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Community Leadership Role Play

  • Nick demonstrates how to share the vision and offer the opportunity for help.


    Nick has just met with a prominent community leader on behalf of Circles, a new organization whose mission is to stop the cycle of poverty.

    Key Learning Points:

    • Predisposition – send an email ahead of time i.e. I’m really excited to sit down with you tomorrow, here are some materials for you to look at, I’d like to get your feedback and input and talk about how you can help.
    • The people you meet with are great people, they might not say yes, but they want you to succeed.
    • Mentally, the visit is shoulder-to-shoulder – “We have to do this together!”
    • Ask questions! i.e. Does that make sense? What do you think about this?
    • Start with them where they are – Give them permission to be skeptical if they need to be.
    • Engage, Then Plan – i.e. Based on my math, I made a determination that it would be worth my time to get 10 people on board.
    • Listen and Always Take notes! Write down specific words they say and turn their words into the message.
    • “Forget about the money, I actually believe that our program and impact cannot be as successful without you.”
    • Follow-up immediately after the visit.
  • These 3 Things …

    Nick is leading a session at Eagle Creek today and tomorrow with 50 wonderful people representing some amazing organizations.

    Even after all these years, it still astounds me at the power of Nick’s opening around These 3 Things:

    1. IMPACT DRIVES INCOME.  (Not the other way around).
    2. BE FOR IMPACT!  (Your Organization.   Your Team.  Yourself.)
    3. JUST ASK.  (Don’t wait for a Perfect Message, Perfect Priorities, Perfect Pitch.)

    We’ve learned from doing a lot of these sessions that CHANGE takes 3 minutes and then 3 months or 3 years.

    You can grasp the power of These 3 Things in 3 minutes.

    How you apply it is up to you.


    On Board(s) – A Guide for Greater Board Engagement

    ‘How do we engage the board?’ This is one of the top questions we receive. This teleseminar is a direct answer to that question. Tom will do what he does best: CHALLENGE (status quo), LEAD and SIMPLY. I know Tom’s going to challenge assumptions you have about the board/staff dynamic. Then he’s going to share some of the thinking we’ve been employing in the field, and finish with concrete frameworks (TOOLS) you can use for greater leadership. He will be speaking to board and senior staff.
    Included in this seminar:

    • A change in perspective. “A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points.” – Alan Kay
    • How to change the dynamics of the board/staff.
    • How to get leaders ‘on board’ vs. ‘on the board’.
    • How to leverage a NEW leadership model.
    • How to identify the right leaders and champions.
    • 3 Key Frameworks (TOOLS) for leaders and leadership engagement.

    (Recorded by Tom Suddes)
    Right click here; to download file for listening offline.

    Message to Garcia

    I was reading an article from New York Times about Jeb Bush.  Politics aside, it was a very interesting article about his “bookishness and pragmatism”.   A voracious reader, the article talked about all the different, almost Gates-like, diversity in what he reads.

    The article mentioned that while he was Florida’s Governor (1999 to 2007), new employees would find a copy of a treasured Bush book on the desk:  A MESSAGE TO GARCIA.

    I love this story!  I actually have a small pamphlet printed in 1918 that highlights this 1899 essay.


    I am paraphrasing Hubbard’s story… but I think you will get the point.

    THE STORY: When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the insurgents… a General Garcia. He was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. Mail or telegraph could not reach him… and the President had to secure his cooperation quickly.

    Somebody told the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of ROWAN who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

    Andrew S. Rowan, West Point Class of 1881 was a First Lieutenant in the 19th Infantry, U.S.A. (Yes!) Because he knew the topography of Cuba, was familiar with Spanish, and had shown himself to be a brave and prudent solider, Lieutenant Rowan was selected for this mission.

    In short, he took the letter, sealed it in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart and crossed from Jamaica to the southern coast of Cuba in a sailboat. He disappeared into the jungle, made his way inland to Garcia’s camp… and DELIVERED THE MESSAGE!!!

    In Hubbard’s words: “The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia. Rowan took the letter and did not ask, ‘Where is he at?’ By the eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and his statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book learning young men need nor instruction about this and that but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; and do that thing – ‘CARRY A MESSAGE TO GARCIA!’” (more…)


    No More Volunteer Solicitation



    Here’s a simple question: Would Apple or Microsoft or IBM (or your own favorite company) ask ‘VOLUNTEERS’ to do their ‘SALES’???

    Just the idea of the word ‘SOLICITATION’ (the implication of which I cannot go into in a PG-13 document), should be enough to make you give up on this 1950’s “Peer-To-Peer Solicitation” model!

    Note: In this Traditional Model, a typical ‘ask’ by a peer (to a peer) goes “I have your (3 x 5) card. Can you give something? Just send it in.” WOW! Clear. Concise. Compelling. NOT!


