September 30, 2010 | Nick Fellers

Pending into oblivion…

Once you’ve made an ask (numbers on the table), the prospect status can be either pending or committed/declined. Pending implies that we’re working toward a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The challenge is that so many requests never get to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’… they fade into pending oblivion.

Pending into oblivion sounds like this [my commentary in brackets]:

  • “Well we didn’t want to harass the prospect after we asked.”
    [so we didn’t follow-up to see if it was a yes/no and so it went nowhere]

  • “The family says it’s still thinking.”
    [16 months is a long time to be thinking, do you think something’s going to change about that next month?]

  • “If we forced them to a decision, I’m worried they would say no.”
    [but we don’t know that for sure, so instead we let the relationship function in this grey area — moreover, without dialogue we can’t actually deal with objections]

There comes a time when we need to force a decision. When it’s been 16 months… when you’ve made four visits… you’ll know it when you come to it.

You can simply say, “Prospect, we’ve had some great discussions about this project and it’s time to come to some sort of decision about a commitment. We [as an organization] are moving forward and we just need to know where we stand. We need A commitment [TODAY].”

If we can’t ultimately report each request as a pending or a commit, it’s likely we didn’t really ask in the first place or we’re not doing our jobs.

There is a greater danger than getting a ‘no’. It’s not having dialogue, not having any real sense of what’s working in your system, and leaving relationships in a grey – stagnant area.

Tom is helping a college wrap-up a huge campaign. The five-person development team has about 70 sizeable gifts pending. Tom rallied the troops in August and said, “We’re in a phase in which there is no more pending.” For the last six weeks the team has been out having commitment conversations with each family, prospect and foundation. This has generated $14M in commitments over the last two weeks.

See also: How to ask funders to follow a deadline

  • The ask as a continued dialogued
  • Get numbers on the table early.

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  • September 27, 2010 | Tom Suddes

    Selling Is Not Telling… Unless It’s A Story

    It’s not about a PITCH (on an elevator)! It’s not a spiel. It’s not memorized.

    We ASK QUESTIONS. We LISTEN TO THE RESPONSE. We then RESPOND WITH A STORY or STORYLINE!

    *We used to call this IMPACT POINTS and TALKING POINTS. It was the idea of “reaching into your quiver of arrows” and selecting the right response.

    Call it whatever. Just ASK. LISTEN. RESPOND.


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    September 24, 2010 | Nick Fellers

    Altitude Awareness: Stay at 30,000′

    We use an Altitude Framework to order thinking, communications and storylines.

    30,000′ The WHY VISION
    14,000′ The WHAT STRATEGY
    3′ The HOW EXECUTION

    In sharing this with others one goal is simply to make everyone aware of 30,000′ and what it means to “share the message and story at 30,000′”.

    People respond to you at whatever level you communicate. So, if you’re at 3′, talking about where the architects are placing bathrooms, this will frame the conversation. Instead, if you’re at 30,000′, talking about changing and saving lives… the conversations will be different.

    One example: Last year I worked with a well-respected social entrepreneur and Ashoka fellow. A driven individual and true visionary, he gets up every morning trying to change the face of poverty. Whenever he went to make an ask, however, the conversation always turned into a debate about the business model (at 14,000′). The Altitude Framework helped him to see why this was happening.

    Being an award-winning social entrepreneur, his message had taken shape around ‘doing business in a different way’… about ‘earned income’… about ‘not relying on philanthropy’… about being ‘best in the world at being sustainable’. Naturally, prospects were engaging him at this level (14,000′). The 30,000′ WHY wasn’t coming through in his message. His story needed to be about being best in the world at changing the face of poverty (30,000′) — first — and then incorporating a different business model (at 14,000′).

    The Altitude Framework was a simple tool that made him aware of his 30,000′ message. I’m happy to report his funding conversations changed considerably based on this conscious framing exercise.


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    September 23, 2010 | Nick Fellers

    Imagining a day in which “Not-for-profits” don’t exist

    Tom’s been pushing for a ‘change’ in the sector and a change in the vocabulary for 15+ years. In the past five years we’ve seen the dialogue about a new language explode. And, recently I’ve been able to imagine a day in which ‘not-for-profits’ don’t exist because a different identity shapes those devoted to changing the world.

