The (Super)Power of the Nonprofit Sector

This month I had the opportunity to attend the North Carolina Philanthropy Conference, hosted by the North Carolina chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The day started and ended with a one-and-a-half-hour car ride with Katie Weeks and Mendi Neiters. While at the conference, we listened to inspiring speakers, attended educational sessions, and networked with friends and colleagues from such great organizations as Tammy Lynn Center, Read and Feed, A.J. Fletcher Foundation, Urban Ministries of Wake County, Transitions LifeCare, Girl Scouts NC Coastal Pines, ALS Association NC Chapter, NC Medical Society Foundation, and the NC Center for Nonprofits.

While enjoying a little weekend downtime, I happened upon The Avengers, Marvel’s ultimate buddy flick. In a nutshell, the film brings together a group of superheroes to save Earth from an alien attack. While their course is a little rocky, the film’s protagonists — Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Captain America — prevail in the end.

Watching the movie, it struck me how much the nonprofit sector and The Avengers have in common:

  1. We have the same goal - to make the world a better place. Whether it’s providing food or shelter, helping the sick or disadvantaged, offering enrichment opportunities, or creating a safe environment, nonprofits are tasked with saving the Earth and its inhabitants. Sounds very superhero-ish to me.
  2. The path to get where we are going is rarely easy or direct. Sometimes it feels like we’re taking two steps forward, one step back. When Thor frees the villain (his brother, Loki), it ticks off Iron Man and Captain America but, in the interest of the greater good, they ultimately come together. We encounter roadblocks in the nonprofit sector every day, but we persevere. The payoff is too great not to.
  3. As strong as we are individually, we are much more powerful as a group. Occasions like the Philanthropy Conference remind me how committed and smart my nonprofit colleagues are. When we leverage one another, whether it’s through informal information sharing or intentional collaboration, our impact is greater than if we stand alone. None of the Avengers had the power to defeat Loki individually, but their abilities were magnified when they fought side-by-side.
  4. What we do is fun. I like action movies, but the comedic banter in The Avengers was equally compelling. Even in the midst of potential world destruction, the superheroes found time to joke around. If you ever question how entertaining working in the nonprofit sector can be, just spend three hours in a car with Katie and Mendi. Or a day with some of the best nonprofit leaders in the state of North Carolina. Or an hour with a client who is benefiting from the work you do. It can be the most fun you’ll ever have.

So, to all of you working in the nonprofit sector: THANK YOU for the work you do to make the world a better place. YOU are truly superheroes!

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