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.
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.