Vas Madness: What Nonprofits Can Learn From a March Madness Trend
Men queue up for vasectomies once a year — the first day of the first round of March Madness. I would give a reference, but who would believe that ANYBODY actually studies that? They do. Hit Google. The sheer volume of hits is worth doing it. Here's a gimme.
Sixteen games on Thursday, 16 games on Friday, eight on Saturday and eight on Sunday.
Urologists noticed a bump in vasectomies at the start of March Madness, and they took action. Vas Madness was born. Urologists got a bit of data — wow, we do a lot of vasectomies during March Madness — and took advantage of the landscape represented by that data.
Nonprofit income departments can do that too, if we don't get in our own way. Our field event staff and leadership volunteers bring us ideas every day. Some of these ideas have some amount of data behind them, as they have been tried in the field. Others, no data at all.
Most often, the new idea simply does not fit into our current construct. The new idea challenges a brand standard, doesn't conform to our idea of volunteer roles, messes with what we told our staff to do in the employee manual we just published or sounds a lot like something we already tried. We dismiss the idea. In short, we are bad at taking advantage of new ideas and recognizing data that shows up, gift-like.
We can fix that.
What if we had a system that helped people with ideas express them successfully? What if we gave volunteers, field staff, everybody we touch, the tools to benchmark and measure the impact of their ideas, and a framework within which to express the idea and the results to leadership? What if we even told them the likely "idea killers"? (The process-related things that make using a new idea a massive pain in the asparagus.) What if we rewarded them for participating in creating new ways to do things? Then, what if we level the playing field on presentation of the idea so the blowhard doesn't always win?
Otis 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.