May 17, 2013 | Tom Suddes

Thank You Notes

I’ve been doing a little bit of work with the Wake Forest Advancement Team.

In the week after our day-long coaching/training session … I’ve received five or six handwritten thank you notes!

In this age of tweets, texts and emails … these notes were a surprise and much appreciated.

Amazing what getting something from proverbial ‘snail mail’ can do to lift your spirits. (Plus, I can keep the ‘hard copy’.)

Coincidentally, I just got a wonderful letter from my friend Jim Mahoney at Battelle for Kids. A letter! (Jim and Battelle for Kids want to give me some award for being a FRIEND. I’m their FRIEND because I love what they do and I love working Jim and his team.)

A handwritten note. An actual letter. A phone call.

Amazing what these kinds of old school communications can do.

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

May 16, 2013 | Tom Suddes

Forget the Mission Statement. What’s Your Mission Question?

Pretty much our entire company is on its way to Ireland tomorrow. I wanted to share another fantastic article from Fast Company entitled: Forget The Mission Statement. What’s Your Mission Question?

If you have any interest whatsoever in our thinking around IMPACT DRIVES INCOME, MESSAGE, MISSION, PURPOSE, RAISON D’ETRE, VISION, etc. … read this article around these five questions:

    1. Why are we here in the first place?
    2. What’s the world need most that we are uniquely able to provide?
    3. What are we willing to sacrifice?
    4. What matters more than money?
    5. Are we all on this mission together?

Note: I just re-read the article twice. There are so many nuggets and gems in here that I’m not even going to attempt to summarize for you. Read it.

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | One Comment | Share

May 16, 2013 | Tom Suddes

David Foster Wallace’s Unforgettable “This is Water” Speech

I had not seen this commencement speech that David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College. It went on to be published as a short book and now it has been adapted into a 9-minute film.

Thanks to Fast Company’s, you can read the story and view the documentary.

Not really a spoiler alert, but I wanted you to know the title comes from a zen koan:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”

I encourage you to take 9 minutes out of your life to hear Wallace urging the graduating class (and all of us) to stop and appreciate life as it’s happening.

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

May 15, 2013 | Tom Suddes

Lead Up

You’ve got to love Seth Godin. Read the whole blog but you’ll get the concept of Lead Up right away! Seth talks about doing this with intention … and committing to:

  • Do it on purpose! (30,000′ on our Altitude Framework.)
  • Tell stories that resonate with those in charge. (Share the Story. Selling is not telling, unless it’s a story. Etc.)
  • Demand responsibility. Don’t worry about authority. (Own your role and responsibilities.)
  • Reflect credit. Embrace blame. (Great leadership.)
  • Earn the right by taking small steps. (Small wins. Quick wins.)

LEAD UP. If everybody does that within the For Impact sector … IT CHANGES THE WORLD.

Special Note: I shared this with our entire For Impact/Suddes Group team. It resonated with them; and, they wanted to share it with their coaching clients and training partners.

Thus, it’s out to all of you.

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

May 15, 2013 | Tom Suddes

The New Math of Giving

As anyone who reads our ‘stuff’ knows, we’re not real big on bottom up fundraising.

What I find particularly powerful about this article, The New Math of Giving: How $5 Does More Than A $40,000-Per-Plate Fundraiser, is just the whole idea of DO THE MATH.

You may be able to use

I don’t believe the future of fundraising/development/more income is driven by social media, tweets, texts, etc.

However, I love the creativity that Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins have brought to this field.

Something to think about.

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

May 13, 2013 | Tom Suddes


Everybody in the 3rd Sector/For Impact world is looking for TALENT. Everybody.

Same is true in the ‘real’ world.

I want you to take a look at the following job post at one of our family’s absolutely favorite places to eat: Northstar. Food is fantastic. Atmosphere is incredible. Servers/’talent’ is unmatched.

Here’s the job post:

I know their staff is really well trained. However, you can see that they have created their own Ideal Profile of who they’re looking for … “energetic and enthusiastic … eager to be part of a fun team … totally committed to excellence”!

