We wrapped up a fantastic Boot Camp last week with over 70 For Impact leaders from around the country. We end our sessions by asking participants to commit to one ACTION they will take towards producing results – and to take that action within 10 days. One Rock Star sent this update to Coach Mike the day after Camp (it’s long, but worth it to make the point):
On the way home I utilized the training. A board member’s boss was on the same flight – I’ve known him for a while so I went to say hello.
We got to chatting and during the conversation I asked him why he decided to serve on another organization’s board instead of ours. I listened and it turns out it is not because he doesn’t like us! He offered up a lot of information, particularly that there are three avenues for potential gifts from him (his company, individually and from a foundation he serves for.)
He said to call to set up a meeting. I know it will take several tries, which doesn’t bother me, because if I’m anything I’m persistent! I just left him a voice message stating I’d like to meet next week to continue the conversation we had on the plane.
Oh, and just got off the phone with one my top donors – the one who said he wanted to give $50K and I told him the Impact of two fast ultrasound machines and he agreed to $60K. We meet in two weeks.
As Mike says – Double Boom.
With this in mind I want to share a blog Tom wrote a few years ago about Doing the Work:
I was re-reading for the umpteenth time Do The Work by one of my favorite authors Steven Pressfield. There is a huge amount of both wisdom and motivation in this DTW nugget:
START BEFORE YOU’RE READY.
DON’T PREPARE. BEGIN.
Remember, our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account.
The enemy is resistance.
The enemy is our chattering brain, which if we give it so much as a nanosecond will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.
That quote is one of the reasons that Steven Pressfield is one of the most impactful writers/thinkers in the world. He puts a name on the nugget. He captures in very few words the essence of the problem; then, gives a simple solution: START BEFORE YOU’RE READY.
DON’T PREPARE. BEGIN.
ENGAGE, THEN PLAN.
DON’T MAKE DECISIONS FOR YOUR PROSPECTS.
Pressfield quotes W. H. Murray, (quoting Goethe), with one of my favorite inspirational quotes:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
There is no room on your sales team for an Eeyore. (Full stop.)
I’m not sure there’s room on ANY team for an Eeyore — but this rule is especially important for sales teams.
Sales is about an attitude. It requires a persevering belief in yourself, your team, and (most especially) your cause.
- Eeyores will not have sales success. Eeyores decide prospects aren’t interested, or that timing is not yet right. (To an Eeyore, timing will never be right.)
- Eeyores zap energy from others. This is a big deal. An Eeyore sucks energy from A-players, optimists, and rockstars. (Even if this is only the energy it requires to ignore the Eeyore.)
- Eeyores are not fun.
Dealing with an Eeyore is simple. You can’t coach an Eeyore, and a performance review is not going to help. You can’t say, “We need you to not be Eeyore.”
There’s no seat on the sales bus for Eeyore.
The wealthiest names on your list are not necessarily the most qualified prospects. A truly qualified prospect for your organization has both wealth (financial capacity) AND a relationship with your cause. Here’s the really important point: They musthave BOTH (to some degree).
Too many organizations are trying to figure out how to bend and twist a case for a prospect
with the highest capacity (and very little connection to cause).
Example: Imagine you are an organization impacting cancer.
- Prospect #1: A really visible billionaire located in your city. This billionaire gives primarily to his or her alma mater and the arts.
- Prospect #2: More modest capacity (could make a six or seven-figure commitment). Located in a different city and has had two siblings directly impacted by a type of cancer your organization works on.
Prospect #2 is wayyyyy more qualified than Prospect #1.
- Quality dictates priority and focus. Focus on your most QUALIFIED prospects
- A truly qualified prospect will also help you find five more great prospects
Impact is the goal. It doesn’t have to be complex.
SOMETIMES it’s okay to lead around ACTION over outcomes and metrics. There are times when we simply need to command and communicate ACTION. “This one’s not about metrics. A house is on fire, a family is trapped inside, let’s move!”
If your assessment of the situation is correct and clear, then your team and (funding) partners will follow you. They will say, “I get it. We’re with you. Let’s move.”
I was on a coaching call yesterday with a fantastic Development Director. We’re about a month out from a very productive message building session with senior team, program staff and a few board members. During the session, the big a-ha was “We’ve always thought that what we do is too complicated to explain to people but it doesn’t have to be!” Today, the DD finds herself back in a place where the team (with the best of intention) is still tweaking words on the Engagement Tool.
There a many reminders for the team here:
Don’t make a funder WORK HARD to understand what you do and why you do it. (read more here.) Ask questions and listen. What they say is more important than what you say.
