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The Individual Skills of Your Board Members!

I was in Colorado Friday at a Board Retreat for an amazing hospital focused on traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.

*Last year we laid out the Plan and Strategy for a $100 Million Initiative. This year we reported the progress that was fueled by the hospital’s Senior Staff, the Foundation Team and the Board.

I wanted to share with all of you a truly astounding activity and result.

We really brainstorming ideas on specific ways that Board Members could help with our 3 Priorities of People, Programs and Place and especially with our $75 Million Vibrant Family Campus.

I had written up on the flip chart a simple note about utilizing the individual skills possessed by each Board Member.

A brilliant young Board Member, who also happened to be an alum (former patient), picked up on that and asked if it would be okay if we went around the room and had every Board Member share their particular skill/strength, as well as what they were going to specifically do on this effort.

WOW! Totally screwed up our time schedule, etc. However, results were beyond belief.

Board Members talked about their strengths and skill set (in business, sales, construction, etc.) They each said the one thing that they thought they could do which would provide the most help to the staff and on the campaign.

Examples included:

    • Go On Visits… to Ask or to Share their Story.
    • Open Doors.
    • Help with Branding and Marketing.
    • Help with the Construction Project. And on and on.

I’ve done an awful lot of work at Board Retreats. This was one of the most powerful activities I’ve ever seen.

The Executive Director of the Foundation and I took a lot of notes. Now we have to follow-up. We will.


Shaping the Message. Telling the Story.

In another blurb that came out from Notre Dame News, the current president, Father John Jenkins, was talking about his vice president of university relations, Lou Nanni.

In a very complimentary way, Father Jenkins indicated that, in the time that he has served, Lou has been involved in “shaping Notre Dame’s messaging and helping tell our story to various constituencies”.

I’ve got a lot of comments over the years about how ‘easy’ it would be to raise money for Notre Dame, how you don’t have to worry about doing ‘this stuff’ at Notre Dame, etc.

Father Jenkins quote seems like a gentle reminder that, even at Notre Dame, it is very important to shape the message and tell the story.


Doing Something Meaningful & Important

Morris Pollard, professor emeritus of biological sciences and director of the University of Notre Dame’s Lobund Laboratory, died Saturday at 95 years old. I had a chance, first hand, to see the work that Dr. Pollard did that had an impact on Notre Dame, the community and the world.

As one of the first Jewish scholars and faculty members, Pollard was convinced by Father Hesburgh (president) to join the faculty in 1961 and expand the ecumenical presence.

In the news release from Notre Dame, here’s the paragraph and the quote I found most telling.

Pollard worked at all of these things until his very last days. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said recently. “I think if you are doing something meaningful and important and you stop doing it, you’ll always look back with regret.”

As another old (but not that old) guy, I would add that if you are doing something meaningful and important, there’s no reason to stop doing it. That’s what many/most of you are doing in this wonderful For Impact world.


“The Only Purpose of Business is to Have a Customer”

One of management guru Peter Drucker’s great lines.

What does it mean in the FOR IMPACT world?

If we aren’t significantly IMPACTING our ‘CUSTOMER’ — those people who we deliver our service/solution to their problem — then we don’t have a ‘business/organization‘ worthy of anyone’s investment (gift)!

***In the ENTREPRENEURIAL world, this “purpose of business” is often lost.

A ‘customer’ also means someone who is willing to pay for your service/solution!!!

This could include an investor, partner of philanthropist helping to underwrite your service/solution.


Be Unreasonable

At For Impact | The Suddes Group each team member is or has been an entrepreneur. Collectively, we’ve started over 30 companies… failed at some… succeeded at others. Much of what you read at is really entrepreneurial thinking – applied to the For Impact world.

Our fire and passion for the entrepreneurial spirit has led to some great relationships with young social entrepreneurs who are changing the world through StartingBloc, Sparkseed, Ashoka Youth Ventures and The Unreasonable Institute.

Teju and Nikil, two Unreasonable Institute founders, first joined us at one of our boot camps two years ago. Since then, we’ve been active mentors to the UI team and UI fellows. While we’re supposed to be guiding and leading based on our experience I think we probably get more out of the relationship from the fellows and from the ‘unreasonable vibe’ in Boulder. It’s completely invigorating to be a part of accelerator community.

