A Parent’s Guide to Motivating Fundraisers
I am lucky to work with smart people. Recently I overheard an employee talking about how she is helping her grandchild achieve diaper freedom. I was struck by the conversation and asked her to draw a comparison between potty training and motivating volunteer fundraising. She did not blink, “Yep, got it.” I give you Vickie LoBello, formerly of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life and St. Baldrick’s Foundation:
I know that a lot of millennials have become moms and dads over the past few years—16 million moms to be specific.
My daughter’s 3-year-old is going through this process. My daughter did her research and mapped out her plan and then we began together. Her plan was a combination of rewards and recognition. The rewards were food and toys. The recognition were things that the potty trainee identified would be important to him like calling family, so we could tell him we were proud and getting to "big boy" milestones that would ultimately lead to attendance at preschool.
In the end, the recognition piece was more desirable than the rewards. I began getting two to five FaceTime calls a day, wherein he would tell me his latest accomplishments. He would then wait patiently for what he wanted to hear: "I am so proud of you! You are getting to be such a big boy.
This may all sound familiar to you if you have read this blog or have met practically anyone from Turnkey for even the briefest period of time. (We tend to talk about recognition a lot!)
I know that recognition is the most impactful approach for motivating fundraisers, as I have worked in peer-to-peer fundraising for over 25 years. I should have known that this would be the key area of impact for my grandson. I just didn’t make the connection until recently.
Humans are hard wired to respond to recognition. To put it simply, our ancestors who were most sensitive to the feedback of their group were the ones who survived (try making it out on the African Savanna without a little help from your friends). The recognition my grandson received in praise is really the same thing as being recognized as part of a group.
In his recent book, "Social, Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect" psychologist Matthew Lieberman writes, "Our brains crave the positive evaluation of others almost to an embarrassing degree. It is easy to imagine [feeling rewarded by] positive feedback from the people who matter most to us, but would social feedback from complete strangers have the same effect? Surprisingly, yes."
We are all born with antennae finely tuned to how others are responding to us: They recognize us. And it turns out we don’t even have to know the person for their recognition to be rewarding.
Some parents induce cooperation by offering rewards for using the toilet. While this method does work on occasion, it can be rather risky as it reinforces the child’s idea that success is related to getting a treat, rather than becoming a "big boy." I don’t say this condescendingly—we are all children at heart. Your fundraisers will respond to becoming big boys and girls without needing valuable treats.
Katrina VanHuss has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Otis joined in the fun in 2013 as Turnkey’s resident human behavior expert. One thing led to another, and now as a married couple, they almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism and human decision-making, much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Through their work at Turnkey, the pair works with the likes of the American Lung Association, Best Buddies, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, using human behavioral tendencies and recognition to create attachment and high fundraising in volunteers.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P and Peer to Peer Forum, and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, Dollar Dash. They live in Richmond, Va.