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!
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.