Signature Participation Projects are like kimchi

I had a great time with the gang in attendance at the transformational Giving seminar in Washington Wednesday. Always I alternate back and forth between believing we present too much in a single seminar and wishing that the whole thing were actually four days long with time for breakout sessions, Q & A, and labs where we could coach ministries on how to develop maps with champions (the area I sense is alawys the greatest challenge for ministries and the area where they’are most tempted to cut corners because it’s the most different from traditional fundraising.)

The piece that was the most fun to share today came when we were taking about developing a Signature Participation Project, or SPP.

As we’ve talked about previously in this blog, a Signature Participation Project is a short-term, high-touch, high-yield project that is understandable without reference to the ministry itself but which draws the participant into wanting to grow deeper into the cause, ideally to engagement through the ministry.

All good SPP’s are synecdochic–that is, by participating inthe 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).

You can imagine that the concept, which is challenging to explain in English, is even harder to explain through a translator in Korea. That’s why I was so delighted to receive one of the best explanations I’ve ever received of the concept from a Korean attendee at the seminar.

The quintessential Korean food, much maligned by Westerners, is kimchi–typically pickled cabbage with red pepper paste, though there are hundreds of varieties.

Koreans have a practice where, upon entering a restaurant, they sample the kimchi, which is always served first as part of the array of side dishes that precede the main course in a Korean meal. If the kimchi is good, then it is a certainty that the main course will be good. But if the kimchi is bad, the meal is guaranteed to be worse.

A ministry’s SPP is like kimchi. If a champion samples it and it’s delicious, the champion should then know that the main course of engagement with the cause through the ministry will be even more satisfying.

If your kimchi tastes like every other restaurants’ kimchi, why eat there?

Likewise, some ministries make the mistake of creating SPPs that are not only understandable without deeper reference to the cause but are completely satisfying without deeper reference to the cause.

Big mistake.

That’s like making kimchi the main course. And, as much as I like kimchi, I would never eat it as the heart of any meal.

Child sponsorship organizations struggle with this (folks liking child sponsorship so much that they never move on to deeper engagement with the cause.) Operation Christmas Child’s shoebox project has to address this. Rescue missions doing big Thanksgiving dinners hit this full on. Rather than whet people’s appetites for deeper engagement, they sate those appetites–and champions remain at a much lower level of maturity than God intends.

So as you prepare your SPP, keep kimchi in mind. It makes a great side dish–and your overall cooking will be judged by it–but it makes a pretty miserable main course.

Thanks for a great day, Seattle.

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 the former 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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7 Responses to Signature Participation Projects are like kimchi

  1. What a great day in Seattle! Good to learn all about transformational giving and Eric you did a superb job of getting all of the information covered in a timely manner yet very understandable way! I’m already looking forward to getting the coaching program going at Taproot Theatre and have already started using the PEO grid for some of our champions. Thank you so much for making the trip to Seattle!

  2. Matt Bates says:

    My wife and I do the same thing with the rice at Mexican restaurants. If the rice is good, the rest of the food will be good, and we’ll go back to that restaurant. If they cut corners on the rice, or don’t give it enough attention to make it great, watch out!

  3. hikerdude says:

    So, what does our kimchi look/taste like here in the US with SUSA? Banquets? Cards to and from UU? US UUs? Movie documentaries? Contageous champions in the US who help the state-sides “catch it” enough to go to SK? Yeah, I like the last one – a world-wide outbreak of NK Flu 🙂

  4. Pingback: There’s no E in your P: The tragedy of confusing project participation with causal engagement « Transformational Giving

  5. Pingback: Engagement is like, um, an engagement « Transformational Giving

  6. Pingback: The worst Signature Participation Project of 2010 « Transformational Giving

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

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