Patrick Coleman

Wherever you go, experience will be your best teacher. Mistakes will help you learn better and make you grow towards near perfection. Be willing to fail quickly and work your way up.


Patrick J. Coleman is the President of GiveCentral and Coleman Group Consulting. As a CEO to two enterprises, he is on a mission to help reduce costs and increase fundraising for all charities through ways such as mobile giving. With a diverse educational background and over 25 years of experience in operations leadership and strategic planning, he has developed a proprietary methodology that focuses on the art and science of negotiation to deliver measurable, implementable, and sustainable results. Mr. Coleman has served as Board President for Elk Grove United Way of Suburban Chicago, and as a board member of both Talkline/Kidsline and Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS).

Where did the idea for GiveCentral come from?

I have worked with charities all my life. When we began our firm more than 15 years ago, several charities asked if we could help them. Our experiences gave birth to GiveCentral – our motive was and continues to be assisting nonprofits in their mission, helping them improve communications with their community and making their fundraising more successful.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

As a small business owner, every day is different. Some days are more client focused, others more team or administrative focused. But I begin each day asking three questions: What am I grateful for from my clients and team? What can I learn today that will help our clients? What needs to be our key priorities today that our most critical for success?

How do you bring ideas to life?

We begin by listening. Most of our best ideas come from listening to our clients. The more time we spend understanding their needs the better our solutions become. After we listen, we begin to plan. Development focuses on simplifying solutions to real world issues. For example, how can we help donors make their gift in 5 seconds or less.

What’s one trend that excites you?

It’s the digital age; anything digital excites me to be honest. One trend I really like is the art of storytelling, how charities be more effective in telling their story, being transparent about their mission and expressing gratitude. Digital storytelling options through video, images and text are wonderful.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I believe in planning ahead and sparing time for other tasks.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be willing to fail quickly. We learn from our successes but many times we learn more from our failures. Be willing to challenge yourself and your team. Allow for mistakes and failures which can create great learning opportunities. Be willing to fail but quickly so that you can create more effective solutions for your clients.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Fundraising is not about tools. Tools are essential and helpful. Fundraising is about relationships and communications. When you tell your story well and your mission is impactful, giving will happen.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Listen, read and learn. Spend time with your clients. Listen to them. Read broadly. Many new ideas can come from articles and books unrelated to your area of focus. Many times their experiences can help stimulate new ideas and solutions. Always look for new opportunities to learn. Assume that every 3-5 years, you must refresh your knowledge and assume that what happened more than 5 years ago may no longer be relevant. Be willing to change and adapt.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Build great relationships and hire great people. Never focus on the short term with relationships. They follow us. Look to build relationships that will be sustained. We still have amazing relationships with our clients from 15 years ago. Hire people who care, help each other and are smart. Give them the resources to grow and be successful. Growth becomes easier with strong relationships and talented team members.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Whenever you make a bad hiring decision in a small business, it impacts growth and team dynamics. To some degree we are still learning. Our best hiring decisions have been made by when the hiring involves a group decision on people who demonstrate not only subject matter knowledge but good team skills and concern for client success.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Create a product that makes it easy to track team efforts on key activities. The easier it is to track effort, the easier it becomes to evaluate activities. What should we do more of? What should we do less of? What should we do differently?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I took my team out this week for drinks after work. It was wonderful to see them talking, laughing and sharing with each other. It was a great opportunity to say thank you to them for their help to me, to each other and to our clients.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We useful Salesforce to track customer service issues. It is a great way to track issues and share the information with our developers and customer service team. It’s also a great way to know which clients are experiencing challenges and reach out to them to help.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

It’s difficult to recommend one book. For business, I recommend Bargaining for Advantage. It is a great book on negotiations which highlights many of the real world issues we encounter in business negotiations.

What is your favorite quote?

A mentor once told me, “Get good news out quickly. Get bad news out quicker.” It’s wonderful to share good news. It’s also important to identify issues early. Be willing to admit mistakes. Many times problems becomes much bigger when not dealt with.

Key Learnings:

  • Wherever you go, experience will be your best teacher. Mistakes will help you learn better and make you grow towards near perfection. Be willing to fail quickly and work your way up.
  • It is important to segment and prioritize your work. Also as a businessman, I challenge myself to be better than what I was yesterday. It is a must to find something to be grateful for, everyday.
  • Fundraising is less about tools and more about communication and relationships. It is also about your goal and how you achieve it, hire people that believe in the mission of your business.
  • Listen, read, learn and repeat.


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