Thanks to Joanne Fritz for the link to the story of the Salwen family, authors of the new book, The Power of Half, in which they chronicle their Transformational Giving style journey of selling their home, giving half of the proceeds to the poor, and–well, they didn’t quite complete the biblical trifecta, but life is a long time.
If you haven’t yet heard the story, you’ll want to at least read the article if not the book. For purposes of this blog, what I want to do is to parse that story for you into P, E, and O elements, since their story illustrates the progression so well.
The P stage (short-term, high-touch, high-yield, understandable with reference to itself, containing a foretaste of the whole enchilada):
Still, Kevin [the father] believes that generosity is not all nurture. A person’s nature plays into their willingness to give, and his daughter Hannah has that giving nature. Her nature kicked into high gear when they were stopped at a red light three years ago with a Mercedes on one side and a homeless man on the other. Hannah remarked that if the person didn’t own the expensive Mercedes, the homeless man could have a meal. That led to her fervent request that her family do more to help others.
So they sold their home, bought one for half the cost, and embarked on a year-long family study of where and how to give away half of the proceeds from the sale. They ultimately chose to give through The Hunger Project to aid Ghana. And they went to Ghana to see it all through.
(This is a good time to note that the aforementioned all falls within the P category. People sometimes mistakenly think of P, E, and O differing by degree of commitment, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most people stay at the P level in their giving. Some become super highly committed Ps, staying red hot and rollin’ all throughout their life for the projects they care about. What makes a person a P is simply that their relationship to the cause is mediated by a formal, structured project–in this case, even a radical project like selling your home and giving away half the proceeds.)
Our best estimate so far at Muppet Labs is that 70% of champions stay at the P stage. 30%, however, transition on to E, which is exactly what the Salwens did:
What the Salwens did is impressive; however, what has happened to them as a family is equally as impressive. Their project transformed the family in what Kevin says is “a magical way.” Without intending to, the family “traded stuff for a deeper level of connectedness, and trust, and togetherness.” What would seem like a difficult step to most people, downsizing from a luxurious home and giving away $800,000, is “just certainly an amazingly easy deal” when you realize what the family gained.
The move from P to E happens when the cause breaks through the project and into the person’s everyday life. It’s not necessarily that they stop doing the project but rather that their relationship to the cause extends beyond it. In this case, the process of selling the home, researching charities, giving the money away, and visiting Ghana transformed the Salwens. Giving broke out of its structured project bounds and remade the very relationships between family members. To wit:
Kevin believes that the process of digging into each of their deeper values as they went though the process of choosing where to invest the money opened lines of communication among the family that had never been there before. The teens saw their parents as more than just parents, and Kevin and Joan saw their children for who they really were at their core.
Of those who move on to Engagement, around 10% progress to the O stage. At O, the individual recognizes that it is their responsibility–not a nonprofit’s or a supposed expert’s–to spread the cause within their sphere of influence, recruiting those they know to P-level participation. Here’s what that looks like in the case of the Salwens:
The family realized that there was a book to be written about the transformative effect of their project. The Power of Half was written by Kevin and Hannah to “help inspire other people to just take a good look at their lives and recognize what they have more than enough of” so that they can get out in the world to help others and themselves the way the Salwen family did.They don’t believe others need to sell their house. They want others to look at what is possible for them. “The book,” Kevin says, “provides a roadmap for how people can make that decision of what they have more than enough of” and figure out what their half is. They can get together with their family or their community and decide how they can be out there “doing a little bit of good in the world.”
And that’s what it looks like to go from P to E to O. Perfect. Enjoy the book.