Successful fundraising does require a magic touch, and this past June was the 20th anniversary of the fictional debut, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the book that started it all. When it debuted in the U.S. in the fall of 1998, it was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. With more than 450 million books in print worldwide, and billions of dollars made at the box office, both adults and kids continue to love Harry Potter, one of the all-time most popular book and movie series.
For no particular reason I can recall, I was never a big Harry Potter junkie like my friends, co-workers, wife, and kids. However, I still admired the story itself, after reading a few of the books and watching some of the movies. I was impressed with how a series about a wizard could generate such a following, tell a great story, and engage kids and adults in lively discussions and debates at so many levels.
From waiting outside of bookstores overnight for the new book or people lining up for a highly anticipated movie, Harry Potter fever seemed to grow exponential in size and popularity with each new release. I even recall walking across the campus at UC Berkley a few years ago while visiting a concert venue. I saw a group of students playing a massive game of Quidditch, the high-action hockey-like game from the books, that involves flying broomsticks and enchanted balls. All this to say, the entire Harry Potter empire continues to grow and amaze me to this day.
The Magic Wand
One of the ongoing themes in the Harry Potter series that I always enjoyed was the idea and use of the magic wand. Some might debate that the magic wand was one of the critical core components throughout all of the books and movies. Certainly, great detail went into how a magic wand is picked (the wand chooses the wizard), the design, wood type, and size. According to the books, the wand channels a witch or wizard’s power and abilities. Once someone learns how to use it, the magic wand becomes the center of many tricks, gags, and epic battles throughout the series.
I have often wondered what it would look like if fundraisers and nonprofit leaders had a magic wand. Could we drum up larger donations by waving our wand and saying: Engorgio!?
How about the board, who all seem like they would rather be at the dentist than looking over financial statements and listening to the Executive Director’s report? Give them a Cheering Charm that causes the person to become happy and content. Poof!
Here are a few other magic wand scenarios I thought of that could work in our nonprofit and fundraising space:
Used to hide memories. Excellent for when that special fundraising event did not go well, or you had a rough week at the office with a staff person or community member.
Used to make something silent. Useful for that complainer or overly critical person in your nonprofit who lacks common sense or does not have all the facts.
Fills the ears of those nearby with an unidentifiable buzzing noise to prevent them from overhearing your conversations. Ideal for offices with thin walls, close quarters, or staff who seem to hear too much sometimes.
Conjures a bunch of flowers. For when you go to visit a donor and think a gift would help start the conversation or make their day.
A charm that allows the caster to summon an object. How many times have you misplaced that important report, set of keys, computer cord, or sticky note with a phone number you need ASAP?
I suspect there are many more situations where a magic wand would be useful and make your job much easier. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or spell to simplify fundraising or running a nonprofit.
The Bright Side
The joy and magic happen when you continue to focus on the things that matter, like building relationships and telling compelling stories. Too often we get bogged down by the business side of the organization and how we can fundraise enough money to meet our goals. We quickly forget that at the heart of every nonprofit is the opportunity and potential to engage people who care about our work by letting them know how they can make a difference.
Fundraising and nonprofit leadership are both an art and a science. There is no magic. The art comes in balancing the daily work while navigating building relationships with volunteers, prospects, and donors. The science comes from using good data to make decisions for your organization as well as knowing when to ask for support and who to ask for support from.
Leading a nonprofit or can be challenging, exhausting, and sometimes not popular. But it can also be very rewarding when you see the fruits of your labor through a brighter future in the work you do and the places you serve.