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Five years or so ago, I spoke at a fairly large gathering of ‘Public Educators’, mostly principals of public high schools and some district superintendents. (Nick claims I ranted like Tom Peters on serious medication. He also says they all looked at me as if I were ‘crazy’. Who would have guessed?)

Essence of my message was:

    • Change or Die.

    • Abandon Almost Everything.

    • Re-Imagine… Re-Design… Re-Invent.

Almost every public high school is having FUNDING CHALLENGES. Levies passed or not passed. Cutting budgets. Dropping co-curricular activities. Pay to play, etc.

The Big Idea: PUBLIC education vs. public EDUCATION. It’s all about the students.

I do not understand why a public high school or a public school system is any different than a Private School, a Catholic School or a Charter School.

In our world, when you need more money (INCOME)… you go out and present your IMPACT (Story and Message)… and JUST ASK!

Twenty-five years ago, public colleges and universities received almost 100% of their money from government (the State Legislature). Here’s the ‘need’. Appropriate the funds. Operate.

Today, Ohio State University just finished a multi-billion dollar ‘campaign’… and every ‘public’ college and university has a development operation and raising a lot of money. ‘Development’ is just as integral and critical to the success of a ‘public’ institution as it is to ‘private’ education.

Which brings us to public high schools and elementary schools.

Raffles. Chocolate bar sales. Car washes. Advertising on the fence or scoreboard at the stadium. This is not a way to fund huge ‘GAPS’ in delivering or improving the quality of education for the students.

Almost every public school district I’m familiar with has created a (name of school system) EDUCATION FOUNDATION. No staff. No plan. No money.

Why are public educators and supposed leaders not implementing a Funding Model and Funding Plan that includes the ‘private sector’???

If you’re familiar with a local public system and have any thoughts on this, let me know.


Today Is The First Day of Your Life

Reading one of my favorite magazines (SUCCESS) early this morning. Great article on Entrepreneurship. Quick profile on Jeff Bezos and Amazon. I guess he did a video on “Everything I know, and it’s a short list.” (I need to do the same thing.) He concludes with this:

“The final thing I know, it’s always DAY 1.”

This is kind of a running joke with my youngest son, Taggart. Every morning when dropping him for school, the last thing I’d say was:

“Remember. TODAY is the FIRST DAY of the rest of your life.”

[He would look at me like any other 14-year-old and say, “Huh?”]

First Day. Day 1. Today. This is a great time of the year to move forward with this kind of attitude. Re-Invention… Re-Design… Re-Imagine… begins TODAY.

This Eskimo proverb provides a great metaphor.

“Yesterday is ASHES.
Tomorrow is WOOD.


The leap to sales is improved through trial, not time.

In general, organizations spend way too much TIME prepping for fundraising. We’ve seen organizations take TWO YEARS to create systems, hire the right people, put together plans.

Two years later, they’re ‘ready to start’. In that time they’ve made ZERO visits. As an organization, they’ve built a culture of ‘getting ready’… not making any visits. Unfortunately, this never translates into action in the sales arena.

Sales is about speed. It’s about being in the field and modifying your way to perfection. It’s about ALWAYS growing/learning/building – as an individual and as an organization. Sales is about relationships. You don’t build relationships by planning. You build and maximize relationships by talking to people.

As you COMMIT TO SALES we would urge you to ‘Engage. Then Plan!” in the words of Andy Grove.

Or, it it helps, give yourself TWO WEEKS to simplify your message and clarify your plan. Then start making visits. The only way to better the plan, get better at sales and (through both) raise a lot more money for your impact is through more TRIAL, not more TIME. It shouldn’t take you two years to build momentum with a sales plan. It should take you 20 visits. Do the 20 visits… THEN build a model around what’s working. Oh, and as a bonus, you’ll actually HAVE FUNDS to help you build your model because you’ve been in the field selling along the way.


“Boards Often Disappoint in Fundraising…”

Recent article in Chronicle of Philanthropy led off with this sentence: “Chief Executives of nonprofit organizations gave their Boards grades of D+ in fundraising…” (MANAGING, Page 18).

‘FUNDRAISING’ was rated the absolute lowest of 14 categories that were graded for Board Performance… and the highest/top rating for most important areas for Board Improvement.

Board Source prepared the 2010 Nonprofit Governance Index. Among its many findings showed that many organizations are still struggling from the recession: 41% cut or froze staff salaries, 29% laid off staff members or eliminated positions and 28% dipped into reserves or endowments. (Survey responses from 978 Chief Executives and 780 Board Members.)

60% of Chief Executives identified money – or the lack of it – as the most pressing challenge.

Everybody that we work with has major challenges around the BOARD and FUNDRAISING. Here are 3 great questions (from Nick) when people tell us their Board is not ‘giving’ nor ‘getting’.

    1. Have you SHARED YOUR STORY (your Impact, your Vision, your Message) at the highest level?

    2. Have you ENGAGED (truly engaged) with your individual Board Members?

    3. Have you ASKED? (No, really ASKED?)

When the vast majority of people answer “No” to one, two or all three of these questions… it’s pretty clear that the current results are a function of the organization… not the Board Member.


