Jim Lord

A special invitation to those who invest themselves in society through philanthropy and voluntary leadership.

These times call for people like you to set an example and make their voices heard — loud and clear, above the noise of negativity and pessimism.

Each of us, in our own distinctive way, can take a stand for what matters most, and for a future bright with promise.

We can take a stand for ideas larger than ourselves, for people we'll never meet and generations yet to come.

Has there ever been a better time to make a difference with your life?

Let me tell you a story from what might seem like the distant past …

Shelby, Ohio, 1976. Population 10,000.

The board was ready to throw in the towel. For an entire year, they’d been planning and organizing to raise $800,000 (which seems today a paltry sum) to build the first phase of a YMCA community center.

The first dollar was yet to be raised and they’d begun to despair. For weeks on end, they’d been having the same conversation, reinforcing over and over their belief that they didn’t have it in them to succeed.

“This town is too small.”

“It’s too much money.”

“Nobody cares.”

Board member Bob Lederer, then 29 and president of a local packaging company, saw more in the town and its people. He grew impatient with the board’s downward spiral.

One evening at a meeting in a church basement, he stood up and said he’d heard enough.

“Tell those who would doubt that we can do it, Yes, we can!”

Bob later backed up his words with a significant financial commitment by his company, a tangible expression of his faith in this enterprise and in the town’s future.

Bob’s example changed what people believed was possible. Everyone stepped up to contribute — business owners, factory workers, the waitress in Sid’s Coffee Shop .

Soon the town was buzzing with excitement. A banner reading “Yes, we can!” flew over Main Street.

Within a year, the campaign had met its goal. The banner over Main Street changed to “Yes, we are!” The town celebrated with a parade. And the board decided to keep going to raise the long-range goal, which had earlier seemed like an impossible dream: a total of $1.4 million.

At the banquet held to celebrate the conclusion of the campaign, I was invited to toast the town’s achievement.

So grateful was I to have been a part of the town’s accomplishment that I could barely get out the words: “You’ve done it. You said you wanted to build what you wanted, how you wanted it, where you wanted it. And the success is all the sweeter, thanks to the early doubts.”

Even today, I’m moved to remember how that small town did something they were sure was impossible. For me, it meant something far beyond doing my job, far beyond the raising of money, far beyond the building of the community center.

I had seen people coming to know their personal and collective ability to shape the world as they wanted it to be.

And I had seen the profound leadership-by-example that can be contained in a single courageous statement, a single defining investment.

That’s why I still tell this story, as small (even quaint) as it may seem so many years later. 

The spirit of contribution I saw in that small town … the kind of bold leadership that opens up positive possibilities … is more important today than ever before.

And yet it can feel daunting to step into that kind of leadership, to be the one who encourages others to reach higher, to dream more boldly, and to achieve what may seem impossible.

Today’s fashionable cynicism can get in the way. The conversations that surround us don’t make it easy to stand up for hope, optimism, and the possibility of a better future.

And then there’s the complexity that pervades every aspect of our lives today.

The enterprise of philanthropy has grown beyond anything we imagined back when I worked in that little town. Campaigns routinely raise billions of dollars. Organizations have become professionalized and data-driven. Complex, global issues are being advanced.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, what the right path is for you … so you can make the difference you want to make.

On top of all that, walls have grown up between professionals and “donors.” Too often these relationships are stilted and artificial. People talk at each other across the table — instead of working shoulder-to-shoulder in trusting relationships, true partners looking toward the horizon.

Well, I could go on, but the point is: Too much potential is wasted, too much good left undone.

That’s where The Philanthropic Quest comes in.

We always felt we were on a heroic journey and it was confirmed to us by an introduction to Jim Lord’s Philanthropic Quest. Jim’s talent lies in helping individuals and organizations discover their strengths and articulate their highest aspirations for themselves and for society at large. This process energizes and inspires the commitment of volunteers and donors. What a gift for us all.

