Breaking Down Nonprofit Silos, 1 Murder-Mystery Weekend at a Time
For the second year in a row, my client, Rich Rumsey, VP of development and communications at Project HOPE, has forced me to do unusual things with unusual people.
Last year, he said (paraphrasing), "Katrina, I'd like you to come to a three-day retreat with the other vendor-partners my organization uses. These partners, along with my staff, will represent every person who touches any sort of individual giving at Project HOPE."
You mean, I whispered, you want me to spend large amounts of time with planned giving, major giving, direct response, gala, marketing, communications and public relations people who work for Project HOPE? Together? You want me to take meals with them?
Since 1958, Project HOPE has worked to make quality and sustainable health care available for people around the globe, working in more than 120 countries. Project HOPE is breaking down the walls between countries. Rich is breaking down the walls between departments.
This is a hard thing. His background as a college football player is handy.
Says Rich, "I am a true believer that if you gather smart people together, great things will happen. Giving up our individual power can be uncomfortable, but breaking down silos and building a team, a team that gets the big goal, that's phenomenal."
In addition to Rich and his menacing presence when he invites you to this gig, Project HOPE has a nice advantage in its campus; everyone wants to stay there so a three-day outing sounds good. And, coincidentally, it is the perfect setting for a murder-mystery weekend. Grand old Southern mansion, ghost stories, creaky floors, hidden passageways ... And, putting different income segments in the same room for an extended period looks a lot like a murder mystery weekend.
But, in this culture, murdering someone is out of line and so is achieving departmental success at the expense of another department. Most important, understanding other departments' challenges and opportunities opens high-value, low-cost opportunities.
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.