In many, if not all, circumstances we still can’t go meet with funders for a 1:1 conversation. We can’t bring prospects to our sites for visits.
So, this leaves two options.
Wait until a time when we can do that.
Embrace virtual visits and experiences.
The challenge most people bring up is that ‘it’s not the same as being in person.’
Of course it’s not! It’s a much lower fidelity experience. You can’t pick up context clues in the lobby, or share engagement tools in person.
But there is a flipside opportunity.
Because we’ve been relegated to a largely virtual world, this gives us greater access to individuals and audiences.
Funders who only met in person in New York, are now willing to meet by video conference. (By the way, they laugh at Zoom just as much as you and I… but they embrace it, just like we do too!)
Calendars are much easier to work with. You’re not trying to schedule a meeting four weeks out. With the fluid world, we are often scheduling conversations with key prospects 2-3 days out!
Greater audiences! Instead of waiting until we can get the prospect to our site, we’re simply using the current constraints as an acceptable (and accessible) way to bring the site to them through virtual tours, virtual experiences, and virtual gatherings.
We’re all still figuring out virtual (to some extent). But the world is accepting of the virtual wonkiness. It’s accepting of the lower fidelity experience (right now) and if we embrace that it can be an enormous opportunity.
Some other coaching nuggets we’ve been offering around this:
Embrace the medium and laugh at the medium. Don’t try to make your visit perfect. Acknowledge that you’re still adjusting to the medium. Think of the entire outreach as a DRAFT!
Try some things. You can’t mess up right now. The world will give you a grace that it would not be extending if you tried these formats in the fall of 2019.
The brain is the brain. The deep brain does not distinguish between a Zoom conversation and an in-person meeting. Mirror neurons in our brains fire based on words and faces (not feet :). Just as we did not evolve to connect by Zoom, neither did we evolve to sit around a conference table in suits.
I’ve probably been on the phone with 30 different nonprofit leaders in the past 30 hours. It’s interesting that they say something like:
“It’s a really interesting time.”
“Wow, things are really crazy.”
Everyone is trying to pick the right words…. the right words so that they are not too fearful… and the right words so that they are not too cavalier.
Right now, I want to share some mindsets I’ve been using for myself and with nonprofit leaders. I think they’ve proven helpful as a way to sort out scenario planning and action… sanity and opportunity.
Before I share the mindsets, I need to share a metaphor, which I quickly latched onto, offered by Sasha Dichter (THANK YOU, SASHA!) about information and experience waves.
Sasha writes, “One thing I’ve noticed over the past week is that we’re all on different Coronavirus waves. Each wave is separated by a few days or maybe weeks, and each brings with it a different experience of how real, and close, this pandemic is. I expect that what’s going on in Westchester County, where I live, is a lot like what happened in Northern Italy two or three weeks ago, and that what we’re experiencing will soon happen in other parts of the country.”
I’m fielding calls from all over the world and the first thing I try to understand is which ‘wave’ the other person is riding.
Last week I was in Florida speaking to 150 people and many people were still shaking hands. This week I was with a smaller group closer to home (Ohio) and nobody even thought for a second about trying to explain the social awkwardness or uncertainty of shaking hands. It was full-on social distancing. Those realities are one to two waves apart. I also talk to people in parts of the country where the Coronavirus is just a news story; they’re two to three waves behind.
This wave framework has allowed me to start to build out five different mindsets. I’ve been working in this world by deliberately shifting between five minds:
Current Wave. In terms of sorting things out there are a lot of unknowns. So it’s been helpful to say to others, “The conversation we’re having at this moment is in the context of the current wave.”
Fourth Wave. The ‘fourth wave’ scenarios are tough to talk about because others can perceive them as fear-mongering, especially if they’re two waves behind or ONLY focused on the current wave. But we NEED to be preparing for the fourth wave, and then we need to hope that all those scenarios are not needed.
