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Unify. Simplify. Amplify.

Here’s $100,000 worth of advice on your MESSAGE/BRAND, compliments of Ken Carbone. This comes from Fast Company’s CO Design. Carbone is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director of the Carbone Smolan Agency.

So many reasons I love this!!!

    • $100,000 of advice in just 3 WORDS!

    • One of those words is SIMPLIFY!

    • The writing is tight, filled with great ‘words’ and powerful.

Nick, Kerry and I spend sooooo much of our time helping people with MESSAGE (BRAND). This is a great ‘formula’: UNIFY. SIMPLIFY. AMPLIFY.


Listen… Respond

I admit it. I love Starbies. Not so much for the coffee but for the feng shui. For me, it really is the ‘third place’ (between work and home) that Founder Howard Schwartz likes to call it.

I spent four hours there Sunday afternoon thinking and writing. Only problem was, the music was way too loud, even for me (and I’m going deaf).

I asked very nicely if the music was “SET AT A SPECIFIC VOLUME”?

Answer was, “Yes. We know it is too loud for most of our customers… but it is set by ‘corporate’.”

Thus, the LISTEN… and RESPOND. In this case, Starbucks’ ‘response’ was to leave the volume alone, because it was set by ‘corporate’ (regardless of customer complaints or suggestions).

Apply this same LISTEN… then RESPOND to your own daily work. Are you really, really LISTENING… and RESPONDING to the people you serve? To your investors? To your staff/team?

It’s a little thing that’s a big thing. Turn down the music.

Special Note: Re-read Nick’s post on Vocabulary Wars. He ends with the same thought: The way to avoid a ‘vocabulary war’ is to LISTEN!


The Power of the ‘Napkin’

Prepping for Arizona trip. For Impact ‘EXPERIENCE’ with Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and a training with Mission of Mercy Staff and Board.

Both are half-day sessions. Realized, again, that I could spend three straight hours talking, listening, and responding to our Point-of-View… on a napkin.


Every day, every training, every coaching… just reinforces the power of this epiphany/insight.

*Since I’ve presented this 1,000 times, give or take, and still get ‘juiced’ at the simplicity of this message… doesn’t hurt for you to see it again (and, and again, and forever, again.)


Budget Driven vs. Vision Driven

Just got off the phone with an org that impacts individuals and familes affected by mental health.

The VP had a great line, “We’ve always been in the habit of making decisions based on the budget. Now that we have that stablized we need to figure out how to make decisions based on the vision.”

I had the chance to meet this organization over office hours a few weeks ago:

  • Two years ago new leadership came on board. They spent two years just ‘doing the math’.
  • There IS a vision. That is, the organization is clearly moving in a great direction. It’s simply never stopped to articulate that vision and get consensus around that vision.
  • Now have the math, great people… limited only by clarity at top level and 2-3 strategic priorities.

It’s a good thing when you can move from budget driven to vision driven.

Impact Drives Income.


Tell to Win

I love INC. magazine. Been reading it for 30+ years. Latest (March) issue has tons of ‘good stuff’, including a powerful Q & A on ‘PURPOSEFUL STORYTELLING.

(Frequent readers know how much we, at For Impact, love the POWER OF STORIES!!!)

TELL TO WIN, new book by Peter Guber,CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, talks about ‘STORYTELLING’ as a “Professional Discipline”. Oh yeah.

Quick Quotes:

    • “Stories are tools.”
    • “Stories need to be interactive.”
    • “Stories need a purpose.”
    (Thus, “Purposeful Storytelling”.)

Read the article. Buy the book. (I just ordered it.)

Tell to win.


The Irrational Investor

Not too long ago I was told on first visit with a prospect that we should not come back and see him until we had a folder ‘just like the one the boy scouts used on their campaign two years ago that was very successful’. On this same visit we were told we should then plan to visit with the prospect for about a year before we even thought about asking for money and that the way in which we illustrated return-on-investment (ie. impact) was not sufficient for him… we needed much more data.

He was what we call The Irrational Investor.

The Irrational Investor is the person that might ask for financials from seven years ago or some cost ratio that you (and nobody else) ever thought to compute.

The Irrational Investor prevents us from getting out and making visits because we keeping coming up with the next ‘but what if they ask this?’ question and answer. The WHAT IF’s quickly become irrational and never ending.

Here’s the thing. You WILL encounter The Irrational Investor. I can tell you I encounter the Irrational Investor about 1 out of every 40 visits. I can also tell you that you will never have enough information for the Irrational Investor so don’t worry about it. Stop preparing for the Irrational Investor and focus on getting to the other 39 that are going to be great.

Tip: The Irrational Investor is a lot easier to spot when you have 39 other visits for comparison.

When you DO come upon the Irrational Investor just smile… enjoy your thirty minutes and be polite. Enjoy it because you’re going to have a good story to tell… like the time that I met with this guy that wanted us to redo all materials (even though everyone else thought they were great) and do a lot more data crunching (which made no sense) and then keep courting him for a year.


Nix the Cultivation Event and Go at the Goal.

When we’re on the road we try to meet up with followers, past clients and alumni. Last Friday I held some ‘office hours’ in Chicago and met with four organizations in consecutive sessions. Three readers sought advice on their development plans.

Each plan called for x number of cultivation events this year.

My heart sank. See ‘No More Events’ and ‘No More Cultivation’.

The coaching on this one:

  • The best way to build and maximize relationships is 1:1. See 1x 10x 50x.

  • Even if we do an event, your ‘network’ is going to expend a ton of energy getting people to the event… I would rather expend that collective energy on getting 1:1 intros.

  • Say you do the event… you’re still going to have to work to get the follow-up… which is the goal… just go to the goal.

