Creepy Little Grad Student
Recently I visited my son at his university. He studies physics. I know—nerd.
We went out to breakfast on that fine Saturday morning to a local restaurant. It was an institution which, since my time at that same university, catered to the granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, over-educated student.
The brand voice of that restaurant is something along the lines of, “Respect for the body, respect for the planet, respect for each other.” I love it.
So we show up…delighted at the thought of gluten-free pancakes and tofu bacon. Who wouldn’t be? We were confused, however, there were people outside at tables. There were people standing in the restaurant. We didn’t see a maître’ d. People went by us and wrote their names on a pad on the counter.
Oh! Now I get it. I did the same.
We waited. And waited. We stood near the pad. Wait staff flowed around us like water around rocks in a stream. I realized that folks coming in after us were being seated. Checking the list, I saw that our names had been crossed off. No biggie. I stopped the first server and said, “Golly, it looks like we have the same last name as someone else. We’ve been crossed off but not seated.”
The server was somewhat small in stature, but had huge hair and a hairy face—typical of grad students. All that hair says, “See, I am all grown up.” He began to smile, pursed his lips to stop the smile, and said, “You weren’t outside. I called your name three times, outside. You should have been outside.”
I said, “Sorry, not from here. I didn’t realize your process and it is not stated anywhere I can see. Nor did any server help me by saying ‘stand outside’.” He grabbed the pad, pointed to the 12-point type in three lines at the top of the lined sheet that read, among other things, “stand outside.”
At this point, even tofu bacon cannot make it right. I felt no respect for the body, respect for the planet, or respect for each other. I felt like I wanted to educate this pompous little jerk in the art of being nice.
What happened? The brand did not filter down to the process of seating guests, or the manner of treating guests. I imagine the owner of the establishment would have been mortified at the employee manner. But really, the owner is to blame for not having made sure the brand was reflected everywhere a guest would be touched.
That made me think hard about my own business. Does every employee understand that our job is, ultimately, to help raise money to help Earth and its inhabitants? Does every employee know that in rendering our services, every touchpoint has to reflect our values? Are our values actually codified in our planned, written and taught processes?
While I feel confident no one here could compare to the tofu tyrant I met, I could not answer the above questions with an absolutely confident yes. Can you?
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.