For example, internal to our business at For Impact: We’ve been preparing virtual training scenarios for weeks. We’ve been expecting key conferences to get canceled, and we are prepared for how to help nonprofit leaders when everything goes virtual once an organization or a community is on some kind of lockdown.
It has really helped to slip back and forth in thinking between waves. It’s been helpful to say, “Bear with me, but this is a fourth wave conversation we need to have.”
Today’s Work. Thinking (about waves and scenarios is essential!) but there is also work to be done TODAY. ‘Today’s work isn’t about a ‘wave’. It’s about what’s in front of us RIGHT NOW. There are hungry people who need fed at lunch – right now. Or more simply, there might be something like payroll which needs to be run (today’s work performed). Those actions need to happen. And so this is a third mindset: “I am working on what’s in front of me at this moment and I’m going to give it my/our all!”
The Other Side. I have no idea what’s going to happen. But I know this: at some point, the waves will stop coming. I have found myself coaching other leaders to stop thinking — in this mindset — about the waves, and jump to the end.
“What will be needed of your team?”
“What will your community need?”
“How will we have the most impact, once we are on the other side?”
On the other side of this, I know…
Funders will actually step up more than ever. In 2008-09 I remember meeting with a private equity partner and asking him, “How are you doing in this economy?” He LAUGHED and said, “We’re gobbling up companies at pennies on the dollar.” That year, ‘charitable giving’ went from around $306Billion in the US to $303Billion. The stock market tanked 40% and in ‘Charitable Giving terms’ it was not even what the stock market would consider a correction.
The big-time philanthropists will double- or triple-down on helping others and the human spirit will show up as it always does. We are already hearing stories from the field of philanthropists accelerating their gifts, and taking other actions to ensure the continuing health of the non-profits they support. For example, I spoke with a wonderful philanthropic leader and dear friend yesterday and she said, “While it’s socially responsible to be canceling these events, it is our (social) responsibility to help these organizations now more than ever. It’s just going to take us a few weeks to figure out what that looks like.”
Humanity (A more meta fifth mindset).
The comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell, observed that it is the ‘fight against something’ which is what brings cultures together. As we look around the past few years this has been used in a divisive way around the world — creating partisan politics and tribes. Strongly uniting small cultures. This crisis has the potential to unite more of us around common causes; it all depends on each of our responses.
People will begin to say, “Hey, science DOES matter!”’
We will rise above partisanship.
We will unite in a way that gives us a chance with even bigger challenges, like climate change.
Trying to sort everything coming at me was really getting to be a challenge. I needed to stop and have a way to THINK and WORK in the now. To THINK and PREPARE for the just-in-case. And then I have made a habit of jumping to the CERTAINTY of tomorrow… what we can control in terms of the IMPACT and OPPORTUNITY after these waves subside.
For Impact exists to help nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs overcome their greatest barriers to impact. For us, that principle means helping them FUND their impact, no matter what. It also means building the STORY for funding, and funding the PEOPLE to make that happen.
Today, I think the biggest thing the For Impact team can do is to be available as a sounding board for our clients, alumni and readers to help them sort and plan. Over the past 24 hours, we’ve put together something we’re calling SORTING SESSIONS. These are coaching sessions at no charge to help sector leaders sort out what’s happening today and to be ready for tomorrow. You are likely having these conversations in various settings already. If you would like our help facilitating via frameworks and with our perspective on what is going on in the sector, let us know.
Examples of conversations we’re having:
“We are travel restricted and we’re supposed to be having funder conversations. What should we do?”
“We are canceling our annual meeting. How should we engage with our attendees?”
“I have a big ask scheduled with a funder next week. Should I offer to cancel? Keep it? Move to video? Do I ask like nothing is going on?”
To sign up for one of these, just email firstname.lastname@example.org or one of our coaches.
The Rule of 3 is the ultimate simplification and framing device. It’s powerful because it simplifies anything AND offers an arrangement that is digestible… even attractive to the human mind.
We are wired to receive things in threes. When you have two of something it creates conflict – it’s an either/or. The three-act play uses this – typically the second act creates the tension and the third act resolves.
