The Social Science Behind Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, Branding and Doing Good
What if we are making the world a better place by simply trying to raise money?
At Turnkey, we talk a lot about trying to get people to behave in a certain way. "Certain way" for us means "raising money." Research into this space sometimes takes interesting turns.
We know that we are trying to create an intrinsic label in our prospective fundraisers and grow it in our current fundraisers. To do that we do things like putting our brand on our successful fundraisers because we know that branding the person reinforces the intrinsic label that people have as a person who supports "x."
But here's an interesting thing. In our quest to get people to raise more money, we might be making them nicer people. This is the latest social science treasure that the Turnkey resident neuropsychologist, Otis Fulton, noted to me (yelled from the kitchen).
Otis pointed me at Arthur Brooks' New York Times opinion piece to illustrate the point. Brooks does a far better job than I will describing this well-documented and researched phenomenon. In summary, when Brooks put a Mormon-branded briefcase in his hand, it made him behave in a different way because he was thusly branded.
While carrying the briefcase on a business trip he found himself behaving more in line with what he perceived a Mormon standard might be: "... helping people more with luggage, giving up my place in line, that sort of thing. I was unconsciously trying to live up to the high standards of Mormon kindness, or at least not besmirch that well-earned reputation."
Imagine what we peer-to-peer fundraisers are accomplishing as we brand the general public via participation in our activities. Are people out there not smoking because they are in an American Lung Association jacket? Correct. Are people being kind to the intellectually disabled because they are in a Best Buddies hat? Yeppers. Is there some teenager out there setting his lunch tray down beside another lonely kid because she looks depressed, wearing his Out of the Darkness American Foundation of Suicide Prevention shirt? Of course he is!
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.