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.
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.
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.
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