When you have more than three, studies show the brain is more inclined to ‘give up’ than to internalize all the points.
Going back the Roman age, Cicero became a famed orator using the cadence of three’s in his speaking. Today, politicians, advertising agencies, and media people use this device — the second you look for it, it’s EVERYWHERE.
Think about the resonance and stickiness of three’s…
Small. Medium. Large / Tall. Grande. Venti.
Faith, Hope, and Love.
Goldilocks. Mama Bear, Baby Bear, Papa Bear.
Blood, sweat, and tears. Note: This one comes from a Churchill speech, “Blood, toil, tears and sweat.” The fact that no one remembers toil underscores the point of THREE.
We use the Rule of 3 in a lot of our For Impact framing.
Think Big. Build Simple. Act Now.
The Altitude Framework: Why / What / How
Cast a Vision. Staff a Vision. Fund a Vision.
Speaking. The next time you give a speech, focus on making just three points (or even better yet, three short stories – supporting three simple points). I’ve coached Fortune 500 CEO’s that have said, “I’ve had a lot of communications coaching. That’s one of the best tips I’ve ever received. It’s simple and works every time!”
Simplifying Your Funding Message! Instead of trying to explain ALL of your programs and projects, simply say, “We do these THREE things.”
Productivity. Try to accomplish ONLY THREE things in one day… and become more productive than you ever imagined.
I was catching up on past Chronicle of Philanthropy issues this weekend. A stat from April 2019 – Campaign Fever (subscription required) jumped out at me: “The potential estate wealth poised to change hands over the next several years is unprecedented — a projected $9 trillion by 2027, according to an analysis released last year by e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.”
I’ve seen all sorts of numbers about the estimated transfer-of-wealth from the boomer generation… we’ve been writing about the coming transfer for almost fifteen years. I’ve seen ‘total transfer estimates’ to be between $7 trillion and $100 trillion. Who knows what the real numbers will be but this study was a reminder that the wave is coming.
I suspect – over the next five years – we’ll start to see evidence of the transfer as increasingly more planned/estate gifts mature. I further suspect these will be products of lifetime relationships.. the time to be engaging and having conversations with funders about planned gifts is now!
For 36 years, For Impact has been creating and supporting levers for change behind the most important causes of our lifetime, including climate restoration, international development, health care access, health equity, community resilience, education reform, reproductive rights, and social justice.
In support of these causes, For Impact has helped raise more than $2 Billion! Perhaps more importantly, we’ve provided leadership development and fundraising training to more than 10,000 leaders from every state and 40+ countries.
The For Impact Fellowship is a key part of our commitment to transforming the sector — to develop the next generation of talent necessary to change the world!
What is the For Impact Fellowship?
The For Impact Fellowship is a paid one-year employment program that mentors individuals with promising leadership potential. Fellows will receive intensive training. They will work ‘in-the-field’ on funding campaigns, and they will engage directly in sales (think: selling a mission or vision — fundraising), owning a portfolio of prospects. Fellows will receive intensive training and mentorship in the areas of:
Sales / Major Gifts Fundraising
Team Building / Leading
The myriad of connections and priceless experiences Fellows gain will advance any career path.
Does this describe you? We created this fellowship to fast-track the development of the person who feels a general or a specific calling to help others. These are people who:
Know they have strong interpersonal and communication skills (excellent writing abilities are a must) — but school didn’t fully show them how to leverage and apply those skills.
Are entrepreneurial, in that they’ve started and built programs — or even a business — in the past. Even if they didn’t succeed!
Feel the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ They don’t need to have a clear direction for their energies (that’s why we developed this fellowship!), but they feel restless — they need to get busy making an impact in the world (somehow).
Fellows will be full-time employees of For Impact | The Suddes Group. One fellowship will be based at our headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, and the other will be based at our Denver, Colorado, office.
Fellows will be paired with a For Impact Partner to work on projects throughout the U.S. (so… there will be travel).
