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Pending into oblivion…

Once you’ve made an ask (numbers on the table), the prospect status can be either pending or committed/declined. Pending implies that we’re working toward a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The challenge is that so many requests never get to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’… they fade into pending oblivion.

Pending into oblivion sounds like this [my commentary in brackets]:

  • “Well we didn’t want to harass the prospect after we asked.”
    [so we didn’t follow-up to see if it was a yes/no and so it went nowhere]

  • “The family says it’s still thinking.”
    [16 months is a long time to be thinking, do you think something’s going to change about that next month?]

  • “If we forced them to a decision, I’m worried they would say no.”
    [but we don’t know that for sure, so instead we let the relationship function in this grey area — moreover, without dialogue we can’t actually deal with objections]

There comes a time when we need to force a decision. When it’s been 16 months… when you’ve made four visits… you’ll know it when you come to it.

You can simply say, “Prospect, we’ve had some great discussions about this project and it’s time to come to some sort of decision about a commitment. We [as an organization] are moving forward and we just need to know where we stand. We need A commitment [TODAY].”

If we can’t ultimately report each request as a pending or a commit, it’s likely we didn’t really ask in the first place or we’re not doing our jobs.

There is a greater danger than getting a ‘no’. It’s not having dialogue, not having any real sense of what’s working in your system, and leaving relationships in a grey – stagnant area.

Tom is helping a college wrap-up a huge campaign. The five-person development team has about 70 sizeable gifts pending. Tom rallied the troops in August and said, “We’re in a phase in which there is no more pending.” For the last six weeks the team has been out having commitment conversations with each family, prospect and foundation. This has generated $14M in commitments over the last two weeks.

See also: How to ask funders to follow a deadline

  • The ask as a continued dialogued
  • Get numbers on the table early.
  • Selling Is Not Telling… Unless It’s A Story

    It’s not about a PITCH (on an elevator)! It’s not a spiel. It’s not memorized.


    *We used to call this IMPACT POINTS and TALKING POINTS. It was the idea of “reaching into your quiver of arrows” and selecting the right response.

    Call it whatever. Just ASK. LISTEN. RESPOND.


    Altitude Awareness: Stay at 30,000′

    We use an Altitude Framework to order thinking, communications and storylines.

    30,000′ The WHY VISION
    14,000′ The WHAT STRATEGY

    In sharing this with others one goal is simply to make everyone aware of 30,000′ and what it means to “share the message and story at 30,000′”.

    People respond to you at whatever level you communicate. So, if you’re at 3′, talking about where the architects are placing bathrooms, this will frame the conversation. Instead, if you’re at 30,000′, talking about changing and saving lives… the conversations will be different.

    One example: Last year I worked with a well-respected social entrepreneur and Ashoka fellow. A driven individual and true visionary, he gets up every morning trying to change the face of poverty. Whenever he went to make an ask, however, the conversation always turned into a debate about the business model (at 14,000′). The Altitude Framework helped him to see why this was happening.

    Being an award-winning social entrepreneur, his message had taken shape around ‘doing business in a different way’… about ‘earned income’… about ‘not relying on philanthropy’… about being ‘best in the world at being sustainable’. Naturally, prospects were engaging him at this level (14,000′). The 30,000′ WHY wasn’t coming through in his message. His story needed to be about being best in the world at changing the face of poverty (30,000′) — first — and then incorporating a different business model (at 14,000′).

    The Altitude Framework was a simple tool that made him aware of his 30,000′ message. I’m happy to report his funding conversations changed considerably based on this conscious framing exercise.


    Imagining a day in which “Not-for-profits” don’t exist

    Tom’s been pushing for a ‘change’ in the sector and a change in the vocabulary for 15+ years. In the past five years we’ve seen the dialogue about a new language explode. And, recently I’ve been able to imagine a day in which ‘not-for-profits’ don’t exist because a different identity shapes those devoted to changing the world.

