November 8, 2010 | Tom Suddes

Untemeher*: The Entrepreneurial Spirit

This week’s thinking (and writing) is focused on ‘ENTREPRENEURSHIP’.

Whether you’re a ‘Social’ Entrepreneur, a ‘Business’ Entrepreneur, Intrapreneurial or Entrepreneurial ‘wannabe’… ‘ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT’ can help you attain almost unimaginable goals.

Very few people in the 3rd Sector think like Entrepreneurs. However, if you look at the definition of Entrepreneurial and Social Entrepreneurs in the these quotes, you will see the instant application of this attitude.

    Performance Changers!
    Transformative Forces!
    Creative Destructors!
    Value Creators!
    Opportunity Exploiters!
    Rule Breakers!
    Risk Takers!
    Love What They Do!
    Live What They Love!

*Untemeher is German for ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT!

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November 5, 2010 | Tom Suddes

A $5 Million Collaborative Partner

Here’s a great story from the field that just happened. I have changed the names and the organization and even the sector to protect the ‘innocent’ (or ‘guilty’).

A FOR IMPACT ORGANIZATION (FIO) with an amazing story had a very close working relationship with a FOR PROFIT ORGANIZATION (FPO). The FPO actually provided services for the FIO to the tune of $4 to $5 Million a year.

In the initial strategy session, we strongly recommended that this FPO be looked upon as a Top 3 Prospect. Based on previous history, no gift record, existing business relationship… there was a pretty strong ‘pushback’ from the FIO.

Finally, everyone was convinced that this was at least “worth a shot”. My recommendation was to ask for $1 Million a year for five years. (Remember: Current giving history is zero!)

As Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”

FIO CEO meets with FPO CEO and basically says, “Thank you for all you do for us. We are scaling and growing our impact. We would like you to be a Lead Partner in that growth.”

FPO CEO response: “I don’t think we can actually ‘give‘ you any money. However, we can certainly reduce the cost of the services that we provide.”

WOW! SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY! This will turn into a $1 Million a year reduction in the current cost of operations for the FIO! Talk about ‘budget relief‘ on steroids!

Whether the $1 Million/$5 Million is an outright gift… or a reduction of expenses… it still has the same amazing transformational result for the FIO.

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November 4, 2010 | Tom Suddes

The Broader Meaning of Income

“The mind, once expanded to dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

The implications and application of IMPACT DRIVES INCOME had become pretty far-reaching. Here’s another great example.

Once you expand your thinking beyond ‘FUNDRAISING’, it opens up huge opportunities to generate significantly more INCOME.


We have helped large numbers of For Impact Organizations get super creative about ‘HOW’ they fund their People, Programs and Places. Nowhere has this been more evident than in our work with FIO’s ‘real estate’ goals. Mortgages, land contracts, long-term leases with gift-backs and more.

So many For Impact Organizations can really ramp up their Revenue Streams by taking a very creative and hard look at their ‘Services and Products’ (Programs).

In the very near future, there may even be a Social Capital Market to help FIO’s increase their Income and their Impact!

Note: ‘Social Enterprise’ is a terribly confusing space right now. Four or five years ago, it was about putting a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream franchise on the first floor of your not-for-profit and try to make some money. (That didn’t work.)

The real message here is looking at this like any successful ‘business':

    • How do we make money?
    • How do we increase sales and revenue?
    • How do we creatively finance our expansion and ability to scale and grow?

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November 3, 2010 | Tom Suddes

Social Entrepreneur’s Master Checklist

I am on my way to New York to speak at StartingBloc Summit of Social Entrepreneurs. In putting together the presentation, I’m sharing for the first time our For Impact Social Entrepreneur’s FUNDING ROADMAP and our Social Entrepreneur’s MASTER CHECKLIST.

I believe both of these have value to everyone in our For Impact ‘TRIBE’ (as Seth Godin would call you).

Enjoy… and give me some feedback!


***For more, contact us at

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November 3, 2010 | Nick Fellers

Make this mantra your response to: How can I help?

I wanted to explore the word ‘mantra’. Google pushed me to wikipedia. Wikipedia defines mantra as: a group of words that are considered capable of “creating transformation”.