Love the next line, because I believe it applies to our development/advancement/fundraising world as well: “Prior culinary experience is not necessary, in fact, living life with optimism and enthusiasm is the only criterion there is”!

Positions are available for “generous and genuine applicants who love giving guests a reason to smile”.

Then, the however, by the way, additionally “Northstar has always provided full-time hours, health insurance, vacation and active lifestyle benefits to our employees who desire them.”

I’m begging you to go to the back of the Chronicle of Philanthropy and read any of the job postings and job descriptions.

  • Most of them are 400 or 500 words …
  • Most of the words are around “keen understanding of best practices, personal success in donor cultivation, Bachelor’s Degree mandatory and a minimum of seven years progressive fundraising experience, strong organizational management and interpersonal skills”, blah, blah, blah.

I would rather be a server at Northstar than take a ‘job’ as they are presented to advancement/development professionals.

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

May 7, 2013 | Tom Suddes


Dick Celeste, Senior Counsel to For Impact and The Suddes Group (and someone I’m honored and humbled to call my friend), has one of the most impressive track records/resumes/bios you’ve ever seen. Rhodes Scholar. Head of the Peace Corps. Governor of Ohio. Ambassador to India. President of Colorado College. (I’m sure I missed some things.)

One of the most fascinating things about being around Dick is he is filled with stories. What is unusual is his stories always involve Presidents or Prime Ministers or Secretaries of States or Kings!

He shared this one with me the last time we were together and it’s pretty powerful.

Dick related that when he worked for Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, General Powell shared these two pithy statements:

    1. “Don’t bring me a round stone when a sharp rock will do.”
    2. “The field is always right.”

The first one seems to ask not to over think a problem or situation. Just communicate it.

*This seems quite the contrary to Henry Kissinger when he was Secretary of State. He would make his staff re-do their white papers four or five times … always telling them to make it better. Then, after the fourth or fifth time, he would read it!

Powell’s #2 is particularly compelling to me at this moment.

We do a lot of work with large national organizations, large national healthcare systems, and many, many regional organizations with ‘field offices’.

Since we work every day, side by side, with the ‘field’ … we have a deep understanding of the challenges, motivation and morale of the ‘field’ (troops).

Powell’s background in the U.S. Army, and ultimately a 4-Star General, gave him the experience and background to make this statement: “The field is always right.”

So, unless you are actually in the field … stop making decisions from headquarters!

Katniss, our miniature Highland cow, out in "the field".

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

May 7, 2013 | Nick Fellers

Teleseminar How To Ask: The Language of the Ask, the Close and the Follow-up

Join me as I talk you through ‘How To Ask, How to Close and How to Follow up.’

Thursday, May 9
1:00pm – 2:00pm (EDT)
Register Here

"Would it be possible for you to consider taking the LEAD on this initiative?" [pointing to $1M]
"Where do you see yourself?"

This seminar covers over 20 PHRASES and QUESTIONS we share in our workshops and boot camps. It’s intended to provide very practical nuts-and-bolts examples to help you visualize HOW to ask:

  • New prospects
  • Board members
  • Long time supporters to step up

Stories and closes will include:

  • How to close like Steve Jobs
  • How to ask when you have no idea about capacity
  • How to ask AFTER the visit — dealing with ‘what I should’ve said was….
  • Three ways to ask your very best prospect to take the lead and how to follow-up when you can’t afford a ‘no’.
  • Questions to help you qualify on a discovery visit
  • How to make sure gifts close by a date / time
  • How to address the most common objections when they come up
  • How to predispose the prospect to a really really big ask

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | One Comment | Share

May 6, 2013 | Tom Suddes

It’s Not In The Budget!

Getting awfully tired of hearing this.

“We know we need to be doing Major Gifts. We should hire a Major Gift Officer. It’s not in this year’s budget. We’ll do it next year.”

“We love For Impact. We love this training. We know we need more coaching. However, it’s not in this year’s budget/we’ll put it in next year’s budget.”

Seriously? For Impact Leaders and rock star Development/Advancement Officers are not driven by “budgets“! We are letting the ‘bean counters‘ run our business!!!

