A Humanitarian Crisis: Separating Parents and Children
Turnkey’s clients include organizations like Church World Service and UNICEF, groups that address humanitarian crises around the world. We never expected to be confronted by a humanitarian crisis unfolding in our own home, on the southern border of the U.S. One created by our government.
So far, nearly more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents who presented themselves to the U.S. Border Patrol seeking asylum. These families are being treated like enemy combatants. At the rate they are being taken, by August there may be 30,000 children in U.S. custody. Yesterday, at a tent city in Texas, the government constructed to house some of these children; the temperature reached 105°F. The Trump administration has chosen to weaponize immigration, assaulting the moral values of our society.
There are a certain number of Americans, probably 30 or 35 percent, who will defend this policy as necessary. If you are among them, we won’t try to convince you that what is happening is immoral and, fundamentally, un-American. Neither will we castigate you for your beliefs. This view is held by some members of our own family, whom we know to be good and decent people.
We’re not experts in immigration policy. But, the immigrants we know are among the finest people we have ever met. And although there has been a consistent attempt to characterize undocumented immigrants as “rapists, thieves and murderers,” studies have shown that they are far less likely to commit crimes than American citizens. Undocumented immigrants also contribute $12 billion a year in taxes, paying an effective tax rate that is higher than America’s top earners, 8 percent versus 5.4 percent. We’re not even going to mention the fact that a taco truck serving Hispanic food on every corner would be a great thing.
So not to speak out however we can and condemn this shameful, “zero-tolerance” policy as immoral would be wrong. All societies have their own social norms, their mostly unspoken rules and shared beliefs. Social psychologists have documented the tremendous power of social norms to govern our decisions and behaviors, whether we are aware of them or not. Not to speak out gives credence to the idea that what is happening is acceptable. That it is something that we tolerate, even embrace.
The nonprofit community occupies a special place in our society. We are in the business of recruiting and welcoming others into the service of the greater good. We know that supporting our missions often results in our constituents becoming their best selves.
Because people trust us (nonprofits) to promote the greater good, we also have the responsibility to speak out when we see that which erodes it.
Immigration is a political issue. The humane treatment of children is a moral one, and that is why we must put an end to the zero-tolerance policy immediately. Not to say as much would be a violation of our constituents’ trust. Finally, like all good fundraisers, we must include a call-to-action.
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.