So much of Being For Impact is about having a positive attitude and optimism.
I was asked recently about about being too positive and it was then suggested that maybe a little pessimism keeps balance. I don’t believe this.
But I do believe in the rigor of SKEPTICISM.
Skepticism is not the opposite of optimism. Pessimism is the opposite of optimism. Skepticism is something different – entirely. It represents the work you do to give your optimism a solid foundation.
This week’s W.O.W. is a book – Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
His core message: Do less, but better. You can unlock quality and make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter by doing only what is essential.
He dubs this ‘Essentialism.’
In some ways this isn’t a new idea, and yet, I found myself underlining nuggets on every page:
- If you don’t prioritize your life, somebody else will.
- To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”
- Once we accept the reality of trade-offs we stop asking, “How can I make it all work?” and start asking the more honest question “Which problem do I want to solve?”
- Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking… Almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. This is the justification for taking time to figure out what is most important.
This makes a lot of sense. Recent discoveries in neuroscience tell us that the decision-making function in our brains does not prioritize!
Essentialism is applicable to any human endeavor:
- Sales/Major Gifts. Spend more time with better prospects. Just Visit. Just Ask. The discipline of the Sales Process (e.g., strategy, predisposition, follow-up.) These are the essentials; almost everything else is noise and nonessential.
- Life. An Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for people in the last twelve weeks of their lives, recorded their most often discussed regrets. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” McKeown argues for LIFE DESIGN, “This requires, not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials.”
I agree with McKeown’s notion that Essentialism is an idea whose time has come. We are in an age-of-noise. Discern. Focus. Do less. Have more IMPACT.
“When we are not engaged in thinking about some definite problem, we usually spend about 95 percent of our time thinking about ourselves.” – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
I’m not sure how to tell you to use this nugget – I just know it’s very insightful.
Related: In The Power of Story, Jim Loehr writes:
“The human brain, according to a recent New York Times article about scientists investigating why we think the way we do, has evolved into a narrative-creating machine that takes ‘whatever it encounters, no matter how apparently random’ and imposes on it ‘chronology and cause-and-effect logic.
Stories impose meaning on the chaos. They organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of facts. Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”
Here are some ways I’ve processed and coached around this recently:
- As a speaker or leader. I promise you no one else is over analyzing your work or your presentation to the degree you are – especially when things go bad. You’re spending 95% of your whitespace-thinking trying to align your world in your head… how you did with a presentation or how you are doing in your role. Other people have reactions to your work but they don’t dwell on it — they dwell on themselves. They can ‘let it go’; you should too.
- As a human being. Now that you’ve read this, take note of how often you’re making sense of your own life, your own narrative. What if we can shift it to something more like 50/50!? I believe we can! Or, at least, we can direct our 95% toward more empathetic thinking.
- On a visit. Whomever I’m sitting with is spending 95% of their time working on their own narrative! What’s the narrative!? (Discovery! Discovery! Discovery!) I want to listen and then tie to that!
When a Qualified Prospect asks, “How can I help?” you need to have a clear answer.
The fact that most organizations don’t have a clear answer is one of the biggest funding challenges in the ‘not-for-profit sector.’
I’ve heard many default responses that fall into these categories:
- “I’ll get back to you.” The fundraiser then heads back to the office, calls a meeting and says, “Prospect X is willing to help! What should we ask for?” The team then makes up something that they think might be most attractive.
- “Maybe you could come to our event?” The moves management route… “Would you consider joining our board?” Or [insert other ‘move.’] The prospect has already ASKED how they can help – You need an answer, not a chess gambit!
- “How do YOU want to help?” This is just a weak way of engaging. I think too many in this sector are afraid of coming off as too aggressive if they answer truthfully. If you are authentically representing your IMPACT, and they have asked to help, then it is your responsibility to Present the Opportunity.
In self-assessments, most organizations can identify challenges with prospecting, messaging or board support. But rarely do they say, “Everyone always asks me how they can help… And I don’t have a clear answer!”
Simply bringing attention to this could have a tremendous impact.
On my last three visits I’ve heard this from prospects, verbatim:
- “Tell me concretely, how I can help.”
- “I’m not ready to make a commitment today, but what do you need?”
- From a foundation: “What’s a way we can be most helpful to this work?”
Here are some ideas and resources to help you answer the question “How can I help?” – all of which fall under our Just Ask! philosophy:
- Have a simple (major gift level) ask that works in every situation with every person.
We’re a big fan of the Leadership Circle for this reason. It represents your simplest ask around the most compelling (and general) areas of your case. It’s not used to maximize a relationship, but it offers a clear answer.
E.g. “Our Leadership Circle is a group of people – like you – who GET the mission and are invested in our cause at the $10,000 level. Collectively, all the Leadership Circle members generate $1M a year that’s used for unbudgeted and timely priorities. Would you be willing to join?”
- Use the “Champion-Invite-Invest” framework.
This is a great way of making the ask multidimensional. On its own it’s no more clear than ‘give or get,’ however, you can use the framework to ask for specific help as a champion… specific referrals… and specific opportunities for investment. (Watch 3 minute video.)
- Develop a specific ask around a project, priority or plan.
This allows you to ask for support around a specific project (and corresponding funding number) OR a funding plan. (Watch 3 minute video.)
In order to ‘Just Ask’ you need to HAVE an ask.
Teleseminar: How To Use The Leadership Consensus Building Framework
Tuesday, June 14, 2016 1:00-1:45 EDT
Register Here (Free for first 50 registrants)
Leadership Consensus Building: How to get everyone moving in the same direction, telling the same story and working from the same plan.
