August 12, 2014 | Tom Suddes

Elite Teams: The Missing Element

Nick, Steve, Kerry and our team must hear this comment every day: “We love your stuff. We need your help (with our Board, with Training, with Coaching). BUT WE DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY IN THE BUDGET (for training).”

I hope the following thoughts on Elite Teams will help you re-think the whole idea of training, budgets, team dynamics, priorities and more.


  • What is the one common element inherent in every Elite Team?
  • What common thread creates Elite Teams in the military (Navy Seals, Delta Force), professional sports (LA Kings, Miami Heat, St. Louis Cardinals), professional musicians (symphony, orchestra), medical teams (surgical teams, trauma units), etc.?
  • What does every one of these elite teams … and the individuals involved with the team … DO better than everyone else in the world?


Think about it.

Military teams constantly practice, practice, practice in boot camp, training camps, simulations, etc.  Twenty years ago, the idea was to practice … in the hope that you’d never have to play. The U.S. has now been engaged in the real stuff for over 20 years … which makes the whole idea of practice here in the States even more important.

Professional sports teams probably spend 3X to 10X more of their time practicing than they do actually playing the game. Think spring training, training camps and exhibition seasons … training, practices and workouts during the season.

Same with professional musicians. Symphonies and orchestras spend tons of time in practice … as well as practicing individually on their respective instruments. (Same is true of all artists and actors in theaters, opera, movies, etc.)

In medicine, doctors and nurses spend a huge amount of time in practice, beginning with their medical schools and nursing schools through residency and internships, etc. Then, they practice and rehearse how to handle surgery or major trauma.

What is the ONE THING that we DO NOT DO in the not-for-profit/For Impact world? That’s right. PRACTICE.

We don’t take any time to get together as a team. We hate roleplaying. We ‘wing it’ every time we do go out and make visits (which is not very often).

Bottom Line: If you really want to have an Elite Team at your For Impact organization … you need to commit to PRACTICE! Call it training, continuing education, whatever.

I also firmly believe that this applies to your Blue Team (your IMPACT Team) as well as your Green Team (your INCOME Team)

I’ve been doing this kind of practice/training with teams for over 30 years. I absolutely guarantee you that the ROI is a ridiculous 10 to 100 times! I can actually give you cases where it’s been a 1,000 times ROI within 24 to 48 hours!! (No kidding. Multiple cases!)

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August 11, 2014 | Tom Suddes

The Art of Conversation

Conversation in the original Latin had a very broad meaning. It meant something like “living together, having dealings with others,” and it referred to more than just talking. We can learn a lot from connecting to this original bigger sense of the word.

This comes from Dawa Tarchin Phillips, president of Empowerment Holdings, a leadership consulting firm, and a research specialist at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara.

In the For Impact world, the idea of a visit … with a real conversation … is central to the actual Presentation of an Opportunity.

There is a lot of good stuff in the this article from the Magazine Mindful, August 2014.

To encourage you to click:

  • In contrast to a genuine conversation, talking can happen with little regard for whether someone is listening.
  • Words are precious.
  • Be present.  ‘Con’ means together with.
  • Think before your speak.
  • A real exchange happens when all sides enriched.  (One of the reasons that the word DISCOVERY is an integral part of our Presentation Framework.)

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August 8, 2014 | Tom Suddes

The Song I Came To Sing …


As you get ready for the weekend (one of the last of the summer for many of us because of school starting, etc.) I wanted to share one of my favorite thoughts from a Bengali Nobel Laureate. I’m hoping it might give you some inspiration/motivation to do that thing that you have been “WISHING”.

“The song I came to sing remains unsung to this day.

I have spent my days in stringing and unstringing my instrument.

The time has not come true.  The words have not been rightly set;

Only there is AGONY of WISHING in my heart.”

Rabindranath Tagore
Bengali Nobel Laureate

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August 7, 2014 | Tom Suddes

The Magic Bus



Almost every organization I know is struggling with ‘HIRING’ issues. Jim Collins’ eponymous ‘BUS’ metaphor is a great way to look at hiring the best possible TALENT. All of us have probably come across Collins’ quote, from his book GOOD TO GREAT:

“Get the RIGHT PEOPLE on the BUS.
Get the WRONG PEOPLE off the BUS.

Regardless of how many times you’ve heard this, it’s a very powerful way to begin thinking about your search for GREAT TALENT! It applies to both staff and your board.

‘NOW’ is the best time to sit down with all of your current people and have a BUS conversation!

