Year End Thinking. 100 Memories.

I sent this out last New Year’s Eve – had a great response – so I’m sending this idea again. Every year-end I make a list of my top 100 memories from the year. These could be events, moments, firsts, lasts, etc. etc.

It’s a great way to reflect on the year and prepare for the next.

I got this idea from Michael Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. He says one of Leo’s brainstorming exercises was to come up with 100 big questions about life, the universe, etc. The idea is that the first 30 will be easy. The next 30 will be cool and the remaining questions will be profound, insightful and guiding. You will see telling themes emerge.

The same is true of the 100 memories list. After you get past obvious moments like weddings and births the really telling memories start to emerge.

You can do this solo, with your team or family. And, it will probably take you a few hours. If you don’t have time for that, just do a top 30 – still great to capture at least those memories!

I won’t bore you with my list except to say that many of my memories come from meeting so many of you on the road … so many smart, passionate and inspiring stories of people changing the world.

If you’re up to it, I would love to hear about some of the adventures/memories/reflections you’ve had from the past year. We have some pretty ‘crazy’ (cool) social entrepreneurs reading this blog. What’s on your list?


Man’s Search For Meaning

This is the book that almost every ‘personal development expert’ puts on their list of top 10 books.  As the year ends, and we look towards 2015 and beyond … this is one of those books that reinforces everything we are thinking (and hoping) on Purpose, Meaning and Impact.

Thanks (again!) to Shane Parrish at Farnam Street for find this unbelievable clip from 1972 of Viktor Frankl delivering a powerful message about the most important gift we can give others.

“If we take man as he is, we make him worse, but if we take him as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be.”

Here’s the clip.  Take 4 minutes and 22 seconds out of your life to hear Viktor Frankl in person talk about Purpose and Meaning.

***1972!  He makes a big deal of 16% of the American youth want to “make a lot of money”78% are searching Meaning and Purpose.  Those are the same kind of numbers that are thrown around today.

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms –
to chose one’s ATTITUDE in any given set of circumstances, to chose one’s way.”

– Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning

Thanks – Giving and Gratitude

This is a special time and an obvious week of Gratitude and Thanksgiving.

Note: Every year I try to share a Thanksgiving message with our Tribe/Community. Some of this ‘re-cycled’ from previous years because of the timeless nature of these thoughts.

Three things to think about this Thanksgiving and in the Holiday Season.

    For the first half of my life (30+ years), my understanding of wealth was the same as all my friends, business associates and the general public. ‘WEALTH’ meant you had a lot of money.
    Then I found this definition… and it allowed me to become one of the ‘WEALTHIEST’ people in the world.
    Here’s a simple test of your ‘WEALTH’. Write down a list of all the things that you truly VALUE. Then, put a ‘COST’ (an actual dollar figure) next to everything on the list.
    Most of you will look at the list and realize that the things that we truly VALUE… end up COSTING NOTHING!
    Bob and Melinda Blanchard, in their wonderful entrepreneurial book LIVE WHAT YOU LOVE, have a great line: “It only matters if it BREATHES.”
    My own VALUE LIST is filled with simple things that are alive … family time, adventures with the grandkids, health, friends, business partners, etc. … and, some that are not … a great book, a good cup of coffee, nature, the sun, the ocean, the mountains, a boxing workout, yoga and a ride on the Harley.
    Here’s the pretty obvious point: ‘WEALTH’, no matter how you define it, is not about ‘money’. Money is just ‘worthless wampum’ in the grand scheme of life.
    Clearly, we need to provide ourselves and family with food, shelter, clothing, etc. But if the accumulation of money, a higher salary or how much you can put in your bank or your portfolio is your measurement for success or happiness … I’m guessing you’ll be doing that ‘camel through the eye of the needle’ thing at the end of your life.
    Robert Allen has a great quote, “If a man with many riches suddenly loses all of his money and then jumps out of a window… then, that man was never truly wealthy.”
    In an old ODE magazine (which has now been renamed the OPTIMIST), there was an entire issue around this idea of ‘money’. One of the best lines was a simple statement: “It’s not about MONEY. It’s what you DO with your money.”
    Special Note: I’m an entrepreneur. I’m all about financial freedom. I want to be able to take care of my family, travel, live on the farm and much more. I just don’t believe that money is the scorecard or measurement of wealth or success.
    The Thanksgiving and holiday season is a great opportunity to think of WEALTH as an ABUNDANCE OF THINGS THAT YOU VALUE… and enjoy your ‘WEALTH’.
    I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on this whole idea of  ‘Gratitude’.  Mindfulness.  Meaning.  Purpose.  And more.  It is particularly powerful in the mind-body relation, especially keeping some kind of gratitude journal.
    Take a little bit of time each day to remind yourself of the good things and the things for which you are most grateful.
    “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
    I’ve had the privilege of watching thousands of people experience serious ‘giving‘. I’ve also watched many of these people literally move from success to significance. While I don’t exactly understand how it works, I know that giving brings much more happiness than receiving.
    There’s a great line from a country song:
    “It’s not what you take with you … when you leave the world behind.”
    “It’s what you leave behind you … when you leave this world behind you.”

I believe all of three of these thoughts help us make a life, not a living.

There’s no better time of the year than now to share with others.

Katniss, our miniature Highland cow wants you to eat more turkey. From the rest of us at For Impact and The Suddes Group and Eagle Creek, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and great holiday season.

Special Note: Every year I share these 3 stories that you may want to share with your children or grandchildren or family. THE HAPPY PRINCE is a great story/fable. THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD are seen through the eyes of a child. The third is a very powerful parable about giving called the SEA OF GALILEE.


What Matters Most


In case you haven’t seen the Holstee Manifesto, here it is … and here’s link to their site.

We have the same kind of thing  on for entrepreneurs (How To Be A Social Entrepreneur) that you also might find interesting.



“It is the foremost task – and responsibility –
of our generation to ‘RE-IMAGINE’ our enterprises and
institutions, both public and private.”

– Tom Peters
IMAGINATION is more important than knowledge.”
– Albert Einstein
IMAGINATION rules the world.”
– Napoleon


  • A WORLD without … HATE
  • A WORLD without … CANCER
  • A WORLD without … POVERTY
  • A WORLD without … ILLITERACY
  • A WORLD without … DEPENDENCY

For Impact Funding Roadmap – A History

Quick Background: This Funding Roadmap has gone through so many iterations over the last 30 years. It started as the Ideal Development Operation in the early 80’s with our work with Catholic high schools. Originally, it was almost all ‘green‘ … focused on funding and fundraising. The IMPACT drives INCOME epiphany changed that thinking in the early 90’s. This version (which could legitimately be v30) has been taught, trained and shared with thousands. Each word has been purposely chosen (and most have been a battle between Tom and Nick). It ain’t perfect and it will probably be tweaked again.

Special, Special, Special Note: Although I’ve tried to take 40 years of fundraising, sales, entrepreneur and business experience and simplify it into 3, 3 and 3 (with some subsets) … there is still maybe too much for many of our Type A, ADD-challenged readers/users.

Here is a SHORTCUT:

Blue #1 Red #3 Green #3
Simplify Message Determine Top 3 Prospects/Champions Just Ask

Just Ask – Quotes


You’re in SALES. Get over it!


“If you don’t ASK, you don’t get.”
– Gandhi


Ask and it shall be given.
Seek and you shall find.
Knock and it shall be opened to you.”

– The Bible


“Rak B’ vakaysh!!

– Hebrew


“Ach Direach Cuir Ceist!!”
(But Only Put The Question)

– Gaelic



– Brian Tracey





Raising Money with Martial Arts Wisdom

It happens at every organization, every day, every where. A founder, executive director
or fundraiser is trying to gather support (financial and otherwise) from someone, such as
a board member or community leader. He or she should be the perfect prospect and easy
visit … instead we encounter ‘objections.’

I’ve always struggled with this concept: objections. We have a terrific opportunity. The
people with whom we visit (prospective investors) WANT to SAVE LIVES, CHANGE
LIVES and IMPACT LIVES. What are widely viewed as objections are more often (1)
real questions, (2) ways of saying “I don’t understand” or sometimes even (3) “I don’t
understand but I want to help so let me suggest a lot of stuff that I’ve seen work

How you address these situations is critical. For that, turn to philosophy + martial arts.
Turn to Aikido. Aikido translated literally means “the way of harmony of life energy.”
It’s a form of martial arts in which you join incoming thrusts and redirect them with
minimal effort
and without inflicting harm on the aggressor. According to Aikido’s
founder, it is literally the Art of Peace.

If you get a zinger of a question or a response that could take you off course – work with
it. Don’t try to ‘oppose it.’ Don’t get defensive. Raising your hands to block a person
means you absorb the blow … you literally have to push back with equal and opposite
force (wasted energy) to absorb the blow. Instead, practice Aikido and redirect the
incoming zinger back to your impact, your message or your plan.

Note: Politicians practice Aikido every day. Watch ANY political debate. Instead of
getting defensive when a tough question is asked, the politician redirects toward his or
her message.


O.G.’s Notes: You Can’t Screw Up, If You Show Up

My partner and President/Leader of For Impact | The Suddes Group, Nick Fellers, is a borderline genius. Smart. Action-oriented. Authentic.

He has many great lines, but I heard him say this on the phone once and it just struck me as so freakin’ right on in his role as COACH.

“You can’t SCREW UP … if you just SHOW UP!”

While Nick was speaking with one of his coaching clients, I think that message needed to get out to everyone.

Before you can JUST ASK.



You need to SHOW UP! (JUST ENGAGE!)


The Three Big (Business) Questions

Here are three big questions to think about:


We have worked with a lot of wonderful organizations … especially helping them with their MESSAGE, PRIORITIES and FUNDING PLAN.

IF every one of us and our organizations could answer ‘THE THREE BIG QUESTIONS’… it would help:


These questions are driven by Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, Tom Peters, and others.

Our CHALLENGE for you:


  • WHY are you in business? … is all about your VISION and your IMPACT andyour RAISON D’ETRE.
  • WHAT business are you in? … should be answered at the HIGHEST LEVEL!!! (Drucker’s old line about being in the ‘RAILROAD’ business or in the ‘TRANSPORTATION’ business might help.)
  • HOW does your business work? … is all about your BUSINESS MODEL and your BUSINESS PLAN and your FUNDING/REVENUE STREAMS.

P.S. Collins uses three CIRCLES.



We think this also works.

Let me know if this helps CHANGE THE GAME!


Altitude Awareness

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

30,000′ The WHY VISION

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: We 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. We’re happy to report his funding conversations changed considerably based on this conscious framing exercise.



In our trainings, we do a ‘card trick’ to demonstrate the greatest sales tip ever.

ASK a question… LISTEN to the answer… ASK another question (based on the previous response)… LISTEN to answer.

Asking questions is the best way to do DISCOVERY… the best way to create ENGAGEMENT… and an absolutely marvelous way to be able to PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY!

Here are 3 quick tips on how to be a great listener, followed by an article from Selling Power (September/October 2011) titled ARE YOU LISTENING? (8 Steps to Positive Listening Skills That Can Improve Your Sales) by the editors of Selling Power.

  • Total focus. Actually sit up, engage with your eyes and ears as you focus on exactly what the prospect is saying.
  • Get people to tell their story. Most people love to talk about themselves and share their stories with you. This is a perfect fit with out IMPACT –> INCOME | SHARE THE STORY –> PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY. (It’s not just you that should share the story… but they should share their story with you.)
  • Take notes. In my mind, this is a great way to show respect, show that you’re listening and show that you care. The best thing about notes for me is that it helps me focus on listening, and then when the prospect is finished I can refer back to the notes and quotes.
  • *It’s also a great way to capture as much of the visit as you can for the Memo for the Record, which, of course, you are going to complete as soon after the call as possible.

Read the article for 8 More Steps to Positive Listening Skills!



Three Reasons Why You Should Probably Ask!

Thanks to Dan Kirsch at the Grinspoon Foundation for turning me on to Here is the blog/article by Steve Martin, co-author and presenter at INFLUENCE AT WORK: Three Reasons Why You Should Probably Ask!

Reason #1: People are more likely say ‘yes’ than you think. Love that Martin cites actual studies. My experience is more anecdotal than scientific … yet backed up by over 6,000 visits/presentations … and thousands and thousands and thousands of ASKS in my life.

***JUST ASK is a life principle, not just a sales or business mantra.

In my world, most people actually want to say ‘yes‘ to a legitimate, fair and rational request.

Reason #2: Asking doesn’t weaken your power, it boosts it.

At The Suddes Group, we have an internal mantra of ACT or ASK. If you know what needs to be done, do it. If you’re not sure or need help or want someone else’s counsel … ASK.

***Again, not just sales. “I’ve had a long couple of days. Could you upgrade my room?” “I know my son’s tuition is due. Would it be possible to spread that over six months instead of one payment?” “Since this is a trip around the world in 23 days, including 9 all-night flights or trains, could we make all the reservations in business class/first class?”

BTW, the answer to all three of these questions was “YES“.

Reason #3. You’ll actually feel better if you ask.

Martin makes a great point about the difference between rejection and regret. Personally, I much prefer ‘rejection’ (or, better put, someone simply saying no to the request) … than to look back for weeks, months or years, with regret, wondering what would have happened if I had only asked.



Special, Special, Special Note to All Leaders in the For Impact World.


We are doing a ton of work right now in healthcare and with healthcare foundations.

We spend a lot of time talking about about goals, increasing philanthropic revenue, staffing, major gifts vs. special events and much more.

The proverbial lightbulb went off when we started talking about ROI!

Return-On-Investment is a ridiculously simple concept for an advancement/development operation. It is especially relevant for a hospital foundation.

What is our ROI?

  • At 1X right now, it’s no wonder the hospital CEO won’t take our calls.
  • AT 2X, we’re generating revenue for the hospital, but our cost of fundraising is 50%!
  • At 3X, we become part of the conversation at the proverbial table.
  • At 5X (20% cost of fundraising), we are a integral and critical part of the business model.

There are two simple ways to dramatically change ROI: Reduce the denominator (cut expenses) and increase the numerator (raise more money).

The ROI conversation allows for a much more meaningful discussion about expenses, people, slots, what should be a foundation expense and what should be a hospital expense, etc.

Increasing philanthropic revenue is a function of ‘major gifts’, visits and presentations.
Then, the key to ROI is simple:




Just Ask Strategy

I wanted to share our JUST ASK STRATEGY with everyone engaged in the For Impact world.

(It’s SIMPLE, not easy.)

Get a VISIT …



NOT A DONOR (THINK ‘Blood/Organ’!)


NOT TALK, TALK, TALK (THINK ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’!)






NOT FACE-TO-FACE, EYEBALL-TO-EYEBALL (THINK ‘Competition/Confrontation’!)



VOCAB, WORDS, FRAMING have a huge impact on your ATTITUDE and ACTION!

Think about getting an appointment with a donor to overwhelm them with information and ask them for money.

No wonder no one will meet with you. 🙂

P.S. Here’s how it works for the For Profit world. Your Board Members will ‘get it’.

(It’s SIMPLE, not easy.)

Get a VISIT …





NOT TALK, TALK, TALK (THINK ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’!)




NOT MAKE A ‘SALE’ (THINK ‘Used Cars’!)


NOT FACE-TO-FACE, EYEBALL-TO-EYEBALL (THINK ‘Competition/Confrontation’!)



