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9 Big Board Questions

I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats, meetings, and planning sessions as a leader, observer, and participant. A traditional strategic planning session lays out goals and actions but often fails to address some really big driving questions.

WHAT IF we asked these questions:

  • What is our purpose or raison d’être? This is different from mission – which should be the same thing but usually ends up being more about ‘place in the world’ than purpose. Raison d’être literally means REASON FOR EXISTENCE. It’s the WHY question. If you can’t answer WHY, then WHAT and HOW are irrelevant.
  • How can we (intentionally) go out of business? In either the short term (1000 days) or long term (50+ years)? If you exist to change lives, save lives, or transform lives, then how often do we re-examine our activities and ask, “Can we find a SOLUTION?” I started to qualify this question – to say that it might not apply to some organizations, such as schools. Then I withdrew my qualification. Ask it anyway; see where the conversation takes you. Education is changing.
  • What would you do with $10M or $100M? Or pick a number that is a factor of 10x higher than anything you’re thinking about now. I once attended a retreat as a board member for Road of Life Cancer Prevention for Kids. With $100M, one board member said she would get laws changed to make health education mandatory at an earlier age and another said we should invest in longitudinal studies to understand how health prevention impacts kids. Those are two very different priorities and we weren’t doing either at that time. Ultimately, the question helped to build consensus around focusing on EDUCATION. Until the question was asked, every debate was about incremental tactics. Not Vision or even, I would argue, Strategy.
  • What Strategic Partnerships can we pursue? You have finance committees, development committees, marketing committees, campaign committees. If anything, I would like to see a partnership committee. Better yet, just a commitment to partnerships as a core priority of the organization. I haven’t seen the numbers in a while, but there are somewhere in excess of 2 million nonprofits and many more socially focused businesses (all For Impact). Current structures and strategic planning questions focus on bloat, not partnerships. We’re all trying to make a difference, so let’s make a commitment (financial resources) to exploring this full time.
  • How can we scale our Impact? Simple and open-ended, but not asked enough.
  • What are we best in the world at? Jim Collins has made this conversation prevalent (revisiting the Hedgehog Concept). It’s ultimately a question of priorities and focus. Consider finding the one thing you do very well and FOCUS on that. I can’t tell you how important this discussion is for your staff. It helps them make decisions about grants, programs, staffing, etc. Equally important is identifying those things that you’re not good at. I am a big Marcus Buckingham believer and his philosophy of focusing on your strengths.
  • Should we grow ‘wider’ or ‘deeper’? This is a scope of services question. Ultimately a lot of ‘strategic planning’ comes down to this question. Do we add more depth to our current programs (make them longer, more available, etc)? Or, do we expand our scope of services (diverse offerings, expanded continuum, etc.)? Refer back to question six to help you frame this debate.
  • How much money do we need to achieve our vision? What usually happens: we spend time tweaking funding goals based on last year’s results. It would be of huge value, to everyone, if we knew how much money we really needed to accomplish our Vision (either annually or over time via a campaign initiative).

    This question is often asked in preparation for a campaign, but not usually asked in relation to the operational/annual budget. Instead, we set a number and then allocate it (through the budget) – every year. Why not ask the question?

  • What is our business model? What business are we in? I think this goes along with several other questions and relates to strengths, focus, and priorities. It also adds clarity and could even become part of your message.

I think these questions would also SOLVE a lot of the problems I hear about every day:

  • Board Engagement/Staff Communication: It works both ways.
  • Board Meetings: If we’re on board about the big stuff it raises the level of the conversation. I think a lot of the comments I hear about board members being too detail-focused or staff members seeming unfocused is resolved when we can communicate about and focus on the big picture.
  • The Proverbial Rat Race: Incremental thinking gets incremental results (sometimes).

Download: Board Strategic Framework for Funding

Download: Board Role & Altitude (cards)

Download ‘On Board(s)’ Guidebook

Listen to ‘On Board(s) – A Guide for Greater Board Engagement’ Teleseminar (Tom Suddes)

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An Organization Must be Constantly Led Uphill or it Rolls Backward

4-Star General Stanley McChrystal was responsible for reshaping counterterrorism warfare from 2003 to 2008. In the introduction to his book, Team of Teams, he makes this powerful observation:

“An organization is no more enduring than the physical conditioning that keeps a soldier fit. An organization must be constantly led, or, if necessary, pushed uphill toward what it must be. Stop pushing and it doesn’t continue, or even rest in place; it rolls backward.

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Video Nugget: Creating Great Funding Rationales

https://vimeo.com/132943417

Previous video in this sequence: Using Altitude to develop your Presentation.

In this video we cover the ‘Last 3 Feet’ tied to Creating Great Funding Rationales (hint: “Unrestricted” does not make a great Funding Rationale!)

  • Create a Funding Rationale tied to a Unit of Impact if possible – “Our goal is to underwrite all 3000 of our families each year at $1500 per family. How many families can you help support?”
  • Package up your Programs – “Here is the Impact we’d like to have in each community and it will take about $100,000 per community to make it happen.”
  • Use a Leadership Circle membership goal as it relates to the Opportunity to Save, Change and Impact Lives – “When we have 50 members in our Leadership Society (@$10,000+ per year) it allows us to innovate new programs and provide core support to existing impact. It also allows us to move quickly when needed – To save and change more lives.”
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Video Nugget: Using Altitude to Develop your Presentation

https://vimeo.com/132943419

Previous video in this sequence:
Using Altitude for Engagement, Organizational Development and Communication

In this video we cover using Altitude to develop your Presentation:

  • Lay out a Vision at 30,000’
  • Focus on clear Priorities over the next 1,000 Days
  • Answer “How you can help” with a Funding Plan

Check back tomorrow for more on developing your Funding Rationale.

