Fun Philanthropy: Examples from The Harry Potter Alliance

Katrina Pieri for wordpressWhile perusing the internet a while back, I stumbled upon The Harry Potter Alliance. This nonprofit originally piqued my interest because I’m an undying fan of J. K. Rowling’s series. Anything that includes “Harry Potter” in the title is bound to attract my attention. I realized, however, that it’s really worth discussing why this nonprofit has been so successful since it was founded in 2005.

  •  Quick Facts:
    • The HPA’s vision is “A creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.”
    • The HPA’s values include such statements as “We believe in magic,” and “We celebrate the power of community–both online and off.”
    • The HPA has completed many successful campaigns, such as “A partnership with Walk Free that engaged over 400,000 fans and resulted in Warner Bros. changing the sourcing of their Harry Potter chocolate to be 100% UTZ or Fairtrade.”
    • The HPA features chapters across the world, the members of which participate in the HPA’s campaigns. Currently, there’s only one chapter in Indiana. It’s located in Greenwood. Wouldn’t it be great if someone started a chapter here in Fort Wayne?

Factors of Success

In my humble opinion, there are at least four main factors contributing to the HPA’s success. The first one is the HPA draws power from fan activism. Fan activism refers to civic or other engagement that stems from a fan culture. A fan culture often centers on popular literature, movies or tv shows, video games, or other forms of media. By way of an example, think of the fans who attend (in large hordes) such events as Comic-Con, often dressed up as their favorite characters.

The HPA is able to mobilize large groups of people from within the Harry Potter fan culture. These fans already identify greatly with the book (and often movie) series; by connecting a well-organized nonprofit with the Harry Potter universe, it’s almost guaranteed that some members of the HP fan culture will seek involvement.

The HPA is very much intrinsically tied to the Harry Potter Universe. The HPA doesn’t just make a few references to the magical, fictional world created by J. K. Rowling. On the contrary, it ties everything in with the HP universe, starting with its name. For example, in 2014 the HPA established a grant for local chapters and named it the “Granger Grant for Excellence in Community Organizing.” This references one of the main characters in the book series, Hermione Granger, and is immediately recognizable to anyone who has read the books/watched the movies. The organization’s stated values provide even more obvious references: “We believe that the weapon we have is love,” for example, is an overarching theme in the series, and also the downfall of the villain Lord Voldemort.Canva HP Blog Post

The HPA’s recognizable connections to the HP universe make the organization even more appealing to members of the fan culture. Perhaps its greatest asset is that it actually ties some of its causes and campaigns to the HP universe. In the book series, social injustices run rampant in the magical world of witches and wizards, and Harry Potter and company do their best to fight said injustices. The HPA therefore allows fans to feel like they’re following in Harry’s footsteps; they’re also trying to improve the world, just as he did.

The HPA taps into the power of youth. As you might guess, the HPA attracts large numbers of youth. The local HPA chapter in Indiana, for your reference, is based out of a high school. Youth are particularly enthusiastic and full of energy. So, the HPA is a classic example of tapping into youth philanthropy.

Lastly, the HPA makes philanthropy FUN! This factor should not be overlooked. The HPA turns charitable work, such as campaigning for fair trade chocolate or net neutrality, or collecting books to donate, into a fun activity. More than anything else, it encourages people to tap into their creativity and explore a reality that merges a fictional universe with progress in the real world. As the organization states in its values, “We know fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.” For those fans who were saddened by the end of the HP series, the HPA provides an avenue for the HP universe to live on, and for its fans to also accomplish great deeds in the name of Harry Potter.

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