If your job is in peer-to-peer fundraising, you are in the movement business. Movements are made of humans moving, and while there is no instruction manual for this complex beast, there are some clues about human behavior that can help you get your movement moving.
Last week we talked about the well-known star thrower story by Lauren Eisley. This story illustrates that movements can be about anything and how they can start.
Once again, I went to my personal psychology news feed, the beloved Big O the psychologist, and casually started a conversation about movements.
What I gathered (like shooting fish in a barrel over here to get a blog out of him):
Although movements are diverse with regard to duration, importance and numbers of individuals involved, all movements do have some common features. The three-minute Ted Talk by Derek Sivers, How To Start A Movement, captures the common features of movements beautifully.
(Go watch it and come back. This will make so much more sense if you do.)
Paraphrasing Sivers, here are the steps involved in starting a movement.
- First, you need a leader, someone who is not afraid to stand out and be ridiculed. Imagine the girl in the Star Thrower. What she is doing isn’t complicated, and her role is to demonstrate how others can follow.
- Then you get your first follower, the old man. The first follower “transforms a lone nut into a leader.” The leader must embrace the follower as an equal, so now it’s about the two of them—plural.
- The movement has to be public. Others will join because they are emulating the followers, not the leader.
- As the movement gathers momentum, there is a tipping point where it becomes less risky to join the movement than to be left out of the movement.
Two essential features needed to grow a movement are:
- Nurturing your followers as equals so it’s about the movement, not the leader.
- Emphasizing that leadership is over-glorified—it is the followers who make the difference in sustaining a movement. What is important is having the courage to follow, and showing others how to follow.
The best example of this dynamic at work in my mind is the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. The lone nut? Gordy Klatt. The first follower? Pat Flynn. Emphasis that leadership is over-glorified? Illustrated by the magnificent emphasis that Relay put on field-level volunteers during Relay’s massive growth in the late 80’s and 90’s.
Who is your lone nut? Who is your first follower? Or, are you running a marketing program featuring a product?
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.