I’m going to give wikipedia the thumbs up on this one, that’s a pretty powerful definition. A mantra is also something you REPEAT. It becomes ingrained. It rolls off your tongue. Perhaps it’s the embodiment of the phrase which leads to transformation…. I digress.

I’ve been encouraging people to think about ‘Champion/Invite/Invest‘ as a mantra… a phrase in their back pocket they can pull out when someone asks, “How can I help?” This mantra would be instead of 1) having no answer or 2) just blurting out some other mode of engagement hoping an even stronger indication of interest will appear in the future. Problem is, the prospect is asking the question NOW.

You can simply say, “Whenever I’m asked that question I tell people there are three things they can do that will have a huge impact: Champion. Invite and Invest.”

  1. Champion! Be a champion for [insert cause or org]. We need voices. I would love to be able to leverage your name and call upon you when needed for endorsement.

  2. Invite! Someone connected you to us. You were gracious with your time because of someone else’s insistence. This is how we’re going to make this plan a reality is by asking people like you to help us share the story with others. I would love to be able to talk to you about what that might look like. It’s pretty simple.

  3. Invest! Everyday we change lives. We people ask about how to help I’m not shy about letting them know they can make a financial investment that will change lives… tomorrow. This means something different to each person. [We ask everyone to consider an investment that is commensurate to his or her own financial situation and passion for the mission.] Is that something we could talk about?

Champion/Invite/Invest provides a simple and quick answer. It invites the relationship to move forward in the appropriate way. Often someone is saying, “I’m ready to write a check.” If you’re not sure, just talking about the investment and getting permission really helps with confidence and therefor accelerates the dialogue. At worst it gives you a roadmap for the relationship.

If you keep this mantra in your back pocket I’m pretty confident in its ability to ‘create transformation’.

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November 1, 2010 | Tom Suddes

Do What You Can

“Do what you can… with what you have… where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

I saw this at the bottom of an email from one of our For Impact evangelists. I love Teddy’s simplicity and directness.

Sure cuts through a lot of whining and complaining.

It also reminded me of something else that Teddy Roosevelt wrote in 1913 called MAN IN THE ARENA. For the last 20 years, I’ve shared a copy of this with every Notre Dame boxer at the end of the season.

Thought you would enjoy reading it… especially for all of you who are actually “in the arena“.

Note: 1913. Pre-Equality. I’ve added the (WO). There are certainly as many WO-MEN in the arena as MEN.

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October 31, 2010 | Nick Fellers

Just ASK!


‘Just Ask’ the ACTION part of the For Impact message.

  • Through The Suddes Group, we’ve raised a lot of money.  A big reason for this was because WE ASKED.

    So many times I’ve been on a visit with an executive director.  We asked… the prospect (after some dialogue) said yes and the executive director then later said to me,

    “We did everything you did.
    Except we usually just don’t ask!”

  • Through For Impact we’ve trained thousands. We keep track of everyone that leaves a boot camp or that we’ve worked with in some coaching/training capacity. There are those that go on to raise a lot of money and there are those that don’t do much…

    As near as I can tell there is ONE salient difference between those that go on to raise a lot and those that sit of their duff…. They GET this napkin message.

Those that have been to our home at Eagle Creek have probably seen the ‘war room’.  This is the place were Tom, Kerry and I beat each other up about what words to use in our frameworks.

We have a big fight [usually a good fight] about each piece of content that goes into our system.  No big words hang out there by accident.

With that in mind I want to point out what this napkin does NOT say.  It doesn’t say,

  • Just ask when timing is perfect.
  • Just ask when you know exactly what to ask for.
  • Just ask after you’ve visiting with the prospect nine times.
  • Just ask when you’re entire board is on board.
  • Just ask when those butterflies in your stomach are finally gone.
  • Just ask when you have the perfect message.
  • Just ask when you have the perfect materials.

It says, “Just Ask!”

  • Timing will never be perfect.
  • The only what you’ll know what to ask for is by asking (and getting a response).
  • You are in the business of saving, changing and impacting lives It’s not about nine visits.  People cultivate because they can’t communicate!
  • Re: the board… just move… take action.
  • I  still feel like I want to puke before a big ask….
  • The only way to truly test a message is to ASK.
  • Re: Materials, see my above point about message.