Start with Why. Don’t skip this even if you think they know – especially with existing funders. “Why has this impact been meaningful to you?” or “Why have you been funding us for the last 5 years?”
Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. The person you are with won’t always understand every detail about every program you do and that is okay. Use the Rule of 3 for communication and clarity.
Engage and then plan. You will learn more from a prospect about what words are working than you will trying to get consensus within the team. Get out of the office and test the message. It will result in real conversation and real dollars.
An earlier version of this post was originally published August 13, 2009.
I’m struck by how August is viewed as such a down month, dog days of summer, no productivity, nobody around, nothing happening.
The fact is, it’s a TERRIFIC time to THINK… REFLECT… PLAN.
After Labor Day, the kids are back in school, there’s more focus on business and work, etc.
WHAT IF… you use these next few weeks to commit (to yourself) that you’re going to make some ‘BIG STUFF’ happen in September, October and November?
WHAT IF… you took some time during these next few weeks to:
- THINK BIG! Set some really Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Commit to stay at 30,000′. Take Quantum Leaps. Cast a Vision.
Special Note: One great way to get in the right frame of mind for this activity is to read some powerful ‘THINK BIG’ books. Here’s a couple of quick examples:
- “FIRST WITH THE HEAD. THEN WITH THE HEART.” This is my favorite line from one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. It’s kind of the paradox to Andy Grove’s “Engage, Then Plan.”
I actually think August is a terrific time to PLAN (First with the Head)… so that you can ENGAGE/EXECUTE/ACT (Then with the Heart). This morning I just finished putting together a 90-Day Action Plan for September, October and November. I know WHAT I need to get done (at the highest level). I know WHY I need to do it and how it fits into life goals, business goals, etc. And I know HOW I can get it done.
Now all I’ve get to do is actually DO it.*
*I created a separate Journal this morning just for this Action Plan. WRITE IT DOWN. IT WILL HAPPEN.
- HAVE FUN! The word ‘RECREATE’ can be broken into RE-CREATE. One way to RE-CREATE is to RECREATE! You’re much more creative when you take time off to get away from the fires, the mundane, the cacophony of mindless babbling at work. If you go to the beach or the mountains or even a local coffee shop… it’s a great opportunity to THINK. To PLAN. To CREATE.
We need to have more FUN! Practice NEOTONY. The dictionary says this is ‘juvenilism’ but I think of the word more about ACTING LIKE A CHILD. Be curious. Have fun. Ask questions. If you want a special book on this, check out Serious Play by Michael Schrage.
Our September Boot Camp has sold out and so we are adding additional dates this year! (Early Bird Pricing available through the end of August.)
Join us on October 20-21 at Eagle Creek – our beautiful 50-acre retreat center.
The For Impact Boot Camp is focused on frameworks and skill building – You will leave with the knowledge you need to simplify your message and funding rationale, and take your organization to the next level.
This high-energy, day-and-a-half session covers topics like:
- How to execute against a sales process (for major gifts, campaign gifts, transformational gifts, etc.)
- How to build and maximize relationships
- How to build and lead an effective team
- How to ask, close, and follow-up
The Boot Camp is perfect for organizational alums, new hires, or anyone looking to hone individual skills – both personal and professional!
We’ve extending our Early Bird pricing – Register before August 31st to take advantage of this offer! Discounts are also available for Alumni Organizations and teams with 4 or more participants.
I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats, meetings, and planning sessions as a leader, observer, and participant. A traditional strategic planning session lays out goals and actions but often fails to address some really big driving questions.
WHAT IF we asked these questions:
- What is our purpose or raison d’être? This is different from mission – which should be the same thing but usually ends up being more about ‘place in the world’ than purpose. Raison d’être literally means REASON FOR EXISTENCE. It’s the WHY question. If you can’t answer WHY, then WHAT and HOW are irrelevant.
- How can we (intentionally) go out of business? In either the short term (1000 days) or long term (50+ years)? If you exist to change lives, save lives, or transform lives, then how often do we re-examine our activities and ask, “Can we find a SOLUTION?” I started to qualify this question – to say that it might not apply to some organizations, such as schools. Then I withdrew my qualification. Ask it anyway; see where the conversation takes you. Education is changing.
- What would you do with $10M or $100M? Or pick a number that is a factor of 10x higher than anything you’re thinking about now. I once attended a retreat as a board member for Road of Life Cancer Prevention for Kids. With $100M, one board member said she would get laws changed to make health education mandatory at an earlier age and another said we should invest in longitudinal studies to understand how health prevention impacts kids. Those are two very different priorities and we weren’t doing either at that time. Ultimately, the question helped to build consensus around focusing on EDUCATION. Until the question was asked, every debate was about incremental tactics. Not Vision or even, I would argue, Strategy.