  • Are they on the right bus?
  • Are they in the right seats?
  • Do they know what direction the bus is going? (Do they ‘get’ your vision?  Do they care?)

“GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE ON THE BUS.” You want only the very best talent on your bus. Only people with great ATTITUDES. People who are PASSIONATE about your organization. People who are AUTHENTIC, who are great communicators and relationship-builders. People with the right combination of heart, head and hands.

“GET THE WRONG PEOPLE OFF THE BUS.” As you’re looking for new talent, you need to get the wrong people off your bus or you will pollute the new hires that you have so painstakingly recruited! Some of your current people are just toxic. Others are just complacent or stagnant. Both of those will have an impact on your new ‘Best & Brightest’ or ‘Success to Significance’ talent.

“GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT SEATS.” Jim Collins is way smarter than me … and has incredible research to back up all of his thinking. “Right people in right seats” is a really powerful way of talking about identifying and focusing on strengths, defining the job, and matching the right person to the right role.

Now here’s the interesting conclusion … with the right people in the right seats (and the wrong people no longer on the bus) … the bus can move in any direction and still be very successful! You can change direction because you’ve got the TALENT to adjust accordingly.

As we constantly try to remind For Impact organizations and leaders, it’s not about perfect plans or perfect strategies or perfect direction. It’s all about ACTION. Soooooo ….. Right People. Right Seats. Then, (as they say on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) “MOVE THAT BUS!”

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August 5, 2014 | Tom Suddes

How To Get A Visit


Three things came together to generate the timing of this post.  Karla, one of my absolute favorite people at our largest client/partner, was trying to help her ‘RED TEAM’ get more visits for the ‘GREEN TEAM’. She shared the HOW TO GET A VISIT AUDIO and basically said, “Listen. Execute.”

Josh, a soccer teammate of my youngest son Taggart, reached out to me for some counsel as he moves from a practicing attorney to a job with much more of a sales focus. I suggested he go to and review as much as he could on Predisposition, the Presentation and Follow-Up. I also recommended HOW TO GET A VISIT (Guidebook).

And, I’ve been trying to get a doctor’s visit (appointment) and realized that these same principles apply.

Check out the For Impact Guidebook on HOW TO GET A VISIT (19 pages of some good stuff) and the audio that Karla referenced. Again, some pretty good stuff.  Included in the Guidebook are some great Phone Tips from a Pro from our own Nicole.

There’s also a fun story from my time at Notre Dame … and making 13 visits in 1 day. QUANTITY not QUALITY.

Jim Frick (R.I.P. 2014) 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. It was all about QUANTITY over QUALITY.

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August 1, 2014 | Kerry Suddes

Storytelling Boot Camp October 9, 2014

“Our destiny follows the story we tell ourselves.”- Jim Loehr, The Power of Story

Our Inaugural Storytelling Boot Camp is on the books for October 9, 2014.

Space is limited to 45 people, so register now!
More information and registration here.

Storytelling Boot Camp Overview

The Suddes Group has been transforming organizations for 30+ years. We measure success by $2B+ raised but the real foundation for transformation begins with a powerful story…

  • The story to lead, guide and shape the organization.
  • The story to recruit rockstar talent.
  • The story you use to maximize funding.
  • The story you tell yourself to be fully engaged and effective as a leader.

At Storytelling Boot Camp We Cover:

The For Impact Point of View, which includes:

  • Start with Why
  • Thinking Big
  • A Change in Vocabulary

Frameworks and tools to:

  • Set the attitude for the organization
  • Sharpen and simplify your message
  • Reframe obstacles and challenges
  • Clarify organizational priorities
  • Develop a compelling funding rationale
  • Recruit talent. Engage talent. Lead talent.
  • Engage community leaders and champions
  • To find daily purpose in your role and work as a leader
  • Effectively engage others through the art of story

Participants will receive:

  • One-on-one coaching from a For Impact coach
  • Engagement Tool and Storytelling samples

Who should attend:

Anyone in a leadership (or sales position) that can guide the story of the organization (board, executive leadership, advancement).

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July 17, 2014 | Tom Suddes

For Impact Funding Roadmap …


I wanted to share this ROADMAP with the Tribe.

Special Note:  When I talk about the For Impact ‘TRIBE’, I am using definition #8 from the dictionary:  a classic set of persons, especially one with strong common traits or interests.

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.