    We give a big portion of our time and resources to helping young leaders change the world. Tom’s been the boxing coach at Notre Dame for 35+ years and I built and sold my first company (at Notre Dame) before I was 22. We’re sold out for young people.

    Thinking back over the past two years we’ve had young social entrepreneurs to our boot camps, mentored at the Unreasonable Institute and worked closely with another 26 young leaders at Eagle Creek or on-the-road. Not one of them would describe what he or she is doing as a ‘not-for-profit’. When you listen to them describe their ambitions the message is about

    • Social Innovation
    • Social Enterprise
    • Movements / Networks
    • Change-Focused Organization
    • For Impact (after they’ve been with us)

    The really interesting thing is that I think greater than 80% have been incorporated as 501c3 organizations.

    This is not an observation about vocabulary. It’s an observation about identity and being. (more…)


    Think Visual: Imagineering

    I spent last Friday at Disney World with an amazing group of Junior Achievement CHAMPIONS (aka Board Members and Staff). It was a six-hour ‘RETREAT’ and my role was to facilitate/coach to help Junior Achievement Board Members become more ENGAGED and more PASSIONATE ADVOCATES for Youth Development, Economic Development and Workforce Development.

    We (60 Board and Staff Members from Junior Achievement of Central Florida and West Coast) spent the day talking about IMPACT and INCOME and their ROLE.

    I was totally energized by the commitment of these CHAMPIONS… and of their serious desire to figure out how to help.

    As part of my ‘PREP’, I re-read one of my favorite ‘books’ called IMAGINEERING by the Disney Imagineers. It’s full of all kinds of the SKETCHES (VISUALS) that were eventually turned into reality.

    Following are some tweet-like quotes from Imagineering that reinforce the entire idea of STORIES and VISUALS.

    “You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all. You have to SHOW them what you’re going to do.” Walt Disney

    I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible because dreams offer too little collateral.” Walt Disney

    “Question: How many Imagineers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?”

    “For Disneyland, the process of ‘learning and succeeding by dreaming and doing’ was employed for the very first time.”

    “The only rule during this time (of brainstorming Disneyland): There are no rules.”

    “The Walt Disney Company is in the business of TELLING STORIES.”

    “There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrate to some stroke of the IMAGINATION.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Storyboards are used a PRESENTATION TOOL… to SELL THE IDEA!”


    Elevator Pitch vs. Elevator Engagement

    “What’s your elevator pitch?”

    You have 60 seconds with someone on an elevator. How do you pitch your company, product or organization? What do you say in that short time? Presumably the goal is to get the other person to say, “Hey, this sounds interesting. Let’s keep talking.”

    If that’s the goal, and if you only have a short time frame, let’s change the question to: “What’s the best way to engage in a short time frame?”

    Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds… even if succinct… think about one great question you can ask of the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.

    I would ask one question then tell a quick story (10 seconds) based on the answer to that question. You engage more in a short time frame by asking questions.

    The elevator pitch may be one of the most powerful framing devices ever. I’m not throwing out the concept… I just want to draw your attention to the difference between a one-way communication and a two-way communication. Focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Think about the difference between SAYING and ENGAGING.

    When you’re with a prospect on a visit, by phone, leading a tour or on an elevator are you SAYING or ENGAGING?


    On Board: The Board Challenge

    ON BOARDS is a For Impact Guide to greater Board productivity and impact. I’ve done four or five Board Trainings/Facilitations/Coaching in the last few months… with some amazing, dedicated and committed Board Members/Champions.

    Here is one of the things that you can find in ON BOARD.


    If you are ‘uncomfortable’ sharing this (On Board) with your current Board Members… that would seem to signify a BIG problem.