Nick’s Note: Just Ask


‘Just Ask’ the ACTION part of the For Impact message.

  • Through The Suddes Group, we’ve raised a lot of money. A big reason for this was because WE ASKED.
    So many times I’ve been on a visit with an executive director. We asked… the prospect (after some dialogue) said yes and the executive director then later said to me,

  • Just ask when timing is perfect.
  • Just ask when you know exactly what to ask for.
  • Just ask after you’ve visiting with the prospect nine times.
  • Just ask when you’re entire board is on board.
  • Just ask when those butterflies in your stomach are finally gone.
  • Just ask when you have the perfect message.
  • Just ask when you have the perfect materials.

It says, “Just Ask!”

  • Timing will never be perfect.
  • The only what you’ll know what to ask for is by asking (and getting a response).
  • You are in the business of saving, changing and impacting lives It’s not about nine visits. People cultivate because they can’t communicate!
  • Re: the board… just move… take action.
  • I still feel like I want to puke before a big ask….
  • The only way to truly test a message is to ASK.
  • Re: Materials, see my above point about message.

Just ASK is all about action.

It’s permission to move. Nothing happens until you ask!

Until you ask, (one-on-one), the message is not personal.
Until you ask, people don’t know how they can help.Until you ask, the prospect doesn’t guide you through what else is needed (from the message, from the org or plan) to make a commitment.
Until you ask, prospects can’t say YES!

Just Ask!
Always Ask.

This is 90% of everything you need to know about raising money.


The Controlling Insight – Just Ask

“The best way to have a GOOD IDEA is to have a lot of ideas.”
– Linus Pauling


“One great INSIGHT is worth a thousand good ideas.”
– Phil Dusenberry

Marcus Buckingham, in his wonderful book called THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO KNOW, talks about a ‘CONTROLLING INSIGHT’.

He says, “For a ‘CONCEPT’ to go to a ‘CONTROLLING INSIGHT’, it must:
1. Apply amongst a BROAD RANGE of SITUATIONS.
I truly believe… with my heart and my head… that JUST ASK is a ‘CONTROLLING INSIGHT’.
1. It works (applies) to just about anything… anywhere.
2. It exponentially increases growth, sales, life.
3. It’s ALL about ACTION!


Order of Visits

Deciding the ORDER of your visits is very different from simply starting at the top of your Master Prospect List and working your way down.

‘MO-CO’ – ‘LEAD-CO’ – ‘CO-CO’

Begin like Archimedes on his best day by trying to LEVERAGE your commitments… building on each previous visit and commitment as you move along.

Here’s one way to look at this: ‘MO-CO’s,’ ‘LEAD-CO’s’ and ‘CO-CO’s’:

  • MO-CO’s are MOMENTUM COMMITMENTS. These commitments are not necessarily about magnitude or size but rather ‘COMMENSURATE’… ‘SURPRISE’… and ‘STRETCH’.

    These are the ‘EARLY ADOPTERS’ who get it, buy in, and provide the MOMENTUM to get going.

    In Good To Great, Jim Collins’ world, we would call these ‘FLYWHEEL’ commitments. In order to get a FLYWHEEL moving, it takes a lot of energy at the beginning… but once there is some ‘MOMENTUM’… the wheel flies.

  • LEAD-CO’s are about LEADERSHIP COMMITMENTS that literally TRANSFORM the organization or the project or the campaign. These are ‘Top of the Pyramid’, lead gifts that create a sense of “We can do this.” Many times they prove that our best prospects/investors have ‘stepped up’, and now it’s up to the rest of us.
  • CO-CO: 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.

Voice Mail


My primary response to the question of VOICE MAIL is that it is a function of authenticity.

I believe it is appropriate to leave a voice mail on the first follow-up call:

  • Referencing the predisposition.
  • Leaving a return number.
  • Indicating that if you don’t hear back, you will call again on (day).

After that, it’s a combination of authenticity, good judgment and professional perseverance.

  • “Sorry I missed you again. Let me know a good time to catch up. Text or my e-mail is _________.”
  • “I know we keep missing. I also know how important this is to you. I’ll keep trying until we connect.”

***This is another example of ‘Practice’… and thinking out the exact words you can use.
Nothing worse than hemming and hawing and fumbling your way through a voice mail.



Everything good in life doesn’t come easy or just happen. Getting a visit takes FOLLOW-UP and PERSEVERANCE.

Here are 3 things that might help you with this.

  • Attitude Is Everything
  • Whatever It Takes
  • Yes or No


Getting a visit is all about SFP: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy! If you’re trying to a get an ‘appointment’ with someone you are convinced doesn’t want to see you… that’s exactly what will happen.

The person responsible for getting a visit must go at this with the attitude that the:

  • Qualified Prospect wants to be with you.
  • Qualified Prospect wants to hear the opportunity.
  • Qualified Prospect will be the big winner after the visit.

This ‘attitude’ will come through on the phone.

Special Note on Authenticity: You cannot mess up a contact to set up a visit if you
are authentic!!!

  • “Really important that we meet with you.”
  • “Been trying hard to set this up because of urgency, importance, etc.”
  • “Sorry we have missed connecting so often, I’m feeling like a stalker.


I know. Old and cheesy coaching cliché. However, if you take ‘perseverance’ and ‘attitude’ down to the ‘how’… the answer is to do WHATEVER IT TAKES! Call back until they tell you not to call anymore. Stay in contact until you’ve got the visit set up. Call in all of your SUPPORT team. WHATEVER IT TAKES.

3.“YES OR NO?”

We have something we call the ‘RESPONSE TREE’. Usually only 3 answers once you get through on the phone:

  • “YES.” Awesome. Get date and time set. Follow-up with a note to confirm. Send
    any additional predisposition (#2) material for the actual visit itself.
  • “MAYBE.” “What else could I do that might help you decide on getting together? I can meet you anywhere, anytime. Would it help if you spoke with (Natural Partner) to understand more about why they are engaged with us?”
  • “NO.” If this is No – No time but still likes your organization… then you could send them a President’s Circle invitation or even a really strong follow-up letter… with a request.

    If it’s a No – “No, can’t really see this as a priority, don’t have the financial wherewithal to help”… then you would send a nice ‘thank you’ and MOVE ON!


Phone Tips From a Pro

Anyone making phone calls to set visits will benefit from these GREAT tips from Nicole, a
For-Impact visit-setter extraordinaire. Share these with your team to sharpen skills and boost
confidence before picking up the phone.

  • Be Authentic. It’s not about following a script, but about putting it in your own words.
  • Your passion shows through on the phone.
  • Don’t think of the reasons why they may not give. Think of the reason they WILL give.
  • You cannot play out every scenario in your head of the questions that you will receive on
    the phone. Just make the call and see what happens.
  • It’s OK to not have all the answers and to say, “Let me find out about this.”
  • It is all about the change/impact that the prospect can have on the organization.
  • Your prospect may already support you and are champions for your cause. You do not need
    to sell them on the cause.
  • Learn as you go.
  • The best way to start is to pick up the phone and call.
  • In case you only have a few minutes on the phone and they do not want a meeting, know
    in advance the message you want the prospect to take away from your call. You may be the
    only opportunity to talk about the impact/message.
  • Every investment has an impact.
  • Never perceive you know the prospect’s capacity. Let them tell you.
  • Based on your conversation, some people will be inspired to send in a check without
    needing to meet.
  • Everyone wants to feel that they are making a difference.
  • And, the more predisposition letters you send out, and the more calls you make,
    the more impact it will have.

OGs Note: Practice

Julia Cameron is one of my absolute favorite writers, authors, and thinkers. She shares this great quote from Theodore Roethke.

“I learn by going where I have to go.”

The best way to set up a lot of visits is to set up a lot of visits.

‘Practice’ as it relates to getting visits, is to actually ‘practice’ what you’re going to say, how you say it, how to respond, etc. Then, go where you have to go – on the phone, working through your ‘words’ to get the visit.

Here are 3 ways to think about this idea of PRACTICE.

  • The Message and the Words
  • Handle Objections
  • Do the Work


One of the best books I’ve read recently is ‘PRACTICE PERFECT’ by Doug Lemov. One of his big points is that the best teachers and coaches focus on small and seemingly mundane aspects of the work… especially on the right ‘words’ they use!

The idea here is to actually practice/test, the ways and the words.

  • Keep it simple. (Again, goal is to get visit!)
  • Keep it at 30,000’. (High altitude. No detail on phone.)
  • Keep it about the ‘story’. (Selling is not telling, unless it’s a story!)

Commit to being able to articulate your message… clearly, concisely, compellingly…in :30 seconds! Then, add ‘story’ after they have responded.


Important to be able to pre-think (not sure that’s a word but you get my point) how you’re going to handle the normal objections.

  • “I’m in. We don’t have to meet.” (Response could be as simple as “I know you’re in. We just haven’t met in a while and I have some really cool stuff to SHOW YOU around _________, ____________, __________.”)
  • “What is this about?” (Response: “We have a plan called Vision 2015 that I would love to share with you. You are one of our most committed Champions and we really want to get your feedback.”)
  • Why do we need to meet?” (Response: “We’re meeting with Community Leaders, like you” or “I really want to show you how we are presenting our Message and Story…”)

Bottom Line: We need to convince them that we need a little bit of their time… for a really big impact.


Steven Pressfield’s DO THE WORK is another one of those great books that captures everything you need to know on the cover/in the title.

In this case, SOMEONE just has to DO THE WORK. Block out 90 minutes. Get on the phone. Make your calls. Do the follow-up. Do the work.


Team Selling

As you can see, this PREDISPOSITION thing is about TEAM SELLING.

This simple visual should give you an even better understanding of how this works.



To get a visit (for the Sales Team), you can set up the visit by using:

  • The Actual Sales Person
  • A Strong Support Person
  • An Even Stronger Natural Partner

This is the opportunity for your board, volunteer leaders or campaign leadership to do something that they can do and then even want to do (especially if you give them a choice of ‘asking for money’ or ‘setting up a visit’!!!)

You can use all members of your stakeholder group to help get the visit. It could be your CEO, President, a well thought of doctor, a key dean or faculty member, a teacher or coach with 25 years of relationships… whomever.

This is also a wonderful way to engage your current investors and build upon their relationship! Have them make the call to set up the visit for you … and if they’ll go with you, that’s awesome. If not, that’s okay.

*Look at the examples in the outer circle of Natural Partners… and determine who would
be best ‘connector’ to get visits for your very best prospects.



We are professionals. We do not make COLD CALLS!

We always PREDISPOSE the prospect/potential investor to our phone call to set up
the visit… to the visit/presentation itself… and to the follow-up.


The word PREDISPOSE means exactly what it says. (Weird, huh?). We are literally (not figuratively) predisposing the person or persons in advance, to our contact.

Note: Predisposition is not ‘cultivation’! (Cultivation is when you spread manure on crops.)

Here are 3 ideas to help you with PREDISPOSITION (#1), to set up visit.

  • The Goal
  • G.T.A.: Grab Their Attention
  • 3° of Separation



The goal is to GET THE VISIT! It is not to ‘sell on the phone’!

With a really strong predisposition e-mail or letter, the follow-up phone call becomes very assumptive/presumptive!

“I’m following up on the note that you received from (Natural Partner) and I’d like to see if you might available next Tuesday morning? Or would Wednesday afternoon be better?”

This is not a Tom Hopkins (Sales Training Guru) spiel. It Works. Idea: Have someone else set up the visit! I know this is somewhat sacrilegious to many people, but I’ve found it to be the single most effective way to get visits.

*This is especially important if you are full-time Development Officer/Major Gift Officer/Chief Development Officer with a portfolio. You should be making presentations, not setting up visits.

In the predisposition note, the sender/Natural Partner simple closes the end of the note with “I have asked Phyllis to follow-up with you to set up a visit with (MGO).”

Note: I believe my ‘boss’/administrative assistant, Phyllis, can get me a visit with anybody! Having worked together for 19 years, we use this exact system. When Phyllis calls, she is not ‘worried’ at all about answering a bunch of questions or trying to ‘sell’ someone. She’s doing exactly what we communicated to the prospect/potential investor… following up.

Tip: Sometimes the easiest way to schedule is by using someone else you are visiting with that day or week. “Tom is going to be visiting with Jim W. at 10:00 on Tuesday. Could he meet with you before or after that?”

Or, use geography, “Tom will be in Cincinnati next week, and would love to spend 20 minutes with you if that works.”

*Assumes this is a trip.

GTA means be creative… set yourself apart… stand out!

One of the best ideas on this is using a ‘MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE’ as predisposition.

Turn that gala/signature event into both predisposition and grabbing their attention! Actually say that evening that someone will be following up with you to set up a visit. Or, ‘cherry picking’ 50 or 60 of the very best prospects out of the 1,000 people who attended who get a very customized follow-up note… setting up the phone call to schedule the visit.

We have also used a WOW PACKAGE to ensure that the person knew how important this visit was. Rather than an e-mail, actually sending a letter, with some visuals, and then indicating that this is what we want to share or talk about. Just thinking creatively will set you apart.

Fun Note: *I’m not suggesting you go as far as the extraordinary ad man, Jay Chiat, did. He said this his secret for getting people to take his calls was to call the person’s secretary and say, “Tell so and so his DOCTOR is on the line, and I have the results of his test.” (Chiat claimed that they would rush to the phone.)

My personal favorite creative story is around that busy, always traveling executive, whose secretary/gatekeeper always responds with, “Sorry, he’s traveling or he’s out of town.”

I simply ask the gatekeeper where the prospect’s next trip is going to be. She always asks, “Why?” And I respond, “Because I’d like to get a ticket and just fly with him so that we can talk while he’s on the plane!” (It’s really hard for someone to not be engaged at 30,000’. And, if you can get them on the window and you get the aisle, you can ensure there’s nowhere for them to go.)

The whole Kevin Bacon, 6° thing is just wrong. It’s been determined it’s actually 2.78
moves or connections between Kevin Bacon and any other actor.

Please pay attention: You are only 3° away from anybody who is a QUALIFIED PROSPECT!

First, it is very important that you note the term ‘QUALIFIED PROSPECT’. That means that there is a STRONG RELATIONSHIP to your CAUSE or CASE. (It does not mean a ‘relationship’ with you or another individual!)

Then, IF they are truly QUALIFIED PROSPECTS… you can use your NATURAL PARTNERS (Champions, Board Members, Key Volunteer Leaders, other Current Investors, etc.) to make the contact and the connection… and help set up the VISIT!!!

Here is the best way to explain this.

I am only 3° away from the Pope, the President or the Prime Minster of Israel.

I reach out to one of the most amazing human beings on the planet, Fr. Ted Hesburgh (with
whom I had the incredible experience of working with on the Campaign for Notre Dame). Fr.
Ted calls someone in the Vatican… who then sets up meeting with the Pope.

To get to the President, I simply hit speed dial for Dick former Governor of Ohio, Ambassador
to India, President of Colorado College and now Senior Counsel with The Suddes Group. Dick
has Bill Clinton on his speed dial. Bill calls President’s office and sets up visit (since he worked
really hard to get President elected,)

For the Prime Minister of Israel, I call anyone of a handful of Jewish leaders that we have
worked with and ask them to make a phone call or reach out to someone in Israel who can
then reach out to the Prime Minister. (I know. Probably not a good time to do this. He’s busy.
Just trying to make a point.)

