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New Sources of Ideas and Inspiration

One of the things I learned a long, long time ago (from really smart, creative and innovative people) was that you need to READ and SEE “OUTSIDE” your SECTOR/ SUBJECT AREA.

If you only read things within your “industry” (nonprofit world) or specialty (finance, social service, education or development), you will just be reviewing a lot of STATIC, STAGNANT THINKING.

Here are some recommendations:

  1. 3 MANDATORY Reads: Magazines
    • FAST COMPANY (Great ‘stuff’ to spur creativity and innovation!)
    • INC. (Valuable, relevant ideas to help your run your FIO.)
    • Any magazine you can find at Barnes & Noble on DESIGN.
  2. 3 MANDATORY READS: Newspapers
    • USA Today (A very ‘fast’ read with a much broader perspective, with some terrific, positive articles.)
    • A SUNDAY PAPER from OUTSIDE your city.
    • Your Local ‘Business’ Paper. Great articles. Great leads.
  3. 3 ‘VISITS’ with your TEAM
    • A DESIGN Place (IKEA, Crate & Barrel, A Museum)
    • An ‘EXPERIENCE’. Take the team to Cirque du Soleil, the next Pixar movie (Cars), whatever. (If they can come up with this imaginative fun movie about CARS … think what you can do!) Or, even go into Starbucks and view the ‘EXPERIENCE’ together.
    • The OUTDOORS. Nothing beats the mountains, the desert or a beach to get your creative juices flowing.

P.S. When you TRAVEL, you should always try:

  • A walk/run to explore the city … looking for ads, signs, marketing ideas, new billboards, innovative delivery and service practices, etc.
  • Always check out a museum or some other DESIGN space … for ideas.
  • Restaurant/Food … but instead of going there just to “eat”, try going there for the “experience” and see how they treat customers, present the menu and the food, follow-up, “sell”, etc.

United Nation of the N.G.O. World

Politics aside, how about the PARTNERSHIP of Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr.? Tsunami relief. Hurricane relief. Sharing the dais/podium all over the country, all over the world.

Read a very interesting quote from Clinton, talking about his HIV/AIDS initiative … pointing towards a new system of RELATIONSHIPS that brings together governments, nonprofit groups, investors, donors and international organizations. He said he’s seeking ways to leverage the money and power of states with the flexibility and skills of the NGOs.

The article indicated that he sees enthusiastic response to the launch of his global initiative as a signal that the world in which he operates is ready for NEW KINDS OF COOPERATION (my caps) and perhaps is ready for GLOBAL LEADERSHIP (again, my caps).

“This movement has grown so rapidly and there are so many people doing it and it’s so entrepreneurial(!) that I think it would profit from better coordination, more information sharing, and combining efforts.”

“There’s no association of NGOs. There is no United Nations of NGOs. There is no coordination. I think it would be beneficial if we all worked together more.”


The Big Old (Nonprofit) Dinosaurs Are Dying

The dinosaurs are dying.

Who wants to be a >”BIG GIANT”?

These business behemoths are fighting for survival. General Motors. Ford. Every major airline. Hewlett Packard. Sears. Motorola. Federated. Etc. etc.

Most of their “BUSINESS MODELS” just don’t work.

They’re being out flanked, outmaneuvered, and outthought … by MAVERICKS … INNOVATIVE START-UPS … ENTREPRENEURS and RADICAL THINKERS.

In the FOR IMPACT WORLD, you can see it happening with the same “GIANTS OF YESTERDAY”. They, too, have outdated “BUSINESS MODELS”.

Granted, some of these “NONPROFIT BIGGEES” have tried to change. Multiple times. Not only are they failing to “turn the battleship”, but in many, many cases, they’re just more “comfortable” with keeping things the way they are/they way they’ve always been.

My virtual mentor, Tom Peters, calls these people DSGYs (Designated Self-Appointed Guardians of Yesterday).

My own politically crude acronym is BOWGs (Big Old White Guys), which is kind of a personal euphemism for “traditional, bureaucratic, corporate, hierarchical thinking“.

