Start with Why

Purpose Clarity

This month’s print edition of HBR makes mention of a new study supporting ‘the purpose-profit’ connection (p32).  The study looks at the relationship between strong purpose and public company financial performance. I believe the insights apply to all organizations – That is, any organization with a strong purpose will see increased performance.

The study finds there is a strong link between PURPOSE and PERFORMANCE (or, in my adjusted language, IMPACT). Researchers make a distinction in two types of high purpose organizations. The first is what it calls ‘high camaraderie’ where everyone simply has a sense that they are doing something great, TOGETHER. The second type of purpose is ‘high clarity’ from management. This is noted as the type where managers excel at translating purpose into action.

The statistically significant performance bump was only found with organizations that have ‘purpose clarity.’

As a leader, think not just about PURPOSE, but ‘PURPOSE CLARITY.’  To help you with this, I would bridge some of the findings of the research with some of the For Impact teaching. Think about PURPOSE as an anchor for your STORY. And, by story, I don’t mean a narrative with a beginning-middle-end. I mean how you FRAME the organization.

A GREAT STORY…

  • Is anchored in hope-filled purpose (Start with WHY!)
  • Simplifies WHAT you do.
  • Serves as a litmus for action.

Some of the writing in the research study further supports thinking about placing PURPOSE inside of STORY.  “The company’s primary purpose – the real one, which isn’t necessarily the one written in the official documents or etched in the wall plaques – [that] guides its actions and decisions.”

———————–
Gartenberg, Claudine Madras and Prat, Andrea and Serafeim, George, Corporate Purpose and Financial Performance (June 30, 2016). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 16-69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2840005

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The Real Estate Questions You Need To Answer – At Altitude

In designing, managing and leading hundreds of ‘building campaigns’, these are questions we ask – at altitude:

30,000’ WHY?
VISION

  • Are we in the Re-Construction Biz or the Impact Biz?
  • What is the Purpose(s) of the ‘Space(s)’?
  • How does it relate to our Vision?
  • Have we dealt with the ‘Footprint’ & ‘Bubbles’ before Wall Coverings & FFE?
  • Do our Financial Goals match our Constituent’s Capacity?
  • Is this about ‘Ownership’ or ‘Control’?
  • How do we Share this Story (of Impact) vs. ‘Sell Recognition/Naming Rights?’
  • Have we explored Partnerships?  Multi-Use Facilities?  24/7?

14,000’ WHAT?
STRATEGY

  • Have we engaged all stakeholder groups to validate that we have the best solutions/plan?
  • Are there other cheaper and/or more creative real estate solutions to achieve our goal? If so, can we address why we’re not pursuing?
  • Have we looked at all Creative Financing Opportunities?
    • Debt/Mortgage?
    • Bonds?
    • Lease?
  • Are we telling the architects and planners what we want and need, what we can afford, how it fits… or are they telling us?
    • Cost per sq. ft. needs to fit our situation
    • Entire Project/Cost must enable our Case for Support

3’ HOW?
EXECUTION

  • Can this be divided into phases? (Both Building & Funding)
  • Can we take 3 to 5 Year Commitments? Do we need Bridge Financing or a Construction Loan?
  • Have we made Everything A Project? (within the Big Initiative)
  • Are there Projects (In-Kind Opportunities) to Maximize Gifts?

In sharing this, I also want to encourage leaders and readers to engage with us EARLY in the formative stages of a building project or strategy. By asking the right questions up front you can save time and money – but it’s not just about that – It’s about identifying the right solution and needs to help you with your impact!

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No More Special Events: A Look At The WHY

Tom has stood on podiums (literally) for 30 years and shouted NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS

This works as a napkin message – It’s powerful and simple.

I don’t do the ‘standing-on-a-podium’ thing, but I’m not above shouting IN ALL CAPS to make a point:

NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS!

I get the occasional challenge, “But Nick, events are how we build relationships!”  Or, “Our event gets the word out!”

In years and years of doing this, no one has ever said, “Our event is our CASH COW!”

WHY are you doing the event?  Is it to raise money? Or, is it for MARKETING? (Start with WHY.)

It’s really helpful to make a distinction between MARKETING and SALES. Here is a great nugget to bridge the relationship between MARKETING and SALES:

It is the job of marketing to provide qualified leads for sales.

