In designing, managing and leading hundreds of ‘building campaigns’, these are questions we ask – at altitude:
30,000’ WHY? VISION
Are we in the Re-Construction Biz or the Impact Biz?
What is the Purpose(s) of the ‘Space(s)’?
How does it relate to our Vision?
Have we dealt with the ‘Footprint’ & ‘Bubbles’ before Wall Coverings & FFE?
Do our Financial Goals match our Constituent’s Capacity?
Is this about ‘Ownership’ or ‘Control’?
How do we Share this Story (of Impact) vs. ‘Sell Recognition/Naming Rights?’
Have we explored Partnerships? Multi-Use Facilities? 24/7?
14,000’ WHAT? STRATEGY
Have we engaged all stakeholder groups to validate that we have the best solutions/plan?
Are there other cheaper and/or more creative real estate solutions to achieve our goal? If so, can we address why we’re not pursuing?
Have we looked at all Creative Financing Opportunities?
Are we telling the architects and planners what we want and need, what we can afford, how it fits… or are they telling us?
Cost per sq. ft. needs to fit our situation
Entire Project/Cost must enable our Case for Support
3’ HOW? EXECUTION
Can this be divided into phases? (Both Building & Funding)
Can we take 3 to 5 Year Commitments? Do we need Bridge Financing or a Construction Loan?
Have we made Everything A Project? (within the Big Initiative)
Are there Projects (In-Kind Opportunities) to Maximize Gifts?
In sharing this, I also want to encourage leaders and readers to engage with us EARLY in the formative stages of a building project or strategy. By asking the right questions up front you can save time and money – but it’s not just about that – It’s about identifying the right solution and needs to help you with your impact!
This is an excerpt from the forthcoming For Impact Guidebook about Leadership Circles.
Every organization should have some form of Leadership Circle. In its simplest form, this is ONE baseline-major-gift level of support, positioned as the cornerstone of your annual fund. The Leadership Circle is not just another giving level – It’s a funding program and a strategic pillar of your funding model that qualifies prospects, simplifies stewardship, provides flexible funding and annuity! You’ve heard of Occam’s Razor; this is ‘Occam’s Ask’. It’s set at ONE level between $1K and $10K – messaged around your mission and vision in a way that represents your simplest and strongest sell.
HOW TO MESSAGE: (Examples)
STORY: “We would like to invite you to be part of the Leadership Circle – a group of 100 families, individuals and/or businesses that are extremely committed to the mission of the YWCA. Membership requires a minimum $10,000 investment in the fund, renewable annually. Each year, these funds will be used to make the biggest impact in the areas of after school programming, innovation and scholarships. But, ultimately,The Leadership Circle is about investing in our vision to transform our community.”
COLLECTIVE IMPACT: “This Leadership Circle level is significant because the collective power of its members – providing the core funding support that allows the YWCA to be an efficient organization, responding to the most important needs of women and families in our community. Additionally, this Leadership Circle has the impact of $2M in endowment for each 10 members.”
In working with over 1,000 organizations, I can’t think of a time when an organization didn’t benefit from a Leadership Circle. As a tool, its versatility rivals duct tape.
A FEW WAYS TO USE THE LEADERSHIP CIRCLE:
As a QUALIFIER. The Leadership Circle can be a GREAT ASK on a first visit. The story around the Leadership Circle should be tied to your simplest and strongest sell and if someone commits the $10K then you KNOW they are serious about your impact.
As a component of your overall FUNDING MODEL and CASE. It’s helpful for top funders to see that you’re building a base. This should offset the perception (and reality) that you’re going back to the well with the same funders again and again. It’s really helpful to be able to show (in your plan) that at the same time you are asking for LEADERSHIP SUPPORT, you are also building giving-based-relationships through the Leadership Circle.
As a MOMENTUM BUILDER. If you’re working on leadership support for a major project the Leadership Circle can be a powerful momentum builder. It’s one thing to go to your board and announce you THINK you will have some leaders on board. It’s another to back that up with the cash flow and commitments from 20 new memberships in your Leadership Circle.
As an ANNUITY and ENDOWMENT EQUIVALENT. The membership base of support becomes an annuity. For example, 20 families at $10K is $200K per year which is the equivalent of having $4M in endowment!
As a FOCUSED way to TEST and BUILD TALENT. Having a Leadership Circle offers a safety valve for new salespeople. “When you don’t know what else to do, ask for a membership.” This is a clarifying directive. Asking for a membership does not eliminate the potential for a larger gift – if anything it qualifies the relationship (offering objective insight to the sales manager.) If a new major gifts officer fails to close a $1M gift it could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s a prospecting issue. Maybe it’s the story. However, anyone should be able to close Leadership Circle membership. Having developed dozens and dozens of new major gifts officers, I cannot emphasize the importance of this idea. It’s the simplest way to build confidence and funding momentum.