Fellows will be paid an annualized salary of $40,000, and receive standard health, vision and dental benefits, as well as vacation and sick time, and can participate in other really cool benefits.
Fellows are responsible for their own housing but we will support the housing process with recommended locations.
Application is open to all but we are looking for individuals with a college degree (any field of study), two years of work experience and/or a partial or completed graduate degree (in any field of study). Work experience does not need to be in the not-for-profit field.
How does the application process work?
Our selection process will begin July 1, 2019 and operate on a rolling basis until we’ve identified two emerging leaders. We’ll be evaluating candidates through several steps:
Application: Submit a resume, as well as a cover letter that shows your thoughtful – and authentic – explanation of: 1) Why this Fellowship is right for you; 2) Your passion for changing the world; 3) Anything else that’s important to share about your story. Send these materials to email@example.com.
First Interview: An in-depth video interview with our Director of Talent, Jessica Gemm, so we can talk about what’s behind your application (and a few additional questions we’ll have), and answer your questions about the Fellowship.
Second Interview: A final interview with our President, Nick Fellers, and his senior partners Traci Bruckner in Ohio and Steve Elder in Colorado.
References: Conversations with a few key references to understand different perspectives on your background, contributions, and potential.
A solid and complete visit strategy has three parts:
Predisposition (before). Predisposition is what you do before the visit to set the context for the visit.
The Visit (often including the ask). Strategy about the visit focuses on how you will navigate the flow of the conversation toward your goals.
Follow-up (after). Most commitments are generated through timely and persistent follow-up.
So, the context of a visit is set before you visit with the prospect using predisposition and the outcome is cemented after the visit using follow-up.
Think about how much focus and energy you devote to each part of the strategy. For most of us, it looks something like this:
Compare that to this image, which spends more total energy on the prospect strategy by putting more energy into predisposition and follow-up:
It’s natural to focus our attention on the visit, since it’s where the emotional connection happens – we gear up for that and then exhale after the visit. The visual above helps us to be deliberate in our focus. Most of us need to be investing a lot more energy into predisposition and follow-up.
For each top-prospect-strategy ask yourself, “What else can we be doing in predisposition and follow-up?”
How can we use our champions (more) before or after the visit to create excitement? Or to validate our project? Perhaps it’s a simple phone call placed as part of the follow-up strategy: “Thank you for taking time to meet with Nick. I’m invested in this project and just wanted to share how important it is to me and offer to answer any questions you might have. Thanks for your consideration!”
Can we send something else, before or after the visit? Perhaps we make a care package containing copies of testimonial letters from those impacted by our work. What if we sent a package to arrive 24 hours before our visit?
Get them to campus! This can be literal or it can be useful as a metaphor. Get them to see your impact as part of the predisposition and/or follow-up strategy!
Once an executive or senior development officer makes a commitment to sales this is the question that’s often asked.
Recently, we interviewed For Impact alumni and past clients who have demonstrated great success with the For Impact (Sales) approach. This sample visit schedule is a composite of several calendars we studied. It demonstrates the PRACTICAL routine and focus for a true salesperson.
Green and Red Time. Green represents time inside the sales process doing the activity related to predisposition, making visits and follow-up. Red time is planning, prep and strategy time.
Use the calendar to manage activity.EVERY successful salesperson we interviewed used their calendar to manage activity. They scheduled routines and blocked out time (sometimes months in advance) to think and prepare.
Focus and Routine. I’m often asked how much time sales should take. That’s a difficult question because it doesn’t take much time at all. (In fact, this calendar only blocks out 20% of the time!) Instead, it takes two things: Focus and Routine. On the IDEAL calendar, visits are focused on one day of the week. The ideal week rarely happens but the best salespeople know how to FOCUS their time.The other highlight is a daily routine to answer emails, adjust calendar and priorities.For more on focus and routine read: Batching, Flow and Focus.
Block time for strategy.
A big, important WOW – actually block out time for strategy! We rarely schedule time to THINK but it pays off, big time.