One last story. I am only One Natural Partner away from the Dalai Lama.

At an international conference, I poured (fire hose?) my energy, heart and soul
into a keynote talk. Afterwards, a wonderful woman came up and said, “Thank
you. I learned so much… I will never forget this day.” Then she put her long
white scarf around my neck and said, (BTW) “My brother is the Dalai Lama.”

*If you want more on this, there are two great books on this phenomena, 6 DEGREES by
Duncan J. Watts
and LINKED by Albert Barabasi.


The Visit Story

Perhaps your process to get a visit goes like this:

[A phone call or email from the ‘development officer.’]
“Could we come and see you to talk to you about our annual campaign?”

There IS a story here … But it’s a BAD (VISIT) STORY.

  • Development
  • Annual Campaign
  • No ‘WHY.’ No ‘IMPACT.’

Here are some thoughts to help you create a GREAT (VISIT) STORY.

  • Go back to our core message: Impact Drives Income. WHY are we visiting? WHAT are we trying to do [IMPACT]? WHY do we want this person’s time? Is it to ask for money? Or, is it to help change lives, save lives and impact lives?
    • “We are visiting with people to talk about HOW to transform education in our community.”
    • “We are engaging key stakeholders in a conversation about the future of health care in our community.”
    • “This is a movement; you are part of it. We have light years to go to change [insert cause]. This is an important conversation and we hope to have thousands more like it throughout the country …”
    • “We will be sharing where we’re going and asking for your help.
  • The story you tell yourself is AS important – if not MORE important – than the story voice. You must BELIEVE this is a phone call to change and save lives. If you believe this, your SPIRIT will trump any script. If you don’t believe this, a script will not help.
  • Be Assumptive.
    Nobody wants to have a visit to talk about money.


    And yet, some $300 Billion is given away in the US each year.

    Why is this?

    Because just about everybody wants to make a difference. Just about everyone wants to help.

    Everyone you’re meeting with (or hoping to meet with) WANTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD! They want to have exhilarating discussions about making a difference. They just don’t want to have a meeting about ‘giving money.’ Giving money is a means to an end.

  • Don’t make decisions for the prospects! Just a reminder.
  • Bonus thought: Part of the STORY is about the PEOPLE on the visit.

    This is a great team-selling tip: YOU are a cool person!

    Have a board member or natural partner help to open the door with this story, “You’re going to really enjoy spending 30 minutes with Stephanie. She’s a rock star … one of those people that makes us all want to do more to change the world. Stephanie and her team are amazing social entrepreneurs.”


OGs Note: A Story to Get you Started

The most visits I’ve ever made in one day is 13. Here’s the story…

Jim Frick was my boss and mentor at Notre Dame. As Vice President for Development, Jim was one of the early pioneers in the college and university fundraising arena.

One day at a meeting with the entire Development Team, he was encouraging (in Jim’s case it was more exhorting and prodding) the five Development Officers to get out and make more visits.

He said he had made 12 visits in one day… and couldn’t understand why we weren’t making more visits.

I was a ‘young pup’ Regional Director of Development. I was also pretty competitive. I decided I was going to try to break Jim’s record. I set up 13 visits in one day in Indianapolis. I asked my two best Champions and Natural Partners to help me set them up. It turned into a ‘game’. I was running around downtown Indianapolis. Never got in a car. Had a number of people meeting me in Bill McGowan’s office. Started with a 7:00 a.m. breakfast and finished with a 7:00 p.m. dinner.

Visits were brief and not very productive. I think I might have raised $50,000 or $75,000 that day. All about QUANTITY over QUALITY


Our 3X3X3 strategy is a practical and productive approach to this paradox. 3 visits a day… 3 days a week… 3 weeks out of the month. This allows a full-time Major Gift Officer or Development Officer to make 25 to 30 visits a month… and allows quality time for setting up the visit and for follow-up.

Getting a Visit is both an ATTITUDE and a ‘SKILL’ (or even better a ‘SYSTEM’).

With that said, I’ve tried to summarize 40 years in the field (20 of them trying to get ‘appointments’… and the last 20 having much more success getting ‘visits’) in a way that will help you get visits with your best prospects. Following are some nuggets and ideas framed within


I hope this helps.


Stop Trying to Get an Appointment

I cannot begin to count the number of times we have been told/asked “This is all great, but… we can’t get an appointment. They won’t see us. How do we get in the door?”

Our first response is always the same: “Stop trying to get an ‘APPOINTMENT’!”

The word ‘appointment’ itself is a problem. It conjures up visions of doctors! Worse, dentists!

Think about the idea of a VISIT. This is not just semantic gymnastics. It’s a mind-set. A VISIT implies friendship, conversation, mutual desire to be together and much more.

You can read this in a melodramatic tone:

Stop trying to get APPOINTMENTS… with DONORS… to ASK THEM FOR MONEY!

A simple vocabulary change creates an entirely different dynamic.



Engagement Tool: Altitude and Notes on How to Use

Here is a deeper explanation of the power of ‘ALTITUDE’ on a visit/presentation:

  • Always go (back) up. Nick Fellers has a really great way to use ‘altitude/elevation’ on the presentation. When training or coaching, Nick makes this very clear: When in doubt… when challenged… when questioned… ALWAYS GO (BACK) UP TO 30,000’! (The Vision…The Message…The Purpose.)
  • Get ‘buy-in’ at the highest level. As you make the Case for Support, the prospect/ potential investor needs to understand and acknowledge their acceptance of the ‘blue’ VISION and ‘red’ PRIORITIES. Sometimes this is “You had me at hello.” (Renee to Tom Cruise) Other times, it may take the entire first visit to get them to understand and agree that this is an important cause and case. Regardless, it doesn’t make any sense to talk about the Plan or How They Can Help if they don’t ‘get it’ at the highest level.
  • Dissent on the descent. To put this in another way, there can be no ‘dissent’ on the descent! I think of this as kind of the opposite of getting the ‘bends’. If a diver ascends too quickly, they get a case of the ‘bends’. It’s painful and many times life-threatening. During a presentation, the prospect can get the ‘reverse-bends’ if you descend too rapidly. “Hello. Thanks for seeing me. Here’s our campaign Can you give $100,000?”
  • ‘Permission to proceed’. We have actually incorporated this specific terminology into the presentation. (It’s actually the words used to complete a ‘transfer’ on a high ropes challenge course!) “It seems like you’re fully engaged with both our Mission and our Message. Would it be okay (permission to proceed) to go deeper and talk about our Strategic Priorities and our Plan to make all this happen???”
  • Altitude is not always top-down or hierarchical. You can ‘enter’ at any level. You can focus on any level. You can travel up and down… and even side to side, especially when you’re using an Engagement Tool.
  • Learn to draw! The Engagement Tool is meant to be used with markers, colored pens or some writing instrument. You can add visuals such as arrows or circles or words as you use this framework. Write on it! It encourages participation and conversation!
  • Ask questions! Again, since this is all about ENGAGEMENT, CONVERSATION and DIALOGUE, the Engagement Tool should allow for multiple ways to ASK QUESTIONS!!!
    • 1. The ‘Blue’, 30,000’ Question:
      “What do you know about… our Organization/our Current Vision/New Goals?”
    • 2. The ‘Red, 14,000’ Question:
      “Which one of these ‘3 Circles’ (Priorities) is most important to you?”
    • 3. The Green, 3’ Question:
      “Based on your understanding of the Purpose, Priorities and Plan… would it be okay to talk about how you can help?”
  • Transition is important: Always use questions to transition from the levels of dialogue or engagement. E.g.
    • “What does your involvement with (Org) mean to you?”
    • “Did you have a unique experience at (Org)?”
    • “Are you willing to be a ‘CHAMPION’ for (Org)?”
    • “We are asking everyone in our family to help in 3 ways. Can we go there?”
  • ‘Permission to Proceed’
    We also call these ‘transition questions’ – because they TRANSITION within the flow.

    • “Would it be okay?”
    • “Would it be possible to?”
    • “At this time, I’d like to talk specifically about the Funding Plan if that’s okay with you.”
    • If there was a poor job of predisposition, you might even be able to get away with: “I know we didn’t come here today to talk about numbers but it certainly seems like we’re in sync about the projects. Would it be okay if I were to share the Funding Plan?”

    Asking for permission to proceed allows you to be comfortably assertive.

  • Customize it. Put the person’s or company’s name at the top, write in the specific Priorities or Projects to be funded, or whatever.
  • Leave it with them. Many Prospects will actually ask if they can keep this ‘visual’ representation. You can leave them ‘their’ copy… with all the handwritten notes… and a clean copy that they can share with others (if needed).
  • Fold or front/back. You can fold the Engagement Tool so only the ‘blue’ is showing. Keeps their attention/focus at 30,000’! (Then, I open it to ‘proceed’).*We also have put a (Campus) MAP or ‘drawings/sketches’ of Building Projects on the back.
  • Size matters. We (almost) always use this as an 18 x 24 or at least an 11 x 17. Plenty of room to write, draw, etc. Plus, you can stand up, move around and ‘engage’ your way through the Framework.
  • Finally, PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. The more you use the Engagement Tool… the better you will be able to control the FLOW of the visit. And, you will figure out what works and what doesn’t.

O.G.’s Notes: 100 Visits in 18 Days

Jim Yoder is one of my closest friends (since our days together at Notre Dame) and a former partner of The Suddes Group. Jim has been running/managing large campaigns for over 20 years.

When he was working on a $1.5M Campaign for Economic Development (over 5 years) in a small community in North Carolina:

He spent 3 DAYS …



working on the Funding Initiative.

He made:

100 VISITS!!!


Oh, and by the way, Jim had never met any of those prospects/potential investors personally before he made those visits … AND he Presented the Opportunity for them to make an investment (JUST ASK) in almost every single instance!

I told Jim that 100 visits in those 18 days was more than most Development Officers and Major Gift Officers Make in a year.



Everybody Has a Plan Until First Contact With The Enemy

I hope you have all now seen or read one of our absolute favorite quotes by Andy Grove:


We’ve been astounded over the years by how many people PLAN, PLAN, PLAN … RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH … CULTIVATE, CULTIVATE, CULTIVATE</br> …</br>and never ENGAGE!


Perhaps these two quotes by a legendary warrior/philosopher and a not-so-legendary boxer might also help.

Sun Tzu
(The Art of War)

Leon Spinks

The ‘PLAN’ is not the answer.

GET OUT AND ENGAGE. MAKE FIRST CONTACT! (It’s not the enemy!) GET HIT. (Make visits. Take your best shot.)

Your ‘PLAN’ will be a thousand times better after you have had this first contact and gotten hit than it is right now if you’re writing it in your office or conference room or in a bubble.


Engagement Tool: Notes and Thoughts

* Following are notes and thoughts to help you understand this at the conceptual level… as well as how best to USE the ENGAGEMENT TOOL to produce ‘closes’, ‘commitments’ and ‘cash’.

  • It grabs their attention! The SIMPLICITY and VISUAL nature of this ‘piece’ is so totally different than most material being used on Visits (which are not designed for one-on-one Presentations!)… that it commands attention! (Most likely, this will be the first and only actual ‘Presentation’ Tool for your organization.)
  • It is all about the ‘REAL ESTATE’. (Location, Location, Location) Using the constraint of limited space, the Engagement Tool tries to capture an organization’s IMPACT POINTS and many of the TALKING POINTS necessary to make a great Presentation and, at the same time, provides for meaningful ‘white space’ to allow for emphasis, additions, or clarifications.
  • It actually allows for a ‘TRIPLE ASK’!!!
    (Annual Operations)
    (Priority Projects)
    (Legacy Giving)

    [As opposed to ‘cultivation’, multiple visits and never getting ‘dollars on the table’, much less ‘in the bank’!]

  • It is designed at ALTITUDE. (See here for more.)
    30,000′ Why Purpose Blue
    14,000′ What Priorities Red
    3′ How Plan Green

    We have used this ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK as an integral, critical part of our presentation FLOW with hundreds of organizations on thousands of visits. It works.

    • Start with, the WHY. Once they’re on board…
    • Move to the WHAT. Once they understand …
    • It’s on to the HOW. HOW you will execute and HOW they can help.

O.G.’s Notes: Learn By Going

I was re-reading some stuff by Julia Cameron, who is one of my favorite writers, authors, thinkers. (Her ARTIST’S WAY is one of my favorite books and favorite gifts.)

Julia shares a terrific quote from poet Theodore Roethke that fits perfectly into our focus on ENGAGEMENT!

“I LEARN by going where I have to GO.”

“Where you have to GO”is on VISITS with QUALIFIED PROSPECTS.

P.S. If Roethke is a little existential for you, listen to Brian Tracy, one of the world’s best sales trainers, writers and thinkers, when he summarizes all of sales training into this ‘SIMPLE’ challenge:


In Suddes-speak: ENGAGE!


Show. Listen. Engage.


We have pioneered the use of a simple, visual ‘ENGAGEMENT TOOL’ to replace your PowerPoint, brochures and existing material.

  • The GOAL is a simple, visual ‘TOOL’ (MAP) to help present a powerful CASE for SUPPORT… on a ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ VISIT.
  • The PURPOSE of the Engagement Tool is three-fold:
    • It is a specific, visual way to ENGAGE the Prospect in CONVERSATION and DIALOGUE. (Thus, ‘Engagement’ Tool vs. ‘Presentation Tool’.)
    • It’s a great FRAMEWORK for the VISIT/PRESENTATION.
    • It puts the ‘CLOSE’ (HOW YOU CAN HELP) right in front of the Presenter(s) (Sales Team) and the Prospect.
  • The STRATEGY with the Engagement Tool is to CONTROL THE FLOW of the Presentation! (Think of it like Linus’ Security Blanket!)
    • NOT a ‘brochure’!
    • NOT meant to be a ‘stand alone’!
    • NOT a ‘collateral piece’!
    • NOT a text-heavy, small print, multiple-page ‘document’!
(Don’t Tell)
(Don’t Talk)
(Don’t Pitch)

O.G.’s Notes: The Need to See Prospects

I love the magazine Selling Power (mostly just because I love the idea of sales). Gerhard Gschwandtner is the founder and publisher of Selling Power and has had a tremendous influence on my thinking. The subtitle of the magazine is “Solutions for Sales Management,” and they provide a lot of solutions!

I was skimming an old issue (May 2005) looking for more stuff on PROSPECTS and came across this article by Geoffrey James called:


Post-9/11 Everything Changed EXCEPT THE NEED TO SEE PROSPECTS!

(Those are my caps and my exclamation point.)

Here are the guts of the article:

  1. “It’s never been more difficult to get through to an executive to make a FORMAL APPOINTMENT.” In our For Impact World, we deal with that in a number of ways. Most importantly, we don’t look for a “FORMAL APPOINTMENT”
  2. but rather a VISIT!!! ‘APPOINTMENT’ (especially a ‘FORMAL’ one) immediately triggers your synapses to think ‘DOCTOR!’ Or, worse, ‘DENTIST!’
  3. “You have to do a better job of making prospects want to see you.” The way we do that is making a big, big deal of PREDISPOSITION!!!
  4. The absolute best PREDISPOSITION for all of us in the For Impact World is to actually bring the ‘prospect’ to where you deliver your service. Let them SEE, TOUCH, HEAR, SMELL WHAT you do. Make it palpable. Make it memorable. Make it an experience.
  5. “Once you do get in, however, you’d better be prepared to build a LASTING RELATIONSHIP.” WOW! As most of you know, our GOAL with all of our PROSPECTS is to create a RELATIONSHIP … ideally a LIFETIME RELATIONSHIP … and, then MAXIMIZE THAT RELATIONSHIP …AT EVERY GIVEN MOMENT!