Debbie McDougall

Co-founder, Southridge School, British Columbia, Canada

An experience unlike any other

After every program, participants tell me “this is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.” (Sometimes they even say “I’m not sure how to put this into words.”)

And indeed, The Philanthropic Quest is a unique offering in the “nonprofit” world.

For most folks who’ve been around for a while, a conference is a conference. A board retreat is a board retreat. A workshop is a workshop. And it gets to be kind of cookie-cutter. You start to say “I’ve heard this before, I’ve been through these before.”

This is different.

We’re not going to lecture you with a bunch of PowerPoint slides.

We’re not going to parrot the conventional wisdom — you’ve had enough of that.

Instead of being a passive recipient of instruction, you'll roll up your sleeves and be an active player. You’ll be fully engaged and co-creating the outcome that you want from what you’re getting in the workshop room.

What does that look like?

We set the stage by creating a strength-based atmosphere of curiosity, inquiry, and reflection — a brand-new way of looking at things for everyone. (And you'll find out how to create that kind of space around you when you return home.)

Doesn’t that sound like a refreshing place to start instead of with the enormity and implications of the greatest problem we’re trying to solve?

In structured conversations, using questions you’ve never heard before, you'll learn by reflecting on your own experiences. This is something people rarely take time to do in any depth, but it yields learning that lasts because it's grounded in your real life.

As we learn from each other, hope and promise grows, along with the conviction we can get the job done.

Along the way, we'll introduce some carefully curated insights — from social psychology, organization development, and other disciplines — you can apply to interpret and build on your experiences right there in the workshop room. (Reflection plus intellectual rigor is a powerful combination.)

All so you can be even more influential, more effective in advancing what you want to see happen in the world.

So what will you have when you leave?

I wish I could give you a simple 1-2-3 answer. But the honest answer is: “It depends.”

It depends on what you’re doing and where you’re at ... what you have going for you (more than you might think, as you’ll discover when we’re together) … and what you want to accomplish in the future (more is possible than you might imagine right now).

For people who invest themselves through philanthropy and volunteer leadership, there are two broad sets of outcomes. 

  • Create your most inspired contribution to the world around you (with a plan to bring it into reality).

Imagine taking a little time to step back from the day-to-day and ask yourself: What could be possible? What contribution could you make in the coming year and beyond?

What if you could have complete clarity about your next contribution and what it will be like for you — to the point of feeling it in your bones? And if you had the first steps to get there -- to get there more easily and a commitment and design to accelerate it?

All so you are truly making the greatest, most inspired (and inspiring), strategic and consequential difference in the world. (Or at least in your world, the world right around you.)

What I do is show folks like you exactly how they can make their greatest contributions to the world. I do this by creating a safe space, asking the right questions, offering structure that can propel you forward, and laying a strategic foundation for new possibilities.

You might be longing to do something truly meaningful with the next chapter of your life, but are looking for more clarity and “oomph.”

Or you might want to take what you’re already doing and reinvent it, so it’s more significant, more fulfilling, more truly you.

You might even be looking to design your “legacy project” — the contribution to the world that will be your lasting gift.

Once you’ve got real clarity on what your “next” will be, your strategy becomes clear. So then we turn your dream into action.

You’ll have time, while we’re together at the retreat, to get a jump start on what you’ve cooked up — all the way to the detail of who you’re going to see, what you’re going to say to begin the conversation.

  • Energize a small team from the cause that matters most to you.

Another way to use this retreat is for you to host a small team from a cause or organization you want to advance. Mix it up with staff, board, donors — so you can break down the walls and meet as human beings who want a better world.

I encourage you to think about what a gift it can be to include staff leaders in this experience, as equal partners. They need time and space to think big, and they will never find it in the day-to-day pressures at the office.