    If you are sharing this with your Board, we would like to encourage those individual Champions and Board Members to do these 3 things:

      1. Bring Your Leadership Skills! Bring your entrepreneurial, sales, business and community skills and talents to the proverbial table! If something doesn’t make sense, don’t ‘cop out’ by saying, “This is a ‘Not-for-Profit’. It must be okay.”
      “Leaders Lead.” My friend Bob Werner’s words. My emphasis. (Bob is a big-time Mensch and Jewish philanthropic superstar.) SUCCESS for any For Impact Organization is a direct result of LEADERS LEADING!
      Passion and commitment from LEADERSHIP will overcome all obstacles.
      2. Ask A Lot Of Questions! As long as you are a CHAMPION and truly believe in the CAUSE and the CASE, your questions are important and valuable….. and should be dealt with/answered.
      3. Challenge the Staff’s Thinking! The staff is committed, competent and also Champions for the cause. However, they are usually singularly focused on the Mission/Solution and delivering the Impact. They rarely have a business background. Few have any true entrepreneurial experience. And none have ever been trained in sales. Staff should be looking to you (Board Members) for some out-of-the-box thinking and some great ideas around funding, revenue streams, sales and more. Give it to them.

    Think Visual: The Crayon

    “THINK VISUAL: One of the best ways to solve complicated problems might be to DRAW them.” Clive Thompson, Wired Magazine, Oct. 2010

    Clive Thompson writes a really succinct, powerful ‘essay’ in this month’s Wired Magazine. He talks about using his son’s Crayolas, doodling, icons, the Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam, and much more.

    Having just spent Friday at Disney and doing the whole ‘IMAGINEERING’ thing… this article just reinforced my own thinking, teaching and training on the importance of VISUALS!

    *My ‘weapon of choice’ is a MARKER, not a crayon. If you’ve ever been to one of our For Impact Experiences, Trainings, Boot Camps, Talks or Presentations… you know that we use the MARKER – not a PowerPoint/Slide Presentation. People love it.

    *Thompson reinforces the idea that heavy use of computers and PowerPoints and even ‘WORDS’ don’t get it done.

    He quotes David Sibbet, a visualization expert:

    “If you want everyone to have the same mental model of a problem, the fast way to do it is with a PICTURE.”!!

    In my own words, “YEE HAW!”

    Read this article.


    Add Your BOARD STORY

    I just finished our new GUIDE… ON BOARDS.

    Here’s a sample of one of the ideas, thoughts and nuggets.


    What is the current ‘STORY’ you’re telling yourself about your Board?

      • They want to micro-manage everything.
      • They won’t give us names.
      • They won’t ask their friends for money.
      • We can’t get new and better Board Members.
      • We are stuck with ‘Legacy’ Board Members.
      • We all dread Board Meetings.

    This ‘story’ is familiar, but doesn’t have to be true moving forward.


    WHAT IF… you change that ‘STORY’ to one that sounded like this:

      • Our Board is engaged with us at 30,000′ around our Vision.
      • Our individual Board Members help us at 14,000′ around our Strategy.
      • Our Board truly understands their role when it comes to funding… and they love it.
      • Successful community leaders who believe in our Cause and our Case are fighting to get on our Board.
      • We have had great conversations with our entire Board about the ‘BUS’…where it’s going and who needs to be on it. Those who are not in alignment with our direction have gracefully and gratefully accepted either Emeritus status or rotated off the Board.
      • Our Board Meetings are now Memorable Experiences… exciting opportunities to both see and talk about our Impact! We can’t wait for the next one.

    You each control the Board ‘Story’. It can be a negative story or a positive story. Either way, It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    *See more on Power of Story at

    SPECIAL NOTE: We’ll be doing a teleseminar next week ON BOARDS. More to follow.


    You need funds “For What?”

    Nick and I were brainstorming yesterday about a coaching client. Talked about trying to get them to stop begging for money… and start answering the question:

    “FOR WHAT?”

    Neither of us can figure out why this ends up being so powerful, but it just is.

    In the start-up/entrepreneurial world, we call this USE OF FUNDS. It answers the question: “Where does the money go?”

