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 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.