The Evil Plan Behind Gaining Human Compliance
For 26 years as Turnkey's CEO, I have been charged with getting people to do stuff.
The most easily measurable form of my work is my effort to get volunteer fundraisers to ask other people for money for my nonprofit clients. The way I do that is to use the human desire for recognition to elicit a behavior.
My scope of work for clients kept broadening until one day I realized that desire for recognition was a much more powerful motivator than I had originally thought. And, I realized that the same human inclinations work in the other parts of my life in which I need to get people to do stuff — leading a company, raising teenagers, serving on boards, trying to buy big-ticket items for less ...
I began to consult with a neuropsychologist, Otis Fulton. Together, we started digging in to social science research to help understand peer-to-peer fundraising specifically, and human motivation in general, to inform Turnkey's work. Our most recent whitepaper on the psychology around motivation is available here.
Here are the basics, taking you the reader as my target of compliance (cue evil laughter):
- I can't educate you into compliance. I have to get you to comply and then gain your belief.
- Once I get you to take an action, you have a bias for consistency that will help you continue to comply.
- You have an internal, or intrinsic, label for yourself. I have to first know what it is, then make a plan to change it.
- Once I get you to self-label in the way I want, I then need to supply ways for you to affirm your new belief.
- People, including myself, have no idea that our own decision-making works this way. It is almost all unconscious.
Seeing my world through these psychological filters yields a different type of decision-making. Most decisions are cherry-picked. "What can I execute?" as opposed to, "What will work?" Let's take an example.
We will spend $250,000 on a campaign to a prospect list to acquire new donors to the house list. We will segment by income and sex. The campaign will include direct mail, email and an online presence. Each communication will include a request to donate.
We don't know the internal label of the list members, which is way more important than whether they are female and earning $70K and up. Instead of blindly shooting information at them, let's ask for an action to help us define the current internal label of the individuals and segment based on that.
As an example, drop a request for list members to post a note of support to social media. If they do, you have found or potentially created the smallest nugget of an internal label which you can nurture thoughtfully. Pushing a communication on an unprepared target creates a "too much, too fast" feeling in them. They back off instead of coming forward, giving us 1 percent to 2 percent response rates ... about which we are, stunningly, happy.
Katrina VanHuss is CEO of Turnkey Promotions and a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.
Katrina VanHuss has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Otis joined in the fun in 2013 as Turnkey’s resident human behavior expert. One thing led to another, and now as a married couple, they almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism and human decision-making, much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Through their work at Turnkey, the pair works with the likes of the American Lung Association, Best Buddies, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, using human behavioral tendencies and recognition to create attachment and high fundraising in volunteers.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P and Peer to Peer Forum, and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, Dollar Dash. They live in Richmond, Va.