You can do this:

  • With a good message and story. Absent of these what people hear (and what creates our reluctance to go to the goal) is “Can I come and ask you for money?”

  • With champions and predisposition. No cold calls. Rather than asking my board to fill a table I would rather ask them to be invite others to meet with me for a 30-minute intro. I would provide a process / tools to help them make the intro:

    In my 15 years living in Boston, I’ve never met anyone like [Nick]. The work he and his team is doing is amazing and disruptive. The thinking and approach to serving youth and changing lives reminds me more of something I would expect to see in Silicon Valley than the ‘not-for-profit’ arena.

    I’m reaching out to you because I think you would be interested in hearing what Nick has to say. For my part, I’m also committed to introducing Nick to a wide network of business leaders. To that end, I think an introduction would be mutually worthwhile and mutually enjoyable.

    I’ve asked Nick to follow-up with you directly and ask for 30 minutes of your time.

  • The first visit doesn’t need to be an ambush for money. Quite the oppositve… the goal should be to ENGAGE. To LISTEN. And then to overwhelm the other person with the IMPACT so that he or she says, “This is incredible, how can I help?”

When pushed, we found a way for the three organizations in this story to go super simple in the approach. We navigated around and through the ‘but-what-about-objections’ by bringing back to the core perspective that informs this approach: IMPACT driving INCOME. Hopefully, we’ll save hundreds of hours, thousands and thousands in fundraising costs and dozens and dozens of lives (because we will generate much more INCOME for our IMPACT).


Vocabulary Wars

Last week we were with an organization that helps the homeless 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 the that of this homelessness organization. As well, each foundation had funded similar agencies working in the homeless arena.
After asking some questions I suspect the challenge has been one to do more with vocabulary, than ‘fit’.

  • This homelessness 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 foundations… bricks and mortar, campaign committees, fancy office chairs, etc.

  • The homelessness organization had structured all of its internal vocabulary based on conversations with the government. These vocab words were deal killers with the private foundations which heard, “capital campaign” and wanted to focus on more “programs for the homeless”. [I’m not making this up.]

Here’s what we/they did:

  • We coached the organization’s senior leadership to go back to one of the foundation. This time the organizations was to ask questions, listen and use the foundation’s vocabulary to advance a discussion.

  • The key questions to ask (in this instance) 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 has to LISTEN to the foundation to pull off this conversation.

  • The homeless organization’s leadership was able then 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 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 our solution in terms the funder understood.

The 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!’”.


Think Different (Change the World)

More great stuff from Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Los Angeles ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day created an Apple television and print advertising campaign that turned into one of the most famous campaigns in corporate history. “Think Different” debuted on September 28, 1997, and became an instant classic. As black-and-white images of famous iconoclasts filled the screen (Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Richard Branson, John Lennon, Amelia Earhart, Muhammad Ali, Lucille Ball, Bob Dylan, and others), actor Richard Dreyfuss voiced the narration:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square hole. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they change the world are the ones who do.

This could be re-titled AN ODE TO ENTREPRENEURS. Definitely captures my own thinking on ‘How to Change the World’.


Headlines (Messages) that Change the World

There’s a story about the ‘Google Guys’, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, walking into Sequoia Capital to get funding for the new search engine technology.

Supposedly, they were able to describe their company in one sentence: “Google provides access to the world’s information in one click.”

63 characters. 10 words.

What is your ‘one-liner’?

Carmine Gallo in Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs gives some more examples of world-changing headlines (Messages) that are 10 words or less:

“Cisco changes the way we live, work, play and learn.”

“Starbucks creates a third place between work and home.”

“We (Microsoft) see a PC on every desk, in every home.”

Again, what is your HEADLINE that can Change the World?


It’s All About the Headlines!

There is so much good stuff from Carmine Gallo’s Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Here’s a nugget. Creating your Headline, your one-sentence Vision Statement, your simple Message, is so ridiculously important, yet so infrequently delivered.

At Macworld, 2007, Steve Jobs, lead off with this: “Today Apple reinvents the phone.”

How’s that for an attention grabber?

Or, how about: “MacBook Air. The world’s thinnest notebook.” Or, “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Gallo talks about these ‘HEADLINES’ as memorable because they met three criteria:

• Concise
• Specific
• Personal Benefit


*For what it’s worth, this may be the only value of Twitter. It forces you to create a ‘Message‘ in less than 140 characters! (And I’m not talking about OMG, LOL, UCMPLTME.)


Strong Bodies Fight…

On my way back to Notre Dame for the second round Bengal Bouts (boxing). First round consisted of 90 matches going on it two rings… for seven hours! I think I refereed 35 or 40 fights, well over 100 rounds. Legs were shot.

I was working with a school today on their MESSAGE. Trying for power, simplicity, compelling and more.

Just thinking back 44 years to what was probably the first ‘MESSAGE‘ I ever internalized.

Dominic J. ‘Nappy’ Napolitano founded the boxing program and the Bengal Bouts at Notre Dame in 1931, in conjunction with Knute Rockne – who wanted to create a better workout for his football players.

In the 1950’s, the proceeds from the tournament began going to the Holy Cross Missions in Bengal, now Bangladesh. Nappy captured in 48 words everything that the boxing program at Notre Dame represente


Even at 18 years old, every boxer can understand what that means.

The Bengal Bouts have generated over $1 Million to the Missions (including topping $100,000 last year for the first time) for the Holy Cross Priests, Brothers and Sisters who have been working in Bangladesh for over 150 years.

P.S. Here’s another powerful ‘MESSAGE‘ from Notre Dame that’s pretty memorable. Fr. Hesburgh used six words and a metaphor to capture the entire life of one of Notre Dame’s most famous professors and faculty members, Frank O’Malley.


I’ve never forgotten that one either.