The article goes on to talk about working to get a ‘VISIT.’

I love their “warning:”

“Working this system requires PREPARATION and PERSISTENCE.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


A Simple Measure: How many one-on-one asks at $1,000+

One of our discovery questions for our clients is:

How many times have you (or someone from your organization) sat down with a potential investor one-on-one in the past three months and asked for more than $1,000?

For MOST organizations, and even the BUSIEST funding professionals and largest colleges, this number rarely tops five!

One simple way to think about boosting productivity is to literally drop everything that doesn’t help you boost this number (by a lot). What if your ONLY goal this month were to have ten great visits in which you shared the story of your organization and presented the opportunity to help or make an impact?


Look Back for Feedback

Take a few hours to review last year’s RESULTS!

List all of your ‘SOURCES OF REVENUE’… and the COST (EXPENSES) to generate that REVENUE.


(Direct/ Indirect)
NET $$$
Direct Mail/Annual Fund
Special Events
(Golf, Gala, etc)
Planned Gifts

*Be sure to include ALL PERSONNEL COSTS under Indirect Expenses.
(If you want an even bleaker picture, include ‘volunteer hours’!)

The point of this exercise is to reinforce the concept of ENGAGEMENT (VISITS with your best PROSPECTS) as the most cost effective way to generate the most INCOME. You also might use this to review the ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES of your team.

REMEMBER: The GOAL of every Development/Advancement Office is to write a net, net, net check to the IMPACT side of the organization. (The ‘Green’ people help the ‘Blue’ people)


Return on Investment, Energy, and Relationships

If you follow For Impact, you might be familiar with the VOCABULARY CHANGE of ‘donor’ and ‘donation’ to ‘investor’ and ‘investment.’

And, obviously, you would know what every INVESTOR wants from their investment: A RETURN!

And, as a For Impact Leader or Social Entrepreneur, you know that you can DELIVER on that RETURN.

There is another ‘RETURN’ that we use quite often that seems to really grab people’s attention: RETURN ON ENERGY.

This particular nugget should be pretty self-explanatory. What (exactly) is your RETURN on ENERGY? (In this case, ‘ENERGY’ means both physical and mental TIME and FOCUS.) Is the end result worth the ENERGY? Are you working on your Top 3% or still expending a lot of (wasted) energy at the bottom?

This concept is explained and expanded wonderfully in a great book by Jim Loehr, The Power of Full Engagement.

Loehr’s premise is very simple: It’s all about MANAGING YOUR ENERGY … NOT YOUR TIME.

Special Note: We believe that this RETURN ON ENERGY concept applies both to YOU and your INVESTORS / CHAMPIONS. (They are also expecting a return on ENERGY, not just a return on INVESTMENT.)

The first return may be the RETURN ON RELATIONSHIPS. . . if you think about it, the RETURN on a RELATIONSHIP could be a way to talk about both RETURN ON INVESTMENT and RETURN ON ENERGY.


  • Are you actually maximizing the RETURN ON RELATIONSHIPS?
  • Are your top prospects and potential investors clear about their RETURN ON THE RELATIONSHIP?
  • And, finally, can you use this whole concept of ‘RETURN’… on the RELATIONSHIP … on the INVESTMENT … on ENERGY … as a way for you to get TRULY FOCUSED???

Measuring Outcomes vs. Inputs

A University president (an incredibly well-read, experienced, really bright thought leader) shared with us a story about American business, especially MANUFACTURING, as it existed 50 years ago. (He told the story much more eloquently, but these are the shorthand notes.)


The ‘outcome’ paradigm replaced the old model by changing the PROCESS (re-engineering around measurement and statistics, etc. Think Edward Denning and Elijah Goldratt.)

The goal was to stabilize the consistency of the PROCESS to minimize and eliminate the BAD STUFF.

Here’s where he went with that regarding EDUCATION.

The old INPUT model goes back 500 years (University of Bologna, etc.) Nothing’s changed. Same pedagogy. Teacher. Student. Classroom. If you fail, you’re gone. Throw out the bad. Keep the good. Be ‘proud’ of the number of students you don’t accept and the number of students who don’t make it.

In education, a new model of OUTCOME-BASED would look at the entire process so that everyone makes it.

INPUT VS. OUTCOME. For Impact leaders, social entrepreneurs, change agents and Development/Sales should think about how this applies to the way we ‘RAISE MONEY.’

The old INPUT-BASED model is all about activity, cultivation, marketing, annual fund, chasing mice.

The new OUTCOME-BASED model (certainly our For Impact model) is all about:

  1. Writing ‘TRIPLE NET CHECKS’ to the organization from the Development Operation.
  2. A laser-like focus on RESULTS/OUTCOME … not on activities, special events, donor acquisitions, chasing mice, etc.
  3. Do only those things that have dramatic, quantum leap, transformational results. (Chase antelopes.)

P.S. A very, very senior development officer actually told the Vice President that the institution needed to “spend the next five years totally focused on building up ANNUAL FUND.”

Can you imagine doing that in ‘business?’ Let’s sell a bunch of little stuff to a lot of people … so that five years from now those people can buy more and bigger stuff. We’d be out of business.


You Get What You Measure

For all of our Coaching Clients with Sales Teams, we use what we call a ‘GREEN SHEET’ to collect and measure monthly feedback.

At the top of every Green Sheet, is our SUCCESS QUOTIENT:

  • SUCCESS = # of times we SHARE THE STORY …
  • SUCCESS = # of VISITS (with QUALIFIED Prospects) & # of ASKS.
    (Return-on-RELATIONSHIPS & Return-on-INVESTMENT & Return-onENERGY)

All of this is geared towards High-End, Top of the Pyramid, Lead and Major Gift PRESENTATIONS! It’s where the money is.

If you’re not already using a system to MEASURE your SUCCESS, I suggest you begin


An Action Plan

*Warning: It’s pretty easy to run down this list and blow off a number of these with a “We’ve already got this/done this” attitude.

If you’re truly committed to ENGAGEMENT… do these action steps to the best of your organization’s ability, in a timely fashion and as SIMPLY as possible.


  • Create a clear, concise and compelling MESSAGE… in order to ENGAGE people at the highest level of DIALOGUE… around your VISION and PURPOSE and CAUSE.


  • What is the VALUE PROPOSITION? What is the CASE FOR SUPPORT? What is the RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT? (‘Both/And’ Left Brain/Right Brain. Logic/Magic. Tangible/Intangible.) What are your PRIORITIES? Your 3 Circles or 3 Buckets?


  • Do your ‘Blue’ MATH around your Impact and your ‘Green’ MATH around your Cost of Delivery and Funding Model.
  • Here are some simple examples to get you going.
    • What would you do with $1 Million???
    • What kind of impact will a $10,000 President’s Circle investment make?
    • What does the specific impact of $1,000 have on the people you serve?

    * I know. It’s RULE #5, but it’s a different spin, and worth a repeat.

4.) Create a simple, powerful PRESENTATION… STORY LINE… and ENGAGEMENT TOOL

  • Use a Napkin, Vision Card, Map, Engagement Tool, or whatever to provide a FRAMEWORK and FLOW for the VISIT.
  • Hope is not a strategy. Selling is not telling…unless it’s a STORY! It is our responsibility to control the FLOW of the visit. The absolute best way to do this is to have some kind of one-on-one ENGAGEMENT TOOL that allows you to move from PURPOSE to PRIORITIES to PLAN… and then PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY to help!!!
  • *If you need more help with this, there are examples at You can also contact us directly for specific assistance.

5.) Finalize your MASTER PROSPECT LIST!

  • Your Master Prospect List (MPL) is your top prospects in Descending Order of Importance! The list is fluid and the order will change. However, you need to start out with your best shot at your MPL
  • Of critical importance is your TOP 33 (the top 3 plus your next 10 plus your next 20!)
  • Once you have IDENTIFIED and PRIORITIZED these prospects, you need to STRATEGIZE each prospect in Descending Order of Importance.
  • *For much, much, much more on this entire process, see here


  • These goals need to be SPECIFIC, WRITTEN and MEASURABLE. Here are 3 Examples:

    • The ‘33 GIFTS’ Plan. (Example)
      • We will ENGAGE with our TOP 50 PROSPECTS in order to generate 33 COMMITMENTS, which will provide 90% of our funding needs!
      • This will be a SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY.
      • E.g. We will generate $5 Million from:
        • 1 Gift of $1 Million
          2 Gifts of $500,000
          4 Gifts of $250,000
          10 Gifts of $100,000
          16 Gifts of $50,000+
          33 Totaling $5 Million
    • The ‘Spartan 300’ Plan. (Example)
      • We will ENGAGE with our BEST 300 prospects (including our Top 33), which will generate bags and buckets of money to Fund Our Vision.
      • E.g. We have (3) members of our SALES TEAM, and we will collectively make 30 VISITS (ENGAGEMENTS) a month for 10 months (using August and December for R&R).
      • We will use a 3x3x3 goal which challenges us to collectively make 3 visits a day, 3 days a week, 3 weeks out of the month.
    • The ‘1,000 ENGAGEMENT’ Plan. (Example)
      • As a larger For Impact organization with 6 committed Relationship Managers, we will make 1,000 VISITS/PRESENTATIONS this year.
      • Each of our 6 Relationship Managers will have a Portfolio of 300 Qualified Prospects. Each of us will make 167 VISITS/PRESENTATIONS (ENGAGEMENTS) this year.
      • We will average 15 QUALITY VISITS a month and do all of the appropriate preparation, predisposition and follow-up.
      • We will do ‘DISCOVERY’ on every visit and with every prospect. We also commit to make the FULL PRESENTATION around the TRIPLE ASK for TODAY, TOMORROW and FOREVER (Annual Operations, Campaign Priorities and a Legacy/Planned Gift.)
      • *20% of these 167 visits will become our TOP 33 gifts for each Relationship Manager.

7.) Commit to better PREDISPOSITION.

“I can’t get a visit.”
“They haven’t returned my call.”
“They won’t see me.”


  • None of these excuses are acceptable in THIS ENGAGEMENT MODEL.
  • Do better PREDISPOSITION to set up the VISIT. Get your best prospects to a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE… and then FOLLOW-UP!
  • You are away from any QUALIFIED PROSPECT! Use your Board, Natural Partners, and WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!


  • Set up your next month’s visits right now!
  • Don’t ‘think’… DO! Once you have your Funding Plan and ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY laid out… EXECUTE! (ACT!)
    • ‘10,000 PUSH-UPS’
      • Use this ‘Push-Up’ analogy to help reinforce ACTION.
      • If you commit to do 10,000 push-ups a year, the SIMPLEST and most SUCCESSFUL way to achieve that goal is to do 30 PUSH-UPS A DAY. (1 set. 3 sets of 10. 2 push-ups an hour the 15 hours you’re awake. Whatever.)
      • To reinforce this point even more, let’s say you wanted to do 63,000 push-ups a year. (1,000 push-ups x your age). The SIMPLE EXECUTION is 3 sets of 63 a day…every day.
      • The point is that you can’t skip 3 days… or you’re screwed. You can’t wait until June to begin. Nor can you wait until November to make 100 visits (because you’ve only made 3 visits a month up until then).


  • STOP ‘CULTIVATING’! (Spreading manure on your prospects). Start to SHARE the STORY on every VISIT. PRESENT people the OPPORTUNITY to HELP!!
  • Remember: They get more out of helping you than you get from helping them!
  • Special, Special Action Note: Start by CHANGING THE WAY YOU TALK!
  • THINK Impact, Cause, Philanthropy, Investors, Investment, Presenting Opportunities, Visits, Predisposition, Sales… and, of course, ENGAGEMENT!!!


  • Again.

How to Run a Sales Meeting Using a Sales Dashboard

Here is a format we use for sales meetings – for example, a weekly review of activities from the sales team.

  1. Update on activity:
    • Number of visits
    • Number of asks
  2. Update on productivity:
    • Number of commits / declines
    • $$ Committed

These metrics provide an objective dashboard that speaks volumes.

  • “What gets measured gets done.” – Tom Suddes (quoting 278 others)
  • It’s very easy to get sidetracked. Make it very clear (for yourself) and for your sales team that the first measurement will be number of times we got out of the office to go visit with people. Even without the perfect materials, we know (at For Impact) this will have a tremendous positive impact on your organization.
  • The dashboard creates accountability.
  • Following on the first point, if you’re a manager you can set goals with your team around number of visits/asks. This ties back to accountability and performance.
  • The dashboard points to what’s working and what’s not
  • Once we were working with an organization that was making 15 visits per week, but logging only a few commitments and declines. We were able to zero in on this and it turned out the staff wasn’t really asking. They were walking through the numbers and ‘hoping’ the prospect would select to give. We did another training session around ‘the last three feet’ and the numbers then improved.

    This is a pretty important point. You can deal with real issues as they arise – instead of planning and planning for months/years with no activity.

After the numbers we then review:

  • Status of Top Ten Prospects on the Master Prospect List
  • Specific Pending Strategies that need attention
  • Strategies for the Forthcoming week

10 Action Steps to Help You Engage

Here are 10 Action Steps, to help you ENGAGE:




4. Create a simple, powerful PRESENTATION… STORY LINE… and ENGAGEMENT TOOL

5. Finalize your MASTER PROSPECT LIST!







3 Ideas to Help You Ask

1. Get Something On The (Proverbial) ‘TABLE’.

  • Here’s another of Nick’s ‘BRILLIANT’ ways to make the JUST ASK point:
  • Just get SOMETHING on the ‘TABLE’.
    • Get the ‘level of engagement’… on the table.
    • Get a ‘dollar amount’… on the table.
    • Get a ‘priority or project’… on the table.

2. Get a ‘ROADMAP’ to the gift.

  • Again, Nick has been using this as a HUGE part of our training and strategy with sales teams.
  • Don’t leave the visit without a literal ‘ROADMAP’ to the gift!!!
  • “Are you in?” “What can we do to solidify commitment?” “How can we confirm amount?” Etc.

3. Try for a TRIPLE ASK on every visit!

  • In our world, the ‘best of the best’ learn how to make a ‘Triple Ask’ tied to Today | Tomorrow | Forever. They use this to answer “How can I help?”… and frame this around Annual Operations, Priority Projects and Legacy.

Rules of Engagement

Here are the 9 Rules of Engagement, without any supporting text or thoughts.

1. IMPACT drives INCOME. Not the other way around.



4. Different RESULTS require a different DESIGN.








“Success is a result of Good Judgement.
Good Judgement is a result of Experience.
Experience is a result of Bad Judgement.”

– Will Rodgers

The last couple of years have been challenging and difficult…and have led to a lot of EXPERIENCES. (Good & Bad)

Now is the time to use those EXPERIENCES to focus on ‘ENGAGEMENT’!

As Goose said to Maverick, in Top Gun:


In our world, (just so there is no confusion) ENGAGE means VISIT…SHOULDER TO SHOULDER…OUT OF YOUR OFFICE… with your BEST INVESTORS and PROSPECTS.

Andy Grove, of Intel fame,has created a 3 word battle cry that changes everything,


*Remember Martin Luther King said,

“I have a dream!”

