Are Your Clients Riding the New York Subway or The Tube?

Originally posted on At the Intersection of Real Life & Business:

Katrina VanHuss To preserve my budget, butt, and the planet, I typically walk or use the subway while traveling around a big city. I’ve come to notice a distinct difference between New York, Chicago, and London subway systems.

I’m not sure where to go when I use the New York subway system. The signage is bad. Everything is loud and there are lots of distractions. Ticketing is kind of confusing. Once I’m finally on the right train, there is nothing to tell me how far along I am or what the next stop will be. I am anxious the entire time I ride.

When I travel the Chicago “L”, I notice lots of signage as I look for the right train. It all seems easy. Ticketing is integrated between trains and subways. Once on my train, I get frequent reminders of where I am and what the next stop will be. I’m…

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How to Keep “Gonna Do” Fundraisers Committed in the Present

Katrina VanHuss, CEO, Turnkey PromotionsRecently I wrote about Future Self and Present Self in my post “Which Fundraiser is Doing The Talking and Which is Doing the Walking.”

In summary, each of us has two selves inside us all the time. Future Self is all about “what I’m gonna do” and Present Self gets stuck with whatever Future Self signed us up for… like fundraising. (Often Present Self rebels and refuses to go along with it. Sound like a team captain you know?)

So, how do you get Present Self to buy into fundraising?  In situations other than of fundraising, a commitment strategy can help get everyone on board. Examples of commitment strategies:

  • (Avoid drinking) Don’t drive past the liquor store
  • (Avoid eating) Lock up ice cream
  • (Avoid spending) Cut up credit card

My grand plan was to have a handy bulleted list of commitment devices for Future Self Fundraisers to help their Present selves keep their promise, but it turned out to be harder than I thought.  Ideas?

My best shot at commitment devices for volunteer fundraisers:

  • Keep the mission front and center to remind Present Self of the warm and fuzzy feeling Future Self had when she signed up for this gig.
  • Apply personal leverage through relationships – like making sure Present Self gets a personal thank you from someone positively affected by some action of our sweet Future Self.
  • Inject public humiliation – OK, that might not be great for retention, but fun to think about. Present Self doesn’t want to look like a schmuck.
  • Put the potential for rewards and recognition in front of the fundraiser again and again. Everyone likes goodies and recognition.
  • Get Future Self to recruit someone else upon signup – peer pressure.

What ideas do you have to more closely connect the fundraiser’s Future Self with his/her Present Self? I would love to know!


Note to Self: Which Fundraiser Is Doing the Talking, and Which is Doing the Walking?

Katrina VanHuss, CEO, Turnkey PromotionsI struggle with some of my nonprofit clients who want to survey fundraisers and other volunteers to find out what they think about a variety of issues. Often, they make decisions based on the answers, and then are surprised when the surveyed group does not behave as expected.

Here’s the problem:  The fundraiser/volunteer is responding as “future self.” The action later is taken by “present self.”  All of us have two selves inside us all the time.

Future Self is noble, looking forward to losing weight, curing cancer, feeding the hungry. Future Self is all about “what I’m gonna do” and responds that way – typically “yes, yes, yes.”   

Present Self gets stuck with the bill. Present Self is the one that Future Self signed up for the walk, run, or ride of choice. Present Self has a work project due, is suffering irritable bowel syndrome, has a hangover, and was just recently victimized on another front by Future Self. Present Self is angry, resentful, and tired. Present Self says, “I’m bagging it.”

You survey Future Self; Present Self shows up at your event. Another takeaway: Don’t rely on surveys a year before your event.

Do you agree? Even if you don’t, I would love to hear about the participant survey results you’ve witnessed!


Ignore What They Say, Measure What They Do

Katrina VanHuss, CEO, Turnkey PromotionsI talked about surveys today with a client of mine, Randi Corey of the Hydrocephalus Association. Her nonprofit experience includes working with/for:

  • Academic fundraising
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  • JDRF March of Dimes
  • Hydrocephalus Association

Needless to say, I was qualified to do more listening than talking in this conversation. It was fascinating to speak at length with someone with such a breadth of experience.

She related this story:

“I had an upscale golf event while with JDRF at the Governor’s Club, an upscale venue.  Someone in our group had the idea that we could save lots of money by moving to a less expensive, and less prestigious, venue.  I was uncomfortable with the idea, thinking it would hurt participation.

To make me comfortable the group said, ‘let’s survey the participants from this past year and ask if it matters to them.’ We did that. The participants said, ‘we really don’t care. Move it if it will save money. We’ll be there for you regardless.’  Well, needless to say, they didn’t show up and our fundraising dropped like a rock. The next year we returned to the prestigious venue and our fundraising went back up.”

Randi’s point wasn’t that people sign up more when events are held at prestigious venues.  Her point was that people don’t survey well and often don’t act as they say they will.

Participants sometimes say one thing, but do another.
We find the same thing in our work with incentive/recognition programs. Participants say in our surveys, “I wouldn’t want the gift I would earn for fundraising.” But, when presented with a gift opportunity after earning one, they redeem hand over fist. And, higher fundraisers redeem at higher percentages than lower fundraisers, though the high fundraisers most often say, “I wouldn’t take the gift.”

LESSON LEARNED: Ignore what they say, measure what they do.

(If you are interested in learning more about the psyche of fundraisers, I encourage you to read, “Branded Versus Non-Branded Fundraising Gifts. Which is Better?”

Marketing Brilliance in the Shape of Bowl

Our Master of Marketing Award for today goes to DogFest Walk ‘n Roll – an event in support of the Canine Companions for Independence® organization.

Canine Companions for Independence provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. The Canine Companions DogFest is a new income stream with 17 events out of the gate.

