There are life lessons (and fundraising lessons!) to be learned nearly everywhere you look.
And as people trying to raise more money to change the world, we need those lessons, especially the ones that inspire and uplift us!
The beloved books and movies of JK Rowling teach us many things about life, love, and loyalty, and are totally applicable to fundraising.
Harry Potter is a favorite among the team at Get Fully Funded and we marvel at what we can find when we look for fundraising inspiration.
The rest of the team geeks out over favorite scenes, memorable characters, and moments when good wins over evil.
Here are some of our favorite fundraising lessons from Harry Potter and his friends.
1. Choose your friends wisely. Choose your staff and Board carefully. Who do you want around you? Who will help you reach your goals? Harry’s loyal friends stuck with him through thick and thin, all the way to the end. In fact, without Hermione, Harry would have been lost several times, from the time she found Nicholas Flamel in the library to the time she remembered the rhyme about Devil’s Snare to the Polyjuice potion and more.
2. Don’t stop fighting the forces of evil. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were constantly battling the forces of evil, even when they were kids. Even when they weren’t well equipped to do it. Even when they weren’t sure they could win. You must do the same. Every little bit of difference you can make in the world matters. Keep fighting the good fight and changing lives.
3. Face your fears. Sometimes you will be challenged to do something that’s bigger than you’ve ever done before. It may scare you. Harry showed us time and again that facing your fears is powerful and can help you win the day. You may not need to face a giant spider or an evil dark wizard, but asking a donor for money in a face-to-face conversation can be equally unnerving.
4. Ask for help with you need it. Too many of us think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Actually, asking for help with things you aren’t good at is smart. It can save you time and headache and move you toward your goals faster. Where would Harry have been without the help of Moaning Myrtle to figure out the clues for the Triwizard tournament?
5. Watch out for those who can’t follow through. Gilderoy Lockhart arrived at Hogwarts in “Chamber of Secrets” and was full of tales of heroics. Unfortunately, none of it was true. He claimed he could fight dark magic, but when push came to shove, he was first to pack up to leave. Watch out for people like this. You may have some around you now. You know them already – they say they’ll call a donor, get a sponsor, or organize an activity, but they don’t actually do it. These people suck your time and energy and leave you feeling let down. It’s best to surround yourself with people from your ‘house’ – like-minded people you can trust and who believe in the same principles you do (including keeping your word and not over-committing yourself).
6. People aren’t always what they seem. Whether it’s a half-giant who is Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts who turns out to be a good friend or a stuttering, meek professor who is actually harboring the dark Lord, people can surprise you. You may find that someone with great connections and name recognition in the community isn’t good at helping with fundraising while the quiet, shy Board member is the one who rises to the occasion to help with your big fundraising event. Give people space and support to see what they can do.
7. Self care is important. Things in Harry’s world weren’t always sunshine and butterbeer. He faced a lot of obstacles, danger, and difficult people (probably not so different from you). Dumbledore gave him a great piece of advice:
In the midst of chaos, you can still find happiness. If your plate feels like it’s overflowing, it’s critical that you plan in some down time and fun. It seems counterintuitive to me to think that way, but it’s necessary. Otherwise, your passion for your mission will have you working all the time and you’ll burn out. Turn on the light, take time for yourself, and see if you aren’t better when you return to work.
8. Pause before judging a volunteer’s potential. In the beginning of the series, Neville Longbottom is clumsy and lacks confidence. He gets bullied and is the target of pranks. Yet later on, he emerges as a key hero. What volunteers are you judging as useless or lacking potential? Maybe they need support, encouragement or a bit of training. They could be the one who makes something amazing happen for your nonprofit if you just give them the chance.
9. Play to your strengths. Fred and George Weasley were jokesters from birth and never really fit in with the academic scene. They started peddling their magic potions and tricks then left school to open their shop “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.” They’re a good example of how you can’t put a round peg in a square hole. The twins needed a different path to a career and when they finally took the leap, their dreams came true. How are YOU playing to your strengths? Where are you trying to do things that aren’t a strength? It’s a waste of resources for you to try to do everything yourself. Outsource, delegate, or automate so you can get things off your plate.
10. Always include a bit of magic. The magic of fundraising is that it enables you to change lives. Remember your passion for your mission and fan those flames regularly. Always look for and add the spark that makes life fun. Otherwise, you’re just a Muggle.
These are my team’s favorite fundraising lessons from Harry Potter. Which one is yours?