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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.


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:


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.


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!


Re-Write Your Destiny in Business and in Life


Jim Loehr is one of my favorite authors. He began his career working with high-profile athletes in tennis and moved to other sports. He now runs the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, where he now focuses on executives and leaders.

The Power of Full Engagement is required reading in our little organization. The entire message is on the cover:

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.

His recent groundbreaking book, The Power of Story, talks about the way we tell STORIES about ourselves, to ourselves – and how we can change those STORIES to transform our business and our personal lives.

“Your story is your life.” Jim Loehr makes this point early and often. While much of the book is geared towards our personal stories… every idea, nugget and point has amazing relevance to all of our organizations as well.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It can change the way you think, operate and even fund.

3 Teasers:

    1. The 3 Rules of Storytelling. (Page 137)



    Great summary of The Power of Engagement, ENERGY, focus, etc. (Page 153)

    3. FALSE ASSUMPTIONS turned into stories.

    Loehr says that much of the material of our life and organization stories are based on assumptions – many of which are not true. (Page 68)

Order this book fast. Download it on your Kindle. Do whatever you’ve got to do to understand THE POWER OF STORY.

The Power of Story

Everything you do should be built around a STORY!

As often happens, Nick and I came at this whole STORY thing independently during our ongoing work, coaching and training. We were at the Creek kicking around some ideas for upcoming Board and Custom Training when we realized that we had both been putting increasing emphasis on the whole idea of STORY.

STORYLINES. STORYBOARDS. STORYTELLING. We finally agreed that the Power of Story transcended just about everything.

The ‘Short List’:

    The ORGANIZATION STORY. (Founding. Problem/Solution. Etc.)
    The MESSAGE STORY. (Purpose. Vision. 30,000’.)
    Your PERSONAL STORY. (Part of Flow/Open. 3 Bullets.)
    The LEGACY/HISTORY STORY. (100 Years Old. Founded before the Country. 1st whatever.)
    The MATH/NUMBER STORY. (The Gap. Income & Expenses. Revenue Streams.)
    The CAUSE & CASE STORY. (Again, Problem/Solution. Impact.)
    The MODEL STORY. (Business Model. Funding Model.)
    The PLAN STORY. (The HOW we will get there. The ‘Blue’ Plan and the ‘Green’ Plan.)
    The FUNDRAISING/DEVELOPMENT STORY. (Authentic. Haven’t been out asking, etc.)


Is your story awesome? If not, make it awesome.

Last week I was with an organization (to remain nameless) that had a super simple message but a really bad story.

In talking with the group it was instantly apparent that the message was trumped by a really bad story. While the org had a powerful, simple message on paper, the story I heard from several staff and board members was one about a long history of ‘not fundraising’, ‘yeah buts’ and program stigmas. “We are still very much a little charity that deals with something most people are uncomfortable talking about. Donors aren’t used to giving to us and they think we have all the money we need.”

I heard this again and again.

Let me tell you a different story about the same organization… all true.

  • This ‘little charity’ generates $15M/year through several funding streams – including fundraising.
  • It impacts over 8,000 families each year and completely changes… even saves the lives of scores of children who have been subjected to some of the worst atrocities imaginable.
  • People come from all over the world to work with this team of inspired and innovative leaders, counselors and program managers.

Your story is what you are. YOU tell your story. It can be eyyore-ish or awesome.

Write down, in bullet-point-form, the things that get you REALLY FIRED UP about your organization. Connect the dots (literally) and you have the start of a pretty good story.

We did this exercise with the organization mentioned above. They were the ones to generate the compelling storylines. The process illustrated that they already owned both stories. We didn’t come in from the outside, for instance, and try to write a new story.

8 Big Prospecting Questions

You’ve just had the fourth straight board meeting in which you asked for names… but you didn’t get any. Yes… I AM psychic! [sarcasm]

This happens in hundreds of meetings everyday. It’s not fruitful. What board members hear is this question, “Who do you know that has money that you could go ask?” There is no context for the names… we don’t have a grasp on what will happen with the names (story, process, etc) and we’re not sure what a prospect really looks like.

At a higher level, we need to think in a more strategic way about all prospects… about maximizing relationships… the definition of a prospect and how to generate more qualified prospects.

For prospecting, think about how you can use these big questions internally and externally.

  1. Who are our top 10 best prospects?

    Before you think about new prospects the most important thing you can do is write down you top 10 beest prospects (in descending order of importance). Most organizations… most businesses… don’t do this. Having a top 10 is fundamental. Then we can ask the next strategic question…

  2. Have we maximized our best relationships?

    If not, why?

    As For Impact coaches we’re adamant about getting you a working story and process before adding more names. More names won’t do any good if you’re not maximizing the names you have already. If orgs aren’t not maximizing relationships it’s usually because

    • They don’t have a clear message or compelling story.
    • They’re not asking.
    • They’re not follow-up up… closing.
  3. What would it mean to maximize this relationship?

    Take any prospect, new or existing and work to answer this question. It’s very different from asking, “How much should we ask for?” It’s strategic and looks at the RELATIONSHIP in a bigger context.

  4. “Can you think of 2-3 names that match our IDEAL PROFILE?”

(Seriously) Dangerously Ambitious!!!

I got to spend the last three days with some of the most amazing and inspiring young people on the planet. Mike Del Ponte and his Sparkseed Team put on one heck of a ‘non’-conference: Dangerously Ambitious 2010!

Can’t say enough about the opportunity for the ‘Old Guy’ to be around this kind of passion, energy and attitude.

Here are some pictures from the Friday/Saturday/Sunday Memorable Experience.





P.S. I got to check off one of my goals (dreams) by spending the entire day Friday at the at Stanford!!! IDEO, David Kelley, Hasso, Plattner’s gift… and Amish Erika’s amazing facilitation and coaching.

EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) is about DESIGN and DESIGN THINKING.