*He didn’t say, “I have a Strategic Plan.”

Newton’s Law states,

“A body in motion tends to stay in motion,
A body at rest tends to stay at rest.”

I’m no physics major, but I get this: ENGAGE means GET IN MOTION!!! You can hide under your desk because of the economy, fear, call reluctance, whatever… OR, you can buy into our IMPACT DRIVES INCOME insight and epiphany.

  • More VISITS (with BEST PROSPECTS) means…
  • More PRESENTATIONS (to Share the Story/Present the Opportunity) means…
  • More MONEY (to Fund the Vision) means…
  • More INCOME…creating much more IMPACT.

Go Forth and ENGAGE!

GUARANTEE: IF you commit to ENGAGE with your CHAMPIONS and your MOST QUALIFIED PROSPECTS… your entire organization will be TRANSFORMED!


Nick’s Note: It Takes 15 Visits to Hit Your Selling Stride

We coach and train organizations and individuals to sell … to sell their vision, their projects, their impact.

  • Sales is a 1:1 activity. It requires that we get out of the office and meet with people.
  • Sales is also the only way to truly maximize relationships.

I will often ask an executive director, “How many visits and asks (1:1) does your organization make each month?” More than any other statistic, this is a key performance indicator for an organization. Many leaders respond with something like, “Well, right now, none. We’re waiting until we finish our strategic plan.” Or, “About once per month but we’re really going to commit to major gifts in the coming year.”

Get out. Visit. Ask.

As coaches, we know it takes about 15 asks (over a three-month time period) from one person to hit ‘selling stride’… where a sales person is likely to keep making visits … revenue will jump … systems will start to form. On paper, 15 visits doesn’t look like a lot (and it’s not) but it requires:

  • That we stop messing with the message.
  • That we get out of our comfort zone. Otherwise, human nature would have us wait forever to make the FIRST visit.
  • That we get beyond the 2-3 ‘low-hanging fruit’ prospects … being proactive in a sales process.

If you’re new to this, your first few visits are going to feel awkward. You’ll find yourself saying really stupid things. Just know this and know that you have to do them to get them out of the way. Somewhere in the range of 6-10 visits you’ll start to ‘own the message’ and find yourself in familiar territory on each dialogue. And … by visit 15 you will find a groove. Each visit is no longer produces that ‘deer in a headlight’ feeling. Much like an experienced quarterback describes, the time seems to slow down and you get much better at processing on the fly.

For what it’s worth:

  • I feel really awkward on my first ten visits on behalf of a cause. Even having done this hundreds of times it takes me a while to find my groove.
  • It’s much easier to do three visits in one day than it is three visits in one-week.
  • Remember, be authentic and you can’t screw up. It’s okay to say, “This is the second time I’ve shared the plan in this way.”
  • If it helps, go ahead and make ‘practice visits’… these count toward the 15.
  • I’m suggesting it takes 15 visits for a person to reach his or her stride which impacts the organization as a whole. If you have two sales people then they each should make 15 visits to hit a stride.

OGs Note: Share the Story. Present the Opportunity.

Another one of those SIMPLE, but not EASY lessons.

STOP Asking for Money. (I did that 5,812 times.)


You’ll be amazed.

**Special Board Note: This could be the GREATEST LESSON to get your BOARD and VOLUNTEERS ENGAGED in your QUANTUM LEAP CAMPAIGN . Just ask them whether they’d rather:


Jeff Strine, one of our For Impact coaches, says it best:


It’s all about your vision. No more to be said.


Sales Process (A Visual)

Wanted to share this illustration of a customized sales process we did with a client. If you’ve been to a workshop you will recognize Predisposition > Present the Opportunity > Follow-up.

Though we originally made it for one client, we think it’s pretty near universal.

  • Leads feed into a PREDISPOSITION STRATEGY.
  • VISIT! Do Discovery and then Present the Opportunity … could be two visits or one but not more.
  • The GOAL is a big deal to me … if we can get them to say, “Wow, this is great, what can I do to help?” … then it’s not about cultivation, time or a chess-like gambit. It’s about communicating the ‘how to help’… now/today.
    If they don’t say, “Wow!” … then we effectively JUST ASK around the goal … and get permission to talk about the funding plan on the next (second) visit.
  • Follow-up – is a STRATEGY, not an ACTION ITEM.


Click on image to download a copy for your files.


Sales Requires People…Process…Performance

There it is. The ‘3 P alliteration’ that summarizes all ‘SALES’!

SALES SUCCESS is a direct result of combining your SALES PEOPLE with a

SALES PROCESS and then relying on them to PERFORM! (You need all three.

Two of three won’t cut it. One of three, close up shop.)

Note: Most ‘NFP’ orgs don’t know where to begin re: a SALES PROCESS. We’ve spent 30 years building and refining a SALES PROCESS.


9 Guiding Principles for Sales Success

Here are 9 GUIDING PRINCIPLES to help you ‘sell’ your VISION, your MESSAGE, your PRIORITIES …

Pretty self-explanatory, but there are some ‘notes’ with each one.

GP #1 CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY! WORDS ARE IMPORTANT! Stop using all the typical ‘nonprofit’ industry jargon. Start using ‘sales’ terms, ‘business’ terms, ‘common sense’ terms.

Appointments Visits
Power Points Presentation Tools
Asking for Money Presenting the Opportunity
GP #2 THINK BIG. BUILD SIMPLE. ACT NOW! Our absolute favorite Entrepreneur’s Mantra. Also works great for SALES. THINK. BUILD. ACT. BIG. SIMPLE. NOW.
GP #3 THE RULE OF 3! ‘FORCE’ everything you do into groups of 3! Your Message Points. Your Priorities. Your Buckets. Your Sales Presentation. Trust us. It works.
GP #4 NO TIMEOUTS. NO SUBSTITUTIONS. NO EXCUSES. OG’s Notre Dame Boxers’ Mantra. Works for sales. Take responsibility for your life. Your actions. Your results.
GP #5 PREPARE. PRACTICE. PERFORM. You ‘get’ PREPARE and PERFORM. What we never, ever, ever do (in our world) is PRACTICE! PRACTICE YOUR PRESENTATION. Your response to objections and challenges. Your opening. Your close.
GP #6 FIRST WITH THE HEART. THEN WITH THE HEAD. This is the corollary to a great line in the book, THE POWER OF ONE.  Zig Ziglar, über sales trainer, says it perfectly: “People buy on emotion, then justify with logic.”
GP #7 DO THE MATH. You can’t ‘SELL’ unless you understand all the ‘NUMBERS!’ This is about goals, self-fulfilling prophecy, and the Stockdale Paradox (Face the Brutal Facts).
GP #8 ASK QUESTIONS. (ACTUALLY) LISTEN TO ANSWERS. This is, without question, the greatest ‘SALES TIP’ … ever!
GP #9 SHARE THE STORY. PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY. No explanation necessary. Just do it.

The World’s First Elevator Pitch

We urge you to read Dan Pink’s book, TO SELL IS HUMAN!

Go immediately to Page 155 and read about Elisha Otis and the world’s first elevator pitch!

Teaser: It involved him climbing on top of one of the world’s first elevators and taking an axe and slashing the rope that is suspending it in mid-air!

We love Dan’s thinking as he goes into the 6 Successors to the Elevator Pitch:

  • The One-Word Pitch (IMPACT!)
  • The Question Pitch (JUST ASK!)
  • The Rhyming Pitch (LIVE TO GIVE. GIVE TO LIVE.)
  • The Subject Line Pitch (YOU JUST WON $1M FROM NIGERIAN LOTTERY.)
  • The Pixar Pitch!!! (Page 170. THIS ALONE IS WORTH THE PRICE OF THE BOOK.)

Pink reinforces everything we’ve read about Pixar, John Lasseter and his team, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney Company, and more.


Once upon a time there was _________. Every day _________.
One day ________ and _________. Because of that _________ .
Because of that __________. Until finally _________.


To every For Impact organization out there … fill in the blanks and you have your STORY! document

You know our FI | TSG line: You’re in Sales. Get over IT!


‘The Little Engine that Could’ Syndrome

You all know the story of the ‘Little Engine that Could.’ Great little blue engine that pulled the big train chanting, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” It’s about the little guy overcoming odds with attitude and proving something for himself.

It’s great. But it’s not your organization’s best story.

The Little Engine story-syndrome for nonprofits looks something like this:

“We’re really tiny but we don’t give up. We make good use of everything. We’re struggling but we’re going to make it. We believe we can. We believe we’re doing good work! Can you support us?”


Present a better story. The Little Engine That Could story is a narrative about confidence.

We want a narrative about PURPOSE!

No time for you to tell us you can give yourself a pep talk. With all due respect to the little engine, we’re not pulling a train full of toys; we’re SAVING lives, CHANGING lives and IMPACTING lives!

Channel Ghandi.

Inspire like MLK.

Heck, charge forward like Braveheart.

They were driven by a sense of PURPOSE, not self-discovery.


“If you don’t like how things are going, tell a different story.”

Here’s a really solid article from Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard Business Review: If You Don’t Like Your Future, Re-Write Your Past. (June 11, 2012)

At For Impact and The Suddes Group, we talk an awful lot about the power of story.

This article reinforces the whole idea of changing the narrative … so that it creates a different view/perspective.

Every one of us can take this to heart. “If you don’t like how things are going, tell a different story.”

Here’s a For Impact example of how to ‘tell a different story.’ It’s an excerpt from our On Boards guidebook:

The best way to begin improving the dynamics of your Board relationship is to Change the Story.

OLD STORY: 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.

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

Our Collective 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 control the Board ‘Story!’ It can be a negative story or a positive story. Your choice.

Either way, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Tell Your Story Enough and You Will Change the World

Let me tell you a story … about an amazing man and social entrepreneur named Bill Strickland. We had the opportunity to exchange ideas with him and his team at the Manchester Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh.

Bill’s credited as a terrific social entrepreneur and a visionary; he’s both. More importantly, his program to transform the lives of poor youth individuals and the community works. Harvard’s done four case studies exploring the success. (By the way, Apple is the only other ‘organization’ to be the subject of four Harvard Case Studies.)

What I really appreciate about Bill is his ‘persistent story telling.’ I’ll bet he’s shared his slide show 3000+ times. I know for a fact he’s shared his story in front of every audience that will have him … in hundreds of cities … around the world.

I share this with you for two reasons. First, Bill is a great storyteller and you need to hear his story. (Listen to his TED Talk, “Bill Strickland makes change with a slide show.”)

Second, the dude works hard and you can too! Sharing your story 3000 times is hard work. It requires persistence and conviction to your message. Sometimes you end up speaking to a room of five people and sometimes Jeff Skoll is in the audience. Bill’s stories frequently include something like, “And [insert famous/influential name] was in the audience; she came up to me and said, ‘I’d like to help!’

If you tell your story 3000 times I promise these things will happen to you as well. Here’s the thing … you don’t need to share your story 3000 times. You don’t even need to share your story 1000 times. It’s just the idea of committing to MASSIVE ACTION (as Tony Robbins calls it).

What if you told YOUR story 100 times? You WILL raise some funds and change some lives.

What if you told YOUR story 1000 times? You WILL change your sector or city.

What if you told YOUR story 3000 times? You WILL change the world.

In 2011, Bill was awarded the 2011 Goi Peace Award. This is Japan’s equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.


Secrets of the World’s Best Storytellers

“Let me tell you a story …”

The exact same story can be told very differently by different people … or in different ways.

The STORYTELLER as a lot to do with it. To most effectively ‘share the story’ of your For Impact organization, you want a storyteller who is authentic … filled with passion for your organization … and a great communicator.

To help you tell your story the very best way possible, here are the 7 SECRETS OF THE WORLD’S BEST STORYTELLERS*:

    • Make every word count.
    • Get it perfect … then cut even more
    • Use silence.
    • Use inflection.
    • Think like an actor.
    Listen to Zig Ziglar tell the story of how the “Redhead” got him to buy his first house!!
    • Really get into it.
    • EnthusIASM (IASM: “I Am Sold Myself.”)
    • Passion.
    Storytelling is NOT a PowerPoint … Presentation … from the Podium! It’s about PERFORMANCE … whether it’s one-on-one or in front of a group.
    The absolute best stories and best storytellers make the story RELEVANT to the audience … to the topic … to the point.

At For Impact, we’re all about training, coaching … PRACTICING! PRACTICE your STORY! ‘Practice’ with everybody and anybody. The better the storyteller … the more powerful the story!

*I cannot remember (senility) where I found these 7 secrets. If you know the SOURCE, please let me know.



Try this tool for building your story.

STORYBOARDING: It’s a Walt Disney animation term … but it works perfectly for us. Actually laying out the ‘STORY’ is a way to Prepare and Practice your Presentation!

  • HOW do you begin?
  • HOW do you talk about the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW?
  • WHO do you talk about? (Their Story)

Storyboarding works for helping you design your ORAL STORIES … WRITTEN STORIES … or VISUAL STORIES. Or any way you combine them.

P.S. The story doesn’t always start with “In 1842, Father Sorin and six brothers came to a snowy lake which was actually two lakes…” (Notre Dame).

Be creative.


Think Visual: Imagineering

I once spent a day 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 Walt Disney 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 Walt Disney 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!”

Shaping the Message. Telling the Story.

In a blurb that came out from Notre Dame News, the president, Father John Jenkins, was talking about his vice president of university relations, Lou Nanni.

In a very complimentary way, Father Jenkins indicated that, in the time that he has served, Lou has been involved in “shaping Notre Dame’s messaging and helping tell our story to various constituencies.”

I’ve gotten a lot of comments over the years about how ‘easy’ it would be to raise money for Notre Dame … how you don’t have to worry about doing ‘this stuff’ at Notre Dame, etc.

Father Jenkins quote seems like a gentle reminder that, even at Notre Dame, it is very important to shape the message and tell the story.


Example from the Land of Storytelling

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.

