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Give Us Passionate Advocates


In preparing to facilitate and lead a Board Xperience (Annual ‘Retreat’. at Disney World.) for an absolutely amazing group of business and community leaders, I was going over the goals for the day. The President, an experienced and extremely talented For Impact leader, said it this way,

“It is very simple. I’m looking to have the members of my Board be PASSIONATE ADVOCATES for what we do.”

If you think about these three BIG WORDS: CHAMPIONS, PASSIONATE, ADVOCATES…

It certainly creates the ‘PERFECT PROFILE’ of a committed, (on) Board Member.

Give Us Champions

You should be looking for CHAMPIONS, not just ‘BOARD MEMBERS’!

STUFF’ gets done by CHAMPIONS… by people who believe in your Mission, Message, Vision.

CHAMPIONS are involved with you because of your IMPACT! (They are NOT there because they want to be ‘fundraisers’.)

Success with your Board is more about RELATIONSHIPS with INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS… not the Board as a whole!

Stay focused on these CHAMPIONS! They will lead you to the proverbial ‘Promised Land’.

*For us, it’s really simple:

CHAMPIONS will exponentially outperform any ‘COLLECTIVE BOARD’ by 10x to 100x.


Special Note: The Power of One. John W. Gardner wrote a pretty powerful quote that might encourage you to focus on three CHAMPIONS, rather than worrying about your entire Board. (He uses the term ‘MAN’. Obviously, this would be WO-MAN as well.)
“The cynic says one (wo)man can’t do anything.
I say ‘Only one (wo)man can do anything’.”

“All good ideas start with one (wo)man.”

“The creative, caring, believing person sends out waves of influence.”

“(S)He affects others who in turn affect others.”

No More Boards – A New Model

My coaching style is positive, pat on the back, supportive, you can do it… like John Wooden, Phil Jackson, Lou Holtz, Mike Brey, and Pete Carroll.

Although rare, there are times when I feel like going off on a Tom Peters-like rant in order to grab people’s attention, especially in this age of 3 million marketing messages a day, YouTube, Lady Gaga and Reality TV.

No More Boards is a quick shift from my normal style, but might challenge you even more to re-think this whole ‘BOARD THING’.

This is not ‘disrespecting’ Board Members. Individually, these members are, for the most part, national or community leaders committed to your cause.

It’s the idea of the Board as an entity, a collective ‘mob’, if you will, that I struggle with.

WHAT IF… there were literally no more ‘BOARDS’?



Here is one scenario…

  • ‘EXECUTIVE BOARD’ (GROUP). A five-member group (since it needs to be an odd number) responsible only for fiduciary matters and for meeting governmental regulations, etc. They would be smart. Have sector expertise in law, accounting and business. Not ‘yes men’, but collaborative men and women who
    understood their role and responsibility for the organization.
  • ‘MASTERMIND’ ALLIANCE. Right out of Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich. Again, this would be a group of really smart and talented individuals who would get together to explore the absolute best way to have the highest level of IMPACT. It would be kind of a 3rd Sector, mini-version of the YPO (Young President’s Organization) or EO (Entrepreneur Organization). Would include other respected 3rd Sector leaders, entrepreneurs and big-time community leaders.
  • ADVISORY COUNCIL or AMBASSADORS. This group would be made up of only CHAMPIONS and PASSIONATE ADVOCATES. The size would be limited only by the criteria! (Again, Champions or Passionate Advocates). No ‘meetings’. Selected ‘gatherings’ of like-kind ‘C.P.A.’s. (Not accountants! Champions and Passionate Advocates.)

In this 3-Part Model, the only ‘Board Meeting’ would be with the Executive Group to insure compliance and maybe some risk management. The Mastermind Alliance Group would get together at least monthly to do some serious brainstorming and benchmarking. (Think of this as your SUPPORT GROUP… a kind of ‘Kitchen Cabinet.’)

The Advisory Group of Ambassadors/Champions would get together quarterly to talk about the Vision, Mission and Purpose at 30,000’… and the CHALLENGES that needed to be met to reach these goals. Not sure when the whole idea of a ‘Board’ within the nonprofit world was even first created, but it’s time (NOW) to CHANGE!