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Colorado Boot Camp: ‘Early Bird’ Opportunity

Join us on September 15-16, 2015 in Larkspur, CO (halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs/ 60 miles south of the Denver Airport) for our For Impact Boot Camp.

This high-energy, two-day session explores the For Impact Point of View and Sales Process. And it is the best resource we can recommend for you and your team.

Boot Camp is focused on frameworks and skill building. You will leave with the knowledge you need to simplify your message and funding rationale and take your organization to the next level.

This opportunity is perfect for organizational alums, new hires, or anyone looking to hone their individual skills – both personal and professional!

Boot Camp will focus on topics like:

  • How to execute against a sales process (for major gifts, campaign gifts, transformational gifts, etc.)
  • How to build and maximize relationships
  • How to build and lead an effective team
  • How to ask, close, and follow-up

Take advantage of Early Bird pricing until this Friday, July 24th at Midnight.
More Information and Registration Here.

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Charles Schultz Philosophy on Life

Former Notre Dame Women’s Boxing Captain, and my good friend, Brittany Crawford, sent me this 10 years ago.
Well worth the read.

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just read it straight through, and you’ll get the point.

  • Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  • Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  • Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
  • Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
  • Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.
  • Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?  

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

  • List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  • Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  • Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  • Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  • Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

Easier?  

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that CARE (that IMPACT you).

Pass this on to those people who have made a difference in your life.

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”
– Charles Schultz

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The Campaign as an Opportunity for Organizational Culture Change

Changing a culture is very challenging. In the best cases, it is very slow.

Observing and working with thousands of organizations and companies I’m convinced culture change only comes about because of a dramatic event and/or extraordinary leadership.

More than a funding goal, the ‘campaign initiative’ can be an organizational event to declare a culture change.. and it gives a framework for leadership to tell a new story.

In fact, when we assemble a team for a major campaign effort we carve out time (off-site) with the team to envision success, draft the plan and DECLARE THE CULTURE.

Special note: Part of the exercise in declaring a culture is identifying sacred cows (and getting rid of them) as well as developing new language.

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The For Impact Guidebook On Quantum Leap Campaigns

Campaign Week: Day 1.

(Reminder, we’re hosting campaign teleseminars this week.)

This guidebook is designed to CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT CAMPAIGNS.

No more of these…

Instead…

Think BIG. Build SIMPLE. Act NOW.
It’s about the STORY! It’s about SPEED. SIMPLICITY. and SALES.
It’s about LEADERSHIP… TALENT… and a FOCUS on your BEST prospects.
It’s about choosing the DESIGN of your organization, team and impact… then making that QUANTUM LEAP.
Read ‘The For Impact Guidebook On Quantum Leap Campaigns’.

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Campaign Week (our version of Shark Week)

Campaign Week Header Image

Every year we do our version of Shark Week. Instead of sharks we focus on CAMPAIGNS.

Next week is CAMPAIGN WEEK!

We will focus our writing, publishing and education on campaigns.

Here are four teleseminars we will be hosting. They’re free for the first 50 registrants.
 

Teleseminar: For Impact 101- Changing the Funding Game (INTRO)
Tuesday, July 14, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)
Teleseminar: Designing a Campaign
Wednesday, July 15, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)
Teleseminar: Building a Sales Culture – On Talent and Teams
Thursday, July 16, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)
Teleseminar: The Language of the Ask, The Close and The Follow-up
Friday, July 17, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM (EDT)
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Optimism and Confidence

This one’s a book recommendation and a commentary.

Book Recommendation: How Champions Think by Bob Rotella.

Some of the most important qualities in a great sales/major gifts person include:

  • Empathy
  • Optimism
  • Confidence
  • Engagement (Ability to ENGAGE)

 
It’s difficult for me to rank these. They’re all important.

How Champions Think gives you and me a way of approaching optimism and confidence as dynamic traits we can control. We DECIDE to be optimistic and CHOOSE to believe in ourselves.

  • On Optimism.

    “People aren’t born optimistic or pessimistic. Optimism is an attitude that people can choose to have.”

    • “Optimism doesn’t guarantee anything in sports [and life]. It just improves your chances.”
    • “Optimism is often an act of faith, a belief in something that cannot be proven.”
    • Rotella says that top athletes either consciously or unconsciously find ways to become and stay optimistic.
  • On Self-Confidence.

    “People tend to become what they think about themselves.” – William James

    “There is enormous wisdom in that sentence. And there’s enormous hope. James was wise enough to see that we are each the biggest influence on our own destiny. More importantly, he understood that we each have the power to construct our own self-image and that the self-image we construct will very likely determine what we become in life.”

The valuable thing about this book is that it gives us a peek into the minds of Lebron James, Ben Hogan and other champions. You see the importance of confidence but more importantly, you see how these are decisions that add up to construct one’s being.

Having coached and trained over 1000 sales people and leaders I believe in everything Rotella is saying. Optimism and confidence are found in different ways but fundamentally they are choices.

Implications for For Impact Leaders:

  • Hire for optimism and confidence… And always reinforce these traits. Believing in your team is one of the most important things you can do as a leader.
  • Remove (sales) team members that cannot be mentored toward optimism and confidence. We must guard against anything that takes these dynamic traits in the wrong direction.
  • Renew YOUR optimism and confidence. It’s a decision! But this one falls under ‘simple, not easy’. Work on finding ways to become and stay optimistic. Set the tone and the story for the team.
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