Just ASK is all about action.

It’s permission to move.  Nothing happens until you ask!

Until you ask, (one-on-one), the message is not personal.
Until you ask, people don’t know how they can help.Until you ask, the prospect doesn’t guide you through what else is needed (from the message, from the org or plan) to make a commitment.
Until you ask, prospects can’t say YES!

Just Ask!
Always Ask.

This is 90% of everything you need to know about raising money.

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October 29, 2010 | Nick Fellers

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.
Read more

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October 27, 2010 | Tom Suddes

Sustainability vs. Resilience

In our travels and training, we hear a lot of ‘not-for-profit’ people talking about SUSTAINABILITY.

I’ve always struggled with the response to this. The way it was used (and asked for), it really meant, “I wish we had all the money we needed/a huge endowment… so that we wouldn’t have to worry about fundraising.”

I actually found the answer in this month’s ODE magazine. BTW, ODE is for intelligent optimists. I’m definitely an optimist. Just not intelligent.

Editor-In-Chief Jurriaan Kamp provides a huge WOW in his Letter from the Editor. “RESILIENCE is cropping up with increasing frequency as the next step in thinking about SUSTAINABILITY.”

“RESILIENCE is a dynamic concept focused on incorporating inevitable CHANGE. RESILIENCE is about how systems respond and how we can support such responses.”

Kamp goes on to say that “RESILIENCE is very different from SUSTAINABILITY. Sustainable, after all, means ‘capable of being maintained'(!). SUSTAINABILITY features static control. RESILIENCE is about DYNAMIC RESPONSE.”

That’s really GOOD STUFF.

He adds one more thought: “Resilience systems have a capacity to handle disruptions (change) and reorganize themselves while preserving their function, structure and identity.”

Next time somebody starts throwing around the ‘SUSTAINABIITY’ objective… try talking about RESILIENCE.

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October 26, 2010 | Nick Fellers

Do the math to simplify your funding story.

To me ‘doing the math’ means owning and internalizing an understanding of your numbers. It also means taking the time to simplify the numbers in a way that others (board, prospects, staff) can understand. Numbers tell stories.

DO THE MATH to determine:

  • Your gap. Sell your gap.

    Private schools have a simple gap between the tuition and the cost per student. Schools should ask funders to fund that gap. Example: $1016 per child. Sponsor one child for one year.

    We also do work with a lot of performing arts centers. For round numbers, let’s say box office support makes up 50% of the annual budget. This is a 50% gap. You can package any program and ask someone to fund the gap in that program 50%.

  • The true cost of programs.

    This is a big one. Organizations frequently under-estimate the true cost to deliver a program. Worse, many don’t know, they just pick a number out of the air. The cost to deliver the program (impact) is essential to your funding rationale. Knowing the real numbers boosts confidence in the ask and helps the funder buy into a funding rationale. You can ask someone to underwrite part or all of the program.

  • A funding rationale around impact.

    Along with the previous point, you can do the math to tie programming monies to impact. Clean and simple example to illustrate the concept: Let’s say you have a program that impacts 4th-6th graders at (80 classrooms @ 20 students per class) at 40 schools. You can do the math to create a simple funding rationale:

    • $80,000 to underwrite the program for one year
    • $2,000 per school
    • $1,000 per class
    • $50 per child

    Funders will appreciate your creative packaging to communicate the impact value so long as you’re simplifying (not changing) the math to tell your story.

  • A funding plan (this assumes you have a funding goal).

    I’m still amazed every time I walk into an organization and no one can agree on a funding goal. Without a goal how can you do the math to get to the goal?

    When you’re selling a vision you can also sell ‘the plan’. If it helps, think of a ‘mega-project’ that will require the participation and support of 32 funders. To get one funder on board you will need intelligent and believable math illustrating the funding plan for all 32 funders.

In practice:

For some organizations the math will be clean (like the examples above). Other times it takes a lot of work to make it simple. In writing this piece I quickly reviewed the math for 80 past clients – organizations of every shade and shape – sometimes the math took minutes and sometimes days. However, in EVERY case we were able to get some simple math around a gap, a program, the impact or a plan. It can be done.

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