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.
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.