I hear many people who want to defend events with a marketing rationale. If you want to run events as a part of your MARKETING STRATEGY – great! Just don’t PRETEND your events are great fundraisers. And if MARKETING is the end goal, then how much are you telling your story at that golf outing?

Also, if you’re going to do an event to ‘BUILD relationships’ then it begs the question – what is your strategy to MAXIMIZE relationships?

NB: We’ve been on this rant for a few decades now. There are events that raise money – a lot of (net, net, net) money. Here are some examples:

  1. The EVENT is the IMPACT. There are some organizations whose impact is using a community’s ability to raise money. For example, Pelotonia here in Central Ohio, which has raised over $100M for cancer research. They are in the event business: the money they raise from one event a year is given directly to cancer research (read: curing cancer!). Pelotonia is in the EVENT BUSINESS – most organizations (i.e., you) are not.

  2. But what about WALL STREET?!?! Those ‘guys’ (I think, often citing Robin Hood as a model) all get in a room and give MILLIONS! This is an anomaly, not a model.  When you can get a bunch of hedge fund titans in a room to throw their egos behind your philanthropy, have at it!

  3. RECOGNITION EVENTS.  These are events where the money was not raised, but simply RECOGNIZED, at the event. In all of these cases, I submit that more money could be raised if we were clearer on the WHY.  While the organization might be ASKING because of an event, people aren’t GIVING because of the event; they are giving because of the IMPACT!
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9 Guiding Principles: Take Charge of Your Development Operation

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We feel that these 9 Guiding Principles are pretty self-explanatory, but here are some notes to help you take charge of your Development Operation. ( Download and print the poster here.)

GP #1 START WITH WHY. What prospects hear (often times) is “We need money to meet our annual funding goal” or “Buy a table at our gala.” These messages have no WHY – no saving, changing and impacting lives – which is exactly what people want to do!
If the number one question of every investor is, “Why do you exist?” and the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your WHY, it’s very hard to talk to her about the what and the how. For more on this, see Altitude Framework PDF, How to Stay at 30,000′ and Simplify Your Message.
GP #2 YOU BECOME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT! Earl Nightingale, the father of personal development wrote The Strangest Secret in 1956 – the seed from which the personal development industry grew. Here is the ‘Strangest Secret’ – You Become What You Think About! It’s the difference in outcomes when you think about IMPACT, VISION, MEANING, instead of payroll, cuts in funding and survival. Read more here.
GP #3 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 #4 THINK BIG. BUILD SIMPLE. ACT NOW. Our absolute favorite Entrepreneur’s Mantra.

  • Think Big with your VISION. How are you changing the world or your world?
  • Build Simple using the Rule of 3.
  • Act Now – Just Visit. Just ASK. Ten steps forward and two steps back is still eight steps forward.

Here is a one-pager on TB/BS/AN that Tom did for Social Entrepreneurs.

GP #5 CHANGE (THE) RULES! This is a little play on words – in this generation’s lexicon, to RULE is a good thing. CHANGE DOES RULE. At the same time, in order to really CHANGE something (yourself, your organization, the world), you also to have CHANGE THE RULES. We believe it’s much stronger than that: THERE ARE NO RULES! Read more in our For Impact Guidebook: CHANGE (THE) RULES.
GP #6 ENGAGE GREAT TALENT. Small or young organizations (for profit/nonprofit alike) often identify FUNDING as their top challenge – until the organization really figures out a working funding model. At that point, the top challenge becomes the RIGHT PEOPLE. (We can help you with this!)
GP #7 DO THE MATH. You can’t ‘SELL’ unless you understand all the ‘NUMBERS!’ Doing the Math means owning and internalizing an understanding of your numbers – Your numbers tell an important part of your story. Doing the Math also means taking the time to simplify the numbers in a way that others – Your board, your prospects and your staff – can understand. Read more about Blue, Red and Green Math here.
GP #8 COMMIT TO SALES. You are in sales! Not everyone wants to hear that but it’s the truth. What is sales? Sales is the responsibility, the calling, the opportunity to carry the story of your organization – how it’s saving, changing and impacting lives – and share that story with people, 1:1, to build relationships with them to ASK them to help save, change and impact lives. Sales is about ATTITUDE!
GP #9 JUST ASK. JUST ASK. JUST ASK. No explanation necessary. Just do it.
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Vocabulary Wars

From the archives, but still relevant today – Read on for how to avoid Vocabulary Wars.

