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R.I.P., Greatest of All Time

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:


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.

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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!


R.I.P., Champ.



Announcing: Board Workshops

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:

  1. Impact: Get everyone ‘on board’ with your impact, message and organizational story at 30,000’.
  2. Income: Commit to the ‘Just Ask’ attitude and a simple funding model that addresses your organization’s ongoing challenges with funding.
  3. 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.



Hire When It Hurts

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…)


Get Rid Of Your Sacred Cows Forever

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.


Engagement Has a 12-hour Half-Life

I’m constantly trying to get people to think about what it means TO ENGAGE! I think we’re taught how to present, but we’re not always taught how to engage.

I define engagement as a dynamic within a relationship that holds attention, heightens interest and motivates action.

Think about a movie or a performance you’ve attended where you were engaged and left with that feeling of being present and excited. Think about how that engagement consumed your mind! Now think about how you felt the next day.

I believe engagement has a 12-hour half-life. That is, if we could measure engagement in some way, it seems to dissipate by half every 12 hours.

This means that within 24 hours of your visit the prospect has an engagement level at 25% of what it was after your visit.


As salespeople, we need to be making engaging presentations and asks. And, more importantly, we need to pounce on timely follow-up. It’s better to follow-up immediately, even if it’s 60% of your best effort, than it is to wait three days. At three or more days you’re just working to recapture engagement.

(Read more on the 24-Hour Follow Up Rule here.)


For Impact in Ireland

We’ve been reminiscing about our team trip to Ireland back in 2013 – It was truly the experience of a lifetime for all of us.

We’re excited to bring the For Impact Boot Camp back to Ireland next week! Wednesday, June 1, 2016 | Info and Registration Here.

2013 marked THE GATHERING IRELAND, a year-long celebration of Ireland, its people and all that is great in its connections, both at home and abroad.

The Suddes Group was proud to host our own FOR IMPACT GATHERING on May 20, 2013. This Memorable Experience took place at the iconic Abbey Theatre and brought hundreds of For Impact leaders, staff and boards, social entrepreneurs – any and all who are changing the world or changing Ireland.

We partnered with amazing organizations – The Abbey Theatre, Business to Arts, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, the One Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Iris O’Brien Foundation, the Arthur Guinness Fund, Fundraising Ireland and The Wheel – to help change the philanthropic culture from the old story: “Government will fund everything. Why should I give?” to the new story: “Philanthropic support is a critical component in Ireland’s future.”

Here are some memories from our 2013 trip (See our photo album from the trip here.)

  • Being on stage at the iconic Abbey Theatre
  • Hiking miles in the beautiful, boggy Irish countryside (and finding out the Ireland does indeed have some mountains!)
  • Losing a shoe, but no team members, to said bogs
  • Walking to and working from the Guinness Storehouse
  • Being on a Reality TV show, Master Chef Ireland, at the home of our friends Gavin Duffy and Orlaith Carmody
  • Learning to use a Shillelagh (And finding out is is actually a weapon!)

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Celebrate Your BirthDAY and Your BirthDATE

Happy Birthday to our youngest grandchild, EJ, who turns 6 today!  (I’m holding her in the photo below.)

Today is also my BirthDATE (March 19th is my birthDAY, thus today is my May birthDATE.)

Don’t forget to celebrate your birthDATE every month!

For the last 20 years, I have tried very, very hard to make my BIRTHDATE a special day every month.

I’ve been quietly trying to encourage everyone around me to CELEBRATE their own BIRTHDATE. And, not so quietly, I have challenged thousands of individuals at certain speaking engagements to do the same.

Here’s a great goal/challenge for 2016: Make your BIRTHDATE a special day for YOU!

Do something solo: Breakfast or coffee shop, with a journal or a book. A motorcycle or bike ride. A yoga class. Whatever.

Then, do something special with those you love: Spend a little time with the g-kids. Catch up with a sib or a child away from home. Have lunch with the ‘girls’ or a beverage with the ‘boys.’

I also use the 19th as the once a month review of my goals (lifetime, this year, upcoming 90 days, etc.) and to set Action Plan for next 30 days.

Most people laugh (hard) when I tell them to take their BIRTHDATE off. Yet, if we can’t set aside even one day every month for ourself… things are pretty screwed up.

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9 Guiding Principles: Take Charge of Your Development Operation


We feel that these 9 Guiding Principles are pretty self-explanatory, but here are some notes to help you take charge of your Development Operation. ( Download and print the poster here.)

