Social and Market Relationships: 3 Easy Steps to Destruction
Last week I talked about the virtues of a retail-unattractive event. The gist of it is that a retail-unattractive event will only attract the mission-connected, and not a consumer who wants the experience you are offering. A walk is retail-unattractive, meaning no one is buying it on the open market. A marathon is retail-attractive, meaning it is bought and sold with success on the open market.
Otis Fulton, Turnkey’s in-house psychologist, notes that a retail-unattractive event fosters social relationships. A retail-attractive event fosters market relationships. While both retail-unattractive and retail-attractive events and social and market relationships can produce fundraising income at varying degrees of expense percentage, you can actually really hurt your income and your relationships by mixing the two.
And, of course, Otis is always packing references. (I love that about him.) “Dan Ariely describes the peril of ‘turning a social relationship into a market relationship’ in his well-known book 'Predictably Irrational',” said Otis. “Ariely explains that we live in two worlds: one characterized by social exchanges and the other characterized by market exchanges.
“We apply different norms to these two kinds of relationships. Moreover, introducing market norms into social exchanges violates the social norms and hurts the relationships. Once this type of mistake has been committed, recovering a social relationship is very difficult. As an example, Ariely says, ‘once you've offered to pay for the delightful Thanksgiving dinner, your mother-in-law will remember the incident for years to come.’”
The above situation happens in peer-to-peer fundraising events regularly. Even as we try and build a social relationship, some might call it a non-transactional relationship—we throw our targets curveballs in the form of market, or transactional, offers.
- “Fight breast cancer! Register by Tuesday at a discount!” Can you be a dyed-in-the-wool breast cancer warrior and still want the discount? No. You just convinced me that I am a consumer in a market relationship with you.
- “Raise $2,500 ... or we’ll charge your credit card the balance you haven’t raised.” I get it … seems like the business model demands it, but the human brain translates that into a purchase. And once I buy something, I am in a market relationship.
- “Two airline tickets if you raise $2,000!” Not only did we go transactional and destroy our social relationship, we did it in the most difficult to use form of cash–the airline voucher—which guarantees a truly hellish experience when one tries to use it. After they try and use the voucher, we’ll have a market relationship with someone who distrusts us.
We’ve all done the above or similar, typically when we are panicked about low registration numbers or low fundraising numbers. While we may see immediate response, it is like trying to entice your picky kid to eat by offering candy. Short term, effective; long term, poor outcome. It is, in the end, about tickling the target’s mission fancy.
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.