This seminar offers a strategy and practical examples to address the biggest challenges facing organizations:
- How to get the board ‘on board’
- How to build a clear message, strategy and plan
- How to accelerate your funding
Leadership Consensus Building (LCB) is a framework we’ve developed over 30 years to solve these problems – It’s been a key element in successfully raising over $2Billion.
Click here to download the LCB Framework Visual.
The seminar will do the following:
- Share the LCB Framework concepts and showcase multiple uses. This is something you should be able to use again and again throughout your career.
- Give real ‘use-case-examples’ so that you can get your team on board with using the LCB Framework to simplify your strategic planning, messaging, board engagement or next funding campaign.
This seminar is geared toward leaders – those responsible for shaping and deploying organizational strategy.
Most of you know about Tom’s involvement with Notre Dame Boxing and the Bengal Bouts.
In the 1950’s, the proceeds from the tournament began going to the Holy Cross Missions in Bengal, now Bangladesh. Dominic J. ‘Nappy’ Napolitano, founder of the program, captured everything that boxing at Notre Dame represents:
“STRONG BODIES FIGHT… SO THAT WEAK BODIES MAY BE NOURISHED.”
On Friday, the world lost the ‘Greatest of All Time’ – Muhammad Ali. Ali visited Notre Dame and the bouts (he lived nearby) several times over the years. We were lucky enough to meet him in 1999 – and even though he could not use his voice and body in the same way – he captivated us with his charm, generosity, confidence, wicked sense of humor, and signature magic tricks. It was a truly unforgettable experience.
Ali, the icon, who shone outside of the ring – leaves us with an enormous legacy of generosity, toughness, leadership, activism and strength of spirit.
From Tom: the only people who don’t get ‘knocked down’ are those who don’t try anything. And Ali taught us all – When you get knocked down, Get back up!
The For Impact Board Workshop is an effort to honor the number one request from our community: “I wish I could share For Impact with my Board.”
This workshop, led by a For Impact coach, creates passionate advocates, generates organizational clarity and sparks funding momentum in a 90-minute, half-day or full-day setting.
The Board Workshop is designed to engage your Board and Senior Staff around three big components:
- Impact: Get everyone ‘on board’ with your impact, message and organizational story at 30,000’.
- Income: Commit to the ‘Just Ask’ attitude and a simple funding model that addresses your organization’s ongoing challenges with funding.
- The Funding Role of the Board: Transform your organization with the help of passionate advocates who understand how to Champion, Invite and Invest.
How does it work?
- Your For Impact Coach will lead your organization through a brief discovery process to make the most of the session
- Your Coach comes onsite to facilitate the workshop
- Your Board receive materials and training around the Funding Roadmap for your organization
Want to learn more? Please complete this short form and Kerry Suddes will follow up.
From the archives, but still relevant today – Read on for Tom’s thoughts on hiring.
Read a really terrific book called REWORK by the founders of 37 Signals. As are almost all of the books I really, really love, this is simply a collection of nuggets, loosely framed.
Three of the twelve nuggets from the chapter on HIRING really jumped out at me.
1. Hire when it hurts. “Don’t hire for pleasure; hire to kill pain.” I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve been around that desperately want to hire a ‘Major Gift Officer‘ or more ‘Major Gift Officers’!
Nobody has prioritized their top prospects (Master Prospect List). Nobody in the organization has visited with their Top 10 or Top 20 or Top 33. There’s no Message, no Math, no Model.
Yet, we think hiring another development person/MGO is going to make some kind of difference. (more…)
NOW is a great time to turn SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER! NOW is a great time to shed BAGGAGE which is holding us back and keeping us from making QUANTUM LEAPS!
Any time I am in front of a audience, I ask people to spend time writing down the SACRED COWS of both the Non Profit Industry (Third Sector, Fundraising, etc.) and of their particular Organization. I usually provide some ‘yeast‘ with things like:
- “We need this event to raise awareness/friends.” Special events are not ‘special’ and not ‘events.’ ‘Donors’ hate to go. Staff hates to put them on. The ‘triple net‘ is a very poor return-on-energy and return-on-investment.
- “Peers must solicit peers (for money).” 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 idea!
- “Feasibility studies are mandatory.” Internal leaders enlist external consultants to do a feasibility study for justification, CYA, and backup. Consultant conversation with a prospect goes like this: “If XYZ nonprofit org were to do a hypothetical campaign with a hypothetical goal, how much hypothetical money would you hypothetically give to this hypothetical campaign?” (UGH!)
I find it fascinating that allowing people to talk about their SACRED COWS and the baggage that they are carrying around unleashes such an enthusiastic response.
I encourage you to go ahead and ‘vent‘ but then get on to talking about real issues that need to be dealt with and that are still happening because “It’s the way we’ve always done it.”
It’s always a great time to get your team together and talk about turning all those SACRED COWS into HAMBURGER and dumping all the BAGGAGE that we are carrying.
On my trip around the world, I saw those ‘sacred cows’ walking around the streets of India. I also learned that once these cows become too old or die, the carcasses are shipped across the border and turned into hamburger.
Along those same lines, a Hindu sage, Ramana Maharshi, asks: “Would you carry your luggage on your head while on board a train?” He says we are not lessening the burden of the train by keeping it on our head, but only straining ourselves unnecessarily.
Special Note: We do take a hard line on many things we consider to be OLD THINKING. The good news is that if we take something away, we’ll always give you a NEW way to think about it. Read more about Sacred Cows and Change here.