After seeing the movie (and stealing the idea for this blog post from someone dear to my heart), I thought it would be fun to recognize the different hats nonprofiters wear with an analogy of my favorite characters in The Avengers. (If you haven’t seen this month’s blockbuster yet, don’t worry. This blog post won’t ruin the plot for you.)
Clint Barton, known in the Marvel comics as Hawkeye, is a master archer. He doesn’t have superhuman powers, but he’s excellent at what he does. With a lot of training, practice, and mentoring by the best heroes, Hawkeye owned the bow and arrow. He sees the smallest details from far away. He can lock down a target, aim, and shoot with remarkable precision.
If you’re the Hawkeye of your fundraiser, you do your research. You identify specific goals you want to reach, create a plan to help get you there, and then execute. Every nonprofit fundraiser needs to be the Hawkeye at some point, doing a lot of work and planning before a fundraiser so you when you aim and fire, your arrow hits the bull’s eye.
A former Soviet spy, Natasha Rumanov is in tip-top shape. She’s a world-class gymnast, ballerina, and a martial arts expert. In the comics, she’s got her hands on cool gadgets, like bracelets that deliver electric charges, which she masters. But as a person, Black Widow is brave, and not afraid to take on a challenge that takes her out of her comfort zone and stretch her to her limits.
She’s a risk taker, and sometimes fundraising calls for a little risk taking. Changing the way you normally do things may be necessary to reach new donors or develop better relationships with your supporters. You’ve already got the tools, you know your space better than anyone else, so now’s a matter of using them differently. And sometimes trial and error is the only way to get out of your comfort zone and try something new that could possibly push your fundraiser forward in new ways.
Thor—my personal favorite—had to go through trials to find himself, but once he became who he was really meant to be, there was no stopping him. He’s the only one that can control the hammer, the only one who can pick it up and harness the power it has. But he was only able to do this once he earned the respect of the hammer. And in return, the hammer is one with him, loyal and giving only to him.
Building trust with your donors is the key to a community that is loyal and supportive to you. You have to give a little first, build trust. Give your supporters acknowledgement and an opportunity to be a part of your mission. Tell your story and be consistent. And once your donors see that you’re the real thing, they’ll be your ambassadors, and you can trust having them when you need them.
The Hulk is a fun character. He’s a simple guy. When he’s not green, he’s a top-level scientist, but as soon as he gets angry, it’s all over! He loses self-control, and the angrier he gets, the bigger and stronger he gets. He’s still a good guy, and very trustworthy. The other Avengers count on him, sometimes to clear the path for them, so he’s an important member of the team.
Moving your fundraiser forward, may mean you’ll have to do a little pushing and shoving to make it work. Consistent messaging, engaging, execution, and readjustment to make things work, are elements that’ll push your fundraiser up and up. And that takes a lot of endurance.
In my opinion, Captain America has one of the greatest stories in the Marvel comic series. He started off as the underdog, a weakling with a big heart, whose determination (and the help of science) was transformed into America’s superhero. He’s a symbol of patriotism, truth, justice, and values. He’s the guy that gives you a warm feeling inside, and makes you feel proud.
Are your supporters proud to be part of your community? Are they excited to work with you toward a common goal? Do they feel your passion, and does it ignite them to take action? The Captain America of nonprofits is the symbol, the ideal for the field they work in, the leader and servant of the community it helps, the source of empowerment for their supporters, the provider of resources, and the organization everyone can count on to get the job done.
Last but certainly not least is Iron Man. He’s the team’s personality. He’s got it all and everyone loves him. He’s witty, smart, audacious, bold, and strong. But he’s also very human and real: he cares strongly about making things right, admits to when he’s wrong, and tries to correct his mistakes. He is all about backing up his friends.
You can be the nonprofit everyone loves. Be honest and human, caring and extroverted. Make people feel comfortable with you, trust you by being there for them, and show passion (that you really care) about what you do. This is what will make people see that you’re real about what you do, and they’ll love you for it!
So which Avenger are you most like?