Two quick examples:


I’d like to start by a great “cause” and “mission”. Wonderful staff. Impossible turnaround.

  • Chartered by Congress (Think BIG Government)
  • 125 Years Old (Think set in their ways.)
  • 50 Board Members; 30 Representing Local Chapters
  • 1 Million Volunteers and 35,000 Employees

Bernadette Healy, former Red Cross President who resigned in 2001, says “… making serious changes in the Red Cross is critical to its survival as an organization serving a crucial function for the American public”.

Yes, but … how can you possibly do that “CHANGE” with the deadly triumvirate of CONGRESS/BIG GOVERNMENT + incredible size + outdated business model???


First, let me tell you that I love the people who work and volunteer at ACS.

With that said, it’s another “HUGE” organization.

  • Almost 100 Years Old.
  • 13 Divisions (“Fiefdoms”).
  • 3,400 Local Offices Nationwide
  • 2 Million Volunteers

And, a hierarchical bureaucracy in Atlanta.

In this case, though, something is happening. Along come the RADICALS … the CHANGE AGENTS … the INNOVATORS … who believe is there is a different and better way to tackle the BIG ‘C’: CANCER.

Nancy Goodman Brinker creates the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (her sister) and has made breast cancer awareness a big, big deal, primarily through the National Race for the Cure.

Rob Emrich of Road of Life is a passionate maverick attacking the “problem” of nutritional/lifestyle roots in grade schools.

There’s the “crazy” (my highest compliment) people at the HUTCH, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, doing some incredible cutting-edge innovative work.

Then, of course, there’s Lance. Through his ubiquitous YELLOW “Live Strong” BRACELET, (70 million and counting) he has created a $100 Million Foundation that is small, nimble and productive. MAVERICK? It’s Lance Armstrong, the man who does everything his own way. INNOVATION? His bracelets have spawned an entire “COTTAGE INDUSTRY” within the fundraising world. THINK BIG? What would you expect from a 7-time Tour de France winner? In this case, it was a PARTNERSHIP with NIKE (the biggest, baddest, best marketing and brand machine in the world) to help “SELL” the LIVE STRONG motto.

Nancy Goodman Brinker. Rob Emrich. Andy Grove. Mike Milken. Lance Armstrong. Plus a host of others tackling this whole “CANCER” thing in a thousand different ways.

Bless them. More power to them. I only wish they were all “HOOKED TOGETHER” to EXPONENTIALLY INCREASE THEIR IMPACT. (Much like Google harnessing the power of thousands and thousands of computers to drive their incredible search engine.)

Here’s a thought. There are supposedly over 6,000 “NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS” with the world ‘CANCER’ in their name or their mission. Sure, some of them are scams, but most are well meaning attempts to do something about this killer disease.

WHAT IF … we could somehow figure out a way to CONNECT/HOOK UP all of these CANCER-FIGHTING organizations into a giant “GOOGLE-LIKE” NETWORK … working COOPERATIVELY as opposed to COMPETIVELY???

EVERYONE has been … is … or will be … “TOUCHED” by CANCER. We might as well work together.

A SOAP BOX moment? I wonder if any “INVESTORS” would like to see this COLLABORATION? Maybe they just want to continue to fund DUPLICATION OF EFFORT.

SPECIAL, SPECIAL NOTE to Larry and Sergey (Google) (who are clearly looking to change up the Google Foundation):

Get together Pierre, Jeff and Meg (e-Bay) and you all can probably get this COLLABORATIVE NETWORK done in the next 48 hours!

Bill and Steve (Microsoft), Jerry and Tim (Yahoo), Michael (Dell), et al., please feel free to jump on this idea as well.


You Can’t Outgrow Losses

I picked up a new book by business turnaround expert Gary Sutton called Corporate Canaries: Avoid Business Disasters with a Coal Minder’s Secret’s. It’s one of those brutal, simple truth reads where the author points out simple logic in a profound way.

Sutton says this book is all about avoiding disasters but I think it’s more about identifying the factors that can have the most dramatic effect on an organization’s finances.