GP #1 START WITH WHY. What prospects hear (often times) is “We need money to meet our annual funding goal” or “Buy a table at our gala.” These messages have no WHY – no saving, changing and impacting lives – which is exactly what people want to do!
If the number one question of every investor is, “Why do you exist?” and the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your WHY, it’s very hard to talk to her about the what and the how. For more on this, see Altitude Framework PDF, How to Stay at 30,000′ and Simplify Your Message.
GP #2 YOU BECOME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT! Earl Nightingale, the father of personal development wrote The Strangest Secret in 1956 – the seed from which the personal development industry grew. Here is the ‘Strangest Secret’ – You Become What You Think About! It’s the difference in outcomes when you think about IMPACT, VISION, MEANING, instead of payroll, cuts in funding and survival. Read more here.
GP #3 CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY! WORDS ARE IMPORTANT! Stop using all the typical ‘nonprofit’ industry jargon. Start using ‘sales’ terms, ‘business’ terms, ‘common sense’ terms.

Appointments Visits
Power Points Presentation Tools
Asking for Money Presenting the Opportunity
GP #4 THINK BIG. BUILD SIMPLE. ACT NOW. Our absolute favorite Entrepreneur’s Mantra.

  • Think Big with your VISION. How are you changing the world or your world?
  • Build Simple using the Rule of 3.
  • Act Now – Just Visit. Just ASK. Ten steps forward and two steps back is still eight steps forward.

Here is a one-pager on TB/BS/AN that Tom did for Social Entrepreneurs.

GP #5 CHANGE (THE) RULES! This is a little play on words – in this generation’s lexicon, to RULE is a good thing. CHANGE DOES RULE. At the same time, in order to really CHANGE something (yourself, your organization, the world), you also to have CHANGE THE RULES. We believe it’s much stronger than that: THERE ARE NO RULES! Read more in our For Impact Guidebook: CHANGE (THE) RULES.
GP #6 ENGAGE GREAT TALENT. Small or young organizations (for profit/nonprofit alike) often identify FUNDING as their top challenge – until the organization really figures out a working funding model. At that point, the top challenge becomes the RIGHT PEOPLE. (We can help you with this!)
GP #7 DO THE MATH. You can’t ‘SELL’ unless you understand all the ‘NUMBERS!’ Doing the Math means owning and internalizing an understanding of your numbers – Your numbers tell an important part of your story. Doing the Math also means taking the time to simplify the numbers in a way that others – Your board, your prospects and your staff – can understand. Read more about Blue, Red and Green Math here.
GP #8 COMMIT TO SALES. You are in sales! Not everyone wants to hear that but it’s the truth. What is sales? Sales is the responsibility, the calling, the opportunity to carry the story of your organization – how it’s saving, changing and impacting lives – and share that story with people, 1:1, to build relationships with them to ASK them to help save, change and impact lives. Sales is about ATTITUDE!
GP #9 JUST ASK. JUST ASK. JUST ASK. No explanation necessary. Just do it.

Vocabulary Wars

From the archives, but still relevant today – Read on for how to avoid Vocabulary Wars.

Last week we were with an organization that helps homeless people find and secure permanent housing. The Executive Director of this organization had spent the last 10 years – off and on – trying to get three specific area Foundations ‘on board.’ In that time, some $10K grants had been awarded but for the most part the Foundations said, “We don’t fund projects like yours.”

The mission statements for the foundations were almost identical to that of this homelessness organization. And, each Foundation had funded similar agencies working in the homeless arena.

After some discussion, I realized that the challenge has been vocabulary, not fit. For example:

  • This organization receives about $1M annually from the government — to be used for ‘capital’. It turned out that ‘capital’ in this definition meant anything that had to do with the actual home or residence (including programs to get into the residence.) In the case of this organization, the ‘home’ was the OBJECTIVE of the program. Kind of hard to end homelessness without a home somewhere in the equation… no?
  • The Foundations avoided ‘capital’ projects. It turned out the ‘capital’ meant ‘capital campaign’ to the them – bricks and mortar, campaign committees, fancy office chairs, etc.
  • The organization had structured all of its internal vocabulary based on conversations with the government. These vocabulary words were deal killers with the private foundations who heard “capital campaign” when they wanted to focus on more “programs for the homeless.” (I’m not making this up.)

So, here’s what we did:

  • We coached the organization’s senior leadership to go back to one of the Foundations. This time the organizations was to ask questions, listen and use the Foundation’s vocabulary to advance a discussion.
  • The key questions to ask were, “What is the biggest challenge you’re seeing with respect to ending homeless in this area? How are you working to address that challenge?”
  • The Foundation said it felt a lack of ‘housing opportunities’ were available to the working poor and that it was trying to identify agencies that worked as a catalyst to create more opportunities. Note: The most critical point of this entire story is probably right here. The organization had to LISTEN to the foundation to pull off the right ask.
  • The organization’s leadership was then able to position its work as a ‘catalyst to create more housing opportunities’.
  • Both the foundation and the organization leadership described the ensuing conversation as ‘electric’ and ‘exciting.‘ They will be meeting again next month to talk about a multi-year financial partnership.

For 10 years, would-be partners had failed to align for what amounted to a vocabulary war. At times the relationship was even contentious – there were debates and arguments between foundation heads and leaders in this organization about right/wrong and ‘justice’ in funding.