The Math! What’s not apparent is the math that drives this schedule.At first glance four visits (in a week) might not look like much — if sales is your job. But it all adds up, if it becomes a routine.Suppose you did:
To be effective at fundraising — to generate RESULTS — you do not need a lot of TIME, but you need the ability to FOCUS your time.
Again calling upon Drucker’s wisdom, he observes that effective executives “consolidate their ‘discretionary’ time into the largest possible continuing units.” They BLOCK their time around a task.
Here are two scenarios:
Scenario A: Executive devotes 20% of her week to fundraising activities. Scenario B: Executive sets aside two 4-hour blocks in her schedule to focus on fundraising activities.
Scenario B will be more effective every time.
I have books, stacks of research papers, and years of observation to support this; one interesting nugget that summarizes it all is from Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work:
“The problem… is that when you switch from some Task A to another Task B, your attention doesn’t immediately follow—a residue of your attention remains stuck thinking about the original task.” This creates Attention Residue.
AND it turns out task-switching requires enormous energy! We have to redirect millions of circuits in our brain — in effect — loading a new activity into our conscious mind. That takes real mental energy, and we can only do this so many times in a day until we are faced with task-switching fatigue.
We should also think about how we block time to focus. It’s not reasonable to carve out large chunks of time for each task. However, we can carve out time for similar types of mental activities, which is called ‘batching.’ Here’s a great story about Wharton professor and author Adam Grant (also from Deep Work).
Though Grant’s productivity depends on many factors, there’s one idea in particular that seems central to his method: the batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches. Grant performs this batching at multiple levels. Within the year, he stacks his teaching into the fall semester, during which he can turn all of his attention to teaching well and being available to his students. (This method seems to work, as Grant is currently the highest-rated teacher at Wharton and the winner of multiple teaching awards.) By batching his teaching in the fall, Grant can then turn his attention fully to research in the spring and summer, and tackle this work with less distraction.
Grant also batches his attention on a small time scale. Within a semester dedicated to research, he alternates between periods where his door is open to students and colleagues, and periods where he isolates himself to focus completely and without distraction on a single research task. (He typically divides the writing of a scholarly paper into three discrete tasks: analyzing the data, writing a full draft, and editing the draft into something publishable.) During these periods, which can last up to three or four days, he’ll often put an out-of-office auto-responder on his e-mail so correspondents will know not to expect a response. “It sometimes confuses my colleagues,” he told me. “They say, ‘You’re not out of office, I see you in your office right now!’” But to Grant, it’s important to enforce strict isolation until he completes the task at hand.
My guess is that Adam Grant doesn’t work substantially more hours than the average professor at an elite research institution (generally speaking, this is a group prone to workaholism), but he still manages to produce more than just about anyone else in his field. I argue that his approach to batching helps explain this distinction. In particular, by consolidating his work into intense and uninterrupted pulses, he’s leveraging the following law of productivity: High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus). If you believe this formula, then Grant’s habits make sense: By maximizing his intensity when he works, he maximizes the results he produces per unit of time spent working.
For you, batching might look like this:
Monday / Tuesday: Focus on visits.
Wednesday: Focus on follow-up and next week’s predisposition.
Thursday/Friday: Batch together (if possible) administrative duties.
I generally try to batch in half-day increments with some time in between to respond to emails. Effectively, this creates three ‘batches’ per day. Today’s batch looks like this:
7:00 – 10:00 Work on writing about sales culture (for website, book, clients)
10:00 – 1:00 Focused time for RESPONDING to incoming requests and administrative requirements (including meetings)
2:00 – 5:00 Scheduled time to follow-up with prospects.
Many readers are familiar with mental state called ‘FLOW.’ It was termed by University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. Most people think ‘FLOW’ is about productivity, but that’s actually not the point. FLOW is first and foremost about personal fulfillment and satisfaction. We are MOST fulfilled when we’re immersed (read: FOCUSED) in something that is deeply challenging. This ‘state’ is what is termed flow state.
