Tom would without a doubt tell me that the friend and mentor portion of my blog post title were more important than being considered a philanthropy or fundraising icon. That is part of what made Tom who he is.
A true friend and mentor to many, Tom Suddes passed away less than a month ago after battling ALS for two years. His team put together a lovely tribute to him that you can read here.
I have many favorite memories of Tom and his For Impact fundraising strategies. Thanks for allowing me to share just a few.
“You’re in Sales. Get over IT!”
Tom shared and taught this tag line to every single fundraiser he had the privilege to meet. Whether you attended one of his amazing training sessions or just met him at a conference, it did not take long for this tag line phrase to spill out.
To Tom, he knew the very best relationship builders in the world were the top professional salespeople in every form of commercial business. So it was only natural for this relationship-building prowess to be a model for professional fundraisers.
Many of those fundraisers who came to Tom hesitant to reach out and connect were quickly convinced they had to adopt such a mindset in order to fund worthwhile missions in an extraordinary manner. Most all of them listened, changed and did just that!
Perhaps some of you recognize Tom’s controlling insight. It was literally his back-of-the-napkin illustration that was the foundation of much of his training.
I have shared this insight with thousands of other fundraisers and those thinking about fundraising over the years since I first met Tom. Not only did it make total sense that your organization’s IMPACT on the world would provide the excitement and incentive to donors to fund more impact, but Tom’s enthusiasm was just so infectious about it had to be shared!
I wonder how many organizations were fully funded and even allowed to reach out in even more impactful ways due to this one insight? My bet is the number is far more than we could ever count…
Zest For Life
You often hear this phrase kicked around about a few people here and there. I personally try to live in this style myself, however I knew I had met the Zen Master the first time Tom and I spent part of a day together.
He literally LOVED and truly adored every parcel of each waking moment! He was at his best when helping others learn about what came so naturally for him, namely building relationships, communicating mission impact and of course asking for a gift.
Not far behind was his love of nature, physical fitness, boxing, climbing and of course making the world a better place.
We first met in my hometown of Indianapolis. When he found out I had been helping nonprofits with technology for nearly two decades at that point, we became instant friends. After he absorbed our company culture during that first visit, he insisted I come see his culture at his beloved home, training center and headquarters named Eagle Creek.
Here are a few photos:
The photos do not do justice to the place he loved so much and called home. From the beautiful training center to the high ropes course to the barn/office building where his writing took place, it was all very special.
Tom’s eyes seem to light up the most when he talked about what he did for six weeks every winter. He literally journeyed back to Notre Dame to help every student who wanted to participate train for the event he won twice during his time there.
For a solid month and a half he immersed himself into the culture of boxing and personal growth/achievement. He loved everything it stood for and so many student boxers will always remember him for the spirit and confidence he gave them. Best of all, the proceeds all went to charity and it grows every year.
Here is a video to close with which shares a portion of Tom’s passion:
Thanks for allowing me to share my memories of one of the greatest fundraising professionals in the nonprofit world.
Do you have any memories of Tom? Please share them in the comments below!