I Have a Facebook Problem (Or, How Not to Drop F-Bombs on Social Media)
I have a problem. I am a sports writer. As in, I write like it is a sport. It’s fun. I write when I don’t have to write. And I write on Facebook, a lot. That is my problem.
On Facebook, it is ridiculously fun to quip, banter, engage, taunt, delve, disembowel and titillate. It is so much fun that a few times I have wandered into “Not-Niceness.” I had to find a way to stop being not nice. And I did.
I Facebook-friended every church friend I could find, including my pastor. I friended them all so that they would see what I wrote. I thought that would constrain me. And I was right. It did make me nicer.
But why? And more importantly, how could I make use of this behavior modification technique in fundraising?
To help me understand what human weirdness was at work with me, I turned to hubby Otis Fulton, human behaviorist. “Snucker-poodle, why did friending my church friends help constrain my evil writing impulses?” He responded:
We think and write a lot about motivation. In fact, we wrote a whole book around the topic, called "Dollar Dash" (available on Amazon.com March 1!). The type of motivation that keeps you from embarrassing yourself in front of your church brethren is what social psychologists refer to as “image motivation.” Simply stated, people are motivated to have others see them in a positive light, as a “good person,” however your group might define it.
Katrina’s church group has established a certain set of norms that describe good behavior. And remember, norms are relative to the group. If she was a biker chick, her “good” behavior would likely look very different.
When Katrina brought her church group into her Facebook antics, the norms of the group changed her own behavior.
So, in the end, we have to get people to be in a situation where the norm is different, where the norm is attachment and support of our organization. Just by maneuvering people into showing the attachment, they will begin to exhibit outward behaviors consistent with someone with that particular attachment.
As an example, think about the Ice Bucket Challenge. Those who succumbed to “that looks like fun” quickly normalized that they were attached and supportive of the ALS Association. But originally, they were there because it was fun. Once the behavior was exhibited and they were influenced by the group, they began to act as if they were there for the mission by donating in massive numbers.
As another example, no matter who you are, if you are in church you’re less likely to rip off a curse soliloquy than if you’re not at church. If you’re in a church you act like you go to church. If you’re at a walk to cure X, you’re going to act like you want to cure X. If you are wearing a “Don’t smoke” tee, you’re less apt to fire up a cigarette.
We have to start small and grow people's outward-facing attachment to our organizations. We need them to publicly identify with us, so that they are likely to exhibit behaviors consistent with their attachment to us. That requires a different kind of effort, different from traditional marketing.
Metrics should change if using this technique. Instead of “brand impressions,” the important metric would be “instance of overt attachment.”
Let’s use this little piece of human strangeness to get people more attached to our organizations, making them better volunteers, donors and fundraisers.
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.