Noun Me: Inspiring Action With Words … and How They're Said
Last week I talked about overt physical expressions of connection, like a branded briefcase, being able to impact behavior dramatically. Another way to impact behavior, it turns out, is to change the way we verbally express our connection to a thing or idea.
From the neuropsychology corner, Otis Fulton notes, "The way in which people label themselves shapes both their attitudes and their behavior. Research by Gregory Walton, a professor at Stanford who has studied the important effects of belonging on behavior, informs us that this is true with both objects (e.g., the briefcase) and language, and the effects are powerful. Research shows that if people say, 'I am a chocolate eater' versus 'I eat chocolate a lot,' it greatly affects the strength of their preference for chocolate."
How do we in peer-to-peer fundraising make use of the power of the noun? We take it to the people. Instead of just a logo on that T-shirt, let's put words that ... (I was about to write "inspire action" and the bland, neutral, beige sound of it overcame me so instead I will go with ...) GET PEOPLE TO DO STUFF.
Instead of the American Yard Art Association website (www.ayaa.org), why not www.ILoveConcreteGnomes.org?
Instead of a T-shirt with the overused HOPE slammed on the front in a thousand different ways (I know ... I created a lot of them), why not a T-shirt with "I Cure Cancer" on it? It's aspiration. It labels me in a way that will ... oh no, it is coming at me again ... inspire action. "I Cure Cancer" means more than "I Hope." It implies a plan, action, an attitude, the willingness to set a goal and fail short-term, and to do it again until "I Cured Cancer."
Putting a noun on our people turns the "Kum Ba Yah" chanter into a flag-carrying steel magnolia. Forget HOPE. Get even. Noun me.
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 the 2023 book, "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape," 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 regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” She and Otis are also co-authors of the books, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising" and "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape." 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.