    We give a big portion of our time and resources to helping young leaders change the world. Tom’s been the boxing coach at Notre Dame for 35+ years and I built and sold my first company (at Notre Dame) before I was 22. We’re sold out for young people.

    Thinking back over the past two years we’ve had young social entrepreneurs to our boot camps, mentored at the Unreasonable Institute and worked closely with another 26 young leaders at Eagle Creek or on-the-road. Not one of them would describe what he or she is doing as a ‘not-for-profit’. When you listen to them describe their ambitions the message is about

    • Social Innovation
    • Social Enterprise
    • Movements / Networks
    • Change-Focused Organization
    • For Impact (after they’ve been with us)

    The really interesting thing is that I think greater than 80% have been incorporated as 501c3 organizations.

    This is not an observation about vocabulary. It’s an observation about identity and being. Read more


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    September 22, 2010 | Tom Suddes

    Think Visual: Imagineering

    I spent last Friday at Disney World with an amazing group of Junior Achievement CHAMPIONS (aka Board Members and Staff). It was a six-hour ‘RETREAT’ and my role was to facilitate/coach to help Junior Achievement Board Members become more ENGAGED and more PASSIONATE ADVOCATES for Youth Development, Economic Development and Workforce Development.

    We (60 Board and Staff Members from Junior Achievement of Central Florida and West Coast) spent the day talking about IMPACT and INCOME and their ROLE.

    I was totally energized by the commitment of these CHAMPIONS… and of their serious desire to figure out how to help.

    As part of my ‘PREP’, I re-read one of my favorite ‘books’ called IMAGINEERING by the Disney Imagineers. It’s full of all kinds of the SKETCHES (VISUALS) that were eventually turned into reality.

    Following are some tweet-like quotes from Imagineering that reinforce the entire idea of STORIES and VISUALS.

    “You know bankers don’t have any imagination, none at all. You have to SHOW them what you’re going to do.” Walt Disney

    I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible because dreams offer too little collateral.” Walt Disney

    “Question: How many Imagineers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?”

    “For Disneyland, the process of ‘learning and succeeding by dreaming and doing’ was employed for the very first time.”

    “The only rule during this time (of brainstorming Disneyland): There are no rules.”

    “The Walt Disney Company is in the business of TELLING STORIES.”

    “There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrate to some stroke of the IMAGINATION.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Storyboards are used a PRESENTATION TOOL… to SELL THE IDEA!”


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    September 22, 2010 | Nick Fellers

    Elevator Pitch vs. Elevator Engagement

    “What’s your elevator pitch?”

    You have 60 seconds with someone on an elevator. How do you pitch your company, product or organization? What do you say in that short time? Presumably the goal is to get the other person to say, “Hey, this sounds interesting. Let’s keep talking.”

    If that’s the goal, and if you only have a short time frame, let’s change the question to: “What’s the best way to engage in a short time frame?”

    Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds… even if succinct… think about one great question you can ask of the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.

    I would ask one question then tell a quick story (10 seconds) based on the answer to that question. You engage more in a short time frame by asking questions.

    The elevator pitch may be one of the most powerful framing devices ever. I’m not throwing out the concept… I just want to draw your attention to the difference between a one-way communication and a two-way communication. Focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Think about the difference between SAYING and ENGAGING.

    When you’re with a prospect on a visit, by phone, leading a tour or on an elevator are you SAYING or ENGAGING?


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    September 21, 2010 | Tom Suddes

    On Board: The Board Challenge

    ON BOARDS is a For Impact Guide to greater Board productivity and impact. I’ve done four or five Board Trainings/Facilitations/Coaching in the last few months… with some amazing, dedicated and committed Board Members/Champions.

    Here is one of the things that you can find in ON BOARD.

    THE BOARD CHALLENGE:

    If you are ‘uncomfortable’ sharing this (On Board) with your current Board Members… that would seem to signify a BIG problem.

