Fundraising and the Magic Wand

This past June was the 20th anniversary of the fictional debut Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the book that started it all (The book was later named Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when it made its U.S. debut in the fall of 1998). With more than 450 million books in print worldwide and billions of dollars made at the box office, Harry Potter is one of the all-time most popular book and movie series that both adults and kids alike continue to love.

Now, for no particular reason that 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, having read a few of the books and watched some of the movies. I was actually impressed with how a series about a wizard could generate such a following, tell a great story, and have both kids and adults engaged in lively discussions and debates at so many levels.

From waiting outside of bookstores overnight for the new book or highly anticipated movie release, Harry Potter fever seemed to grow exponential in size and popularity with each new book and movie. I even recall walking across the campus at UC Berkley a few years ago while visiting a concert venue and there was a group of students involved in a massive game of Quidditch, the high-action hockey-like game from the books that involve flying broomsticks and enchanted balls. All this to say, the entire Harry Potter empire continues to grow and amaze me to this day.

One of the on-going 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. There is great detail given to 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 learned how to use, 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 saying: Engorgio!? How about the board who all seem like they would rather be at the dentist than looking over reports and listening to the Executive Director’s report?


Give them a Cheering Charm that causes the person to become happy and content!

Here are a few other magic wand scenarios I thought of that could work in our nonprofit and fundraising space…

Obliviate 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.

 Silencio Used to make something silent. Useful for that complainer or overly critical person in your nonprofit that lacks common sense or does not have all the facts.

 Muffliato Used to prevent conversations from being overheard by filling the ears of those nearby with an unidentifiable buzzing noise. Ideal for those offices with thin walls, close quarters or staff that seem to hear too much sometimes.

Orchideous – Conjures a bunch of flowers. You know that time you went to visit a donor and thought a gift would have helped start the conversation or make their day?

Accio – 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 that you need ASAP?

I suspect there are many more situations where a magic wand would be useful and make your job much easier. Unfortunately, I have to deliver the bad news — there is no magic wand or spells that can be cast to simplify fundraising or running a nonprofit!

The good news though?

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 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 church congregation can be challenging, exhausting and sometimes not always popular, but it can also be very rewarding when you see the fruits of your labors through a brighter future in the work you do and the places you serve!

Dan Kimball is a seasoned fundraiser with twenty years of experience in strategic fund development and nonprofit management. He’s currently developing Aplos’ Donor Management Platform to help nonprofits connect with (and cultivate!) their donor base.

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