Note: Download our Guidebook: ON BOARDS for solutions to this BIG issue.


Design as Value

“Design is more than a VALUE-ADD… it’s a fundamental VALUE.” Alberto Alessi

DESIGN is a huge driver at For Impact | The Suddes Group.

DESIGN… of our actual WORDS
DESIGN… of our BRAND, POV, etc.
DESIGN… of our PUBLICATIONS – and much more

*In many ways, we think of ourselves as a ‘DESIGN STUDIO’.

With our clients, we help them RE-DESIGN.

Their CULTURE – and much more

As the end of the year approaches, it’s a great time to think about: DESIGN/RE-DESIGN.

P.S. Remember:

“You are PERFECTLY DESIGNED to get the RESULTS you are getting.” Tim Kight


Sales Attitude: How to think about December

“Should we plan on doing fewer visits with prospects this month, because of the holidays?”


“Should we keep pushing because people give at year’s end?”

We get a lot of questions about this every year. Our coaching advice:

Keep working your list. It’s a great time to be engaging (1:1) with your prospects/relationships.

  • If they can’t meet due to the holidays you can setup a time to connect in early January. Better to do that now than to come back to the office and call – at which time everyone would say, “I’m just getting re-oriented from the holidays… let’s wait a few weeks.”

  • Speaking from my own experience, for every person or family that can’t meet now, there is another for whom there will be no better time to meet. Some of my best visits + asks have been in December.

Whatever you do… don’t make excuses for not making visits.



Re-Charge Yourself

People are much like ‘cordless devices’. They need to be continually RE-CHARGED.

*This nugget emanates from a thought in John Maeda’s wonderful book, THE LAWS OF SIMPLICITY.

How are you RE-CHARGING yourself… on a continuous basis?

3 Quick Suggestions. We RE-CHARGE by:

    1. WHAT we READ.
    2. WHO we ‘HANG AROUND’.
    3. WHERE we spend our TIME.

“Renew THYSELF DAILY. Do it again. And again. And forever again.” Thoreau


“Productivity is meaningless unless you know your Goal.”

“PRODUCTIVITY is the act of bringing a company (organization or person) closer to its GOAL.”

“Every ACTION that brings a company (organization or person) closer to its GOAL is PRODUCTIVE.”

“Every ACTION that does NOT bring a company (organization or person) closer to its GOAL is not PRODUCTIVE.”

“What I’m telling you is…

Eliyahu Goldratt is an Israeli physicist who has been described by Fortune magazine as a “guru to industry” and by Business Week as a “genius”.

He wrote a self-published, underground best seller entitled THE GOAL (North River Press, 1984, Revised 1986 and 1992).

This may be one of the best ‘business books’ I’ve ever read. It’s not dense, text-heavy business gobbley gook with charts, tables and Venn diagrams.

It’s actually written as a fiction story. Jonah (the consultant) uses the Socratic method of asking questions of Alex (the manager) to completely turn around a faltering business/ manufacturing plant. (more…)


Wealth Is An Abundance Of Things That We Value

Thanksgiving Week is a great opportunity to spend time (and energy) on yourself and your family. *Very little productive ‘business’ or ‘work’ gets done anyway.

I have (admittedly) recycled some Thanksgiving thoughts from the last few years, and added a few more.

Here are 3 things to think about this Thanksgiving:

    1. “WEALTH IS AN ABUNDANCE OF THINGS THAT WE VALUE.” I love this definition… because I’m truly ‘wealthy‘.
    Try this. Write down a list of all the things that you truly VALUE… and then put a ‘COST’ (an actual dollar figure) next to everything on the list.
    Most people look at their lists and realize that the things they truly VALUE end up COSTING NOTHING! My VALUE LIST is filled with very simple things like family time, adventures with the grandkids, health, friends, all the ‘good stuff’.
    Besides these things that are alive… there is also wonderful value in a great book, a good cup of coffee, nature, the sun, the ocean, the mountains, yoga, physical workouts, etc.
    There’s a great quote on the bottom of a picture from one of my first athletic clubs that said, “Good HEALTH is the greatest WEALTH.” A lot of truth/value in that.
    A gentle reminder: WEALTH, no matter how you define it, should not be ‘A LOT OF MONEY’. Money is worthless wampum.
    ODE magazine had an entire issue around the idea of ‘MONEY’. One of the best lines was a simple statement: “It’s not about MONEY. It’s what you DO with your money!”
    Note: I’m an entrepreneur. I’m all about ‘financial freedom’. I want to be able to take care of my family, travel, live on the farm, and much more. At the same time, money has become a kind of scorecard or measurement with very little relative VALUE to happiness in the grand scheme of life.
    2. “ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE.” Almost every book I’ve ever read on personal development has reinforced that ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. My good friend Tim Kight calls this the ‘R’ FACTOR. His brilliant equation is E + R = O.
    Event + Response = Outcome.
    Event does not equal the outcome. It’s our RESPONSE (which is almost always a function of our ATITTUDE) that creates the outcome. We are surrounded by relative comfort and certain freedom. Few of us have to worry about struggling each day to meet our basic needs (which is a daily struggle for most of the people in the world). Many people focus on what they see as a lengthy list of negatives, complaints, faults, cynicism. We need to respond with our antidote of GRATITUDE.
    ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE alters the way we see others and ourselves. It inspires us. It builds and supports lasting relationships.
    Take a moment every day to write or think about the many, many things for which we are most grateful. (Julia Cameron calls them money pages.) Family. Friends. Freedom. Maslov’s Food, Shelter, Clothing. Greatest country in the world. (And when you’re my age, the fact that you’re alive and breathing vs. the alternative.)
    Note: This is also a great way to think about the whole idea of ABUNDANCE MENTALITY.
    3. “THE MORE YOU GIVE THE MORE YOU GET.” I’ve watched thousands of people experience this ‘giving thing‘. While I still don’t understand exactly how it works, I know that the more we do give, the more we get.
    Thanksgiving and the holidays is a terrific opportunity to SHARE with others. You can even take your children and grandchildren as you GIVE of your time or money or material goods to help feed, clothe or shelter the homeless, help the elderly or make some difference in a child or family’s life.