I believe The Abby 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 better understand the whole idea of STORY and its power:


    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.
    Again, THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF IRELAND! Staging and reflecting Irish life and culture. Connecting TALENT and AUDIENCES!
    Everyone on the Senior Team (and actually the Board as well) has their own personal story as it relates to Ireland, the Theatre and The Abbey. Each can now tell that in a powerful way.
    FOUNDED before there was a country! Manifesto written in 1899. Yeats, with the help of two amazing women benefactors, founded The Abbey in 1904. Abbey central to the Easter Rising in 1916. Abbey full of legendary artists and writers including James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw and now Tom Murphy, Bryan Freel and Mark O’Rowe. Now impacting almost 100,000 people from 62 countries enjoying shows at The Abbey; five world premieres; etc.
    The government plays a huge role in funding the Arts in Ireland. Part of the ‘Numbers’ Story is that this money goes to help sponsor and underwrite performances to allow the people of Ireland access to theatre and artistic work. The ‘Math’ Story also includes ‘tightening of the belt’ (redundancy), packaging up the actual ‘cost’ of performances and tours and much more. [E.g., the actual (average) ‘gap‘ for each performance is approximately
    €1,016.] (Cost – Ticket Sales = Gap)
    The ‘Cause’ Story has now grown from simply being THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF IRELAND and doing what The Abbey has always done … and to becoming a leader and prime-time player in the resurgence of Ireland’s economy! Business and political leadership in Ireland have determined that Arts and Culture are two of the country’s greatest assets.The Abbey needs to be positioned as a vital part of the country’s message.The ‘Case’ Story centers around The Abbey’s responsibility to:

    • Develop Playwrights
    • Mark History
    • Create Dialogue
    The Abbey has an entirely new FUNDING MODEL built around TODAY. TOMORROW. FOREVER. It is a top-down model that relies heavily on shoulder-to-shoulder visits with The Abbey’s very best Qualified Prospects and Potential Investors. The model is designed to help The Abbey with Current Operations (Today), Priorities & Projects over the next six years (Tomorrow) and Legacy/Planned Gifts (Forever).
    There is a very specific ACTION PLAN around both IMPACT and INCOME. In the ‘blue’ IMPACT … that Plan includes encouraging and developing playwrights, particularly more women playwrights; expanding The Abbey’s reach and influence to the school children of Ireland; reaching out to the Irish Diaspora around the world, and much more.The ‘green’INCOME Plan/Story includes very specific fundraising goals for the Yeats Performance Fund (1,016 Euros, 100/300/400+ Members); 25/50 Members in the Annie Horniman Circle (10,300 Euros); 50-100 Members in Lennox Robinson Society (Legacy Gifts), etc. The FUNDING PLAN Story also includes a bold and aggressive outreach to the United States.
    Simple story. Yeats was the original fundraiser. The Theatre was built on fundraising … literally. It’s in The Abbey DNA. The performer IS also the business storyteller. First gift from Annie Horniman for 10,300 lbs sterling. Yeats then did three whistle stop funding tours in the U.S. where the Irish Americans BUILT the Theatre and brand known today.Yeats sat with people in New York just as The Abbey is doing today … continuing the tradition. Fiach is Yeats and the person The Abbey is sitting with is Annie.2nd Story. No real culture of philanthropy in Ireland until very recently. No real fundraising or development for The Abbey until very, very recently. Government has been and continues to be the #1 investor/benefactor. The Abbey has not gone out and ASKED. The Abbey is now out SHARING THE STORY … and PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY.

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.

His book, 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 more 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.

Three teasers:

  • The 3 RULES of STORYTELLING. (Page 137)
    • PURPOSE.
    • TRUTH.
    • ACTION.
    Great summary of The Power of Engagement, ENERGY, focus, etc. (Page 153)
  • 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)

This could be one of the most impactful books you can read for your own PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT, your ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOMENT and your INCOME DEVELOPMENT!

Order this book fast. Download it on your Kindle. Do whatever you’ve got to do to understand The Power of Story.


Empower Volunteers. Engage Investors.

Great stories empower your volunteers to connect with other prospective investors.

Here’s a simple test: Ask any of your Volunteer Leaders or Board Members (or even key staff) if they would rather:


No one wants to ‘ask the friends for money.’

But ‘share a story?’ Can’t tell you how many board members we’ve worked with who’ve said, “Oh, I can do that!”

On the flip side …

Prospective investors are LOOKING FOR a GREAT STORY.

I thought you would enjoy these THOUGHTS from a philanthropist about the IMPORTANCE of a GOOD STORY:

“I also know firsthand what a donor experiences when being approached.

The very first thing I want to hear is a GOOD STORY. Why are you the one cause or organization I should give my time and money towards?

I hear lots of moving stories. Essentially I’m being asked to take a leap of faith that you are the most capable to make the dream come true.”

Get out of your office and start sharing your story … your story that’s SO GREAT that it inspires listeners to “take a leap of faith!


Storytelling & the Power of Story

I was in Ireland, doing some FOR IMPACT TRAINING. Wonderful, incredible people.

A country and economy that is growing, booming. And, For Impact Organizations that have powerful ‘Causes’ and ‘Cases!’

During breaks, at lunch and after the training, I stood in the front with a flipchart and tried to help people with the MESSAGE part of our For Impact sales process. As always, their message was too much, too complicated, too many words. However, when I asked each to simply TELL ME THEIR STORY … the ‘WORDS’ jumped out!

HUGE lesson for all of us:


3 Big Ideas:

  • STORYBOARDING. It’s a Walt Disney animation term… but it works perfectly for us. Actually laying out the ‘STORY’ is a way to Prepare and Practice your Presentation!
    • HOW do you begin?
    • HOW do you talk about the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW?
    • WHO do you talk about? (Their Story)

    P.S. The story doesn’t always start with “In 1842, Father Sorin and six brothers came to a snowy lake which was actually two lakes…” (Notre Dame).

  • STORYTELLING!!!! Here I was, in Ireland, the land of incredible “storytellers” … what a great place to think about the POWER of STORYTELLING. It’s about AUTHENTICITY. It’s about VISUALIZATION and IMAGINATION. And it’s about PASSION, EMOTION and ENTHUSIASM. It’s POWERFUL stuff!
  • SHARING THE STORY. Nick and I have been using this idea for a long time. It’s so much easier for you and your Board and anyone connected with your For Impact Organization to SHARE THE STORY and PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY … than it is to go and ‘ask for money!!!’ THE POWER OF STORY helps with the Open, Dialogue, Conversation, and much more. Building, telling, sharing your STORY is ALL you need
    to do. And I mean that pretty literally.

Sharing the Story

I got a note from one of the most wonderful women in the world … who, with her team, is running one of the most incredible women’s “shelters” in the United States.

United Way had asked her to speak at different corporations. Here’s her quote:

“I can bring them to tears in less than five minutes. I’m like a Hallmark card, only thing is my stories are all true and happened in their hometown.”


Five minutes. True. Happened in their hometown.


“I never give presentations.”

“I do tell stories.”

“STORY after STORY after (linked) to STORY.”

I’m definitely a Tom Peters ‘groupie’. I picked up his book, The Little BIG Things, in the Tampa airport.

As always, his 163 nuggets are thoughtful and provocative.

I opened the book up to #25 You Are Your Story!

“He/she who has the best/most compelling/most resonate STORY wins: In life! In business! In front of the jury! In front of the congregation!”

I would simply add: IN FRONT OF THE PROSPECT!




Discover Your Best Story

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 their great message was trumped by a really bad story.

While the organization 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’
  • 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.

Many organizations run into this problem. When I say someone has a really bad story, I mean their 30,000’ (high altitude) NARRATIVE is not representing their transcendent PURPOSE, their VISION, ‘BHAGs,’ their audacity. (To be very clear: I speak of the gravitas that you already possess. I’m not encouraging you to make something up for messaging purposes.)

So …

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.

This organization needed to embrace the power of story … of their GREAT story. Your story is what you are. YOU tell your story. It can be ‘Eeyyore-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 above!

The process illustrates how they already owned both stories. We didn’t come in from the outside, for instance, and try to write a new story. To be the best STORYTELLER, you obviously need to be AUTHENTIC! You need to ‘own’ your story.

This is huge.

Story creates reality.

“We become what we think about.”
-Earl Nightingale


Sit down with your team to DISCOVER your BEST stories. Let us know if you need more help. In our teleseminars and training we:

  • Share examples of stories used at organizations that ENGAGE people and help GET TO THE ASK.
  • Address common challenges to funding, action and engagement – your STORY makes a big difference.
  • Give you several actionable tools use can use to DISCOVER your story and make it AWESOME.

Is Your Story Awesome?

The story you use to maximize funding …

The story that brings rock star talent to your doorstep and fully engages your team …

The story that you tell yourself every day to stay focused and fulfilled …


Story adds passion, purpose and urgency to your message, plan and everyday actions.

  • Is your story about needing more money? Or changing lives?
  • Do you have a good story that helps get to the ask?
  • Do you have a story that engages your board as passionate champions and advocates?


“We fail to realize that everything we say is a story — nothing more, nothing less.”

“Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our experiences … Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”

“Your life is your story. Your story is your life.”

– From The Power of Story, by Jim Loehr


You have control over the story. That’s the WOW!

Take time to think about:

  • The flawed stories we tell ourselves. “She can’t make a gift of that size because she just made a big gift to the museum.” Stop making decisions for prospects.
  • Our funding stories. Do you need money for your annual fund? (Yawn. Who cares?) Or are you tying your story to your IMPACT?
  • Our organizational story. The story of “Braveheart” trumps the “Little Engine that Could.”
  • The Story of the SECTOR! The Story of our Raison d’être! Are we ‘not for profit’ or FOR IMPACT?

Story … if you ‘get it’ … is a BIG deal. DISCOVER your story and make it AWESOME.


Selling Is Not Telling … Unless It’s A Story!

If you’re a follower of For Impact, you’ve heard me say (probably a hundred times),
“You’re in SALES … get over it!”

The concept of ‘story’ is a huge element of the SALES process.

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

It’s about a dialogue.


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. You could also think of it as reaching into your collection of STORIES.


One of my favorite axioms around selling is that:

Spewing, vomiting or unleashing a bunch of ‘words’ is not how you SELL!

Now … however, I always add this line … ‘UNLESS it’s a STORY!’

‘Telling’ a story is, without question, the most meaningful way to communicate any MESSAGE!

Stories inspire … empower … bring people together.



Tell Me Your Story

Here’s a great example straight out of a For Impact training session.

During breaks, at lunch and after the training, I stood in the front with a flipchart and tried to help people with the MESSAGE part of our For Impact sales process.

As always, their message was too much, too complicated, too many words. However, when I asked each to simply TELL ME THEIR STORY … the ‘WORDS’ JUMPED OUT!

HUGE lesson for all of us: Design the STORY! Tell the STORY! SHARE THE STORY!

Stories are magic!

If I say, “Tell me about your organization,” I typically hear a bunch of blah, blah, blah about services, methodology, numbers, plans. (Yawn.) It’s not ‘engaging!’

But if I say, “TELL ME YOUR STORY,” the reply is completely different. It’s heartfelt … and ENGAGES me!!

Stories are about AUTHENTICITY … PASSION … EMOTION and ENTHUSIASM! Stories also involve VISUALIZATION … IMAGINATION. They engage the listener!

As we continued through the training, there was a lot of ‘talk’ about the whole idea of ORAL storytelling. (Campfires, passed along from generation to generation, songs, etc.)

That led to some discussion about the story as the WRITTEN WORD. Playwrights, authors, poets, etc.

I would add one more way to tell a story: VISUALLY.


Don’t ‘tell me about your organization’ … TELL ME YOUR STORY!


Great Reads on Storytelling

Some powerful RESOURCES to help you around the concept of STORYTELLING:

  • The Power of Story by Jim Loehr.
    Already mentioned a few times. A must read. Loehr has always been one of my favorite thinkers/writers. This has become one of my ‘favorite’ books! His other book, The Power of Full Engagement, is required reading for our team.
  • “The Four Truths of the Storyteller”
    An article in Harvard Business Review by Peter Guber, leader in the entertainment/experience world. (December 2007) This line alone ought to get you to read this article. “Although the MIND may be part of your target, the HEART is the bull’s-eye.”Also by Gruber …
  • Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, AND Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story.
    Good stuff. Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment. Guber talks about ‘STORYTELLING’ as a “Professional Discipline.” Oh yeah. Quick quotes: 

    • “Stories are tools.”
    • “Stories need to be interactive.”
    • “Stories need a purpose.”

    (Thus, “Purposeful Storytelling.”)

For even more from Gruber …

  • You can read a powerful Q & A with Guber by Mike Hoffman in INC. magazine on the “Power of Effective Communicators.” (March 1, 2011)
  • Around the Corporate Campfire by Evelyn Clark.
    Subtitle says it all: How Great Leaders Use Stories to Inspire Success.
  • “Using Great Storytelling To Grow Your Business”
    A great article by Kaihan Krippendorff. (FAST COMPANY, March 5, 2012) Here’s the shorthand:

    • Use lots of LOTS… Language of the Senses. When you tell a story, share the see, smell, feel, taste and hear.
    • Build on your Story Spine. This comes from the Actors Institute, which suggests using a five-step structure called the Story Spine: Reality is introduced, conflict arrives, there’s a struggle, the conflict is resolved, new reality exists.
  • Storytelling by Fog, Budtz and Yakaboylu.
    This is more about storytelling as it relates to BRANDING … but there is still some great stuff! For example, the four elements of storytelling:

    • THE MESSAGE!!!
    • CONFLICT (Problem/Solution in Our World)
    • CHARACTERS (Who is involved? Share your own story on the visit, etc.)
    • PLOT
  • The Way of the Storyteller by Ruth Sawyer.
    Just one of those classics about STORYTELLING. Originally published in 1942. (Believe it or not, before I was born!) Just another way to look at STORIES.
  • Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler.
    Not the most ‘exciting’ book I’ve read but still has some good nuggets in it around the subtitle: TOOLS for Talking When Stakes Are High. It’s about trying to discover how to communicate best when it matters the most. Foreword by Stephen Covey.
  • A Whole New Mind (Storytelling) by Daniel Pink
    A brilliant thinker and author who clarifies and simplifies big concepts.
  • Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee.
  • The Dream Society by Rolf Jensen.

Finally, if you just want to have some fun, pick up

  • Story People by Brian Andreas.
    He is an ARTIST who just makes me laugh and think. I love his work.Here’s one of my favorite lines:“I like geography best,” he said, “because your mountains and rivers know the secret.”And I love: “Pay no attention to boundaries.”

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. It happened several years ago. We were at Eagle 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 agreed that the Power of Story transcended just about everything.

The POWER of STORYTELLING is a given. It goes back, literally, to the beginning of humankind! STORIES are, without question, the most meaningful way to communicate any (and I mean ANY) MESSAGE!

It’s so much easier for you and your Board and anyone connected with your For Impact organization to SHARE THE STORY and PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY … than it is to go and ‘ask for money!!!’

STORY helps with the Open, Dialogue, Conversation, and much more. Building, telling, sharing your STORY is ALL you need to do. And I mean that pretty literally.

In our For Impact world, ‘SHARE THE STORY’ is about:

    • STORIES … here’s the ‘short list:’
(Founding. Problem/Solution.)
(Change/Save/Impact Lives. Solve Problem. The Movement)
(Cast a Vision. Purpose. 30,000’. “Where do we want to be in 1,000 days?”)
(Part of Flow/Open. 3 Bullets.)
(100 Years Old. Founded before the Country. 1st _______.)
(The Gap. Income & Expenses. Revenue Streams. Transformational.)
(Again: Problem/Solution. Impact.)
(Business Model. Funding Model.)
(The HOW we will get there. The ‘Blue’ Plan and the ‘Green’ Plan.)
(Authentic. Haven’t been out asking, etc.)

What are YOUR stories?


Nick’s Note: Return on Energy

Here is a simple idea you can use to frame your thinking around your funding plan:


This seems to be especially big for organizations trapped in a transaction-based system of special events (life-sucking, volunteer-draining) with often and incredibly low RETURN ON ENERGY.

If that describes your organization, then think about this rhetorical question: What would happen if you did away with one event. Then, you focused all that energy (time, urgency, people, resources) on building a great relationships with one or two prospects that could invest $1 million in your vision?


  • Special Events As Fundraisers Stink- they’re not special.
  • Major Gifts: Raise the most money at the least cost.
  • 97/3: 97% of the money/investments comes from 3% of your family … focus on
    the 3%


I was with a school in Albuquerque. The bulk of the funding strategy revolved around special events … in fact, they were running FIVE events. The board was drained. It made a commitment to CHANGE the way it FUNDED the VISION. In only one week, the board generated more than $80,000 to fund student scholarships by working only a few key phone relationships. To really see the ‘WOW’ you need to know that they these events were consuming hundreds of volunteer hours and netting an average of $30K – $50K each (with a funding cost as high as 70 cents to raise a dollar – yikes).