Again, WHAT IF… you could start fresh??? How would you Re-Think and Re-Design and Re-Focus on Boards and on Leadership and on Champions?

On ‘The’ Board vs. On Board

Drop the preposition (THE)… and it changes everything!

ON BOARD is about alignment with your Vision, Mission, Message… your Purpose, Priorities and Plan.

On ‘THE’ Board means simply filling a spot, holding a position, taking space on your stationery.

“The bottleneck is at the TOP of the bottle.”
- Anonymous Executive Director

There is a big part of us that simply wants to challenge the entire idea of the ‘COLLECTIVE BOARD’. Very little ever gets done by the ‘COLLECTIVE BOARD’.

Most ‘NONPROFIT’ BOARDS, in the collective sense, end up listening to Committee Reports and rubber stamping financial gobblygook.

Here’s why:

  • ‘COLLECTIVE BOARDS’ are all about being ‘SAFE’… vs. SCALING and GROWING your IMPACT.

Here are three other reasons why I believe nonprofit ‘Collective Boards’ are ineffective:

  • They protect ‘Sacred Cows’.“We’ve always done it this way.” Tom Peters calls these people DSGY’s (Designated Self-Appointed Guardians of Yesterday).
  • They Self-Perpetuate. Like-kind people nominating and finding like-kind people… who continue to provide no real leadership.
  • They Lack Entrepreneurial Attitude. No entrepreneur worth their calling would spend time on a ‘wishy-washy, play it safe, don’t make waves’ Board.

A Very Personal Note: Many Boards are made up of a politically crude acronym: BOWG, (Big Old White Guys). This, to me, is a euphemism for traditional, bureaucratic, corporate, hierarchical thinking, etc.

More Boards need an eclectic, diverse mix of entrepreneurs, business and community leaders and (most importantly) people who are actually PASSIONATE about the Cause and the Case and the organization.

*They also need more WOMEN, but that’s just too big a subject to tackle right here.

“If they are not ON BOARD…
maybe they should go OVERBOARD!”


If they are not ON BOARD…
they are a ‘BORED’ BOARD.”

Change the Story

The best way to begin changing the relationship/engagement with the board is to Change the Story.

The Power of Story is not only a phenomenal book by Jim Loehr, but it is a great maxim to improve the dynamics of your Board relationship.


What is the current ‘STORY’ you’re telling yourself about your Board?

  • They want to micro-manage everything.
  • They won’t give us names.
  • They won’t ask their friends for money.
  • We can’t get new and better Board Members
  • We are stuck with ‘Legacy’ Board Members.
  • We all dread Board Meetings.


This ‘story’ is familiar, but doesn’t have to be true moving forward.


WHAT IF… you change that ‘STORY’ to one that sounded like this:

  • Our Collective Board is engaged with us at 30,000’ around our Vision
  • Our Individual Board Members help us at 14,000’ around our Strategy
  • Our Board truly understands their role when it comes to funding… and they love it.
  • Successful community leaders who believe in our Cause and our Case are fighting to get on our Board.
  • We have had great conversations with our entire Board about the ‘BUS’… where it’s going and who needs to be on it. Those who are not in alignment with our direction have gracefully and gratefully
    accepted either Emeritus status or rotated off the Board.
  • Our Board Meetings are now Memorable Experiences… exciting opportunities to both see and talk about our Impact! We can’t wait for the next one.


You control the Board ‘Story’. It can be a negative story or a positive story. Either way, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


One simple way to gain FOCUS is to look at EVERYTHING you’re doing and decide:

  • What you’re going to continue to DO (relative to the ).
  • What you’re going to DELEGATE. (Somebody has to do it. Just not you.)
  • What you’re going to DUMP. (Not do. Nobody’s going to do it.)

Think about it.


Stop trying to ‘do’ everything! (“I can’t let go.” “I micro-manage.” “Easier to do it myself.”)


For the best example of this concept in action, read Michael Gelb’s INNOVATE LIKE EDISON. (Wonderful book — one of my favorite authors.), In essence, Edison believed his ‘job’ was to THINK and CREATE. He brought on hundreds of super-talented people to help EXECUTE. This book also reinforces that EVERYTHING’S A PROJECT! And, every project has a TEAM, LEADER, etc.