    Here are 7 pretty solid reasons not to use VOLUNTEERS to make SOLO SOLICITATIONS:

    • DESIRE, ENTHUSIASM, PERSISTENCE. How many of your ‘volunteers’ really, really, really like to ask a friend for money? If presented as such, these volunteers lack key ingredients for sales success: ENTHUSIASM and PERSISTENCE.It is professional staff’s mission and responsibility to Present The Opportunity to Qualified Prospects.
    • TRADING DOLLARS. Every ‘VOLUNTEER’ knows that whenever they ask one of their friends/peers for money… they will soon be asked back for that prospect’s favorite cause. This system of ‘trading dollars’ certainly does not allow for aggressively MAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS.Professional staff are objective, fair and committed to helping their prospective investor feel great about their commitment.
    • TIME. Volunteers basically have none. Their other business priorities and family obligations make it very difficult to fulfill ‘volunteer’ duties.Professional staff, on the other hand, are focused and dedicated to Presenting The Opportunity to as many Qualified Prospects AS POSSIBLE.
    • ACCOUNTABILITY & FOLLOW-UP. With a ‘volunteer’, there isn’t any! “I saw so and so at a party, and I think they might do something.” Even if they make a visit or accompany on a visit, they will not think about following up and assuring their commitment.Professional staff do a memo for the record on every visit. They send a great follow-up letter summarizing the visit and the opportunity. They make a phone call on a specific date to determine the level of commitment and finalize the details with the investor.
    • TRAINING. Most ‘volunteers’ have not been ‘trained’ in how to make this kind of presentation. Many don’t even understand ‘sales’, the sales process, presentation flow and framework. Even for our most incredible champions, very few have the time to become properly knowledgeable about the institution/organization and the investment opportunities available.Professional staff should be well trained. They know as much as they need to know about the organization. They are involved in ongoing professional and personal development. They understand that success is a combination of ATTITUDE and SKILL.
    • PREPARATION. Even with the best of ‘volunteers’ … asking their secretary for directions on the way out the door is their idea of preparing for the call.Professional staff go over the Strategy Checklist, the Presentation Checklist, and have researched and know the basic information for every visit.
    • THE VISIT ITSELF. Most volunteers begin with “How’s your family?” or “How’s your golf game?”, then move to “I got your 3×5 card.” “They want money.” “Do what you can.” When faced with a question, a challenge, or an objection, most volunteers retreat immediately.Great development and For Impact professionals know the Framework and Flow of the visit. They know how to ask questions and listen. They respond to investors’ feelings and react with creativity and flexibility. They deal with challenges and realize that true selling begins after you hear a “No”.

      Special, Special Note: This is not a ‘bash the volunteer‘ list. Rather, it’s an attempt to help you re-think and re-invent the role of your VOLUNTEER LEADERS.

      Volunteer Leaders, Board Members and Current Investors are all a huge part of the TEAM SELLING process. GREAT VOLUNTEER LEADERS and GREAT BOARD MEMBERS are literally worth their weight in gold (and at today’s prices, that’s a big deal!). They should be used before and on and after the VISIT but, they should never be used ALONE!
      *Interesting: The word voluntaries is defined as an ‘organ solo played in church before, during or after a service’.


    For what it’s worth: In the Army, the very first thing we were told was “Don’t VOLUNTEER for anything!” Farmers used the term ‘VOLUNTEER’ to label ‘RANDOM’ stalks of corn that pop up where not expected and not wanted.

    A big part of me wants to challenge almost everything about the way we deal with ‘VOLUNTEERS’.

    • When these people ‘volunteer’… we treat them as ‘volunteers’ (“They’re just volunteers.” “Good people but they don’t have a clue”, etc.)
    • Most volunteers treat themselves as ‘volunteers’. (“This is a nonprofit.” “I’m just a volunteer”, etc.)

    The definition of the word volunteer is “person who undertakes some service of his own free will; offers oneself willingly; or chooses to serve”. This is a good thing! However, I’d love to change our vocabulary. So, unless you’re the University of Tennessee (the Volunteers or the VOLS), you should stop thinking ‘volunteers’ … and start thinking about champions and passionate advocates who want to help you make an IMPACT and want to move from SUCCESS TO SIGNIFICANCE.


    “If there’s something to gain and nothing to lose by asking, by all means ASK.”

    We are preparing for next week’s SALES BOOT CAMP at Eagle Creek.  I thought I’d share a picture of the orchard, garden and pool area for Eagle Creek alums and new attendees.

    Eye in the sky on ECLC.

    SALES is about the ASK.  The quote by W. Clement Stone is awfully simple and awfully powerful:


    This is almost ALWAYS the case:  SOMETHING TO GAIN … and NOTHING TO LOSE.



