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Engage! Then plan.

In 2005 Fortune Magazine did a cover story on Andy Groves – founder of Intel. In reference to Intel’s success through the 90’s and early 2000’s Mr. Grove summed up the strategic approach in this way.

We had to ENGAGE and then plan!

Understanding comes from action. So “be quick and dirty,” he said. “Engage and then plan. And get it better. Revolutions in our industry in our lifetime have taken place using exactly this formula. [Full Text]


8 Common Messaging Challenges

Some quick reminders and primers coming into this post:

  • Message is what is HEARD, not necessarily what you SAY. (Read: What’s in a Message?)

  • A potential funder needs to be engaged around the message at three levels – they WHY, the WHERE (money goes) and the HOW (can help – supported by a funding rationale). Read our Altitude Framework PDF for a comprehensive look at this.

When it comes to 1:1 Sales (major gifts, grants, campaign, planned gift, etc) here are eight common messaging challenges we see.

  1. The message (engagement) starts at the wrong altitude. Engagement begins at 30,000’ – about changing, saving and impacting lives. A quick assessment of the way most ED’s are talking about the organization and you see that it’s so programmatic (think: 14,000’). We do a lot of coaching to get people up to the 30,000’-changing-the-world-level.

  2. No simplicity. Not able to state 30,000’ on a napkin. Not able to communicate three priorities. Not able to articulate a simple funding rationale.

    Special note: One way to simplify your message is through the use of visuals!

  3. No engagement. Several times each month I look at an organization’s message and say, “That’s actually pretty damn good! I’ll bet you’re just not ENGAGING anyone with the message.” What I mean is, you don’t need to wordsmith or reframe anything. Instead, you have a message problem in that no one is actually HEARING and INTERNALIZING the message. This could be because we’re not out visiting with or it could be because we’re out talking and not LISTENING. Listening allows us to frame our message in a way that makes sense to the other person.

  4. No funding rationale. No math or no story to support ‘the ask’. This is identifiable when we have a funding goal only and we’re either saying, “Can you give?” or we’re just picking a number out of the air. See my earlier post on 9 Types of Funding Pitches.

  5. No WOW. Only commentary here is that most organizations DO have a WOW factor. They often don’t see it because they focus on what’s not perfect.

  6. Story is not awesome. By this I mean your 30,000’ narrative is not representing your transcendent purpose, your BHAG, your audacity. Note: here I speak of the gravitas that you already possess. I’m not encouraging you to make something up for messaging purposes.

  7. Framing is about the INCOME. Not the IMPACT. A common 14,000’ example. Whereas we should be communicating how ALL of our funding supports specific projects, priorities and programs we say something like, “We need funds for staff salaries… admin… overhead.” YUCK. You frame everything around your excel spreadsheet and not the PURPOSE or INTENT of the expenditure. Again: Yuck.

    Another example is the message that’s all about the business plan. WHY do you exist and WHAT do you hope to achieve with said business plan (around the IMPACT).

  8. All CAUSE, no CASE. (Or, All PROBLEM, No SOLUTION). This refers to a message that is heavy on selling me on the problem. So much so that I never really engage with the CASE – either because it’s not there, or because you’ve lost my attention.

    Note: Hitting all three altitude levels actually makes a simple and complete CASE FOR SUPPORT.

Most organizations are faced with one or two challenges – not eight.


Eagle Creek Ice Storm

We were right on the southern line of the storms that moved through the midwest last week. Some snow but lots of ice. We were without power for a few days but we’re now back up and running.

Coming out to the office this AM I took these picts with my iPhone. Sharing for those of you that have been with us at Eagle Creek.

next to the castle><br />Courtyard between the Challenge Center and Castle</p>
<p><img src=

Castle Courtyard

Tree down over Churchmouse (name of horse)

Walkway from the Big Rock Center to the Challenge Center

Big Rock Center

See full set of picts


“They Say…”

“They say…”

  • “It takes 2-3 years to get a major gift from someone.”
  • “You should start with a cultivation event.”
  • “You must always have a board member ask.”
  • “The biggest gift comes on the third gift.”

Who are they?


There are no rules.


How to create a Funding Rationale tied to Impact

How to create a funding rationale tied to impact.

Essentially there are three ways to create funding rationale – three P’s. You can ask someone to invest in:

  • A PLAN

    Commonly used with the ‘campaign mindset’, you cast a vision, attach a dollar amount, articulate a funding plan then ask someone to be a piece of the plan.


    This could include seed funds to launch a program, sponsorship for a program or gap funding for a program. The cost of the program is set against the impact of the program. You’re selling the impact of the program.