To me, this is a wonderful example of stopping to think about the RETURN ON ENERGY, making a commitment to change and enjoying IMMEDIATE RESULTS.

Final Note:

This applies to EVERYTHING you’re doing. Take a moment today to think about your RETURN ON ENERGY.


To Sell is Human

For Impact Leader Jim Mahoney wrote an absolutely stellar summary of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

To echo Pink, Mahoney, Suddes, et all…WE’RE ALL IN SALES.

Urge, urge, urge you to download and read the following Book Notes by Jim. Nine pages. Worth every minute.

At the same time, read Dan Pink’s book. He’s written some other great stuff, including A Whole New Mind (a favorite), Drive, and Free Agent Nation.


Nick’s Note: Marketing v. Sales

If you’ve seen Tom or I speak … or if you’ve been to a workshop then you’ve probably heard our rant about ‘No More Special Events.’

A bold few always want to challenge this position:

  • “But that’s how we build relationships.”
  • “But that’s how we generate awareness.”

No one ever says, “But that’s our CASH COW!”

The reasons most often heard in defending special events are really tied to MARKETING. Substitute the objections above with, “But that’s how we do our marketing!”

Interesting. And, OK. So that begs a question, what about your SALES?

Think about your development efforts in terms of MARKETING and SALES. Right now we don’t use those terms (Enough? At all?) Use MARKETING and SALES as a simple strategic framework. What IF we all agreed that the one big event was going to be the most incredible opportunity for us to tell our story? What if we didn’t pretend it made a ton of money?

If you’re going to keep your event – in the name of building relationships – then tell me what you’re going to be doing to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS.

If you decide to keep that event, then decide its purpose. If it’s to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS, then set out to make it the best at doing that … but don’t pretend it’s the centerpiece of your funding strategy.


A reminder: The best way to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS is 1:1.

And a question: What if we took that time, energy and effort spent on the event(s) and put that into getting great visits and providing customized experiences with our top 10 or 20 prospects?

It’s the function of marketing to produce qualified leads for sales. I can’t remember where I got this definition, but I favor it as it relates to our development efforts. Once you determine what efforts are marketing and what are sales, then you can ask, “How are we using this marketing effort to find qualified leads for sales?”


The Leap to Sales is Improved by Trial, Not Time

In general, organizations spend way too much TIME prepping for fundraising. We’ve seen organizations take TWO YEARS to create systems, hire the right people, put together plans.

Two years later, they’re ‘ready to start’. In that time they’ve made ZERO visits. As an organization, they’ve built a culture of ‘getting ready’… not making any visits.

Unfortunately, this never translates into action in the sales arena.

Sales is about speed. It’s about being in the field and modifying your way to perfection. It’s about ALWAYS growing/learning/building – as an individual and as an organization. Sales is about relationships. You don’t build relationships by planning. You build and maximize relationships by talking to people. As you COMMIT TO SALES we would urge you to ‘Engage. Then Plan!” in the words of Andy Grove.

Or, it it helps, give yourself TWO WEEKS to simplify your message and clarify your plan. Then start making visits. The only way to better the plan, get better at sales and (through both) raise a lot more money for your impact is through more TRIAL, not more TIME.

It shouldn’t take you two years to build momentum with a sales plan. It should take you 20 visits. Do the 20 visits… THEN build a model around what’s working. Oh, and as a bonus, you’ll actually HAVE FUNDS to help you build your model because you’ve been in the field selling along the way.


The Most Important Predictor of Sales Success

Since (as you know so well from reading this) YOU’RE IN SALES! (and, GET OVER IT) … I thought this message from Philip Delves Broughton was very, very interesting. Broughton is the author of THE ART OF THE SALE and writes for Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and others.

He writes that what most companies in sales training programs think really matters (in sales) is wrong.(!) He says that when training sales people, they tend to propose one of two things: A sales process with methods and tricks which can move you from prospecting to closing, or a set of behaviors and character traits supposedly typical of great salespeople and worth mimicking.

He and I both agree that these two things are important; but Broughton says neither approach gets to the most important predictor of sales success:

“If sales people think of what they do as at odds with who they are or what they want to achieve in life, they will fail.”

“If they are comfortable with it, they will thrive.”

“Nothing matters more in sales than how each sales person perceives his or her role,
and how the act of selling protects, inflates or undermines his or her sense of self.”

Here’s his bottom line:

“What enables a sales person to succeed is that they have found a MATCH between who they are and what they are being required to do.”

This is why ‘SELLING’ is so satisfying and so much fun in the FOR IMPACT WORLD!


OGs Note: Sales Nuggets from Frank Sullivan

These three nuggets come from Frank Sullivan, who was my first mentor and perhaps the best life insurance salesman in the world. A Trustee at Notre Dame and a very good friend, Frank wrote a book in 1970 called THE CRITICAL PATH TO SALES SUCCESS. I’m going to share some wonderful nuggets and gems from Frank’s book and his life.

Sales Nugget 1: Ask Everyone for $1 Million

“It’s easier to sell a $1 Million life insurance policy to a QUALIFIED PROSPECT than it is to sell a $10,000 policy to a relative with no money.”
– Frank Sullivan

One of the things I learned from Frank Sullivan very, very, very early in my development career was that it’s just as easy to sell $1 MILLION life insurance policy to a QUALIFIED PROSPECT … than it is to sell a $10,000 policy to a relative (with no money)!

That didn’t seem like much at the time. Over the years, it’s been HUGE!

There were a number of great tips and ideas Frank gave around this ‘lesson:’

  • Create a PROFILE of what your $1 Million prospect looks like.
  • You’ll never make a $1 Million ‘sale’ unless you ASK for $1 Million!!!
  • You must RATE all of your prospects so you can see who’s at the ‘top.’ (See our MASTER PROSPECT LIST.)

Some years later, while still at Notre Dame, a good friend and one of the most persevering (read ‘stubborn in a good way’) people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with was Tom Pilot. Tom took Frank’s “Million Dollar” philosophy to its highest level.

He simply ASKED (almost) EVERYONE for $1 MILLION. It’s amazing how many people said yes!!!

Sales Nugget 2: The 5 Steps on the ‘Critical Path to Sales Success’

Frank believed that there were five activities that every salesman must perform. In order of importance, they were:


Frank was a master at selling life insurance, which is certainly one of the most difficult
‘intangible product’ sales. (This is much like what we ‘sell’ … when we’re ‘selling’ a
cause … case … vision … impact … or solution.)

Although I have revised my ‘sales system’ many, many times over the years, I can still go back to Frank’s ‘five steps’ and tie much of what I’ve done back to those steps.

How are YOU doing in terms of establishing goals? Getting good names? Making the
approach? Making a presentation? And making the customer a client?

Sales Nugget 3: The Importance of Personal Goals

It may seem a little weird to talk about PERSONAL GOALS when you’re dealing with SALES or SALES GOALS. Frank Sullivan, however, was all about writing out ALL of his goals and plans … personal, financial, business, sales, etc.

Frank was literally the first person in my ‘business life’ (and, actually, one of the very few people) who talked about his personal life and his family and his own goals … as they related to his business and sales goals.

Frank ultimately came down with Alzheimer’s at the end of his life, but, by then, he had impacted so many people and left a huge legacy. These ideas of ‘personal goals’ and ‘family first’ was his GIFT to me. I am forever grateful.

Frank’s the one who first gave me the idea of ‘solo time’ with the kids. I turned it into BIRTHDAY BREAKFAST, where we actually went over their ‘favorite’ books, TV shows, friends, food, etc. … and then did their GOALS for the upcoming year. I tried to capture all of it in my journal/green book.

If you’ve never done ‘GOALS’ with a 3-year-old, you’ve really missed out!


Sales Attitude

Think about this absolutely ‘brilliant’ spot-on quote of W. Clement Stone:
“SALES are contingent on the ATTITUDE of the salesman – not the ATTITUDE of the PROSPECT.”
ATTITUDE has everything to do with the way you respond to ‘ISSUES’ … when you sit down to visit with a PROSPECT who:

  • Doesn’t know much about the organization.
  • Doesn’t understand why the organization needs money.
  • Questions if this is the ‘right time’ (economy) to be asking for money.
  • Folds their arms. They start off being totally unengaged. They pre-empt with a
    token gift or a blanket statement that they’re not giving to anyone right now.

IF you let the ATTITUDE of the PROSPECT dictate the flow and the outcome of the visit … you would end up with zero, nada, zilch.

But, when you let YOUR ATTITUDE (belief in the cause … clear understanding of the purpose and priorities … a masterful presentation of the plan) control the visit…
W. Clement Stone says it all. (YOUR) ATTITUDE is everything!!!


It’s All About Sales

I know. It’s a ‘napkin’. It’s a ‘Guiding Principle’. It’s everywhere! But it’s also a big freakin’ lesson: Those who successfully achieve campaign success are driven by SALES.

3 questions to get you going:

  • Have you built a SALES CULTURE??? (Goals, Measurement, Tools, Resources)
  • Who is your SALES MANAGER??? (In Other Words, Who is the Sales Team Leader)
  • Who is on your SALES TEAM??? (Do they know it?)

You’re in Sales…Get Over It

We have worked with some really impactful organizations that, like many of you, came late to the idea that:

“God gives every bird food. He just doesn’t throw it into the nest!”

In ALL of our work with clients, speaking, training, etc. … one part of our MESSAGE is always the same:


All of you are deeply committed to your CAUSE and your ORGANIZATION.

Yet, none of you have been ‘TRAINED IN SALES!’

(You’re not alone. Even the Nation’s business schools provide no SALES TRAINING. Yet, in this ‘FOR PROFIT WORLD,’ SALES drives [almost] every company. Without it, all products and services remain ‘on the shelf.’)

I’ve spent my whole adult life in SALES, much of it selling ‘INTANGIBLES’ (large gifts/commitments for great causes and cases).

We are out ‘PRACTICING’ our craft/art every day.

Here are three really big things that may help you on your next VISIT/’SALES CALL:’



  • Write this on a little card.
  • Look at this every time you go to visit/meet with a Qualified Prospect or Potential Investor.


Where’s the best place to find out ANYTHING you want to know about your INVESTOR/PROSPECT??? FROM THEM! Remember: SELLING IS NOT TELLING!ASK QUESTIONS. More importantly, LISTEN TO ANSWERS!

Here are three great questions to help you with your DISCOVERY.

  • WHY are you engaged/involved with us?
  • Which of these three things (buckets) is most important to you?
  • Can you help us Fund this Vision?


SHARE THE STORY is exactly that. SHARE. THE. STORY. Everybody in the organization can share THEIR ‘story.’You must also be able to capture the ‘STORY’ of your organization … your cause … your vision.


  • It’s about PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY for them to make an IMPACT!


Special Note: Ask your Board Members or Volunteer Leaders whether they’d rather go out and ‘ASK THEIR FRIENDS FOR MONEY’ …or SHARE THE STORY PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY


First, this is about being YOURSELF! If you just started with the organization, say so; and then explain why you made that decision. If you spent 10 or 15 years working with your organization, explain WHY you devoted that kind of commitment to this cause. Additionally, AUTHENTICITY is about total candor. Sometimes even BRUTAL HONESTY. (“You’re one of our top investors. You helped us build this plan and we know you want to see it succeed. Can you take the LEAD?”) A great line that is about as AUTHENTIC as you can get. “I have one goal with you today: to have your jaw drop at the unbelievable impact that this organization is having on children. That’s it.”

For those of you out VISITING and PRESENTING … I hope you can use these simple but powerful reminders.

For the rest of you …
Get out of the office. (GO PRESENT OPPORTUNITIES.)
Stop doing research. (DO DISCOVERY … ON THE VISIT.)
Stop doing proposals and grant writing. (GO SHARE THE STORY AND PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY.)


Nick’s Note: 9 Big Board Questions

I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats (leader/observer participant), meetings and planning sessions in the last few years. A traditional strategic planning session lays out goals and actions but often fails to ask 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’ vs. 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? Is this for the short term (1000 days) or long term (50+ years). You exist to change lives, save lives or transform lives. 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 recently attended a board 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 aren’t doing either right now. 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 (DNA) 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 in the last few years (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. Side note: I am a big Marcus Buckingam believer. He tells you to focus on your strengths. [Our strength at For Impact is live training, facilitating and coaching. We’re focusing on ways to do more of that.]
  • Should we grow ‘wider’ or ‘deeper’? It’s 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 (annually or over time via a campaign initiative). Reflecting on this, I would say that this question is often asked in preparation for a campaign but it is not asked in relation to our operation (annual). Why not? Instead, we set a number and then allocate it (budget)… every year.
  • 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 (some times).

OG’s Note: On Campaign Chairs

I founded The Suddes Group in 1983. My very first ‘client’ was an amazing 100-year-old Catholic High School in the Chicago area. At the time, I was using pretty much everything I had learned at Notre Dame on THE CAMPAIGN for NOTRE DAME.

The model at the time was to have a CAMPAIGN CHAIR. The absolute best candidate for that was an alum who happened to be a Chairman of (at that time) one of the largest retail operations in the United States with a huge ‘Tower’ in downtown Chicago. We got our 20 minutes on the 44th floor. Showed the Plan and Structure. Told him we needed him to do “These 6 Things” (none of which were about taking personal responsibility for raising all the money).

He said, “I can do everything but this one.” I took my pen and put a line through #4. I don’t even remember what it was. I asked him if he could do it now. He said, “Yes.” It was huge.


Nick’s Note: Killing off Campaign Commitees

Nick’s Note: Killing off Campaign Commitees

by Nick Fellers

Here’s a story about an organization that was having a hard time getting leadership engaged and ‘on board’ through a Campaign Committee / Chair Structure.

A youth-serving organization in the Midwest started a campaign two years ago – then put on the brakes. It couldn’t find a ‘Capital Campaign Committee Chairperson’.

The description for this ‘Capital Campaign Committee Chair’ was four pages in length. It included things like (and we’re not making this up):

[First line of the description:] Acceptance of the Capital Campaign’s financial goal by the General Chairperson represents his/her commitment to raise this goal for this Campaign.

This person should make a lead or the lead commitment for the Campaign.

The Chairperson is responsible for achieving the Campaign Funding Goal. [Yes, essentially this is stated twice.]

The Chairperson is responsible for identifying, recruiting and soliciting other members of the Campaign Committee.

The four pages did have other filler that wasn’t as harsh, but…The message? The Capital Campaign Committee Chairperson basically has to do the whole Campaign… devote the next two years to focusing
on Income, no Impact… he’s on his own… except he’s not because he’s going to sell others to come along for the ride.

OBVIOUSLY no one in his or her right mind would sign onto this. it’s no wonder this organization was having trouble finding a chair. The description above probably works (but not because of the description) when there is one clear and strong leader that STARTED the Campaign Effort… that’s LEADING the Campaign Effort… from day one…. As in, it was HIS or HER idea. For the other 98% of Campaigns, it’s completely unrealistic and completely off-putting.

Prior to putting on the brakes, the organization profiled had asked eight people to be the Chair – without success. All eight have expressed STRONG enthusiasm for the Vision, the Case and the Project.

So here’s what we did.

We scrapped the Capital Campaign Committee all together.

