The ethos that we’ve begun to rally around here is “Grow Your Change.”

It fits us because we’re rooted in agriculture, shared growth, and the notion of always changing for the better.  But there’s also the obvious call towards self-interest: the desire to earn interest on your savings.

The inherent conflict here is intentional, and led us to wonder where altruistic and selfish motivations overlap. There is an interesting line of social science research attempting to answer this question.  Most of these studies indicate that pure, isolated altruism is very rare, meaning that an inseparable grey area connects selfish and altruistic motivations.  But before we get congratulatory emails from Adam Smith, bear with me...  

Riker and Ordershook,[1] two political scientists at the University of Rochester, are usually cited as the originators of “warm glow” theory. In 1968, they attempted to explain why people would wait in long lines to vote, when they were virtually guaranteed to not affect the outcome of the election  (individually at least). Their hypothesis was that individuals would experience a “warm glow” from their behavior… i.e., they did it because it felt good to contribute, despite the futility.

Two economists, Crumpler and Grossman,[2] did a follow up experiment in 2008 that provided participants with $10-15 in cash.  Participants were told that the proctor was donating $10 to charity; they could either give to charity alongside the proctor or simply keep the cash.  The hitch?  Every $1 contributed to charity by the participant would reduce the proctor’s contribution dollar-for-dollar.  In other words, the amount donated to charity would always be fixed at $10.  Therefore, if one’s objective was to maximize the benefit for the charity, rationally speaking, nobody should donate.  

But almost 60% of participants did donate… on average 20% of their total dollars.  (By the way, the authors also controlled for the person’s desire to please the proctor, although this is a longer story).

Perhaps it’s obvious to say the purely rational, self interested homo economicus that simplifies many economic models doesn’t really describe any reasonable human, and that helping others just makes us feel good.  This is, of course, at least one reason why we help others.  Clearly we live in the grey area in between, and people don’t think about their lives in such bifurcated terms.  A poem by Linda Ellis (introduced to me by our Corporator, Anthony Poore), called the Dash, comes to mind:

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

Despite the evidence of the overlap between altruism and selfishness, we’ve structured our economy with very distinct lines: non-profit altruistic charities and for profit, publicly-traded corporations ultimately designed to serve their amorphous but theoretically self-interested shareholder-owners.

Enter our mutual model, in which we’re organized around serving our depositors as our owners.  This allows for a more nuanced view of balancing the desire of our depositors to have a positive impact in their community, while also ensuring they remain the economic beneficiaries of our work.  Our grandparents tell us that over time we’ll come to see our “dash” as all nuance, all grey areas. Life is rarely as clear and binary as we thought when we were young.  

And so…we hope you join us in the nuance, and Grow Your Change!



[2] Crumpler and Grossman study