Last week we were with an organization that helps homeless people find and secure permanent housing. The Executive Director of this organization had spent the last 10 years – off and on – trying to get three specific area Foundations ‘on board.’ In that time, some $10K grants had been awarded but for the most part the Foundations said, “We don’t fund projects like yours.”

The mission statements for the foundations were almost identical to that of this homelessness organization. And, each Foundation had funded similar agencies working in the homeless arena.

After some discussion, I realized that the challenge has been vocabulary, not fit. For example:

  • This organization receives about $1M annually from the government — to be used for ‘capital’. It turned out that ‘capital’ in this definition meant anything that had to do with the actual home or residence (including programs to get into the residence.) In the case of this organization, the ‘home’ was the OBJECTIVE of the program. Kind of hard to end homelessness without a home somewhere in the equation… no?
  • The Foundations avoided ‘capital’ projects. It turned out the ‘capital’ meant ‘capital campaign’ to the them – bricks and mortar, campaign committees, fancy office chairs, etc.
  • The organization had structured all of its internal vocabulary based on conversations with the government. These vocabulary words were deal killers with the private foundations who heard “capital campaign” when they wanted to focus on more “programs for the homeless.” (I’m not making this up.)

So, here’s what we did:

  • We coached the organization’s senior leadership to go back to one of the Foundations. This time the organizations was to ask questions, listen and use the Foundation’s vocabulary to advance a discussion.
  • The key questions to ask were, “What is the biggest challenge you’re seeing with respect to ending homeless in this area? How are you working to address that challenge?”
  • The Foundation said it felt a lack of ‘housing opportunities’ were available to the working poor and that it was trying to identify agencies that worked as a catalyst to create more opportunities. Note: The most critical point of this entire story is probably right here. The organization had to LISTEN to the foundation to pull off the right ask.
  • The organization’s leadership was then able to position its work as a ‘catalyst to create more housing opportunities’.
  • Both the foundation and the organization leadership described the ensuing conversation as ‘electric’ and ‘exciting.‘ They will be meeting again next month to talk about a multi-year financial partnership.

For 10 years, would-be partners had failed to align for what amounted to a vocabulary war. At times the relationship was even contentious – there were debates and arguments between foundation heads and leaders in this organization about right/wrong and ‘justice’ in funding.

It’s important to realize in this story that at 30,000’ they were in COMPLETE alignment: all parties were trying to end homelessness. The fact that the homeless organization was getting a token $10K here and there was an indicator that there was alignment on the CAUSE (WHY), but not the CASE (WHAT). The relationship was advanced – light speed – by really, really listening and aligning the solution in terms the funder understood.

The only way to avoid a vocabulary war is to listen.

Note: In the actual coaching I said to the ED, “I want you just to listen.. to really understand the foundation’s challenges. When you hear a word you don’t understand, ask them to define it. Keep listening until you can say, ‘wait a minute, we can help solve that!’”.

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Start With The Why

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done! This week’s theme is SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE.

Start with the Why is our number one For Impact Guiding Principle.

I came across a brilliant thinker, Simon Sinek, who has a great book, Start With Why, a powerful Ted Video, and an amazing story around the power of ‘WHY.’

The essence of his message:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

He calls it the ‘Golden Circle’.

Mediocre organizations and leaders always sell ‘outside-in’: talking about WHAT, then HOW (features, benefits), and never even getting to the WHY.

Great leaders sell ‘inside-out’ – leading with the WHY.

Sinek’s Golden Circle is our ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK… with research!

Starting with Why has many implications in our For Impact world; here’s a few:

A vocabulary challenge to the sector. What prospects hear (often times) is “We need money to meet our annual funding goal” or “Buy a table at our gala.” These messages have no WHY, but what your prospects want to do is save, change and impact lives.

Selling happens at 30,000’. The number one question of every investor is, “Why do you exist?” If the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your WHY, it’s very hard to talk to her about the what and the how. Conversely, if your WHY is his number one priority, you can ask on the proverbial ‘first date.’

There are 1.5M nonprofits in the U.S. You must be able to talk about your raison d’etre (reason for existence); otherwise, you just ‘exist to exist.’

