A Christmas Wish
Christmas just passed. I’m a Christian (Katrina) married to a Buddhist (Otis). I’m a peer-to-peer fundraising expert. He’s a social psychologist.
Spiritually, we concur on much. Professionally, we concur on much.
On one thing, we overlap completely: The path to joy is through service to others. That is our purpose. That is what our different spiritual journeys have taught us that we should do — serve our community.
We work with people, like you, who serve others every day. Sometimes we get confused and think we do this for a paycheck; sometimes we get confused and think we do this to hit a fundraising goal; sometimes we get confused and think we do this to please a boss. That confusion brings us no joy.
Sometimes we make choices that enable us to get a paycheck, make a fundraising goal or please a boss, but don’t serve the people we are supposed to be serving. We get confused by the pressure. We make short-term decisions that hurt our true purpose in the long run.
We know it, because those choices make us feel joyless and purposeless. We push aside the negative feelings and try to pretend they don’t matter. Over time, though, those decisions eat at us, diminish us.
Every religion and every social scientist who studies human motivation says the same thing: You will find joy and purpose through serving others. Even actuaries say it in their own special way: Stop working (lose purpose), and you will likely die. Usually, quickly.
The gift we wish for you this time of the year is the discipline to experience the joy that you deserve. We wish for you the discipline to focus your gaze on the people you serve — not your boss or your fundraising goal. Focus your gaze on the person with cancer, the person who is homeless, the person is hungry, the person is afraid. We wish for you the gift of experiencing the joy that you have already earned. We celebrate your choice to do this work. To serve. To have purpose beyond yourself. To love fully.
The path to joy is through service to others.
Stay on the path.
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising,” and the 2023 book, "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape," and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” She and Otis are also co-authors of the books, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising" and "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape." When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.