As a master BS'er (behavioral scientist) in private and professional life, I want to know why people do things, so I can use it in executing my evil plans. My beloved henchman, Otis the neuropsychologist, feeds my habit regularly with links sent in emails with cryptic subject lines. This subject line was “awe.” I thought it was about cute puppies. But no, it was a gem.
Turns out, if I can get someone to experience awe, they are more likely to be less narcissistic and be more helpful to others. At this point you may:
- Just believe me
- Read a dry abstract, or
- Read the research authors’ own wonderful summary in The New York Times
If your navigation bar brought you back to me, you’ll want to know how to make use of this interesting fact in your work raising money. In short, if you can raise goose pimples on someone, you have positioned them to donate or do other good work for you, like fund raise. Seriously. Or, as we say in the South, “I **** you not.”
How can we do that? We can position heroes who inspire awe by their fight against a malady. We can talk about researchers who create awe by their steadfastness. Or, we can have people look up at really tall trees. Still serious here.
In a series of different experiments, these researchers found that awe consistently inspires altruism. They were able to demonstrate this link, but could only guess at why it works. Say the authors, “One answer is that awe imbues people with a different sense of themselves, one that is smaller, more humble and part of something larger. Our research finds that even brief experiences of awe, such as being amid beautiful tall trees, lead people to feel less narcissistic and entitled and more attuned to the common humanity people share with one another. Fleeting experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions toward the needs of those around us.”
Awe, apparently, makes one feel small enough to be large-hearted.
Katrina VanHuss has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Otis joined in the fun in 2013 as Turnkey’s resident human behavior expert. One thing led to another, and now as a married couple, they almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism and human decision-making, much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Through their work at Turnkey, the pair works with the likes of the American Lung Association, Best Buddies, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, using human behavioral tendencies and recognition to create attachment and high fundraising in volunteers.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P and Peer to Peer Forum, and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, Dollar Dash. They live in Richmond, Va.