‘Capital Campaign’ tells a story about a building. The building is a means to an end. ‘Committee’ connotes committee. Ugh.

What we really need is LEADERSHIP – so that the community OWNS the project – not the nonprofit development team. We also need CHAMPIONS – people that will help us make the vision a reality.

Instead of a Campaign Committee, we’re identifying ‘Ambassadors for the Children of [CITY]’. We’re focusing on ten great ambassadors who can help us Advance the Vision by doing three things (that match our Champion/Invite/Invest strategy).

  • Be a Voice – For the Children. [CHAMPION]
    2 out of 4 children in this city’s metro area live below the poverty level. Many are on a path to gangs and unemployment. This is all in an affluent city where people would probably guess the
    numbers to be much lower.We’re asking the Ambassadors first and foremost to lend their name and endorsement to the Vision, the Mission and Project.
  • Help us Share the Story [Invite]
    When people come down to our existing neighborhood center it takes about ten minutes of walking THROUGH the story before they ask us, “How can I help?” We’re reinforcing to our Ambassadors that the story illustrates itself… but we need their help by bringing people TO the story.We even note that in doing this, it’s all about ‘Sharing the Story’ and not about asking their friends for money. We have a well equipped staff with a killer process if someone is moved by the Impact.
  • Invest with a Commensurate Commitment
    It’s also important to note that we are not dodgy or coy about needing help. Instead of building out meetings we’re focused on building and leading a movement in the community – with the help of these 10 voices. And, we pretty much explain this thinking to them in the same way.We’re not focusing on ‘the group’ but instead on individuals that comprise the group. We’re only holding 1-2 gatherings per year for formal group updates about the Impact and Income. Otherwise, accountability is specific for each individual most months as needed. Notably, we ARE putting in place a ‘Lead Ambassador’ – someone who can help rally the troops!

Though we’re just rolling this out at this organization, we’ve used the same strategy with great success on other ‘Campaigns’/Funding Initiatives.

Community leaders want to help. They want to be Champions for your Vision. They want to make the Impact happen. They will even invest in the Impact and help to get others investing in the Impact.

This enthusiasm is muted (maybe killed?) when it becomes all about signing in blood to be a ‘Capital Campaign Committee Chairperson’ (or member).


Call to Action


  • Figure out who were MY C.P.A.’s… and then work directly with them!
  • Recruit more women, entrepreneurs and small business owners who get stuff done.
  • Hold my next Board ‘Memorable Xperience’ either where you deliver your service/solutions… or a really, really cool place that sparks ideas, creativity and innovation. (e.g. the zoo or children’s museum).
  • Change the Framework of the Board ‘Gatherings’ (meetings) and focus on Altitude and Impact and Feedback.
  • Share the CHANGE IN VOCABULARY as a means of creating great conversation/dialogue on WHY you exist, WHAT you do, and HOW you deliver on your premise (Mission, Vision).
  • Spend the entire next Board session talking about the ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES of the Board, summarized on a card (Addendum).
  • And, perhaps most importantly, I would restructure my entire schedule in order to have one-on-one VISITS with each member of the Board to go over their ROLE and how they can best HELP!

*I would also share this For Impact Guide with everyone on my Board.


Board Member Challenge

If you are ‘uncomfortable’ sharing this Guide 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 PASSIONATE ADVOCATES to do these 3 things:

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

Putting ‘Prospects’ On Your Board

Joining the Board is NOT a prerequisite or a requirement for Maximizing the Relationship!

A common question we get during Prospect Strategy is “Should we try to see if he/she would like to be on our Board?”

First, every prospect should have a Customized Strategy, including goals. Putting them on the Board is not a goal or a Strategy. It’s a tactic that usually has nothing to do with Maximizing the Relationship at this given moment!

Most of your very best prospects are on enough Boards already. They don’t want to make that time commitment, but will help you any other way they can.

In addition, when you put somebody on the Board, you almost always want to ‘wait’ an appropriate amount of time before making a significant ASK. “We have to let them attend two (or twenty) Board Meetings.”


From a lot of experience, it’s actually easier to PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY for a LEADERSHIP INVESTMENT from your very best prospects without implementing the ‘get them on the Board’ tactic.


No More Committees – Memorable Experience

Sorry. This is a personal hang up. Other people have said this in better ways, but I’ve never met a ‘COMMITTEE’ that actually ACHIEVED ANYTHING!



Special Note re CAMPAIGN COMMITTEES: These are usually about ‘length’ (the more names we get the better) and ‘depth’ (lining up the names on the side of our stationery).

Are you putting people on your ‘Campaign Committee’ because:

  • You don’t ‘like’ the people on your Board?
  • You can’t ‘get’ these people on your Board?
  • You’re hoping that they’d agree to be on your ‘Campaign Committee’ so it will make it a lot easier to get money???

(Read this again and see if you’d like that to be published in your next ‘campaign newsletter’.)

See Nick’s Note on Killing Off Campaign Committees

“A committee should consist of no more
than three people; two of whom are absent.”

– Todd Marian

No More ‘Bored’ Meetings – Memorable Experience

A play on words and pun intended.

At my very first Notre Dame Board Meeting as the Director of Development, a very prominent international business leader leaned over to shake my hand… and he had a GUN on his belt! That’s when I learned that Board Meetings are serious stuff!

I served on a Board at one of the finest For Impact Organizations around. I was actually there at the founding of this organization and helped them raise $20 Million to get going. The CAUSE is unbelievable…………Kids – College. Its staff is committed and passionate. Its founder and key Board Members are truly exceptional!

And… its Board Meetings were boring, dull and totally forgettable. Who wants to drive 45 minutes to a ‘Bored Meeting’ to review the ‘financials’… listen to Committee ‘reports’… and dose off during the staff/department ‘activities’???

WHAT IF… you made every Board Meeting a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE?


WHAT IF… you always did something dramatic that TOLD A STORY… around your IMPACT??? (A Tour. Actual Participation. A Beneficiary. Whatever.)

WHAT IF… you never held your Board Meetings in a Board (BORED) Room…But somewhere that just generated HUGE excitement and energy??


The key to a great BOARD MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE (BME) or GATHERING is to get people engaged and involved in the session vs. listening to one person ramble on with no purpose.

These BME’s are also wonderful opportunities for CELEBRATIONS of accomplishments and success, rather than just talking about what we’re going to do in year four of our Strategic Plan (a totally worthless
document, by the way).

Again, I would urge you to use the ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK.
BHAG’s happen at 30,000’; incremental tweaks at 3’.

And, don’t be afraid to take time to THINK!
(See Board Responsibility #1!)

A ‘BME’ is not the place to INFORM! If you what to share information, get it out in advance of the meeting. (There’s some new thing called e-mail. Might be a fad, but worth looking into.)

Nor should these BME’s focus on FINANCIAL REPORTS! The fastest way to lose the attention and involvement of your Board is to review the entire financial statements, details, audits, etc. That’s why we have a Finance Committee and an Executive Committee!

At the BME, you should be talking the WHY behind the numbers… not the actual numbers themselves. (IMPACT vs. INCOME) Better yet, DO THE MATH with your Board!

Note: The staff is responsible for the FRAMEWORK and FLOW of the BME. This is not about going to your Board and asking them if this is what we should do. Somebody needs to go in and say, “This is what
we’re going to do. We need your help. Give us your thoughts, ideas and feedback.”

And no more meetings. Period.


The For Impact Board’s Funding Responsibility

The RESPONSIBILITIES of a Board Member should be driven by a desire to help IMPACT, Change the World, solve a social problem, etc.

It is not as a place to ‘SIT’! (i.e. A ‘SEAT ON the Board???) We don’t want them to ‘SIT’. We want them to ACT!

WHAT IF… you could go to your Board (or recruit new talent to your Board) and talk about 3 specific things you need from them:

  • THINK…
    and GROW RICH
  • FOCUS…
    This is from Napoleon Hill’s powerful book Think & Grow Rich. The ‘RICH’ in both the book, the title and the responsibility really has nothing to do with ‘money’… but it has everything to do with IMPACT! When people commit to be on Board, they need to commit to THINK! (Again, not ‘sit’.) Use words like solutions, ideas, innovation to
    get them THINKING.ASK (Beg?) them not to check their ‘brain’ at the door…“because it’s a Not-For-Profit”!
    Getting Board Members and community leaders to truly FOCUS on particular CHALLENGES (PROBLEMS) and look for INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS is a wonderful use of a CHAMPION’S/LEADER’S time.Review ALTITUDE framework… and then USE IT!!!
    STOP ‘INFORMING’ and start ‘INVOLVING’! Asking community leaders and Board Members to actually help in an area in which they have INTEREST and EXPERIENCE and EXPERTISE will have amazing results!*A really good CHAMPION or BOARD MEMBER should be there for you to provide ‘COUNSEL’. Think of them as your FOR IMPACT ‘CONSIGLIERE’.

The For Impact Board’s Funding Role

Every single Board that we have worked with, without exception, has a very fuzzy and ill-defined ROLE for their Board vis-à-vis INCOME.

*One of the very best Executive Directors I’ve ever worked with actually told me that her Board’s ‘funding strategy’ was to buy LOTTERY TICKETS! It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

Here’s what we believe the ROLE of the Board should be in an [IMPACT -> INCOME] CULTURE:

    the CAUSE and the CASE.
    others to get INVOLVED and ENGAGED.
    (to help FUND THE VISION)

* Specific Board Members are a critical part of your SALES TEAM! They can help get the visit, predispose before the visit, possibly join you on the visit, and definitely help follow-up after the visit.

Following are some thoughts to help you and your Board better understand these 3 big words.

  • CHAMPION. The power of this word is that everyone can and should know what it means to CHAMPION your organization, your Cause and your Case.* When you present these 3 roles to your Board, if there are any Board Members who are reluctant to CHAMPION your organization, they need to be removed immediately. (Call security and have them escorted from the building. )
  • INVITE. Your Board Members and Champions need the opportunity to INVITE OTHERS to become INVOLVED and ENGAGED in your organization and Cause and Case.Just imagine if you went to your Board and said, “We do not want you asking people for money! We need you to INVITE a Qualified Prospect to a TOUR or a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE .”This is 100 times better than asking them for ‘names’!*One of the best ways we’ve found to execute on this role is with specific ‘membership’ opportunities. Let them INVITE prospects to join the President’s Circle or a Legacy Society. Then they get ‘MEMBERS’… not MONEY!
  • INVEST. The ‘COMMENSURATE’ word changes everything! Every single Board Member/Champion should make an INVESTMENT (in time, energy and money) that is COMMENSURATE with their Relationship… Capacity…and Involvement with your organization.


‘INVEST’ has nothing to do with Board Members ‘giving or getting $10,000’. Nothing to do with ‘time, treasure and talents’ from the 1950’s.

A $250 gift from one Board Member could be both commensurate and sacrificial. A $1 Million gift from another Board Member could be neither commensurate or anywhere near a sacrifice.

This COMMENSURATE strategy allows you to take a Board Member who is a $10,000 (commensurate) investor on a visit to Present the Opportunity to a $1 Million investor.

* We realize (from a lot of comments and feedback from our For Impact audience)
that a lot of Board Members were told very specifically that they did not have to
give money to be on the Board. We still strongly believe that you should have
this discussion with your Board around their ROLE, including the ‘INVEST with a

Why? Because it’s all about the IMPACT.

If they believe (CHAMPION), they should both INVITE and INVEST.

*The following is a direct quote from a ‘FEASIBILITY STUDY’ conducted by a very old and well respected ‘consulting firm’.“The Board must feel charged with the BURDEN (our caps) of the fundraising campaign‘s success.”

“Trustees are expected to give SACRIFICIALLY.” (Again, our caps.)

“BURDEN.” “SACRIFICE.” Is it no wonder that your Board Members are not very enthusiastically and passionately engaged in your fundraising and your campaigns?


Your Board is Not Responsible for Fundraising

There it is. It’s out there. Get over it.

There is no such thing as a ‘FUNDRAISING BOARD’!

STOP whining that the Board “Doesn’t understand that they need to raise money”.

STOP complaining that the “Board won’t give or get”.

STOP moaning about “Asking the Board for names… and getting no response”. (As Nick always says, “How’s that working for you?”)

Face the brutal facts:

  • The Board doesn’t want to ‘fundraise’. Actually, the Board hates to ‘fundraise’!
  • The Board doesn’t want to ASK THEIR FRIENDS FOR MONEY!! Actually, they would rather crawl through that broken glass…
  • They spend (collectively) thousands of hours on a SPECIAL EVENT (that is not SPECIAL and not an EVENT) and raise $1,600…because that’s what you trained them to do.

If you keep doing what you are doing, it just leads to:

  • FRUSTRATION (for Staff and Board).
  • STRESS (for Staff and Board).
  • UNHAPPINESS (for Staff and Board).

*At almost every single training we’ve done, which has included a lot of Board Members,
as well as staff, someone comes up at the break and says,

“Finally. Somebody is telling like it is.”

Change the Vocabulary

Here’s one great way to dramatically impact your Board’s productivity and effectiveness:


Right now you are using a lot of ‘words’ that support the whole ‘not-for-profit, charity, woe-is-us’ thing. You are also using a lot of ‘industry jargon’ that mystifies and confuses most business and community leaders.

Many of our For Impact Organizations have left a Training Camp or a Live Experience or a Custom Training and gone back to their Boards and shared just this CHANGE IN VOCABULARY! (A few have even put the words up on big posters in their Board Room to really make the point.)

* Note: Here’s powerful incentive to help you understand what this change could mean to your Board Members.

A very successful entrepreneur and businessman in Ireland said to the Senior Staff, “Why didn’t you just say this was SALES in the beginning? I hate fundraising. I understandand love SALES.”

One small example.


Give Us Passionate Advocates


In preparing to facilitate and lead a Board Xperience (Annual ‘Retreat’. at Disney World.) for an absolutely amazing group of business and community leaders, I was going over the goals for the day. The President, an experienced and extremely talented For Impact leader, said it this way,

“It is very simple. I’m looking to have the members of my Board be PASSIONATE ADVOCATES for what we do.”

If you think about these three BIG WORDS: CHAMPIONS, PASSIONATE, ADVOCATES…

It certainly creates the ‘PERFECT PROFILE’ of a committed, (on) Board Member.


Give Us Champions

You should be looking for CHAMPIONS, not just ‘BOARD MEMBERS’!

STUFF’ gets done by CHAMPIONS… by people who believe in your Mission, Message, Vision.

CHAMPIONS are involved with you because of your IMPACT! (They are NOT there because they want to be ‘fundraisers’.)

Success with your Board is more about RELATIONSHIPS with INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS… not the Board as a whole!

Stay focused on these CHAMPIONS! They will lead you to the proverbial ‘Promised Land’.

*For us, it’s really simple:

CHAMPIONS will exponentially outperform any ‘COLLECTIVE BOARD’ by 10x to 100x.


Special Note: The Power of One. John W. Gardner wrote a pretty powerful quote that might encourage you to focus on three CHAMPIONS, rather than worrying about your entire Board. (He uses the term ‘MAN’. Obviously, this would be WO-MAN as well.)
“The cynic says one (wo)man can’t do anything.
I say ‘Only one (wo)man can do anything’.”

“All good ideas start with one (wo)man.”

“The creative, caring, believing person sends out waves of influence.”

“(S)He affects others who in turn affect others.”