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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog

Killing off campaign committees (the message and meetings, not the people)

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.

I’ve just started working with a youth-serving organization in the midwest. This organization 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 I’m 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.

I should note, the four pages did have other filler that wasn’t as harsh.

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.

No More Boards

Last Thursday’s teleseminar and the release of our Guide: ON BOARD(S) triggered a lot of feedback!

Some of it funny. (“Our Board is not just afraid but TERRIFIED of heights. Couldn’t find their way to the top floor of our building even if they were in the elevator.”)

Some of it sad. (“The funding strategy of buying lottery tickets really hurt. It sounds exactly like something my Board would consider as a ‘great idea’ to raise money.”)

One of the best responses was from two superstars in Colorado, Christi-Marie and Rob. They actually challenged the very existence of Boards! (Rob even said I was too ‘soft’ in my presentation. That hurt.)

Here’s what we came up with:

WHAT IFthere weren’t any ‘BOARDS’?


Here’s my short answer:

    1. ‘EXECUTIVE BOARD’ GROUP. I would have a five-member Board (since it needs to be an odd number) responsible only for fiduciary matters and for meeting governmental regulations, etc. They would be smart. Have sector expertise in law, accounting and business. Not ‘yes men‘, but collaborative men and women who understood their role and responsibility for the organization.


Funding Framework for your Board Retreat

I was in New York City last week facilitating a day-long strategic funding retreat for a board and senior staff.

This organization doesn’t have a very extensive fundraising history or culture. It was beginning to think about some major needs in the coming years — and possibly a campaign. Our goal was to go from the starting line – a discussion about the need for funds – to have the entire team on board with a story, a strategy and an action plan.

Download the PDF

This framework is mash-up of our Sales Process and POV. It could be used with ANY BOARD.

The Framework served as our agenda for the day. We started with the Impact -> Income napkin and worked our way to mapping out the story. Conversations about the WHO and the HOW are completely different after everyone see’s the compelling story and how a case-for-support could be exciting.

We then moved to the WHO. Prospects and Team. Before laying the groundwork there were lots of questions about prospects. AFTER we had a story and message the number of prospects seemed to triple (as it always does).

Finally we moved to identify the HOW. There was no way to launch this org into a campaign at the end of one day. Instead we defined success as getting the organization started with a sales process. That is… the ability to identify prospects, engage them with a great story and get some really big gifts for projects.

Announcing: Board Workshops

At workshops and boot camps the number one comment on our feedback forms is: “I wish I could share this with my board.”

We’re launching a new way to address this feedback: The For Impact Board Workshop.

What is it?

A focused session, led by a For Impact field coach, with your board+senior staff to do the following:

  • Cover the For Impact Point of View / Framework.
  • Get everyone ‘on board’ with a Funding Road Map.
    • Thinking Big/Thinking Different… about what a Quantum Leap would mean!
    • Simplifying a funding process
    • Learning how to simplify a message for the organization
    • Ideas for Prospects and Prospect Strategies
    • How to build a relationship-based development model.
  • Develop a simple/clear strategy and action plan for near-term and long-term funding results.

How does it work?

  • A For Impact field coach will lead your organization through a brief discovery process to make the most of the session.

  • Coach comes on site to facilitate the workshop.
  • Board members received materials, training and work to build the funding road map for your organization.
  • For those of you that have attended a Boot Camp it will be similar to the first half-day at Camp.

We’ve priced this to be very reasonable, starting at $1000 for most organizations + travel costs.

To learn more:

Our capacity to deliver this new solution is limited by timing, travel, etc. To express an interest and to learn more complete this short form.

*I will be posting more about this in the coming days and months. For now, wanted to get the message out.

Board… Not… Responsible… Fundraising

Nick and I are on our way to make a presentation to select members of an amazing For Impact health care organization in Virginia.

As we talked out the presentation and prep last night, I was reminded of the power of this simple statement:


You may have heard this from us before, but just a reminder to everyone that is struggling with:

    • Getting the Board to ask their friends for money.

    • Sharing names of people who need to be hit up. (“How’s that working for you?” as Nick always says.)

    • Handing out 3 x 5 cards and then having follow-up meetings to discuss ‘progress’ (when, of course, there is none).

The Board should do 3 things as it relates to funding.

    1. Champion… a Cause, a Case and the Organization.

    2. Invite… others to be engaged.

    3. Invest… with a commensurate commitment.

P.S. If they can’t do those 3 things, they are not ON BOARD… and, therefore, should not be ON THE BOARD.