Special Note: Every Thanksgiving, I share these 3 stories that you may want to share with your children or grandchildren or family. One is THE HAPPY PRINCE. Second is the SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD, as seen through the eyes of a child. Third is a very powerful parable about giving titled the SEA OF GALILEE.

From all of us at For Impact and The Suddes Group, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. (We’re grateful and appreciative of what you do every day to CHANGE THE WORLD and to MAKE AN IMPACT.)


What a lack of awareness (or a lot of awareness) means to your funding and how to fix it.

We begin each Board Experience by asking each participant to share what he or she perceives to be the biggest funding obstacle. We also ask each person to single out the greatest asset we have to leverage or opportunity to transform funding.

Quite often someone will bring up ‘awareness’ as a challenge.

One person might say, “I think we don’t have enough awareness in the community.. This is our problem. I think we should build awareness?”

Another person might say, “We’re so visible and successful that everything things we don’t need any help. How do we change that?” (Note: I received two of these emails this am.)

Awareness translates into awareness. Not sustained revenue from relationships. We’ve had several clients that have been on Oprah –which, as you might know, equals some awareness. They get a BIG HIT, though this usually comes more in the form of traffic that crashes a website than funding revenues. We’ve also worked with some of the biggest social/nonprofit brands you can think of.

The real (funding) challenge is not awareness. It’s that we’re not making any visits. The jump in revenue comes from making 1:1 visits, sharing your story and presenting the opportunity (read: ASKING around the impact) for someone to make an investment that will change lives, save lives or impact lives.

Lack awareness? Find and visit with the best 10, 20, 30 prospects to share your story (making them aware of the incredible things you’re doing) and presenting the opportunity to help.

Have a lot of awareness? Find and visit with your best 10, 20, 30 prospects to share your story (making them aware of how much more you COULD be doing) and then presenting the opportunity to help.


Kiva on Groupon – Do The Math

I was reluctant to post this. Reluctant because organizations trend to fall back on MORE marketing instead of picking up the phone to schedule a visit.

Just appreciate this one for the creative MATH.

I got a Groupon notice this morning about Kiva. I could “Save $10 on a $25 Microloan Gift or Credit to Help Global Entrepreneurs through

My immediate reaction was to think it was absurd. People should be doing this HELP. Not to save money.

Then I did the math.

  • Groupon only lets you buy ONE credit and it’s only selling 500 credits.

  • On top of that, if you buy the credit (as I did) you have to go to the website and redeem. Not everyone will do this – in which case you’re puchase is converted to a straight up donation.

  • Worst case scenario, Groupon is out $5000 ($10 per credit times 500 purchases).

  • The credits sold out in no time. Groupon just BOUGHT 500 lenders for $5K and a lot of marketing to boot.

That’s pretty great math.


I Never Know What To Ask For Until After I Ask

On Monday led the Washington DC For Impact Experience (think: workshop, but way better).

Most organizations in the room were new to the concept of sitting down with someone and making a 1-on-1 visit and ask (a ‘targeted solicitation’ – as one attendee put it). When you’re new there can be fear of the unknown that translates into reluctance. You’re not sure what to ask for – for one thing.

I never know what to ask for until AFTER I ask. It took many asks – and mentorship from Tom – for me to understand that you’ll never know what to ask for. It will always be unknown — until you ask. Hopefully all of us at For Impact can pass this lesson on to you. This insight was a big epiphany for several attendees just as it was for me.

Sometimes the ask is for too much and sometimes too little but you know this because you asked. While most development officers or executive directors are huddled in their office trying to do more research you can go out and have a REAL conversation… build a REAL relationship and make a REAL ask. Because you’re building a relationship, this will lead to several more requests and investments over the next 3, 6, 9 months and following years…. while other organizations will LITERALLY take YEARS to figure out exactly what to ask for (which will never happen).