- What Strategic Partnerships can we pursue? You have finance committees, development committees, marketing committees, campaign committees. If anything, I would like to see a partnership committee. Better yet, just a commitment to partnerships as a core priority of the organization. I haven’t seen the numbers in a while, but there are somewhere in excess of 2 million nonprofits and many more socially focused businesses (all For Impact). Current structures and strategic planning questions focus on bloat, not partnerships. We’re all trying to make a difference, so let’s make a commitment (financial resources) to exploring this full time.
- How can we scale our Impact? Simple and open-ended, but not asked enough.
- What are we best in the world at? Jim Collins has made this conversation prevalent (revisiting the Hedgehog Concept). It’s ultimately a question of priorities and focus. Consider finding the one thing you do very well and FOCUS on that. I can’t tell you how important this discussion is for your staff. It helps them make decisions about grants, programs, staffing, etc. Equally important is identifying those things that you’re not good at. I am a big Marcus Buckingham believer and his philosophy of focusing on your strengths.
- Should we grow ‘wider’ or ‘deeper’? This is a scope of services question. Ultimately a lot of ‘strategic planning’ comes down to this question. Do we add more depth to our current programs (make them longer, more available, etc)? Or, do we expand our scope of services (diverse offerings, expanded continuum, etc.)? Refer back to question six to help you frame this debate.
- How much money do we need to achieve our vision? What usually happens: we spend time tweaking funding goals based on last year’s results. It would be of huge value, to everyone, if we knew how much money we really needed to accomplish our Vision (either annually or over time via a campaign initiative).
This question is often asked in preparation for a campaign, but not usually asked in relation to the operational/annual budget. Instead, we set a number and then allocate it (through the budget) – every year. Why not ask the question?
- What is our business model? What business are we in? I think this goes along with several other questions and relates to strengths, focus, and priorities. It also adds clarity and could even become part of your message.
I think these questions would also SOLVE a lot of the problems I hear about every day:
- Board Engagement/Staff Communication: It works both ways.
- Board Meetings: If we’re on board about the big stuff it raises the level of the conversation. I think a lot of the comments I hear about board members being too detail-focused or staff members seeming unfocused is resolved when we can communicate about and focus on the big picture.
- The Proverbial Rat Race: Incremental thinking gets incremental results (sometimes).
Download: Board Strategic Framework for Funding
Download: Board Role & Altitude (cards)
Download ‘On Board(s)’ Guidebook
Listen to ‘On Board(s) – A Guide for Greater Board Engagement’ Teleseminar (Tom Suddes)
In the previous video in this sequence we covered the ‘Last 3 Feet’ tied to Creating Great Funding Rationales.
Today, we go back up in Altitude and talk about Selling at 30,000’ (a.k.a. ‘The Steve Jobs Close.’)
4-Star General Stanley McChrystal was responsible for reshaping counterterrorism warfare from 2003 to 2008. In the introduction to his book, Team of Teams, he makes this powerful observation:
“An organization is no more enduring than the physical conditioning that keeps a soldier fit. An organization must be constantly led, or, if necessary, pushed uphill toward what it must be. Stop pushing and it doesn’t continue, or even rest in place; it rolls backward.“
Previous video in this sequence: Using Altitude to develop your Presentation.
In this video we cover the ‘Last 3 Feet’ tied to Creating Great Funding Rationales (hint: “Unrestricted” does not make a great Funding Rationale!)
- Create a Funding Rationale tied to a Unit of Impact if possible – “Our goal is to underwrite all 3000 of our families each year at $1500 per family. How many families can you help support?”
- Package up your Programs – “Here is the Impact we’d like to have in each community and it will take about $100,000 per community to make it happen.”
- Use a Leadership Circle membership goal as it relates to the Opportunity to Save, Change and Impact Lives – “When we have 50 members in our Leadership Society (@$10,000+ per year) it allows us to innovate new programs and provide core support to existing impact. It also allows us to move quickly when needed – To save and change more lives.”
Previous video in this sequence:
Using Altitude for Engagement, Organizational Development and Communication
In this video we cover using Altitude to develop your Presentation:
- Lay out a Vision at 30,000’
- Focus on clear Priorities over the next 1,000 Days
- Answer “How you can help” with a Funding Plan
Check back tomorrow for more on developing your Funding Rationale.