How to Retain Talent
Keeping great talent is a huge challenge for nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike. Turnkey is no exception. As an example, Turnkey engaged psychologist Otis Fulton to help us dissect the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. We needed to understand, to the extent possible, how fundraisers made decisions. Turnkey could have really used Otis full time, but there wasn’t budget for that. His other clients included big multi-national companies, like Pearson Education. I was worried about retaining the talent.
One of the first things Otis and I put to paper was an overview of social science research on the impact of using incentives. A large part of that paper talked about intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivation is the path to getting someone to do something without actually paying them. In fact, paying someone can sometimes be demotivating—and that was pretty handy information as I was still trying to figure out how to retain Otis on a limited budget.
So I read our research compilation, and thought, “How can I use these techniques to retain this talent?”
I began to quote Otis within published Turnkey articles. We invited him to speak at a conference representing Turnkey and Turnkey’s ideas. He began to see his own ideas moving into the nonprofit, mainstream thought cloud. We got him business cards, a size 3XT logo-imprinted polo, an email address and ultimately even a desk to use whenever he wanted. We helped him build the attitude, “I am connected to Turnkey.”
Otis began to spend more and more time engaged in this exploration, as both he and I very much enjoyed the exchange of ideas. In truth, he gave far more time than he billed because somewhere along the way Otis began to self-identify (build an intrinsic label) as someone who helps nonprofits perform better, and in that way he would make a dent on things he had always wished he could impact—cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, homelessness, depression, even suicide.
In a final act of assimilation,* he fully installed his self-label as part of the Turnkey (and my) troupe by marrying me this past week in Sedona, Ariz.
*Resistance is futile.
**This strategy typically only works one time on any particular individual.
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 degrees in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and 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.