First chapter: ‘You can’t outgrow losses’. To me, this is saying DO THE MATH (and address that issue FIRST). If you’re losing money on sales then more sales is not the answer. So, the For Impact corollary would be that if you’re losing money on fundraising activities – then more of them is not the answer. Seems simple … right?

“Fix profits first. Then add business … And going for more volume with bad margins only makes you die faster.”

More special events … more direct mail … more grant proposals is not the answer. (See … No More)

Fix profits (cost of fundraising) first: SALES (project-related gifts from individuals/corporations/foundations – major gifts). ABANDON special events, direct mail, phonathons, etc. THEN grow your sales operation …. First step to a major TURNAROUND.

This book is a quick and worthy read to help you AVOID disasters (watch the canary warning system) or make a quick TURNAROUND.

I also love chapter four: ‘Any Decision Beats No Decision’ … but that’s another nugget.


The Power Of Opposite Thinking

As always, I read my Inc. magazine cover to cover as soon as it came.

Adam Hanft (Grist at always has some “good stuff” on the last page of Inc. magazine every month.

THE POWER OF OPPOSITE THINKING is producing “whiplash inducing reversals (that) seem to be occurring on a near daily basis” . Long held positions are being reconsidered with game-changing agility. “That’s a healthy trend for business and the culture at large.”

Hanft gives a number of powerful examples including Microsoft making software compatible with Linux, major television networks subverting their own business model and selling program through the web and on iPods, and IBM selling its computer business to the Chinese company, Lenovo.

A terrific part of his column begins with this question: “When was the last time you considered the impossible?”

Then, this line that every For Impact leader and social entrepreneur needs to hear.

“Think about the ONE and probably HEART STOPPING STRATEGIC TURN you can make in your business (organization) …”

He has a different ending. I would simply say: MAKE IT/TAKE IT … (THE HEART STOPPING STRATEGIC TURN).


1,000 Push-ups

I’m up at Notre Dame for annual “mini-sabbatical” to coach the boxers. We work out every day from about 3:30 to 6:30. Last Friday we did 1,000 push-ups (along with 1,000 sit-ups and 1,000 jumping jacks) in a little over an hour.

HOW??? Same way you accomplish any GOAL: You break it down into manageable objectives, and just DO IT.


  • I wanted to do about 250 push-ups every 15 minutes.
  • Basically, if you do 44 PUSH-UPS, 43 PUSH-UPS, 42 PUSH-UPS … and on down to ONE PUSH-UP … it gets you 990 PUSH-UPS. That’s what we did.
  • We started out with two sets of 83 PUSH-UPS in honor of our long-time trainer’s Zimmy’s birthday.

Note: Our goal, as always, is to do 10,000 push-ups during our training session. This year we’re doing it over 30 days. The obvious MATH equals 333 push-ups a day, which we do during practice.

Special, Special Note: As I told the boxers last Friday, none of us would be able to wash our hair that night … because we wouldn’t be able to lift our arms up above our shoulders. I gave them a little tip from past experience: Squirt the shampoo on the shower wall and rub your head against it.


Motorolla makes WHOA products

Kevin Maney writes every Tuesday in USA Today.

on technology. Last week he talked about how the heck Motorola got so COOL.

My favorite part of the story was the new CEO, Ed Zander (former President at Sun Microsystems) saying that somebody had to tell Motorola employees it was okay to TAKE CHANCES again. Initially, this came from Zander, but Maney said it was best articulated by Chief Marketing Officer, Geoffrey Frost (who joined Motorola from Nike).

Zander says that Geoffrey Frost came in and said, LET’S BUILD WOW PRODUCTS. That then became the internal mantra that goaded the engineers to come up with things like their new RAZR phone.

Maney says Frost had ratcheted
up this inventive fervor by saying that WOW products weren’t enough and that Motorola had to take it to WHOA products.


What are you building in your FOR IMPACT organization that causes a WOW
or a WHOA?!!!

P.S. Geoffrey Frost died of a heart attack last November at age 56. I’m 56.
Hope that someone will remember me with WOW ideas or WHOA ideas.


No More Mission Statements



(Everyone gets 3,000 marketing ‘messages’ a day; 1,000,000 a year!)

