The worst Signature Participation Project of 2010

Best of/worst of awards are typically reserved for year end blog posts, but I can, in good conscience, forecast the worst Signature Participation Project of this young year:

Movember’s mustache growing campaign “to raise awareness and funds for men’s cancers”.

Think of a Signature Participation Project as the first rung on the ladder to involvement in your cause–one that is:

  • short-term
  • high-touch
  • high-yield (i.e., one sees a major return on comparatively minimal investment)
  • understandable without reference to the organization that conducts it
  • synecdochic (i.e., it is successful in drawing the participant into deeper relationship/knowledge/involvement/experience with the cause).

Interestingly, the mustache campaign does reasonably well in three of the five categories. It is, after all, short-term, high-touch, and understandable without reference to Movember. We might could even spot them the fourth criteria–high yield–on the theory that, after all, the participant is perhaps really only growing a ‘stache and gathering pledges every time a person notices said growth.

It’s the fifth–and most crucial–category where the ‘Stache SPP lays an egg so noteworthy as to lock up the Worst SPP of 2010 a mere four days into the year:

Synecdoche.

I described it this way in a previous post:

All good SPP’s are synecdochic–that is, by participating in the project, an individual gets to ‘taste’ something of the ministry’s cause as a whole. The root word is synecdoche, which means using the part of something to refer to the whole (like ‘all hands on deck’) or the whole of something to refer to a part (like ‘I got stopped by the police’, by which I don’t mean that 357 Colorado State Troopers pulled me over but rather that a single police officer tagged me for going 105).

(OK. Not really. I think that was one of the Baldwin brothers. But you get the point.)

It’s often a tough concept to grasp, but it’s extremely important. It’s part of why we recommend to ministries not to do golf scrambles or auctions or jog-a-thons: they’re not synecdochic. When you participate in a golf scramble, nothing about golfing gives you a taste of the cause as a whole. Even giving away a brochure about your organization at the golf scramble, or having your Executive Director give a speech at the golf scramble, or having one of your clients give a testimony at the golf scramble, doesn’t make the experience synecdochic (unless, perhaps, you run a golf ministry).

In the case of the Movember mustache campaign, one does well to ask:

In what ways does growing a ‘stache draw the ‘stache grower into deeper relationship/knowledge/involvement/experience with the cause of men’s health?

Contemplate that one for a few minutes and let me know what you come up with. (If you’re a guy, try thoughtfully stroking your ‘stache to see if that generates any insight.)

Movember contends that the ‘stache becomes a symbol for the cause of men’s health like unto the pink ribbon of breast cancer fame. Grow your ‘stache in November of each year, raise some dough from everyone who asks you what you’re doing that for…

…and then forget about the whole thing come December 1.

(Fortunately, Movember’s SPP is better than their videos. Check out Jeff Brooks’ post and judge for yourself.)

Perhaps it’s enough to bring your cause to mind one month a year. Or perhaps it’s enough to hope that growing a ‘stache in November will lead men to new depths of involvement and candor about their health in December and beyond.

Or perhaps it’s time for all of us to commit to coaching our champions beyond project-level participation and into genuine engagement with the cause.

What might a genuinely synecdochic SPP for men’s health look like?

(Editor’s note: Not like this!)

Here’s my own personal vote (which, interestingly, I think could work quite nicely in a church men’s group setting).

Is it as cute or clever or as prone to mass appeal? Likely not.

Does it create a greater likelihood of involvement and candor?

You bet your ‘stache.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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One Response to The worst Signature Participation Project of 2010

  1. Pingback: That’s a nice SPP you have on « Transformational Giving

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