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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