*Remember John DeLorean’s comment when the bean counters and finance people told General Motors how much money they could save if they closed a plant. “Let’s close all our plants. That will save a lot of money.”

To be a great leader, true professional, a master salesperson … you must THINK LIKE AN ENTREPRENEUR!

I’ve never, ever, ever heard an entrepreneur say “It’s not in the budget”. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a true entrepreneur or someone with entrepreneurial spirit who even has a budget!

They respond to opportunities. They ‘pivot’ when required. They’re driven by the vision and the goals … not the budget!

Three quick tips (before I go all Tom Peters rant on you):

    1. REALLOCATE. If you’re forced in a ‘budget’ situation … look at the aggregate! Reallocate resources, people and projects based on goals and priorities! (E.g., Don’t fill ‘open’ positions. And use the money for other priorities.)
    2. FORGIVENESS NOT PERMISSION. Just go over budget! I know. Many of you have just fallen off your chair or dropped your smart phone. However, just think about this situation. You’ve expended your entire Development/Advancement/Fundraising travel budget. You have a $1M Qualified Prospect who is ready to commit. You just need to fly there and close the deal. But wait. You can’t! You don’t have any travel money left. (Again, seriously?)
    3. MAKE A BETTER CASE. If you’re in a cut, cut, cut world … with a focus on reducing expenses/the denominator … it’s up to you to make a much stronger case as to why: (a) you should not cut your budget or (b) you should actually spend more money! (Assuming you’ve done #1 REALLOCATE).
    Great companies/orgs focus on the revenue/numerator … and Development/Advancement can significantly Impact – Income! (Revenue)

Here’s one of my favorite stories on this subject. Put politics aside. It’s about Mitt Romney taking over the Salt Lake City Olympic games. They were hemorrhaging cash and the ‘old leadership’ had mandated a 30% cut across the board … every line item, every department, every program.

Romney, the entrepreneur/businessman, came in and said, simply, “We’re going to look at every project, every program, every line item … and adjust based on our priorities. Some people will get more money (the sales team/fundraisers!) … and some will get less. And some will be eliminated completely.” Salt Lake City Olympics turned everything around, and (I think) the first Winter Olympics to show a surplus (profit).

Again, (he said gently but confidently) “Great For Impact organizations (and particularly sales teams) are not driven by budgets. They are driven by productivity and results.”

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

April 25, 2013 | Tom Suddes

What Job Candidates Really Want: MEANINGFUL WORK

I’m trying to finish up a Guidebook ON TALENT. Clearly, one of the biggest issues in our industry and in the third sector is finding, hiring and training great people.

Here’s a terrific article titled What Job Candidates Really Want: MEANINGFUL WORK.

Some snippets:

  • Recruiting, staffing and hiring support services is a $16 Billion industry.
  • Survey finds that 60% of CEO’s could not believe they had the talent they needed to be successful.
  • The consequences of mediocre hiring go beyond lost opportunities. (Wrong people on the bus causes bus to stop or drive off cliff.)
  • Studies show that engaged employees are 50% more productive …

Bottom line from Nathaniel Koloc who works with Jason Fried at ReWork: The one thing that exceptional professionals want (that most companies still don’t explicitly offer them) is PURPOSE!

We have the opportunity in our For Impact world to provide both MEANING and PURPOSE way beyond any ‘for profit’ company or organization!!!

I encourage you to read the article but wanted you to see his four places where your company/organization can start:

    1. Get serious about impact! (I’m not kidding. Read the article. This is what he says!) “Determine the positive impact your organization is seeking to make in the world and do that justice!”
    2. Tell that story, and tell it well. (Wow. Either he’s channeling us or we’re channeling him.)
    3. Make talent your #1 priority, period. “Attracting, evaluating, hiring and retaining the best people is serious business.”
    4. Design your roles for their future, not just yours.

TALENT makes the world go around!

Email This Nugget Email This Nugget | Comments | Share

  Read Our Blog Become A Fan On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter

How to Ask