When they do visit, they ‘ask for money’ (instead of ‘presenting the opportunity’). They don’t communicate the impact. What the prospect hears is, “We want your money,” instead of, “This is how the investment will change lives, save lives or impact lives.”
    • Or, worse yet, they visit, talk about the NEED for money, share no impact and make no real ask.

    So don’t base your assumptions about prospects (people, foundations or corporations) on what you’ve heard on the street.

    Try this.

    • Get a visit with a qualified prospect.
    • Share the story around your impact (communicating your effectiveness).
    • Present the opportunity to make an investment that will change lives, save lives or transform lives.

    It makes all the difference in the world. You will be successful and the word on the street will be that you walk on water.

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6-Word Message

Don’t short-change the power of a CLEAR, CONCISE and COMPELLING MESSAGE.

Think of this 6-WORD MESSAGE as the 6 Sigma of the For Impact World!

Special Note: ‘6 WORDS’ can break down into 6 BIG WORDS …
Or 2 GROUPS OF 3 WORDS …
Or 3 GROUPS OF 2 WORDS!

Here is some ‘YEAST’ for your ORGANIZATION’S 6-WORD MESSAGE:

One of the best MESSAGES ever:

SAVE LIVES. REDUCE INCIDENCE. IMPROVE QUALITY.

This is the American Cancer Society’s WHY.

Here’s their 6-Word WHAT and HOW:

HOPE. PROGRESS. ANSWERS.RESEARCH. EDUCATION. SERVICE.

*It doesn’t get any better than this. You can have a conversation/dialogue for hours around the 6-Word WHY and 3-Word WHAT plus the 3-Word HOW.

Ohio Wesleyan University
6-WORD PURPOSE:

EDUCATING OUR STUDENTS FOR LEADERSHIP (&) SERVICE.

6-WORD PRIORITIES:

STUDENT LIFE. EDUCATIONAL EXPEIENCE. FINANCIAL STABILITY.

Colorado College

What follows is 9 words but, still, 3 groups of 3 Words to capture an entire mapping process and agenda for a $300 Million Fundraising Initiative is pretty concise.

RIGOROUS INTELLECTUAL EXPERIENCE.DIVERSE RESPECTFUL COMMUNITY.

NEXT GENERATION CAMPUS.

The Funding Priorities are then built around:

FACULTY. STUDENTS. CAMPUS.

A Senior Community Center

TRANSFORM (THE) AGING EXPERIENCE.
(AROUND) HOME. HEALTH. MEALS.

Here are some 6-WORD MESSAGES within FOR IMPACT/THE SUDDES GROUP:

CHANGE (THE) WORLD through FOR IMPACT LEADERS
CHANGE (THE) WORLD by SPEAKING. TRAINING. COACHING.

*Even our FOR IMPACT Point OF VIEW can be summarized in 6 Words:

IMPACT DRIVES INCOME. GO. JUST ASK.

BONUS: Here’s our ENTREPRENEURIAL MANTRA in 6 WORDS:

THING BIG. BUILD SIMPLE. ACT NOW.

*This works for every For Impact Organization, Social Entrepreneur and For Impact Leader.

 

OG’s Note: HAIKU.As I was writing out these examples, I was thinking about the similarity of these 6 Words to practicing the Japanese art of Haiku. Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry consisting of 3 lines, made up 5, 7 and 5 syllables each.

I remember back in 2007, Nick and I were in the Grand Canyon rafting the Colorado River… and practicing our Haiku. Here is one of mine that captured the entire day’s activities for 14 straight days.

WAKE. EAT. RI•VER. HIKE.
EAT. RI•VER. HIKE. RI•VER. CAMP.
WRITE. PUSH•UPS. EAT. SLEEP.

Two great blogs also explore the realm of simple poetry. Katya’s Non-profit Marketing Blog held a competition to see who had the best nonprofit marketing haiku. You can see the winning entry here. Nonprofit Quarterly wrote this article on the topic.

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Just 3 Sentences

I received this blog in 2010 from an amazing young, talented Social Entrepreneur. In her own words, it describes how SIMPLICITY can make a HUGE difference in a presentation.

Upon hearing your presentation at StartingBloc, I prepared a document that describes my start-up in 3 sentences. A simple, concise message explaining the how, what, and why.

Today I had a meeting with a nonprofit lawyer who tore gaping wounds into my business model, revealing all the ways that my start-up is a legal nightmare. I sat in quiet horror, listening to his criticism.

After he finished his diatribe, there was a pause. And I slipped him the paper. Just 3 sentences. He read them. He re-read them. Then he took a deep breath, and agreed to take me on pro-bono!!! This is the top nonprofit lawyer in XXX! Not only is he going to help me incorporate and will develop the documents I need to be legally protected after we launch, but he is also going to use his contacts to expedite the process so that I have 501(c)3 status within 4 weeks!!! And he is going to put me in touch with his friends who run foundations!!! And he will help us get media coverage when we launch!!!

It’s a life-changing development, because otherwise, I’m certain that my organization would go down in legal flames. But now I’m taken care of! Thank you thank you thank you. I know it was the simple message that sold him. 🙂

Just re-read the last sentence.

Kudos/accolades/applause to M. for doing something with an idea for the presentation.

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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!

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