Kerry was in Boulder yesterday. She led a kickoff session for 27 fellows from 11 countries… sharing with them the Impact drives Income message and challenging them to Think Big, Build Simple, Act Now. Tom will be out there in a few weeks helping the young entrepreneurs seek clarity around their business models and source start-up capital.

These young entrepreneurs… most of whom already have a viable product… will spend the next 10 weeks together in Boulder working with seasoned entrepreneurs… cranking up the audacity of their visions and hopefully leaving with networks, skills and financing they need to help them change the world.

Follow along this summer by watching Unreasonable.TV. Be inspired with us at For Impact while we watch these bold young entrepreneurs grow, learn and change the world.


Steve Jobs and a Simple Message: It Just Works

“It Just Works.”

This is what Steve Jobs kept saying last week when he introduced iCloud – a part of the Mac Operating system that will allow you to access all of your files, all the time, from any of your devices.

Jobs is the master at simple messaging. He could’ve talked about syncing, storage methods, how-it-works, etc. That ‘stuff’ wasn’t important to his message: IT JUST WORKS.

(At one point he talks about Apple’s new data center… he simply says its full of ‘all sorts of expensive stuff’.)

At the highest level Jobs was speaking to anyone that’s ever had a frustration with new technology… whether it be the tech dummy OR the geek that always has to support the tech dummy.

It’s worth noting that Steve was speaking primarily to a room full of geeks when he gave this address.

A fun exercise: Watch Steve Jobs (you will have to scroll to about 1:19:00 in the keynote). Now imagine he’s talking about your organization. What would he say? Can you imagine him up there in jeans and a black shirt saying, “Here it is… WE SAVE LIVES!” Can you imagine him weaving that into his address about 20 times in 20 minutes?

A little hat tip to MG Siegler at who pointed out ‘It Just Works‘.


Meaning Before Detail

This morning I’m re-reading Brain Rules. It’s become one of my favorite books because it provides so much science and explanation for how the brain actually works… how we learn… how we understand… how we engage.

One line really leaps out today:

The brain processes meaning before detail. Providing the gist, the core concept, first [is] like giving a thirsty person a tall glass of water. And the brain likes hierarchy. Starting with the general concepts naturally leads to explaining information in a hierarchical fashion. You have to do the general idea first. And then you will see a 40% increase in understanding.”

This really reinforces the Altitude framework for presentations… starting with the core concept most often around the WHY/Purpose.

You can actually say – at the start of the visit – “I would love to just start off by really summing up what we’re trying to do at the highest level…” Share your message. Then have a quick conversation around that MESSAGE.


Have a Funding Rationale: Something to Ask For

It’s important to have a great story and then you need something to ask for — a funding rationale.

If the story is the emotion then the funding rationale is the logic behind the ask.

  • $1,200 to cover the gap in one student impacted.
  • $36,000 over three years to underwrite a family counseling program.
  • $1M to be one of three seed funders that will take your program to scale.

Having a strong funding rationale converts the emotion (of the story) to something concrete. It frames the ask. (See How to Create a Funding Rationale Tied to Impact.)

Without a funding rationale a few things usually happen:

  • There is no real ask… because we’re not sure what to ask for.
  • The ask is so general that you receive a sliver of what you really needed.
  • The funder will restrict the giving… only because he or she doesn’t really understand from you what the money will be used for so it was decided for you.

Channel Your Inner Stuart Smalley Before an Ask

Remember: BEFORE he was Senator Al Franken when he was Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live.

Stuart Smalley was an Al Franken character that led an affirmation / self-help show. He would begin every episode by looking in the mirror and reminding himself. I’m good enough; I’m smart enough and gosh darn it. People like me.

It’s okay to take a few moments before your call or visit and have your own Stuart Smalley moment. In fact, always take a moment and remind yourself of WHY you do this.

Remind yourself:

  • Of what happens if you DON’T ask.
  • Of what happens if we DON’T raise funds… Then take that all the way out to its logical conclusion.
  • Get in alignment with that conclusion. Channel it. You’re there to save lives, change lives and impact lives.
  • The person with whom you’re meeting wants to save lives, change lives and impact lives.
  • Think: Shoulder-to-shoulder. This isn’t about you ‘convincing someone’. It’s not about ‘getting money’. It’s about working together.
  • If you’re