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.
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 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 also regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” 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.