I Am a Paid Volunteer Fundraiser
"We pay volunteers to fundraise." Even as I write this sentence I realize that the words themselves sound ludicrous. And yet, I see my nonprofit clients try to do it over and over.
This past week a large and prolific group of nonprofit fundraisers came together at the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum Conference in Orlando, Fla. My particular offering to the group was a rundown of some of the psychological forces at work in peer-to-peer fundraising. I had the help of Otis Fulton, a contributor to the Turnkey brain trust who is trained as a neuropsychologist.
Otis and I talked about the interplay of the conscious and unconscious, and how to influence the conscious mind to help it achieve the blissful state of "willing and ready to fundraise." We also talked about the do's and don'ts of managing the conscious mind of someone now willing and ready to fundraise.
In summary, we said, "Don't try and pay your fundraisers to fundraise. Instead, nurture their internal label of 'I am a fundraiser to cure X.'"
Almost the first email I got in my inbox this morning on my first day back at work was from someone trying to pay me to fundraise. "$5 off your registration fee if you register TODAY!" I am grinding my teeth.
Why, you ask, does giving a $5 discount constitute paying someone to fundraise? Here is how it works ... there are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation means that I do what I do because it is consistent with who I am. Extrinsic motivation means I do what I do because I want that X (fill in the blank with an experience or a thing).
Extrinsic motivation relies on escalating levels of reward. If you give a $5 discount this year, I will need a $10 discount next year. Extracting less money from me is a way of paying me or extrinsically rewarding me. And, discounting registration reflects a form of panic on the part of the nonprofit staffer. "I am desperate for registrants; let's discount and get a bump."
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising” and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina also regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.