I believe the power of this Roadmap comes from the framing device of:


Blue, Red and Green

Here’s the Roadmap and the 1, 2, 3 under Blue, Red and Green.

fi_funding_roadmap_041613 copy(Here’s the pdf for you to print.)

  • These contain action words (verbs).
  • There is some sense of flow.
  • Blue is all about story, message, rationale and presentation design.
  • Red is about people and team and talent and prospects.
  • Green is about funding the Blue vision/purpose.

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

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July 16, 2014 | Tom Suddes



I saw this quote from Pablo Picasso in something I was reading lately.


Reinforces the Entrepreneurial Mantra: THINK BIG.  BUILD SIMPLE.  ACT NOW.

Here are some more quotes to help you ACT NOW.

“My dreams are worthless.
My goals are impossible.
All are of no value unless
followed by ACTION.
I will ACT NOW.”
- Og Mandino (My Favorite Author)

“We can’t cross the sea by merely staring into the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali Nobel Laureate)

“VISION without ACTION is hallucination.”
– Thomas Edison (Genius)

Here is an 8 1/2 x 11 Poster/PDF of ACT NOW QUOTES to print and post or share.

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July 15, 2014 | Tom Suddes

Simple Suggestions for Loving Your Life

You can read an article on Happiness’ every day online, on Flipboard, in magazines, etc.

Here’s a great one I just read in my new SUCCESS MAGAZINE, August 2014 called THE SCIENCE OF BEING HAPPY by Patty Onderko.

The Science of Being Happy
She begins by mentioning Martin Seligman, the author of AUTHENTIC HAPPINESS, LEARNED OPTIMISM, as the leader of this kind of “Positive Psychology Movement”.

Here’s the essence of the article … ” … the most powerful message to arise from the new science of happiness is the idea that we can significantly change our work and life satisfaction no matter who we are, what we do, where we live or how much money we make.”

And then this, We can all be glass-full people if we want.”

She shares 7 practical ways to “increase one’s subjective well being”  (aka, happiness).

  • Use stress as a challenge not a threat.  Some good stuff here.  Basically, that new research shows stress can actually help us thrive as long as we’re not afraid of it.  “Some Stanford researchers actually showed how stress can enhance the development of mental toughness, heightened awareness, new perspectives, a sense of mastery, strengthened priorities, deeper relationships, greater appreciation for life and an increased sense of meaningfulness..”  (This last fits really well into the essence of BE FOR IMPACT … around purpose, meaning and more.)
  • Think young.  When taken out of context, there’s a lot of lines in here that feel like time-worn cliches or pablum.  But all of this is backed up by real research at real institutions.  For example, researchers from Harvard and MIT basically believe that you really are as young, and young-looking, as  you think you are!
  • Cultivate a positivity bias.  This reinforces the natural human psychological phenomenon of ‘negativity bias’.  (One hundred people give you a 5/outstanding at a keynote presentation, one person gives you a 1/no value … and all you can focus on is that negative person’s feedback.)  One of my favorite lines: “The mind-body connection is so strong that not only can we influence our health through our outlook – but we can re-wire our brains to respond and think in more productive ways.”
  • Find meaning.  If you don’t read anything else in the article, read this short piece finding meaning.  Having a deep sense of purpose … ability to find meaning from life experiences, putting others first … and your social IMPACT on the world all contribute to your feeling of happiness and success.

Note:  Her last thought is to sing.  I was doing really well with the article until I saw this.  However, she does say that it’s okay to sing in the shower or in the car.  In my case, as long as nobody can hear you.


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July 15, 2014 | Tom Suddes as Your Resource


To the Tribe,

Sorry about going ‘dark’ for the last few weeks. I’ve been spending a lot of time with family, working around Eagle Creek (building mobile chicken coop, etc.) and re-thinking priorities and focus.

Mobile Chicken Coop

We are committed to make the best possible RESOURCE we can … and I know we need to do a better job of organizing the content so it is easier for each of you to get what you want … when you want it.

We are working on a site re-design that will use the following framework for our information architecture:


My goal is to take our best thoughts and nuggets from these last 12/40 years and put them up in a way that can help you if you are working on your BLUE (your organization, your story, your message, etc.), on your RED (your team, your board, talent issues, prospects, etc.) and your GREEN (sales, funding, presentations and more).

Additionally we know that we can impact your GOLD as well … your own personal development, life issues, thoughts on happiness, success, celebrating your birth date and more.

We’re shooting for our prototype on September 1st and opening up the entire site to the world November 1st.

*Following is the first labeled GOLD nugget.

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