Strong Fundraising Boards Don’t Exist

I’ve never seen a strong fundraising board.

We’ve worked with colleges, national organizations, start-ups, orgs in every sector – and not seen it.

Maybe organizations with ‘strong fundraising boards’ don’t need help so they don’t come to us. I think it’s more likely the case that they don’t exist.

This is important to understand. Many organizations are waiting until they have a strong fundraising board to really kick things in to high gear. That might be like waiting for the big three auto makers to return to dominance using the same old business models.

  • We can’t wait. Else, we’ll always be waiting.
  • Instead of trying to build a ‘fundraising board’ shoot for getting a few champions on board with your efforts.
  • This is why we say your board is not responsible for fundraising.

Simple Progression at a Board Retreat

I spent the morning yesterday facilitating a Board Retreat for an incredibly impactful organization.

I wanted to share with you 3 big takeaways, as well as the ‘SIMPLE’ PROGRESSION of how they can raise significantly more money (INCOME) to affect their IMPACT.

  • Takeaway #1: Moving from a WHO model to a WHY model. A very smart community leader pointed out that they had historically been “fundraising with a WHO mentality”. (Legendary, old-time community leaders that helped found the program were able to basically pick up the phone and call in funding support. They’re all gone now.)

    He made this point as we were refining the MESSAGE and reinforcing the PURPOSE and the REASON for their existence. In other words, the WHY model.

  • Takeaway #2: DO THE MATH. It was amazing to watch as the morning progressed and we were able to specifically define the investment required to rebuild/impact one life ($340!). Then, we took a $124M ‘investment requirement’ and, by DOING THE MATH, figured out that the public sector would actually do $107M and the ‘number’ from the PRIVATE SECTOR was $17M!

    We then did a simple, powerful Pyramid/Funding Plan to determine that the $17M would come from 29 investors.

  • Takeaway #3: TIME TO THINK. The leadership was convinced that they needed to move beyond a normal ‘Board Meeting’ and have a session where they could actually take the TIME TO THINK. I believe both the Board and the staff were re-energized around the Impact, Mission and Purpose; and, we RE-DESIGNED the model and methodology to FUND THE VISION.

If you’d like to see it, I’ve included the SIMPLE PROGRESSION (pictured above, download here) that we used as a framework to generate more money. It corresponds with our also very simple ROADMAP.

Get Entrepreneurs ‘On Board’

You’ve seen or heard Tom and I talk a lot about the importance of ‘on board’ vs. ‘on the board’. In order to really make a transformational leap in your IMPACT and INCOME the kind of thinking and leadership you need will come from individuals that are ‘on board’ with your cause / case…not ‘the whole of the board’.

We’re always encouraging you to find three champions to drive your funding efforts. Again, could be on your board or not on your board but they are always on board.

The BEST on-board champions

  • Drive the vision
  • Will (read: brute force determination) your project to happen
  • See an obstacle as a challenge, not a sign of doom
  • Think big and leap head first with a positive ‘can–do’ attitude
  • Make this vision a self-fulfilling prophecy

The profile above is that of an ENTREPRENEUR. With all due respect to lawyers, bankers, doctors, etc. they usually don’t fit this profile. They can aid with some of the responsibilities of the board but they’re usually not drivers of the vision.

That may seem like a slam on lawyers, banker and doctors — it’s not. I’ve worked with some very committed and passionate people in those industries. They’re GREAT people and they’ll often tell me, “We just don’t think that way.”

We can spend months and years hoping people will become ENTREPRENEURIAL. It’s a way of thinking that’s either there or not. Don’t try to change people. If they don’t fit this profile keep moving…put your energy and effort into finding someone that does.

Another litmus: You want people that will say ‘this will work because’ not ‘what if?’ or ‘I think we need to worry about”.

The action: Find three people that are ‘on board’ [as champions]… start by looking for ENTREPRENEURS that get your cause. You want people that see the vision, not the obstacles. One great ENTREPRENEURIAL CHAMPION ON BOARD will help ‘outperform’ 20 committed people that don’t fit that profile.

Tom’s Ideal Profile (for every org, for every situation)

Someone who is ready to move from SUCCESS to SIGNIFICANCE!

Someone who has had the ‘Bill Gates-in-the-shower’ epiphany
(“I can’t take all of this with me”).

Somebody who has been very “successful” financially in the
business world and who is now committed to making an IMPACT
on the world.

