Sweet Life Hack: The Dedication of Nonprofit Professionals
I was on a train. It was late.
I was emailing various levels of staff people, for various nonprofits, for various reasons. Happily for me, I am old enough and mean enough that when I email during the day I get a pretty good response rate to my requests. That means I have a benchmark on responsiveness to me during the workday.
It was 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday. I didn't expect any responses.
Even worse, the thing I was working on that night was specific to those in the chief executive officer (CXO) and vice president executive (VPX) level. The expectation might be that these CXO/VPX folks would never answer at 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday. I mean, don't they "have people" for that who would do it the next day? But these folks, like most nonprofit employees, are working, day and night, to do better on all fronts. Almost every single one answered my email that evening in order to serve the organizations they worked for as best they could: ALS Association, Lupus Foundation, Project HOPE, Make-A-Wish, Susan G. Komen, etc. Up all night apparently, fixing global bad stuff.
What is up with these nonprofit people? They don't make killer bucks, they have few resources at work and they are working on missions that can look overwhelming. But they work like they are on fire.
These people have a secret.
We all could work in for-profit, and make bigger money and go buy things and experiences that make us happy. Or, we could just work at what we love and be happy.
That's a sweet life hack.
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.