Why I Care About Your Cause, But Don’t Donate
“So much of the general population has this condition. I know that we’ll be able to get a huge percentage activated to fundraise.”
Thus, begins the path to your personal fundraising hell, begat when you first told your chief development officer what you thought could happen.
My father, Jack Fulton, died four years ago due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. During the last five years of his life, I was his primary support system, taking him to and from doctor’s appointments, coordinating registered nurse visits, going to the grocery store and helping him with all the other necessities, so that he could live in his home.
I became a self-educated lay expert on Parkinsonism. I know firsthand what a struggle it is to care for someone with the disease. After all that, my involvement with nonprofits that deal with the disease has been—zero. Never attended a fundraiser, never donated a dollar.
Psychologists talk about “attitude importance,” the extent to which people attach significance to their attitude and care about it. People who acquire certain attitudes about things from direct experience, rather than indirectly, through the media or other means, tend to have the highest attitude importance. That was me, caring for my father. Nonprofits expend lots of money to raise people’s levels of attitude importance about their causes.
Still, there are lots of people like me that come into contact with a disease or social need, but never take action. How can we explain my lack of involvement?
Despite all my experiences, I never saw myself as someone who supported the effort to cure Parkinson’s. I never had a connection to any organization, like the Michael J. Fox Foundation. No one tried to develop a “donor identity” in me, so I never donated. I received information from Michael J. Fox, the National Parkinson Foundation and others. It described new treatments, new research. Why didn’t all this information spur me to action?
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.