(One, and only? Lesson from world of politics!)

A customer can say “NO” because the offer doesn’t apply to them;

but NEVER because they didn’t UNDERSTAND IT!!!

Doug Hall, Jumpstart Your Brain

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!!!




(One Nation . Indivisible .

with Liberty & Justice for All; 9 Words)

276 WORDS!!!

(Our 1st President!)

134 WORDS!!!



Energy = MC²

3 PAGES!!!


Note on Einstein: 3 PAGES!!! 3 LETTERS!!!

*It takes us 3 pages just to “introduce” our organization as a preface to a 30-page proposal or grant request!!! (for $10,000!!!)
“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???
P.S. There are 130 words since Simplicity, Brevity, Clarity.
Note: Please send me more messages, taglines, battle cries that MOVE you or your organization.


Think Talent… Not Background

I recently spoke with one of my favorite people in Development. She’s in the Northwest, responsible for PRINCIPLE (Major) GIFTS, and is very committed, competent, and caring … along with absolutely passionate about her “CAUSE”.

They’ve been without a Vice President for Development for a year. They’ve hired an executive search firm, placed ads in the Chronicle , etc. Can’t get anyone.

This is a great organization, and it would be a great “POSITION”.


EVERY ‘NONPROFIT’ in the world is looking for a Vice President for Development … a Director of Development … Major Gift Officers … Senior-Level Development Staff!!!

Note: I said “EVERY”. I meant that. Look at the back of any Chronicle of Philanthropy . There are 23 pages of ads with more than 150 “openings”… ALL looking for the same person(s)!!!

The SOLUTION to this CHALLENGE is NOT in trying to WOO “Senior Development People” from their current jobs …with MORE MONEY and perhaps a DIFFERENT TITLE!


I suggested to my friend that she is in a city with incredible BUSINESS and ENTREPRENEURIAL TALENT . They need to look at those wonderful individuals who are ready to move from ‘SUCCESS to SIGNIFICANCE’ … bringing with them great experience, a proven skill set and a great ATTITUDE!

I believe there are many, many more talented individuals with SALES, ENTREPRENEURIAL and BUSINESS EXPERIENCE available to the For Impact world … than there are available “Experienced Fundraising/Development Officers”!!!


Don’t want to ramble here, so I’ll make some “bullet points” to support this thought.

  • Ideal Profile. Create the IDEAL PROFILE for the position you’re looking for. Use a “HEAD … HEART … HAND” Model (Intelligence, Passion and Skill).*The Ideal Profile for this great For Impact Organization would be somebody who is already been touched or directly involved with the CAUSE, already LED a sales team or a company, understands vision, goals, success, etc. … someone who just “GETS IT”.
  • Talent Spectrum. Look at both ends of this spectrum. In this case, they are looking at the right side for the right fit .
  • Hollywood Talent Agencies. They hire for the role and the project . Every movie is a project. People come together. Do their best work. Disband.

*I think you could get incredible TALENT with the idea that someone would come in for 1,000 days (not quite 3 years) and make a HUGE IMPACT !

No disrespect intended, but most “experienced Development Officers” have experienced one year of fundraising 15 or 20 times. They also bring a huge amount of “BAGGAGE”, mostly tied to a MODEL that worked in the 1950’s and 1960’s … and never really changed in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.


You’ve literally got to say, “WHAT BOX?”


We Get What We Measure

“We almost always get what we measure.”

This is particularly true in nonprofit organizations, although I believe it is just as prevalent in the for-profit world.

A simple question:
How do we train, measure and reward our Development Staff, be they Income Development, DOD’s, Major Gift Officers, Planned Gift Officers, or whatever the title?

For most organizations, the measurement is activity (busy work). I have actually worked with large and very successful nonprofit organizations whose “measurement,” and I’m talking about actual evaluations, were based upon number of phone calls … number of letters sent out … number of “moves.”

Specific and personal: We just had a great young potential development superstar say, “I can’t find the time to do Major Gifts because I am measured on the number of grant proposals that I submit!”

