Nonprofits Battle Radical ____ Extremism
Without a doubt, the best thing about working with nonprofits is the feeling of being involved in their missions—even if the view is from the backseat, rather than riding up front. Each nonprofit client that Turnkey works with has a worthy mission. But every now and then, a nonprofit comes onto our radar that really resonates with us personally.
A nonprofit like that popped up this week: Life After Hate. On their website, their mission statement reads, “Life After Hate is dedicated to inspiring individuals to a place of compassion and forgiveness, for themselves and for all people.”
The term “radicalization” gets a lot of play in media these days and with good reason. Radicalized people are more likely to behave violently towards others. Life After Hate describes their work as “deradicalizing” people. Their program helps people disengage from extremist groups, specifically those involved with extreme far-right groups.
For most Americans, when shown the phrase “radical ____ extremist,” the word that fills in the blank is “Islamic.” However, with regard to the connection between extremism and violence, the data says we should think again. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has found that right-wing extremists—including white supremacists, sovereign citizens and militia members—were responsible for 74 percent of the 372 extremist-related murders from 2007 to 2016. And of the 45 police officers killed by domestic extremists since 2001, 34 (75 percent) of them were killed by right-wing extremists.
Most Americans are surprised by this information. Part of the reason for their surprise is in the way the media covers acts of terrorism. New research from Georgia State University shows that there is a systematic bias in the way terrorism is covered by the media. Kearns says the "terrorism" label is often only applied to cases where the perpetrator is Muslim. And, those cases also receive significantly more news coverage.
"When the perpetrator is Muslim, you can expect that attack to receive about four and a half times more media coverage than if the perpetrator was not Muslim," Kearns says. So, "a perpetrator who is not Muslim would have to kill on average about seven more people to receive the same amount of coverage as a perpetrator who's Muslim." And Kearns’ research looked primarily at print media. If you spend time watching it, there is good reason to believe that the bias on cable and network TV is even greater.
So, Life After Hate is addressing a serious problem; one that goes relatively unnoticed. I don’t know enough about the organization or its programs, but I suspect that the tactics they use to deradicalize far-right extremists are similar to what we do every day to build affinity in our nonprofit supporters.
Take the example of organizations who work with people who are experiencing homelessness. In a recent blog, we wrote about the effect that dehumanizing people who are without homes has on a person’s willingness to help them get back on their feet. As we wrote, “Dehumanizing a group of people allows us to ignore them without guilt of conscience; they have been reduced to mindless animals or objects.” And once we dehumanize someone, there is less reason to avoid treating them violently, much less to support that kind of person with donations.
The psychological process of radicalizing, deradicalizing and installing a mission connection are all very similar. We in nonprofit wage psychological warfare every day, trying to install the idea that supporting our cause is a good thing.
Life After Hate is replacing the idea in radicalized people that the “other” is less than human with the idea that we are all human; we in nonprofit are replacing the idea of not caring with the idea of caring.
Sadly, hate groups have absconded with our methods of installing ideas. They effectively use psychological techniques like the “foot in the door” and “behavior leads to belief” to create cadres of people who hate. The people in these groups feel a sense of community that is fed by a common disregard for others.
Groups like Life After Hate give us the opportunity to be on the front lines fighting back. We in nonprofit are encumbered with responsibility to do so. We’re some of the only people who know how.
Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton have written a new book, Dollar Dash, on the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. Click here to download the first chapter, courtesy of NonProfit PRO!
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.