Sounds simple, but always hard to figure out WHAT (to delegate) and to WHOM. What could you DELEGATE immediately that would free you up to ONLY DO WHAT ONLY YOU CAN DO.

I cut this quote out of Success Magazine on July 19, 2012. I think it captures the big idea. It’s from Richard Branson. Chief Virgin.(???) 300 companies. 34 countries. $2.1B in revenue.

“One of the best bits of advice I can give other leaders is to try to put yourself out of business. Try to find people to take over 99% of what you do, which will then free you up to THINK about the bigger picture.”

DELEGATE… 99% of what you do!

Jim Collins uses this same mindset, hiring a bunch of the ‘best and brightest’ to help him research and analyze his concepts.

Small example: 2013 marks the 30th Anniversary of The Suddes Group. In all those years, I can probably count the number of checks I’ve written on one hand. I hate accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable. I’m no good with money. (It just doesn’t mean that much to me.) So… there’s always been somebody to take care of this.

My company role is to to think and make rain … to generate revenue through IMPACT and VALUE.


I know. Again, way easier said than done.

Stephen Covey created his brilliant ‘Quadrants’ and made Quadrant IV (“Not Important. Not Urgent.”) all about DUMP.

Here’s another way to look at ‘DUMP’:

Create 3 lists:

  • Things I WANT to do.
  • Things I HAVE to do.
  • Things I neither WANT to do nor HAVE to do.

Dump the third list. Throw it away.

No More Meetings

I’m sick of ‘meetings.’ And I’m at an age where I can ‘just SAY no.’

Political pundit James Carville says,


He goes on to say that, “Absent a major peace negotiation, complicated merger or complex legal settlement, there’s no reason on earth to have a meeting last more 30 MINUTES.”

After 35 years in the ‘business world,’ I never want to attend another meeting in my life. I believe this is also true of every other meeting ‘attendee’ (excluding the ‘meeting planner’ or ‘boss’ who is holding the meeting.)

I wish I had a magic alternative. I’d love to see more ‘GATHERINGS’ of the right people at the right time on the right subject… to brainstorm or reevaluate or correct the course. (Imagine what life would be like without ‘meetings,’ but where you ‘GATHERED’ together in a fun, productive session with real results.)

A meeting, by the way, is not a place to INFORM! If you want to share information, write it down and get it out in a one-pager.

If you’re going to ‘gather’ for actionable results, then people need to be engaged and involved in the session … not listening to one person ramble with no purpose. ocument I’d love to see more opportunities for ‘CELEBRATIONS’ of accomplishments and success (rather than just ‘talking’ about what we’re going to do).

P.S. If you really, really want a PRODUCTIVE session, either STAND or go for a WALK!

Act or Ask

Make this a big part of your TEAM CULTURE. A BIG, BIG part of the culture.

Everyone on the team needs to either ACT or ASK!

If they know what to do, DO IT.

If they think they know what to do, DO IT.

If they aren’t clear, then ASK … and then DO IT.

Everything’s a Project

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

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

This idea has been developed over the last 15 to 20 years within our company and with our clients. It drives everything we do.

Here are the 8 steps of every PROJECT.

  • Team Leader
  • Project Team
  • Goals
  • Resources
  • Barriers/Constraints
  • Time Table
  • Measurement
  • Action Plan


Shorthand takeaways:

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

Some things we’ve learned:

  • Think like Hollywood Talent Agencies. They hire for the role and the project. Every movie is a project. You bring together the most talented people you can, without regard to the department or org chart. Everyone comes together, does what they’re best at, and takes the project from concept to finished film. Then they disband and start again.
  • ‘The Ticket Is Printed.’ One of my favorite Disney ideas. When they put together a project and project team for a new ride/experience … the project team is given a date (deadline)… and then told that “The ticket is printed!” In other words, there’s going to be a line of kids (and their parents) waiting on that given day to get on the ride. (Therefore, it better be done.)
  • Scope of a PROJECT. Can range from a $300 Million Campaign to a 1-Night Signature Event … and everything in between.
    • Every level of the Today | Tomorrow | Forever Model is a project.
      (Leadership Societies, President Circles, Project Initiatives, Legacy Goals, etc.)
    • The 3 Circles/3 Buckets are PROJECTS, as well as the Programs and Priorities within each.
    • Every one of our TOP INVESTORS is a PROJECT … demanding a strategy, action plan, etc.
  • No Team ‘Meetings.’
    • Rather, gather team together whenever needed for brainstorming, mind mapping, engagement, whatever.
    • Disseminate information before the gathering.
    • Quick review of goals and status.
    • Make everything actionable. (“We can actually do something when we leave.”)
    • Always consider/challenge WHO attends the gathering and WHY.
    • As James Carville says, “Winners do. Losers meet.” (He goes on to say, “Absent a major peace negotiation, a complicated merger or a complex legal settlement, there is no reason on earth to have a meeting last more than 30 minutes.”)
  • Every team is made up of ‘I’ndividuals. The saying, “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM” is an absolute crock. Every team is made up of ‘I’ndividuals; and the SUCCESS of the team is a function of how well these ‘I’ndividuals mesh and perform.
  • 3 Parts to a Project.
    Here’s a great thought from Steven Pressfield’s terrific e-book, Do the Work. He says that “Every project can be divided into 3 parts: beginning, middle, end.”
    Then he simply says, “Decide what comprises the beginning, the middle and the end … and then fill in the gaps!
    He also says to constantly ask this question, “What is this damn thing (PROJECT) about? (What’s the goal? What’s the theme? What does success look like?)”
  • 3 P’s – Practice … Process … Performance. Each one needed for each individual and the team as a whole.
  • CELEBRATE … early and often. CELEBRATE small wins, benchmarks achieved, sub-goals reached … and, of course, every FAILURE! (If you’re not FAILING somewhere within your project … you’re not pushing hard enough.)

Elite Teams: Practice

We must hear this comment three to ten times a day: “We love your stuff. We need your help (with our Board, with Training, with Coaching). BUT WE DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY IN THE BUDGET.”

The following thoughts on Elite Teams will help you re-think the whole idea of training, budgets, team dynamics, priorities and more.


  • What is the one common element inherent in every Elite Team?
  • What common thread creates Elite Teams in the military (Navy Seals, Delta Force), professional sports (LA Kings, Miami Heat, St. Louis Cardinals), professional musicians (symphony, orchestra), medical teams (surgical teams, trauma units), etc.?
  • What does every one of these elite teams … and the individuals involved with the team … DO better than everyone else in the world?

Think about it.

Military teams constantly practice, practice, practice in boot camp, training camps, simulations, etc. Up until 10 years ago, the idea was to practice … in the hope that you’d never have to play. The U.S. has now been engaged in the real stuff for over 10 years … which makes the whole idea of practice here in the States even more important.

Professional sports teams probably spend 3 to 10 times more of their time practicing than they do actually playing the game. Think spring training, training camps and exhibition seasons … training, practices and workouts during the season.

Same with professional musicians. Symphonies and orchestras spend tons of time in practice … as well as practicing individually on their respective instruments. (Same is true of all artists and actors in theaters, opera, movies, etc.)

In medicine, doctors and nurses spend a huge amount of time in practice, beginning with their medical schools and nursing schools through residency and internships, etc. Then, they practice and rehearse how to handle surgery or major trauma.

What is the ONE THING that we DO NOT DO in the not-for-profit/For Impact world?

That’s right. PRACTICE.

We don’t take any time to get together as a team. We hate role-playing. We ‘wing it’ every time we do go out and make visits (which is not very often).

Bottom Line: If you really want to have an Elite Team at your For Impact organization … you need to commit to PRACTICE! Call it training, continuing education, whatever.

I also firmly believe that this applies to your Blue Team (your IMPACT Team) as well as your Green Team (your INCOME Team).

I’ve been doing this kind of practice training with teams for over 30 years. I absolutely guarantee you that the ROI is a ridiculous 10 to 100 times! I can actually give you cases where it’s been a 1,000 times ROI within 24 to 48 hours!! (No kidding. Multiple cases!)

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.

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 …

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

One of the best MESSAGES ever:


This is the American Cancer Society’s WHY.

Here’s their 6-Word WHAT and HOW:


*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




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.



The Funding Priorities are then built around:


A Senior Community Center




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




*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.


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.