He or she has already taken care of their family and their own “needs”, as well as their “wants”. There is still plenty left.

Special Note: Taking this a little deeper, my very best Ideal Prospect is someone who has actually moved from STRUGGLE to SUCCESS to SIGNIFICANCE!
For me, that means a Wealthy ENTREPRENEUR!
They know what it’s like to start things… to overcome obstacles… to make a difference. Plus, there’s no “committees”! (They can make a decision.)
This is my “favorite” prospect!

3 Tips For Board Engagement

Here is a SIMPLE way to deal with one of the biggest issues facing FOR IMPACT


We have been involved in hundreds of Board Meetings, Board Retreats and Board Planning Sessions. And, we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of our training participants ask for more help with How to Deal with Their Board.

We hope this helps.

We have found the best way to look at your Board is based upon 3 A’s:


    • Where (at what ‘ALTITUDE’) are the majority of your Board Members focused at the moment?*Where should they be focused?*We’ve heard so many horror stories of Board members actually dropping down to 3″! (Yes, inches!) They’re concerned about the brand of cola you’re using in your vending machines!Try sharing this ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK with your Board to facilitate a discussion about their role, responsibility and engagement.For what it’s worth, we believe:
      • Your Board, as a collective whole, should be engaged only at 30,000′ around the Vision and the Message and Goals… all at the highest level.
      • Individual Board Members should be engaged as individuals and part of a smaller group to help at the 14,000′ STRATEGY level. They should be engaged based upon their own particular talents and strengths. (Left brain, financial, ‘numbers’ people should be helping with budgets, etc. Right brained, creative entrepreneurial types should be working on strategic partnerships, new delivery mechanisms, etc.)
      • No one should be involved in the ‘details’ of the EXECUTION.***This does not mean that some of your Board will not actually be engaged in some of the work that you do (around both your IMPACT and your INCOME). They’re doing that as part of the team, not as MICRO-MANAGERS!
  2. Here is a very simple ALTITUDE FRAMEWORK that we use in all of our discussions with Boards. We also incorporate it into our presentation design, in meetings and in our planning process.

    30,000′ The WHY VISION
    14,000′ The WHAT STRATEGY

    Think about this as it relates to your Board.

  3. ATTITUDE. ‘ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING’… and the Attitude of your Board, as well as your Attitude towards your Board, are, literally, everything!
    • If you feed your Board every detail and reams of minutiae at Board Meetings… then that will be their ‘ATTITUDE’.
    • When you have the incredibly outdated ATTITUDE of “Every Board members need to GIVE or GET…” Or, “My Board is responsible for fundraising. They’re supposed to be getting me money…” Then they believe the only reason you want them engaged is for ‘MONEY’!
    • If your ATTITUDE re: helping with the fundraising is “Give us names,” then, Nick would say, “How’s that working for you?”Special Note: Here are our 3 ROLES for your Board:
      1. CHAMPION… your CAUSE.
      2. INVITE… others to get ENGAGED.
  4. ACTION.
    • Get the ‘right people on the bus’ (Board)…
      and wrong people off the bus (Board).
    • Change the way you run your meetings! (Use Altitude Framework.)
    • Visit with each Board Member and go over their 3 roles!!!
  5. Here are 3 ideas for immediate action:

Special Note: Here’s a great list of QUESTIONS to engage your Board at the highest level (vs. handing out multi-page, smallest text possible ‘committee reports’).

9 Big Board Questions

I’ve been a part of dozens of board retreats (leader/observer/participant), meetings and planning sessions in the lasts 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?

  1. What is our purpose or raison d’etre? 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’etre literally means REASON FOR EXISTENCE. It’s the WHY question. If you can’t answer WHY then WHAT and HOW are irrelevant.
  2. How can we (intentionally) go out of business? As 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.
  3. What would you do with $100M? Or pick a number that is a factor of 10x higher than anything you’re thinking about now. I attended a board retreat last weekend 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.
  4. 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 we’re somewhere in excess of 2million 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.
  5. How can we maximize our impact? Simple and open-ended… but not asked enough.
  6. 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 Buckingham believer. He tells you to focus on your strengths. Our strength at For Impact is in-person training, facilitating and coaching. We’re focusing on ways to do more of that in 2008 (live, via web and on-demand).
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. What is our business model? Or, 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:

  1. Board engagement / Staff communication: Iit works both ways.
  2. 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.
  3. The proverbial rat race: Incremental thinking gets incremental results (some times).