So, what’s the answer? IF … the goal of the For Impact Development Operation is to write a net, net, net (triple net) check to the organization (to fund the vision)…

THEN … the goal and measurement of the development staff should be tied directly to that net, net, net check! If you’re a volunteer leader or senior staff/administrative leader of a nonprofit organization, you should expect results from your development team. However, you cannot give them the old “pat on the back” and “go get money” Knute Rockne half-time locker room speech!

Your Development Staff should be measured on three things:

  1. Total net dollars raised
  2. Number of quality ASKS
  3. Number of one-on-one visits

We use these GREEN SHEETS to MEASURE sales activity/productivity. Feel free to reproduce/use/expand.

To succinctly summarize and re-emphasize the point: Your development team needs to be working directly and specifically on things that raise the most amount of money at the lowest cost!

That’s how they should be trained. That’s how they should be measured. And that’s how they should be rewarded!

Special Note: Og Mandino has a wonderful message in the Spellbinder’s Gift about busy work. In Step 6 of Patrick Donne’s Send the Instructions for Your New Life, Og through his character states very clearly: Never hide behind busy work.

“It just takes just as much energy to fail as it does to succeed. You must constantly guard against the trap of falling into a routine of remaining busy with unimportant chores that will provide you with an excuse to avoid meaningful challenges or opportunities that could change your life for the better. Your hours are your most precious possession. This day is all you have. Waste not a minute. Never hide behind your busy work!


You are what you think about

WOW! Here’s one of the most profound “THOUGHTS” (pun intended) ever recorded:

Earl Nightingale is literally the father of PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. THE STRANGEST SECRET was literally the seed from which this personal development industry grew.

Written in 1956, when Earl was 35 years old, he recorded this short message for a small group of salesmen one Saturday morning. The message had such a positive impact that everyone wanted copies to share with their friends and family. Earl Nightingale arranged with Columbia Records to duplicate this record and ultimately received a Gold Record for sale of a million copies. (This is in the 1950’s!)

I started to summarize this book but that’s very unfair. Just order your copy right now. It’s 19 small pages (the book) and takes only 30 minutes to listen to (the audio).

To whet your appetite:

“Men simply don’t think.”

“We become what we think about.”

“Success equals the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

“Instead of competing, all we have to do is create.”

“Impact = Income!” (I swear it’s in there!) He calls it the Law of Mutual Exchange.


The Magic of Thinking Big

“BIG” is not about the size of your organization, the number of employees or the thickness of your rules and regulations.

“BIG” is about the SCOPE OF YOUR VISION …

  • It’s the SIZE of your BHAGs (your BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOALS).
  • It’s stakeholders investing in your impact, your quantum leaps, your dreams.

Your ability to THINK BIG is the ONLY way to CHANGE THE WORLD!!!

I WISH … I could have every For Impact organization leader wake up in the morning and understand the POWER of THINK BIG!

THE MAGIC OF THINKING BIG. This is not only a great book by David Schwartz, it’s a great For Impact MANTRA! That “MAGIC” comes from your VISION (TJS definitions).


A WORLD without … HATE

A WORLD without … CANCER






A WORLD without … AIDS


From your BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), this is a wonderful Jim Collins’ “catchphrase” that has found its way into the business vernacular. It needs to be part of our For Impact vocabulary as well. Remember, it’s a Big Hairy Audacious Goal not a SBUG (small bald unaudacious goal)!

Many times I’m with organizations who think they have a BHAG. When asked if they are likely or almost guaranteed to reach them, they answer yes. That is NOT a BHAG!


It’s about QUANTUM LEAPS, which is a term taken from the vocabulary of QUANTUM PHYSICS (described as the most powerful science ever conceived by human beings). A quantum leap, by definition, is rather ASTOUNDING and UNCONVENTIONAL.

A quantum leap almost always includes a leap of faith. You must believe.

How would you make QUANTUM LEAPS in both your IMPACT and your INCOME?

In many ways, this principle of THINK BIG is pretty self-explanatory.

A lot of people respond:

“We already think big. We need help with our fundraising.”

My response is always the same:


I have just been involved with too many organizations that have embraced this concept of THINK BIG … and, as a result, are changing just about everything they do!