Ignore What They Say
I recently remembered a talk I had with a client, Randi Corey of the Hydrocephalus Association, about her experience with surveys. Here’s her background:
- Academic fundraising
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- March of Dimes
- Hydrocephalus Association
Needless to say, I was qualified to do more listening than talking in this conversation. It was fascinating to speak at length with someone with such a breadth of experience. She didn’t share a single opinion without the accompanying experience that gave her that opinion. Powerful stuff.
She related this story:
"I had an upscale golf event while with JDRF at the Governor’s Club, an upscale venue. Someone in our group had the idea that we could save lots of money by moving to a less expensive—and less prestigious—venue. I was uncomfortable with the idea, thinking it would hurt participation.
To make me comfortable, the group said, 'Let’s survey the participants from this past year and ask if it matters to them.' We did that. The participants said, 'We really don’t care. Move it if it will save money. We’ll be there for you regardless.' Well, needless to say, they didn’t show up and our fundraising dropped like a rock. The next year we returned to the prestigious venue and our fundraising went back up."
Randi’s point wasn’t that people sign up more when events are held at prestigious venues. Her point was that people don’t survey well and often don’t act as they say they will.
In our work with recognition programs, we find the same thing. Participants say in our surveys, “I wouldn’t want the gift I would earn for fundraising.” But, when presented with a gift opportunity after earning one, they redeem hand over fist. And, higher fundraisers redeem at higher percentages than lower fundraisers, though the high fundraisers most often say, “I wouldn’t take the gift.”
Ignore what they say—measure what they do.
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.