It’s important to realize in this story that at 30,000’ they were in COMPLETE alignment: all parties were trying to end homelessness. The fact that the homeless organization was getting a token $10K here and there was an indicator that there was alignment on the CAUSE (WHY), but not the CASE (WHAT). The relationship was advanced – light speed – by really, really listening and aligning the solution in terms the funder understood.

The only way to avoid a vocabulary war is to listen.

Note: In the actual coaching I said to the ED, “I want you just to listen.. to really understand the foundation’s challenges. When you hear a word you don’t understand, ask them to define it. Keep listening until you can say, ‘wait a minute, we can help solve that!’”.


Bring For Impact To Your City!

We’re excited to announce the 2016-2017 tour of our For Impact Workshop: Fundraising on a Napkin.

Workshop Overview

This workshop is a transformational experience for Executive Directors, Board Leaders, Development Teams, or anyone responsible for shaping and implementing organizational and funding strategy. We’ve simplified our biggest and boldest ideas, insights and motivations, and deliver them to you live and in person, including:

  • How to get strategic clarity
  • How to communicate your vision and message
  • How to find and engage with great leaders, prospects and champions
  • How to build a high performing leadership team
  • How to build an effective culture around funding the vision
  • How to ask

Partner Organizations

We field daily requests from people who want their network to hear the For Impact Point of View. This is your chance to make that happen! We’re looking for great Partners – Organizations who can help us spread the word in a community, fill the room, and host us in fantastic locations around the country. Email us now to discuss bringing the For Impact Workshop to your city as a Partner Organization.

Have For Impact Stop in Your City

If you would like to have For Impact come to you, simply vote for your city using this pre-registration form. Your pre-registration is not binding, it’s simply a way for us to crowd source our destinations. As a thank you, you’ll receive a coupon code for $100 off the registration fee ($145) for any For Impact Workshop.

After you’ve completed your form, share this post and encourage your network to vote for your city. We’ll announce our tour stops at the end of June.

More about Fundraising on a Napkin.


Follow-Up is 90% of the Effort

Like predisposition, follow-up requires a specific strategy. Too often, wonderful presentations/asks/sales visits are wasted because there is no follow-up.

A typical scenario includes someone making a great presentation and then ‘hoping’ a gift comes as a result of the ask. Or, sometimes there is only a phone call that comes weeks (or months) later in which the substance of the dialogue is one question: “We were wondering if you had a chance to make a decision?”

It’s probably impossible to misquote or butcher one of Yogi Berra’s malapropisms, but here goes:

“Half of the game is presentation. The other 90% is follow-up.”

Huge problem: We consider our work finished when we get to the point of making the request. We feel like we’ve shared everything we can and now it must be in the prospect’s hands. That notion is wrong. In fact, follow-up is 90% of the effort!

Some reminders to help you with follow up:

  • This is not some one-off transaction. It’s all about a true relationship. Follow-up is about advancing the relationship, opportunity or plan WITH the prospect.
  • It’s either win/win or lose/lose! You’re presenting an opportunity to save lives, change lives or impact lives. Stop being so bashful.
  • Follow-up is about taking the opportunity to continue the excitement generated on the visit. You’re need to keep the momentum. This could mean:
    • An immediate follow-up letter.
    • An immediate follow-up phone call from champion or volunteer.
    • An immediate follow-up phone call from you.
  • Don’t dodge the issue! The worst follow-up is when you step politely around the pending request (hoping the prospect brings it up or announces to you a commitment.) Using your own style you need continue to work with prospect to advance the ball – be direct, sincere and authentic and remember – Hope is not a strategy.

Read more Thoughts on Follow Up from Tom.


Talent Posting :: The Hunger Project – U.S. Fundraising Leader

Talent is a critical element for any successful team and finding the right talent is one of the top challenges facing organizations. For Impact Talent works with our clients and alumni to find and train the right talent — to lead, sell or support around a true sales model and For Impact Point of View. Periodically, we will be sharing Talent Postings with our readership.

We’re currently working with The Hunger Project to find their next U.S. Fundraising Leader, based in NYC, and are sharing this with our network to help find candidates who are passionate about sustainable international development solutions – and eager to engage a whole new group of investors to help end world hunger by 2030.

The Hunger Project is committed to the end of world hunger by 2030 – and focus their contribution in this effort on empowering communities and individuals to drive the solutions that work for them, and by partnering with like-minded groups. The Hunger Project takes a comprehensive approach – working with communities to focus on activities that will have a lasting impact on their well-being and potential.

In order to achieve this visionary – yet achievable – goal, we must significantly increase the investments made in The Hunger Project. In the United States, the biggest priority for the new US Fundraising Leader is to transform annual fundraising revenue from a static $6M to $10M and beyond over the next few years, by generating results personally and by empowering their team to succeed.

This position is meant for the leader who wants to apply their deeply relational skills and experience toward the realization of this brighter future.

For more information or to apply, contact For Impact’s Director of Talent, Jessica Gemm – – or visit the full profile here.