    Maya Angelou: The Most Important Virtue

    I was in Winston-Salem this past weekend at Wake Forest with Oprah, Michelle, Bill, et al.  (Full Disclosure:  They were for Maya Angelou Memorial Service.  I was there for the grandkids!)  Thanks to Shane Parrish at Farnam Street, here’s a great little blurb on Maya Angelou and a great quote:

    “I’ve always had the feeling that life loves the liver of it. You must live and life will be good to you, give you experiences.”



    Number of Asks: The ONE Lever

    In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explores the formation of organizational habits. (You can read this quick summary by BusinessWeek.) One case study examines Alcoa’s remarkable business turn-around in the 80’s/90’s. CEO Paul O’Neill focused the cultural energy (and habits) around safety–more specifically, around the number of safety violations.

    We call this the ONE LEVER. Meaning, to maximize team cohesion and culture change you need to focus energy on ONE LEVER at a time to create organizational change.

    What will that lever be? Be specific. Be clear.

    The Orlando Magic focus on ‘butts in seats’.

    FedEx focuses on number of packages that don’t arrive when promised (aiming for zero).

    Just about everyone reading this is seeking some form or another of improved funding results.

    Call it a culture of philanthropy.
    Call it a sales culture.
    Call it greater revenue for impact.
    Call it funding the vision.

    When you’re bringing your team along there is so much ‘other stuff’ that can obscure progress. Events, predisposition activities, reporting, deadlines, board meetings.

    As it relates to INCOME DEVELOPMENT the ONE LEVER is – in most every case – the NUMBER OF ASKS.
    This is what we emphasize, design-around, message, measure, reinforce.

    Obviously a funding goal is pretty important. However that is a RESULT of this measurable activity. Similarly, Alcoa’s leap in quality (and then profits) was a RESULT of increased safety.

    One lever: Number of Asks. Preach it. Measure it. It will be transformational. I promise.

    Note: It’s not uncommon to see an organization (of any size) with fewer than 10 real-asks per quarter. In fact, it’s a safe bet that by our definition most are at ZERO.


    OGs Note: Sales Requires Measurement

    The old adage of “what gets measured gets done” is an overused/abused cliché, but it captures the essence of a SALES culture. EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, needs to be MEASURED.




    Two of the best people I have ever worked with offer terrific insights here.

    Fred ‘Falcon’ Mickelson is a former ‘big dog’ at a very large corporation, ‘professional’ volunteer leader, board chair, and an absolutely brilliant thinker.

    “Activities are necessary and lead to results, but activities are NOT results. Therefore, keep track of activities, but set REAL goals and measure progress towards achieving those goals on a specific, pre-set timeline.”


    Terry Fairholm is a former Suddes Group partner and ‘hockey puck’ with an MBA and 20 years of super successful FIELD experience as one of the best campaign leaders in the industry.

    “It’s not about activity, it’s about RESULTS. ‘Getting the word out’ is a statement that has never made any sense to me. We (development professionals) don’t get paid to get the word out; we get paid to raise money.”

    Message is what people hear

    What is ‘message’?

    A message is not necessarily WHAT YOU SAY, it’s WHAT PEOPLE HEAR.

    This is the simplest definition I can offer. It’s adapted from Words the Work.  It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. By Frank Luntz.

    If you geek-out on message, this is a terrific read.

    I’ve been using this definition to make people aware of their message.

    What do you want people to hear? Ultimately, I suspect it’s that you’re changing lives, saving lives or impacting lives.


    “If you want to change the world …”

    Admiral William McRaven, a Navy Seal for 36 years, delivered the commencement address at the University of Texas.  If you haven’t seen it or heard it or read it … you should.  It’s been mentioned by a lot of people as one of the finest commencement talks ever.

    Here’s the shorthand version of Admiral McRaven’s 10 Life Lessons from Seal Training.

    Lesson No. 1:  If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

    Lesson No. 2: If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

    Lesson No. 3: If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

    Lesson No. 4: If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

    Lesson No. 5: If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

    Lesson No. 6: If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

    Lesson No. 7: If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

    Lesson No. 8: If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

    Lesson No. 9: If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

    Lesson No. 10: If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

    At the very end of the 10 lessons, I urge you to check out this link or others which include the actual video and the text of his talk.

    Make Each Day Count.



    “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

    “Comparison is the thief of joy.”   Teddy Roosevelt

    I saw this quote on the wall of a yoga studio.  Obviously makes a lot of sense in that environment.  The goal is to ‘practice’ yoga with mindfulness and a focus on your own body.  It is not about competing/competition with the instructor or others in the class.

    ***This took me a while to understand!  When I first started, I couldn’t do any of the 26 Bikram poses, for example, and I couldn’t believe how easy people went into the poses, nor how long they could hold them.

    In our For Impact world, this idea of COMPARISON or COMPETITION is a zero sum game.  We should always be looking to be the best we can be … and also looking for wonderful ways to collaborate with other people and organizations.

    “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

    Joy‘ seems to me to be a much more powerful word than ‘happy‘.

    Make Each Day Count.