Being creative, once a week, on a deadline, requires careful thought and planning. I thought about my plan to ask my beloved what I was going to write about on Sunday morning. I thought, "I'll ask over breakfast, while he cooks and is in service mode." Here's what happened.
To neuropsychologist Otis Fulton: "Honey I have a problem. Often, I find that my clients have spent a lot of time and effort soliciting really nice gifts like airline tickets, cruises, gift cards and the like. And they have been using these gifts to reward fundraisers. They strongly believe these gifts are great and that people fundraise to get them. What do you think about that?"
His head cocked to one side, wearing his traditional cooking garb of sweat pants and a T-shirt, with furrowed brow, Otis says, "Oh sweetie, that is a huge problem, in a number of ways." His voice is fair, lilting with delight at the chance to enhance another conversation with foot-notable research.
"Really, tell me more," I say, chin on hand as I sit at the peninsula with my coffee.
"Well," Otis says, waving his spatula, "the first problem is the value of the reward. Small rewards can be more effective than large rewards in motivating behavior.[i] We call this the 'less is more' effect. If you are trying to gain ever higher compliance—which I take pushing peer-to-peer fundraisers to ever higher fundraising to be—it is essential that the fundraiser cannot mentally use the reward to justify their fundraising."
The toast is burning now as he plops down beside me.
Otis continues, "In other words, the incentive must be seen as providing 'insufficient justification' to produce the behavior.[ii] If the individual can attribute his or her behavior to being motivated by significant rewards like an airline ticket, they will begin to see their behavior as being motivated by the reward. In this case we would call the reward extrinsic motivation, instead of intrinsic motivation, which, in the nonprofit world, is the desire to help the mission."
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.