How to Attract More Men to Your Mission
Recently, we were contacted to provide commentary for some forthcoming research. The request involved explaining the gender difference in various types of peer-to-peer events.
There isn’t a “more helpful” sex; both men and women help others. But the gender difference in the peer-to-peer realm is stark—women participate and fundraise at significantly higher levels than men do. This mirrors the general nonprofit space. On average, women are nearly 30 percent more likely to volunteer.
One popular explanation for this difference points to the amount of time that men and women have available. The argument goes that women volunteer more than men because fewer women hold full-time jobs. But when we compare men and women who work full-time, only 23 percent of men volunteer, compared to 30 percent of women. This pattern is true across just about any demographic you look at. Regardless of income level, age or employment status, women are more likely to volunteer.
This begs two questions: Why does this gender gap occur, and what can I do to recruit more men?
In her wonderful book, “Strangers Drowning,” Larissa MacFarquhar talks about people being “do-gooders, concerned with the well-being of others.” It’s easy to be a do-gooder towards one’s family and friends. The people she writes about extend their conviction to help to strangers, people they have never met. (Note: I am using her language here somewhat loosely—if you haven’t read this book I recommend you do so ASAP).
Another type of person that MacFarquhar talks about is the “hero,” someone who comes upon a problem and decides to help. MacFarquhar and other research confirm when heroes aren’t helping, they return to their ordinary life. Contrast the hero with the do-gooder, who knows there are crises everywhere—all the time—and seeks them out. You can think of men as being more of the hero type, women more the do-gooders.
The difference between heroes and do-gooders affects the ways they volunteer. Research concludes that men and women engage in different types of prosocial behaviors. Men are more likely to engage in more physically demanding, risky activities, whereas women participate in long-term, sustained efforts.
Here are some of the ways men and women differ when volunteering:
- Prefer to volunteer in organizations that are people-oriented, emphasizing consensus, communication and cooperation.
- Prefer to volunteer in organizations that are less structured and less hierarchal than men do.
- Prefer volunteer tasks that emphasize group orientation, group facilitation and reciprocal relationships.
- Remain longer in volunteer roles in which they feel a sense of intimacy and belonging with others in the organization.
- Prefer to volunteer in organizations that are goal and achievement oriented, emphasizing efficiency in meeting clearly defined objectives.
- Prefer to volunteer in organizations with a clearly defined hierarchy.
- Prefer volunteer tasks that involve team competition.
- Remain longer in volunteer roles in which they feel personally empowered and derive a sense of efficacy.
What do these gender differences mean for attracting more men to our causes? Especially for men, it is important that there is a goal to shoot for. When the goal has been accomplished, give ‘em a trophy! Whatever it is, remember the “heroic” aspect of their behavior. Men—the heroes—respond strongly to being recognized publicly for working on your behalf.
Otis: I am not amused by the little trophy my wife, Katrina, installed near the trash containers in our house. But, I understand…
Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton have written a new book, Dollar Dash, on the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. Click here to download the first chapter, courtesy of NonProfit PRO!
Katrina VanHuss is the CEO of Turnkey, a U.S.-based strategy and execution firm for nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Katrina has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded the company. Turnkey’s clients include most of the top thirty U.S. peer-to-peer campaigns — Susan G. Komen, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the ALS Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as some international organizations, like UNICEF.
Otis Fulton is a psychologist who joined Turnkey in 2013 as its consumer behavior expert. He works with clients to apply psychological principles to fundraising. He is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit messaging. He has written campaigns for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The March of Dimes, the USO and dozens of other organizations.
Now as a married couple, Katrina and Otis almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism, and human decision-making – much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P, Peer to Peer Forum, and others. They write a weekly column for NonProfit PRO and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising." They live in Richmond, Virginia, USA.