You can give that to them — and at the same time honor their contributions, expand their capabilities, and dramatically strengthen your shared capacity to create the kind of world you want. (As one person said to me, “One of the most highly leveraged investments I can make is to inspire the people doing the work on my behalf, every day of their lives.”)

Could more be possible for you and for the causes you support?

If you have a sense the answer might be “yes”

… if you are committed to stepping even more into your leadership potential

… if you want to make more possible for the world

… then I encourage you to respond to my questions in the brief application today. Even if you’re thinking of hosting a small team, the first step is for you to raise your hand, so don’t put it off while you think about the people you might invite.

Besides, you may find the questions will give you new clarity and energy, right away. (People often tell us they’re surprised by what they discover, simply in the process of answering.)

Maybe devote a few moments to yourself right now and take a look?

~ Jim Lord

It was from Jim Lord more than 25 years ago that I first learned about sacrificial giving. I saw a way of giving that actually makes a difference in my life, both in terms of affecting my wealth in order to invest in a large way and, at the same time, in increasing my sense of meaning in the results I’ve seen from those investments. My wife and I were able to do something we never dreamed possible.

Bob Rogers

Philanthropist and former Chairman and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and AmeriCorps


  • Exclusively by application: To ensure the program will serve your interests, a brief application is required. People drawn to this program tend to have some humility about them, so please don't let any self-doubts keep you from applying. See more about the application process. 
  • Dates and locations: Specifics are announced privately to those who have completed the application. (After you've applied, you may even be able to influence dates to fit your calendar— we pull out all the stops for you.) Locations are typically near major U.S. airports.
  • Program schedule: The program spans three days, beginning in the morning on the first day and concluding around noon on the third day. We ask you to clear your calendar for that time span — to give yourself a true retreat. That way you get the most from the experience, hit the ground running when you return home, and see lasting results. 
  • Small group: Enrollment is strictly limited and we hand-select each group to make sure there’s an ideal mix of people in the room, for maximum benefit to everyone. 
  • Personal attention: You will also have access to four private one-on-one phone sessions — one before the program and then at one month, three months, and nine months after the program — to ensure that you stay on track to your highest aspirations, including any plan you may have begun during the program.
  • Tuition: $2750 per person. Whether you come alone, with a partner, or with a small team from a cause you want to inspire, this is a highly leveraged investment in creating the kind of world you want to live in and leave behind. (During the application process, we will work with you to make sure you will see a multifold return on your investment.)

Jim magnifies one’s power to dream and dream big. My first workshop with him gave me courage to take the plunge and start my own non-profit organization, Muskaan (which means “smile” in English) — and energy to translate it into reality. I am grateful to Jim for allowing me to be part of this work because it has strengthened my courage to create the kind of world I want. 


Founder of Muskaan, Lucknow, India

My first Quest workshop with Jim Lord at Cambridge University was a turning point. After it, everything was changed. We grew our first private university in Germany, which set the example for more than 100 others. And rescued another university 14 days before it would have gone into bankruptcy. (It’s now flourishing.)

Michael Bleks

For over 20 years responsible for fundraising and strategic planning at the first private university in Germany

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this only for people directly involved in “raising money”?

Is this for beginners or those with more experience?

What are the program dates and locations?

Why is an application required?

Can you tell me more about who's selected?

How do I apply?

Who leads the program?

What if I register and cannot attend?

I’ve attended one of your programs before, why would I do it again?

I came back home from the workshop with a renewed energy and confidence. With that I was able to initiate a network of people who believe in democratic values, have commitment to generate a new future and also positively influence political leaders to take bold actions. I have been engaged in this journey for last 15 years and I am fully convinced and confident that the learning I received at the workshop is what we need for a greater social transformation.

Sahadev Mahat

Community Leader, Kathmandu, Nepal

Talk with us

Email: programs@leadershipphilanthropy.com

Phone: usa  +1 (206) 347-9546

privacy policy and terms of service

© 2017 The Center for Leadership Philanthropy. All rights reserved.