    It would be more accurate to refer to this final rationale as a ‘unit’ but then I would lose alliteration. You can do the math to figure out the cost to impact one student, one class, one session, one exhibit, one visitor, etc. This could be a total cost or a ‘gap cost’.

You can use one, two or all three. The message is to HAVE a simple funding rationale. Having worked to transition thousands of messages into a funding rationale, they always incorporate these core concepts.

You can expand and mash-up these three core concepts to get to 9 Types of Funding Pitches.


Office Hours in New York City on Feb 15

I’m going to be in Manhattan on Feb 15 for a few meetings. Have several hours to meet-up with local For Impact readers and alumni. If you’re in the area and interesting in meeting up for some (free) coaching send an email to me:

What are ‘office hours’?
I was in Denver for a week last June. I had an open day in my schedule and sent a similar invitation to WOW readers in the Colorado area. I held ‘office hours’ in my hotel lobby and visited with one organization at a time — helping them simplify message, overcome funding obstacles and work through some prospect strategies. It ended up being a $260,000 day — meaning those that left generated $260,000 (that I know about).

Why do this?
We form relationships by trying to have the biggest possible impact.
Some of those I met that day became For Impact clients and others simply became better acquaintances. In all cases, it added value and made a big impact to the For Impact local community — an objective of ours that drives the WOW Emails, Daily Nuggets blog, teleseminars and gatherings.

If you’re interested please include something you would hope to get out of our time together (examples: a specific challenge, re-charged, strategy, simplicity, etc).


“Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time”

Today I’m highlighting some of Tom’s thoughts on Energy/Time from the archives

This comes from one of my favorite authors Jim Loehr and is captured on the cover of his book, THE POWER OF FULL ENGAGEMENT. Everybody knows about the RETURN ON INVESTMENT. Very few people understand RETURN ON ENERGY.

Managing your ENERGY includes figuring out when you are most productive (early a.m. for most people) and then doing your most important things at that time.

It’s also about practicing OSCILLATION. Jim Loehr says this OSCILLATION means the constant BALANCE between INTENSE ACTIVITY and RECOVERY. Building RECOVERY time into your day such as exercise or meditation or a walk or even a nap (as W. Clement Stone used to do) provides RECOVERY. You can practice oscillation on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. (Funny thing. I’m actually dictating this as I’m walking down to feed the horse and the miniature donkeys.)

I wish everyone would grasp this idea as soon as possible. It’s amazing what happens when you focus on your ENERGY LEVEL instead simply allocating time during a 10, 12, 16-hour “day”.

Note: Something to think about. TIME MANAGEMENT is all about lists and priorities and Quadrant II activities vs. Quadrant IV. It doesn’t take into consideration your ENERGY, your ATTITUDE or the INTENSITY in which you function.

Funny thing. TIME management ends up using a lot of TIME, while ENERGY management ends up being about FOCUS and FLOW and takes a heck of a lot less TIME.

P.S. This oscillation, intense activity combined with recovery is tied back to the whole both/and thing. Every elite athlete knows that intense “muscle burn” needs to be offset with ‘muscle rest or recovery’. You don’t work out 10 hours a day every day. World class boxers who are “in training” mix in Road work and Ring work and Rest. (Often taking naps during the day. George Foreman was supposedly really good at this. ?) This concept can be applied to your life and to your business day. Even a few moments to work on pranayama or yoga breathing, meditation, counting to ten or whatever can re-charge your energy system.

Special Note: ROE is a great LIFE principle… and an important BUSINESS and SALES idea. It’s Eduardo Pareto’s 80/20 on steroids. It’s Ivy Lee and Andrew Carnegie writing down the most important things they have to do that day and then doing it (with maximum ENERGY). It’s particularly applicable to WHO you work with, WHERE you work, and WHY you’re working.


Newton’s First Law of Motion

Newton’s First Law of Motion States:

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Your business… your organization… your team… your job… your life stays at rest or it stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.


Clarifying vs. Convincing

Kerry and I were with an organization yesterday working on its funding message and then role playing visits. The executive director sounded like he was trying to CONVINCE me (and maybe himself) about the greatness of every program. As he spoke it felt like he was listing of all the great things about the program… an endless and unorganized litany of things about the program… I was lost.

I represented someone who had taken the meeting… with whom he’d already had an engaging conversation at 30,000′ about saving lives. At that point he should not be trying to CONVINCE me that the programs are great and wonderful. The mental exercise instead became to focus on CLARIFYING how we have the impact…

Moving from CONVINCE to CLARIFY was a transformational mental exercise. In a second run through he was punchy, convincing and clear. I saw the order in what they were doing and, in receiving less information I had fewer questions.