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Start the New Year on a “HIGH”

A few weeks ago we published “10 Action Steps to Help you Engage in 2016.” Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to use each action step as a week long theme to help you get it done!

This week’s theme is SIMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE.

Our most used frameworks is the Altitude Framework – Used to order thinking, communications, and storylines; to develop Engagement Tools; and, to think through the Flow of a Visit.

This framework is used for everything from visits to strategy sessions to dealing with objections. However, it’s best use is COMMUNICATION and SIMPLIFICATION of your message.

30,000′ is an airplane’s cruising altitude – plenty of blue sky, a great view, etc. At 30,000′, our brain even seems to work better!

At this altitude, it’s all about your vision, your aspirations, your raison d’etre. It’s a place to think and talk about your mission, your meaning, your values.

At 30,000’ leaders and visionaries have the ability to see the horizon. Obviously, you can’t do that from 3’. At 30,000’ you can see the curve of the earth, the rising and setting of the sun. The perspective at 30,000’ is unmatched. This is where you can think about making a “dent in the universe” and communicate how you are CHANGING THE WORLD!

Use this framing device to think and answer some questions at 30,000’:

  • Why do you what you do – To what end?
  • What is your raison d’etre (or reason for existence?)
  • What are you best in the world at?
  • What would you do with $1M or $10M (or X times your current operating budget?)
  • What makes you unique or how are you collaborating to solve a big social problem?
  • What gets you really fired up in the morning? (About your impact!)

Use the answers to these questions to develop your Message at 30,000’ – Your big picture purpose statement, the meaning of your work – Something we call the Blue Box Message.

“The Blue Box”:

  • Represents the starting point for everything
  • Frames a conversation at the highest level
  • Is simple (not full of fancy prose)
  • Is articulated clearly, concisely and compellingly

Here are some examples of great Blue Box Messages:

Changing the lives of the visually impaired worldwide.

Transforming the aging experience.

To provide the finest liberal arts education in the country.

Breaking the circle of poverty by changing the system.

Transforming Columbus: Inspiring the entrepreneurs of the future.

Strong Healthy Kids, Strong Healthy Families, Strong Healthy Communities.

We provide the opportunity for disadvantaged women and children to transform their lives.

We want safe water for EVERYONE FOREVER.

To make reading matter and change the story for low-income students and families in San Diego County.

Redefine Interprofessional Education. Redefine Healthcare Delivery. For Better Patient Health Outcomes.

Join us tomorrow for more on Simplifying your Message.

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What I Would Do If I Had $1M

My copy of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill was published by Fawcett World Library, 1969.

Based on Napoleon Hill’s famed Laws of Success, Think and Grow Rich represents the distilled wisdom of distinguished men of great wealth and achievement. Andrew Carnegie’s magic formula for success was the direct inspiration for this book. Hill’s “secrets” are founded in universal law and principles.

Originally published in 1937, it has been characterized as one of the most influential books of all time in pointing the way to personal achievement.

W. Clement Stone wrote “more men and women have been motivated to achieve success because of reading Think and Grow Rich than any other book written by a living author.”

Following is a story Napoleon Hill uses to underscore a number of the key principles of Think and Grow Rich:

  • Definiteness of Purpose
  • Faith
  • Imagination
  • Desire
  • Persistence
  • Organized Planning to Achieve a Purpose

The following story is quoted from the book. The (parenthesis) are mine – Tom

While Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus was going through college, he observed many defects in our educational system. These were defects that he believed he could correct if he were the head of a college. (His challenge!) He made up his mind to organize a new college in which he would carry out his ideas without being handicapped by orthodox methods of education. (Creativity, out of the box thinking, unorthodox!!!)

He needed a million dollars (Specificity) to put this project across. Where was he to lay his hands on so large a sum of money? That was the question that absorbed most of this ambitious young preacher’s thoughts. He turned it over and over in his mind until it became a consuming obsession with him. Dr. Gunsaulus recognized, as do all who succeed in life, that definiteness of purpose is the starting point. He also recognized that definiteness of purpose takes on animation, life, and power when backed by a burning desire to translate that purpose into material equivalent.

In his own words:

“For nearly two years, I had been thinking but I had done nothing but think! The time had come for action!