Today we received a product proof from our manufacturing facility for Canine Companions DogFest. When we opened the box, the ooh’s and aah’s began immediately. The piece traveled the office, delighting all who saw it. In short, this piece is brilliant.

Wish it had been my idea.

Cannine Companion DogFest bowl

Photo modified to be entirely misleading and more fun. The bowl fits most size six derrieres.

It is the biggest, yellowest dog bowl I have ever seen. It’s over a FOOT WIDE and deep enough to hold more than a gallon of water. Small children can sit in the dog bowl and watch TV. You could serve a meal for eight in it. Five very friendly dogs could drink at one time. It is impossible to hold this bowl in one’s hands and not put it on as a hat.

But the coolest thing about this bowl is that it is a HUGE visual reminder and educator about the organization. Recall that Susan G. Komen and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and many others rely heavily on the media visual – that huge swath of color representing a particular cause. This product, – this Dog Bowl – yes, it’s that good, will accomplish the same thing street by street and not on event day.

This piece will become coveted by hip, dog-friendly retailers. It will sit on every door step for thirsty dogs, screaming “I’m big, I’m yellow, I’m Canine Companions for Independence!”

The people who raise puppies for the organization will raise ANY amount of money to get this bowl so that they can put their own puppy in the bowl and take pictures. Parents, observing the utter coolness, will knock each other down to get a bowl so they can put human babies in the bowls and take pictures. CAT PEOPLE may want one they are so cool!

I had to ship the piece to the client for final approval today and it makes me terribly sad. I don’t even own a dog. You want one already don’t you? You can’t buy it. Just raise $250 for Canine Companions DogFest and it is yours.

The Life Cycle of Volunteer-Driven Fundraising Events

Katrina VanHuss of Turnkey Promotions, black and white imageEven the best volunteer-driven fundraising events seem to have a life cycle that goes as follows: 

  1. Great idea from volunteers about doing an event to raise money.
  2. Volunteers take the reins and start raising bunch of money.
  3. Nonprofit org begins to support and ultimately takes control of event.
  4. Volunteers lose influence and control.
  5. Nonprofit “protects brand integrity” and “reduces risk.”
  6. Volunteers get bored with stuffing envelopes and parking cars and quit.

The charm of volunteering is that volunteers get to do good, have fun, be creative, and have control. Once the nonprofit organization decides that it needs to control an event or the event brand, it starts to rein in and discount the leadership volunteer. Since a lot of control has been taken away from the volunteer leaders, a fundraising event is less fun and more like work.

During the last days of the cycle, I, as a volunteer, can’t plan and execute a large meeting anymore. (Staff takes control of most of that.) I can’t make meaningful decisions about the event so much anymore. I can’t decide on the tee shirt design or the incentive gifts anymore. My funky hand drawn signs are discouraged. If I print something with the logo, I will get my hand slapped. There is a whole lot I used to be able to do, that I can’t now.

Clearly, we know that things like tee shirts need to be done nationally, same with all print materials and so many other things for cost control. But at some point, cost control through consolidation has a cost, and that cost is volunteer engagement that is intimately, AND GREATLY, tied to fundraising. 

Does your nonprofit empower their volunteers, or disable them? I’d love to hear your stories: the good, the bad, AND the ugly.

Branded Versus Non-Branded Fundraising Gifts. Which is Better?

Katrina VanHussI love the springtime. Why? Because all of our nonprofit clients are ramping up for their annual fundraising events. It’s walk, run and ride for a cause season, people!

Our clients know that fundraiser recognition programs can improve event income results DRAMATICALLY, as I’ve written about many, many times.

Now is when I get the age-old question, “Which kind of item makes for a better fundraiser gift? Which recognition item will MOTIVATE fundraisers to higher fundraising levels?”

This is when I push my sleeves up and say, “Wellllllll… I’m glad you asked!”

Two Key Facts You Should Know About Recognition Products

FACT #1: People Who Accept Fundraising Gifts Raise More
Our studies show that people who accept gifts for reaching a certain fundraising level typically fundraise more than those who do not accept gifts. (I’ve written lots of papers about this. Check out our incentive program research on our website!) 

FACT #2:  Gifts with a Nonprofit Logo Motivate to Higher Fundraising Levels
Fact #1 is only seen when the nonprofit’s logo is imprinted on the gift. If the item was a gift card or available in a retail setting, fundraising average levels were diminished.

It’s TRUE, when retail-available gifts are positioned side-by-side with nonprofit branded gifts, the retail available gift is selected more often, but our #2 factoid still applies. WHY?

Study by Dr. Victoria Shaffer of Wichita State University

Researcher Dr. Victoria Shaffer of Wichita State University surveyed  gift accepters and found that the high acceptance of the retail-available gift was due to the fundraisers paying homage to their own budget, as opposed to seeing the gift as recognition for high fundraising. The inner talk was, “My family needs this item. I should take it” instead of “This is recognition for my high achievement.” To sum: allegiance to family budget drives redemption, but not fundraising to higher levels.   

Her research revealed that personal budget showed its power when nonprofit branded gifts were positioned against retail-available gifts in one set of choices. Invariably, the retail- available gift was selected at higher rates than the nonprofit branded gift. Further, total redemption or acceptance of gift was far higher with retail-available gifts as part of the  selection, elevating expenses for the nonprofit greatly, with no commensurate increase in fundraising.

What All This Research Mumbo Jumbo Means

In my opinion, nonprofits are well-served to make it “all about me” when it comes to gifts for their fundraisers. Your fundraisers will more than likely raise more for your cause, and your brand will have “legs”… quite literally… sprinting past the walk, ride, run season and beyond!

Still afraid to dip into the recognition pool? Maybe this post will help. Or, don’t hesitate to contact me at