As an engagement strategy that PAYS. ‘Nuff said.
As a STEWARDSHIP CIRCLE. Get rid of all events and focus that energy on just providing stewardship and thanks to your Leadership Circle investors! Here is an idea, make it someone’s job to simply get every member of the Leadership Circle to your organization to SEE the impact (return-on-investment) in a given year. Good things will happen.
As ‘BUDGET RELIEF.’ Everyone wants ‘unrestricted funding’. A better message would be around budget relief. I would encourage you to try and create a funding model in which the Leadership Circle monies are unbudgeted. You can then report back to membership the IMPACT of their COLLECTIVE investment.
As a way to get into a PLANNED GIFT. Participation in the Leadership Circle for a few years offers a rationale to get ask for a planned gift to PROTECT the annual gift. “You’ve been giving $10K every year as a member of the Leadership Circle. Could we ask you to PROTECT that with a gift from your estate?” A $200K planned gift would ‘protect’ the $10K. Bonus: This can also be part of a TRIPLE ASK.
We’re big on the need to have one Master Prospect List! A great MPL rates and ranks your entire pool of Qualified Prospects/Relationships in descending order or importance. However, deciding who you’re going to see first is very different from simply starting at the top of your Master Prospect List and working your way down.
Instead, begin like Archimedes on his best day by trying to LEVERAGE your commitments – building on each visit and commitment as you move along.
Here’s a great way to think about ordering your visits: ‘MO-COs,’ ‘LEAD-COs’ and ‘CO-COs’.
MO-COs are MOMENTUM COMMITMENTS.
These commitments are not necessarily about magnitude or size but rather ‘COMMENSURATE’… ‘SURPRISE’… ‘STRETCH’ gifts. These are the ‘EARLY ADOPTERS’ who get it, buy in, and provide the MOMENTUM to get going. In Good To Great, Jim Collins’ would call these ‘FLYWHEEL’ commitments. In order to get a FLYWHEEL moving at the beginning, it takes a lot of energy. But once there is some MOMENTUM… the wheel flies!
LEAD-CO’s are LEADERSHIP COMMITMENTS.
LEADERSHIP can literally TRANSFORM the organization, the campaign or the project. These are ‘Top of the Pyramid’ lead gifts that prove that our best prospects and investors have stepped up and give everyone the confidence needed to make the campaign or project happen.
“LEADERS LEAD.” – Bob Werner
Thanks to my friend Bob, a big time Mensch and Jewish philanthropic superstar, for the quote. I believe that success (or failure) is a direct result of LEADERS LEADING. If no one steps up as the INTERNAL leader, a campaign is doomed from the get go. If you can’t find at least one EXTERNAL leader or CHAMPION, it ain’t gonna happen either. (My preference is 3 CHAMPIONS.)
If leaders are not ENGAGED and PASSIONATE, then it becomes ‘The Suddes Group Campaign’ or ‘The Executive Director’s Campaign’, etc. Tom Mucks, another successful former Suddes Group partner, says, simply: “Passion and commitment from LEADERSHIP will overcome all obstacles.”
CO-CO’S are CONNECTOR COMMITMENTS.
Going after some of your most important ‘CONNECTORS’ early on is a terrific strategy to not only get their financial commitment (which may or may not be significant) but also to generate REFERRALS and STRATEGY on getting visits with your best prospects.
SPECIAL NOTE ON REFERRALS AND 3º OF SEPARATION:
Remember you are only 3º away from any QUALIFIED PROSPECT!! (Forget Kevin Bacon and his 6º – It’s actually been determined that it’s 2.78 ‘moves’/connections between Bacon and all other actors.) CONNECTORS and other NATURAL PARTNERS allow you to be one or two CONTACTS away from your best prospects. This is very, very important! Realizing you are only 3º away from ANYBODY who is a QUALIFIED PROSPECT lets you use your NATURAL PARTNERS (Champions, Board Members, Key Volunteer Leaders, Current Investors) to get you there.
Extra Special Note: I am only 3º away from the Pope, the President and the Prime Minister of Israel. And, I’m only 2º away from the Dalai Lama! How? Because of my CONNECTIONS and RELATIONSHIPS, I can get to ‘someone’ who can get to ‘someone’ who can get to the Pope, the President and the Prime Minister.