If you haven’t CONVINCED me around your WHY and WHAT then I’m not going to be convinced in the HOW. At that point the only real risk you lose is in losing me. Keep it simple.


The Economist and The Atlantic: Looks at Global Wealth and Philanthropy

The Atlantic The Economist

Two REQUIRED READINGS from the last two weeks.

First, The Atlantic cover story: The Rise of the New Ruling Class – How the Global Elite is Leaving You Behind. This story describes the global entrepreneur and how – on the one hand we are losing the middle class in the states – the ‘upper class’ is thriving in this global playground. The real trend-spotting looks at the global implications for business and philanthropy. The takeaways for me:

  • The top 5% is amassing even more wealth… much, if not most of this, still resides in the states.
  • Persisting talks of economic hardship would be in reference to speculative losses like housing bubble and the disappearing middle class in the states. In terms of total wealth and global wealth things are fine or even ‘dandy’.
  • In due course, philanthropy is following suit with the increases in wealth and disparity. This widening gap reminds me of osmosis – the scientific principle that describes the movement of water molecules from an area of low solute concentration to one of high concentration. As wealth becomes more concentrated (not a new trend) and even greater in measure, we will see greater levels of philanthropic osmosis.

The second ‘grab your attention’ cover was from last week’s Economist. If you’ve committed your life to the social sector, or your work intersects with philanthropy or global change, then take the time to read this. Some takeaway implications for me:

  • In the information age the brains make the money. The reason EVERY business book/article/conversation is about TALENT is because today’s business landscape is defined by thinking. Even if you don’t think this affects you as a leader it does and it will. You should be vigilant to find, and get the best minds on your team because they’re not going to be sitting around responding to job postings.
  • Enterepreneurs… and more entrepreneurs. Both articles highlight the driving engine of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinkers… and the implications on giving. Entrepreneurs think about ROI. “The way they measure their success [philanthropically] is by the return they earn on their charitable investment, measured in lives saved or improved.

Note: The other day I heard from an ED who had just secured a big gift. The ED said, “I got a taste of what it must be like to fundraise in the good times.” Arggh! We ARE in the good times. I intended for this post to be a jolt to those that think we’re still in a recession. We’re sooooo not in a recession. Or, at least the people that have the true capacity (financially) to help you change, save and impact lives are not in a recession. Stop using that as an excuse.


Giving a speech? Talk about three bullet points instead.

Two years ago I attended an event for an organization I support. The board chair – who’s awesome, dyanmic, visionary, etc – gave a ten minute speech. He incorporated a lot of big visionary themes but the speech wasn’t very engaging. The carefully scripted and crafted delivery strayed too far from his strengths. It missed the mark. By the conventional measurement he did fine. I thought it was disappointing. It was stale.

Still board chair the next year he was up to speak again. This next he was totally relaxed and totally dynamic. His speech was four minutes and if it was scripted, I couldn’t tell.

I asked him if he had been coached.

He had.

His coach told him not to write a speech. His coach said to focus on three points you want to make. Then visualize talking about those points. Do some dry-runs… make a few supporting bullet points but focus EMPHATICALLY and SUCCINCTLY on those three points.

Much shorter. Much better. And, people HEARD the message to boot!

This uses the rule of three and leverages authentic passion.


Rocky in Siberia

I wanted to do a quick play off of Nick’s reference to my time I spend every year doing the boxing at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

This is my 38th year of coaching and the 44th year I’ve been involved in the Bengal Bouts at Notre Dame.

Amazing program. Talk about a story. Founded by my mentor and Godfather, Dominic J. “Nappy” Napolitano and Knute Rockne in 1931. All of the proceeds from the boxing tournaments over all these years have gone to the Missions of the Holy Cross Fathers in Bangladesh (formerly known as Bengal, thus the Bengal Bouts).

Last year we gave over $100,000 to the Missions bringing the total gifts well over $1 Million.

This year marks the 82nd Annual Bengal Bout Tournament; it’s hard to believe I’ve been involved in well over half of all these years.

When I started boxing in 1968 as a freshman, there were about 40 boxers total. This year over 350 men signed up for boxing in the fall and 260 of them are back for the tournament going on in a few weeks. There are so many boxers that we now go four different days with two rings going at the same time for the first two nights.

Nappy’s Mantra: STRONG BODIES FIGHT SO THAT WEAK BODIES MAY BE NOURISHED. This was my first real example of the power of a SIMPLE MESSAGE.

More from Siberia later.