The dangers of P without E firmly in view

Reading Angela Eikenberry’s absolutely fantastic Giving Circles: Philanthropy, Voluntary Association, and Democracy.

There’s a great deal to share in coming days about Giving Circles, but I wanted to first take notice of a thought that she shares that has prime relevance to Transformational Giving.

Writes Eikenberry:

Giving and volunteering are often viewed as individualistic, heroic efforts, based on individual choice; there is typically little incentive or even ability for individuals to look at more comprehensive efforts for fundamental, long-term change.

In TG terms, we’d say (as we contended last week) that most giving and volunteering is P-level, that is, based on Participation in projects (and supporting an institution can actually count as a project, by the way).


Because absent coaching champions to grow in maturity in Christ in relation to the cause, projects are about all we can interest people in.

Continues Eikenberry:

Poppendeick suggests the general popularity of giving and volunteering can perhaps best be explained by their function as a moral safety valve to relieve the discomfort people feel when they are confronted with privation and suffering amid general comfort and abundance…. Poppendeick believes emergency food programs serve as an illusion of effective community action, lulling the public into complacency: canned food drives give people a warm, fuzzy feeling but do not cause them to think about why people continue to be in need.

One of the characteristics of a good Signature Participation Project (SPP) is synecdoche. That is, by participating in the project, a champion gets a taste of the cause as a whole.

In Eikenberry’s writing we see the impossible-to-overstate importance of synecdoche well-done:

  • If your SPP gives people a warm, fuzzy feeling but does not cause them to think about and begin to be drawn into the deeper cause;
  • If it serves as a moral safety valve to relieve discomfort related to the cause;
  • If it creates the illusion of effective action but does not fundamentally impact the cause;

…then we’re pulling a Matthew 23:15b and could be causing our cause to recede further in the distance than when we’ve first begun.

Strangely enough, there are few things more dangerous to a ministry than self-replicating Participants.

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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1 Response to The dangers of P without E firmly in view

  1. Pingback: Donor “control” is a cause for celebration, not resignation « Transformational Giving

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