“Two professors who study the science of complexity—Brenda Zimmerman of York University and Sholom Glouberman of the University of Toronto—have proposed a distinction among three different kinds of problems in the world: the simple, the complicated, and the complex. Simple problems, they note, are ones like baking a cake from a mix. There is a recipe. Sometimes there are a few basic techniques to learn. But once these are mastered, following the recipe brings a high likelihood of success. Complicated problems are ones like sending a rocket to the moon. They can sometimes be broken down into a series of simple problems. But there is no straightforward recipe. Success frequently requires multiple people, often multiple teams, and specialized expertise. Unanticipated difficulties are frequent. Timing and coordination become serious concerns. Complex problems are ones like raising a child. Once you learn how to send a rocket to the moon, you can repeat the process with other rockets and perfect it. One rocket is like another rocket. But not so with raising a child, the professors point out. Every child is unique. Although raising one child may provide experience, it does not guarantee success with the next child. Expertise is valuable but most certainly not sufficient. Indeed, the next child may require an entirely different approach from the previous one. And this brings up another feature of complex problems: their outcomes remain highly uncertain. Yet we all know that it is possible to raise a child well. It’s complex, that’s all.”
I want to relate this framing to teams and dysfunction. Building and leading a team is a complex problem. Like raising a child well – “It’s complex, that’s all.” In our work at The Suddes Group, we’re often building or reconfiguring teams to create greater funding results. One of the things we’ve observed is the relationship between the simple and complex problems. When teams don’t execute on the simple problems, the complex problems are amplified.
Any funding effort is largely a function of simple problems:(more…)
The vision for your organization must live in one person’s head.
The vision can’t sit with a committee. Many can contribute to the building of a clear vision but, there must be one person that holds that vision. This ultimate vision keeper could be the CEO or it could be the Board Chair.
We use this nugget often as the first step toward strategic clarity – many leaders don’t realize they’re trying to juggle or navigate 3-4 visions.
The ultimate vision keeper is often trying to make room for others – inviting them to contribute to the vision. This can be great, so long as it’s clear that there will be one person that ultimately owns the vision.
From the archives, but still relevant today – Read on for how to avoid Vocabulary Wars.
Last week we were with an organization that helps homeless people 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 that of this homelessness organization. And, each Foundation had funded similar agencies working in the homeless arena.
After some discussion, I realized that the challenge has been vocabulary, not fit. For example:
This 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 them – bricks and mortar, campaign committees, fancy office chairs, etc.
The organization had structured all of its internal vocabulary based on conversations with the government. These vocabulary words were deal killers with the private foundations who heard “capital campaign” when they wanted to focus on more “programs for the homeless.” (I’m not making this up.)
So, here’s what we did:
We coached the organization’s senior leadership to go back to one of the Foundations. This time the organizations was to ask questions, listen and use the Foundation’s vocabulary to advance a discussion.
The key questions to ask 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 had to LISTEN to the foundation to pull off the right ask.
The organization’s leadership was then able 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 had 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 the solution in terms the funder understood.
The only 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!’”.
Talent is a critical element for any successful team and finding the right talent is one of the top challenges facing organizations. For Impact Talent works with our clients and alumni to find and train the right talent — to lead, sell or support around a true sales model and For Impact Point of View. Periodically, we will be sharing Talent Postings with our readership.
We’re currently working with The Hunger Project to find their next U.S. Fundraising Leader, based in NYC, and are sharing this with our network to help find candidates who are passionate about sustainable international development solutions – and eager to engage a whole new group of investors to help end world hunger by 2030.
The Hunger Project is committed to the end of world hunger by 2030 – and focus their contribution in this effort on empowering communities and individuals to drive the solutions that work for them, and by partnering with like-minded groups. The Hunger Project takes a comprehensive approach – working with communities to focus on activities that will have a lasting impact on their well-being and potential.
In order to achieve this visionary – yet achievable – goal, we must significantly increase the investments made in The Hunger Project. In the United States, the biggest priority for the new US Fundraising Leader is to transform annual fundraising revenue from a static $6M to $10M and beyond over the next few years, by generating results personally and by empowering their team to succeed.
This position is meant for the leader who wants to apply their deeply relational skills and experience toward the realization of this brighter future.
For more information or to apply, contact For Impact’s Director of Talent, Jessica Gemm – firstname.lastname@example.org – or visit the full profile here.
This week’s theme is: ACT/EXECUTE on YOUR ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY!
A ‘Campaign’ is all about ACTION. The literal translation or definition of a ‘Campaign’ probably has its provenance with Napoleon and War. As any great general or military leader will tell you, success in war is about MASSIVE ACTION – NOW.
We’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of organizations screw around for years trying to figure out what to do, when to do it, where to hold the kickoff, etc. There are great organizations out there who, right now, are still debating the “impact of the economy and the recession,” or“somebody else has kicked off a campaign in our community” or“our donors are tired and maybe we should wait” and on and on. UGH!
CHALLENGE FOR THE DAY: What are the 3 ‘MASSIVE ACTIONS’ that you could take RIGHT NOW that would cause an EXPLOSIVE EXPONENTIAL JUMP or a QUANTUM LEAP for your organization?