    If you are sharing this with your Board, we would like to encourage those individual Champions and Board Members to do these 3 things:

      1. Bring Your Leadership Skills! Bring your entrepreneurial, sales, business and community skills and talents to the proverbial table! If something doesn’t make sense, don’t ‘cop out’ by saying, “This is a ‘Not-for-Profit’. It must be okay.”
      “Leaders Lead.” My friend Bob Werner’s words. My emphasis. (Bob is a big-time Mensch and Jewish philanthropic superstar.) SUCCESS for any For Impact Organization is a direct result of LEADERS LEADING!
      Passion and commitment from LEADERSHIP will overcome all obstacles.
      2. Ask A Lot Of Questions! As long as you are a CHAMPION and truly believe in the CAUSE and the CASE, your questions are important and valuable….. and should be dealt with/answered.
      3. Challenge the Staff’s Thinking! The staff is committed, competent and also Champions for the cause. However, they are usually singularly focused on the Mission/Solution and delivering the Impact. They rarely have a business background. Few have any true entrepreneurial experience. And none have ever been trained in sales. Staff should be looking to you (Board Members) for some out-of-the-box thinking and some great ideas around funding, revenue streams, sales and more. Give it to them.

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    September 20, 2010 | Tom Suddes

    Think Visual: The Crayon

    “THINK VISUAL: One of the best ways to solve complicated problems might be to DRAW them.” Clive Thompson, Wired Magazine, Oct. 2010

    Clive Thompson writes a really succinct, powerful ‘essay’ in this month’s Wired Magazine. He talks about using his son’s Crayolas, doodling, icons, the Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam, and much more.

    Having just spent Friday at Disney and doing the whole ‘IMAGINEERING’ thing… this article just reinforced my own thinking, teaching and training on the importance of VISUALS!

    *My ‘weapon of choice’ is a MARKER, not a crayon. If you’ve ever been to one of our For Impact Experiences, Trainings, Boot Camps, Talks or Presentations… you know that we use the MARKER – not a PowerPoint/Slide Presentation. People love it.

    *Thompson reinforces the idea that heavy use of computers and PowerPoints and even ‘WORDS’ don’t get it done.

    He quotes David Sibbet, a visualization expert:

    “If you want everyone to have the same mental model of a problem, the fast way to do it is with a PICTURE.”!!

    In my own words, “YEE HAW!”

    Read this article.


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    September 15, 2010 | Tom Suddes

    Add Your BOARD STORY

    I just finished our new GUIDE… ON BOARDS.

    Here’s a sample of one of the ideas, thoughts and nuggets.

    OLD STORY

    What is the current ‘STORY’ you’re telling yourself about your Board?

      • They want to micro-manage everything.
      • They won’t give us names.
      • They won’t ask their friends for money.
      • We can’t get new and better Board Members.
      • We are stuck with ‘Legacy’ Board Members.
      • We all dread Board Meetings.

    This ‘story’ is familiar, but doesn’t have to be true moving forward.

    NEW STORY

    WHAT IF… you change that ‘STORY’ to one that sounded like this:

      • Our Board is engaged with us at 30,000′ around our Vision.
      • Our individual Board Members help us at 14,000′ around our Strategy.
      • Our Board truly understands their role when it comes to funding… and they love it.
      • Successful community leaders who believe in our Cause and our Case are fighting to get on our Board.
      • We have had great conversations with our entire Board about the ‘BUS’…where it’s going and who needs to be on it. Those who are not in alignment with our direction have gracefully and gratefully accepted either Emeritus status or rotated off the Board.
      • Our Board Meetings are now Memorable Experiences… exciting opportunities to both see and talk about our Impact! We can’t wait for the next one.

    You each control the Board ‘Story’. It can be a negative story or a positive story. Either way, It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    *See more on Power of Story at ForImpact.org.

    SPECIAL NOTE: We’ll be doing a teleseminar next week ON BOARDS. More to follow.


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    September 8, 2010 | Tom Suddes

    You need funds “For What?”

    Nick and I were brainstorming yesterday about a coaching client. Talked about trying to get them to stop begging for money… and start answering the question:

    “FOR WHAT?”

    Neither of us can figure out why this ends up being so powerful, but it just is.

    In the start-up/entrepreneurial world, we call this USE OF FUNDS. It answers the question: “Where does the money go?”

    It’s tied directly to packaging your Priorities and Projects and Programs (obviously around your IMPACT) vs. ASKING FOR MONEY!

    Stop begging for money. Start talking about the WHAT and the USE OF FUNDS!


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