    It’s tied directly to packaging your Priorities and Projects and Programs (obviously around your IMPACT) vs. ASKING FOR MONEY!

    Stop begging for money. Start talking about the WHAT and the USE OF FUNDS!


    3 Champions

    Coming off a crazy few weeks.  I had some time early this morning to reflect on my time in California with Sparkseed’s DANGEROUSLY AMBITIOUS 2010 superstars!  Was literally surrounded by very, very, very dangerously ambitious young men and women not just dreaming about changing the world… but actually doing it!

    Every Social Entrepreneur, For Impact Leader, Social Enterprise Founding Team… needs money.  It’s a given.

    Every one of these superstars wanted the ‘magic answer’ for their next round of financing.

    I found myself giving the same ‘coaching’ to almost every one of them.  Here it is.

    3 CHAMPIONS!!!

    Everybody is trying to finish their Business Plan.  Pretending they’re going to meet with Venture Capitalists.  Practicing their pitch.  Looking at presenting to hundreds of potential investors.

    In literally every case… I forced the issue/begged the question:

    WHAT IF… you visited/met with your absolute best 3 CHAMPIONS???

    One of these 3 people you already know and is involved with you.  The other 2 are deeply involved and engaged in the ‘space’ (the Cause, Entrepreneurship or whatever).

    • CHAMPIONS are obvious.
    • CHAMPIONS don’t need a 75-page Business Plan!!  They’re investing in you!
    • CHAMPIONS are meant to be advisors AND investors!!!
    • CHAMPIONS are ANGELSnot Venture Capitalists!  Actually, they’re ARCH-ANGELS!
    • CHAMPIONS let you do the math, lay out your use of funds over the next 3 to 6 months, and then PRESENT THEM THE OPPORTUNITY to be part of your change the world solution.

    The more I thought about this 3 CHAMPION strategy, the more I realized it wasn’t just for start-ups or Social Entrepreneurs or new Social Enterprises.

    It’s true for every single FOR IMPACT ORGANIZATION!!!

    WOW:  If every organization involved with For Impact right now were to go out and visit with their 3 CHAMPIONS… they could raise a minimum of $1.5 BILLION in 3 DAYS!!!

    Based on over 35 years of banging around in this 3rd Sector with thousands and thousands of organizations… I can tell you that there is nothing stopping you from doing this… and guarantee you that the results of visits with these 3 CHAMPIONS will transform your organization.

    <span style=”font-size:16px”>B2A FOR IMPACT TRAINING</span

    *The Math: 5,000 Organizations x 3 Champions x $100,000 Champion/Angel Investment = $1.5 Billion.


    An Example of the Power of Story

    Here’s a summarized version of the STORY for The Abbey Theatre in Ireland.

    They’re an amazing organization, with an incredibly rich history, a glitch five years ago that has been dramatically reversed, a terrific Senior Team and more.

    We have been working with The Abbey for a little over a year, and I believe they would tell you that one of the most important things we’ve done as their COACH has been to help them tell their story! Obviously, as a theatre/artistic/performance group… The Abbey and its leadership understand the whole idea of ‘STORY’. The challenge was that the story they were telling (and not telling) wasn’t working.

    Hope the following helps you understand how truly powerful is the whole idea of STORY.


      The ORGANIZATION STORY. THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF IRELAND! For over 100 years have been staging and reflecting Irish life and culture. Deeply engaged in the Easter Rising in 1916 (founding of the country!) … and will be again on the 100th Anniversary in 2016. Major challenges in 2004, leadership, financial, etc. Big-time turnaround. Superstar Artistic Director. Super-smart CFO. ‘Brilliant’ new Senior Team. New financial controls. New Message and Marketing. Now in position to scale and grow the IMPACT of The Abbey in Dublin, Ireland, the United States and around the world.
      The MESSAGE STORY. Again, THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF IRELAND! Staging and reflecting Irish life and culture. Connecting TALENT and AUDIENCES!