“I made up my mind then and there that I would get the necessary million dollars within a week. How? I was not concerned about that. The main thing of importance was the decision to get the money within a specific time, a strange feeling of assurance came over me — such as I had never before experienced. Something inside me seemed to say, “Why didn’t you reach that decision a long time ago? The money was waiting for you all the time!”

“Things began to happen in a hurry. I called the newspapers and announced that I would preach a sermon the following morning entitled ‘What I Would Do If I Had a Million Dollars’.

“I went to work on the sermon immediately. But I must tell you frankly, the task was not difficult because I had been preparing this sermon for almost two years.”

“Long before midnight, I finished writing the sermon. I went to bed and slept with a feeling of confidence, for I could see myself already in possession of a million dollars. (Visualization!)

“The next morning I rose early, went into the bathroom, read the sermon, and then knelt and asked that my sermon might come to the attention of someone who would supply the needed money. In my excitement, I walked out without my sermon and did not discover the oversight until I was in my pulpit and ready to begin delivering it.”

“It was too late to go back for my notes, and what a blessing that I couldn’t. Instead, my own subconscious mind yielded the material I needed. When I arose to begin my sermon, I closed my eyes and spoke with all my heart and soul of my dreams. I not only talked to my audience, but I fancied that I also talked to God. I told what I would with a million dollars if that amount were placed in my hands. I described the plan I had in mind for organizing a great educational institution, where young people would learn to do practical things, and at the same time, develop their minds. (The Ask!!!)

“When I finished and sat down, a man slowly arose form his seat about three rows from the rear and made his way toward the pulpit. I wondered what he was going to do. He came into the pulpit, extended his hand, and said, ‘Reverend, I liked your sermon. I believe you can do everything you said you would if you had a million dollars. To prove that I believe in you and your sermon, if you will come to my office tomorrow morning, (The Response!!!) I will give you the million dollars. My name is Philip D. Armour.”

Young Gunsaulus went to Mr. Armour’s office and the million dollars was presented to him. With the money, he founded the Armour Institute of Technology (now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology).

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Start With The Why

Start with the Why is our number one For Impact Guiding Principle.

I came across a brilliant thinker, Simon Sinek, who has a great book, Start With Why, a powerful Ted Video, and an amazing story around the power of ‘WHY.’

The essence of his message:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

He calls it the ‘Golden Circle’.

Mediocre organizations and leaders always sell ‘outside-in’: talking about WHAT, then HOW (features, benefits), and never even getting to the WHY.

Great leaders sell ‘inside-out’ – leading with the WHY.

Sinek’s Golden Circle is our ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK… with research!

Starting with Why has many implications in our For Impact world; here’s a few:

A vocabulary challenge to the sector. What prospects hear (often times) is “We need money to meet our annual funding goal” or “Buy a table at our gala.” These messages have no WHY, but what your prospects want to do is save, change and impact lives.

Selling happens at 30,000’. The number one question of every investor is, “Why do you exist?” If the person you are talking to doesn’t care about your WHY, it’s very hard to talk to her about the what and the how. Conversely, if your WHY is his number one priority, you can ask on the proverbial ‘first date.’

There are 1.5M nonprofits in the U.S. You must be able to talk about your raison d’etre (reason for existence); otherwise, you just ‘exist to exist.’

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The Altitude Framework

The For Impact ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK is one of our most referenced and utilized tools (by our team, our coaches and our clients) – TO RAISE THE LEVEL OF THEIR GAME!

We use Altitude to order thinking, communications, and storylines. We use it to develop Engagement Tools. And, we use it to think through the Flow of a Visit.

The Altitude Framework works great for Presentations, Agendas, Meetings, Speaking, Strategic Plans and Action Plans.

It’s also a great Framework to respond to questions. “At what altitude is the best or most appropriate response?” And, it’s a powerful coaching model. “Let’s talk about this issue at this particular altitude.”

We have color coded our Altitude Framework (Blue, Red, Green) to lay out our content, our guides and our books. And, it allows us to talk shorthand and reach decisions ten times faster than a normal process.

One of the reasons that this framing device has been so popular is its obvious simplicity. Everyone can understand the hierarchy of WHY, WHAT and HOW and they intuitively get the connection between VISION, STRATEGY and EXECUTION. Following are some ways to help you understand and apply ALTITUDE. (more…)

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