From the archives – This is a piece our founder, Tom Suddes, wrote in 2010. I’ve found myself using the EAP framework a lot these past few weeks. Thought it would be a great time to share with our readership.
Here’s a very simple way to get stuff done: Make EVERYTHING A PROJECT!
This simple concept, guiding principle if you will, is for anybody who is trying to achieve a goal, make a quantum leap or change the world.
This idea has been developed over the last 10 or 15 years within our company and with our clients. It drives everything we do.
Here are the 8 steps of every PROJECT:
Team Leader. Obviously, critical decision. This pick needs to underscore the idea of ‘WHO’ not ‘HOW’! The right Team Leader will do whatever it takes to reach the project’s goals. They will be collaborative coaches… but also be able to make decisions. Paraphrasing Bill Gates, the strategy for a given project must be in one person’s head.
Project Team. This is all about TALENT. Diverse. Eclectic. Focused on strengths. Clear roles. *Steve Elder, a For Impact Partner and one of the best ‘Team Leaders’ ever, also says, “If your Project Team can’t fit in a mini-van, it’s too big.”
Goals. Clear. Concise. Compelling. Must define ‘success’. Believable. Achievable. Always better if big, hairy and audacious. *Goal should translate into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
Resources. People. Money. Tools. Support. Internal and External. Need vs. Want.
Barriers/Constraints. Direct tie to Resources. Scope. Budget. Size. Simplicity. ‘White Space’. Rule of 3. *ANYBODY can do just about ANYTHING with an UNLIMITED BUDGET and NO TIME LIMIT! Constraints are what makes this a project.
Time Table. Not just a CONSTRAINT, but a way to set benchmarks, control flow, create AFE’s (Action Forcing Events).
Measurement. Again, Benchmarks. Sub-Goals. Critical Path. Accountability. Evaluation. Opportunities. And more. *Ancient cliche, but still rings true: “You GET what you MEASURE.”
Action Plan. Use these first 7 steps to create a simple, understandable, measurable ACTION PLAN that allows for constant FEEDBACK (adjustments, pivots, reallocation, etc.) and FEED FORWARD (Focus on the goals, etc.)
Some things we’ve learned:
Hollywood. These projects can be like a Hollywood movie. You bring together the most talented people you can, without regard to the department or org chart. Everyone comes together for a movie project and take it from concept to finished film. Then they disband and start again.
‘The Ticket Is Printed’. One of my favorite Disney ideas. When they put together a project and project team for a new ride/experience, the project team is given a date (deadline)… and then told that “The ticket is printed!” In other words, there’s going to be a line of kids (and their parents) waiting on that given day to get on the ride. (Therefore, it better be done.)
Scope of a PROJECT. Can range from a $300M Campaign to a 1-Night Signature Event… and everything in between.
Every level of the Today | Tomorrow | Forever Model is a project (Leadership Societies, President Circles, Project Initiatives, Legacy Goals, etc.)
The 3 Circles/3 Buckets are PROJECTS, as well as the Programs and Priorities within each.
Every one of our TOP INVESTORS is a PROJECT… demanding a strategy, action plan, etc.
No Team ‘Meetings’
Rather, gather team together whenever needed for brainstorming, mind mapping, engagement, whatever.
Disseminate information before the gathering.
Quick review of goals and status.
Make everything actionable. (“We can actually do something when we leave.”)
Steve Jobs always challenged WHO attended and WHY people were in a meeting.
3 Parts to a Project.
Finally, here’s a great thought from Steven Pressfield’s terrific book, Do the Work. He says that “Every project can be divided into 3 parts: beginning, middle, end.”
Then he simply says, “Decide what comprises the beginning, the middle and the end… and then fill in the gaps!”
He also says to constantly ask this question, “What is this damn thing (PROJECT) about? (What’s the goal? What’s the theme? What does success look like?)”
CELEBRATE… early and often.
CELEBRATE small wins, benchmarks achieved, sub-goals reached…
And, of course, every FAILURE! (If you’re not FAILING somewhere within your project… you’re not pushing hard enough.)