21 Apr Generosity is MARVELous
I love a good rom-com. Heck, I even love a moderately adequate rom-com—like you’d find on the Hallmark channel any given day of the week. Sure, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are a quality go-to when you need a tried-and-true pick-me-up. But you can only watch Sleepless in Seattle so many times—the actual number varies from person to person; I might be holding on at about +/-200. LOL, please don’t judge me. And that’s why Hallmark comes in so handy. In the winter months, it always snows at the end of a Hallmark movie…just as they kiss. The lighting is just right and it’s so romantic. Of course, it’s the big, white, fluffy snowflakes, too. None of those snowdrifts are covered in the gray sludge that you might find on an Indiana street in December, February, or even a random April! Quick sidebar: What the even heck is going on out there anyway?! I wonder what April snow showers will bring? Snow flowers?
Anyway, the entire 120 minutes of self-care is the classic boy meets girl formula—it’s their hallmark, you might say. The leading lady is always missing something from her life and she’s most definitely with the wrong guy for her. The recipe is repeated so frequently that when my husband wanders in the room. He always asks, ‘Have they had the misunderstanding yet?’ He knows how this works. After all, we had a full year of Covid to watch every Hallmark holiday movie they had to offer—and they covered all the holidays, trust me. So, it goes without saying that I needed a change. And boy, did I get one. For the first time in my life, I’m watching all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)—all 22 of them—in chronological order. Of course, my husband has seen them sporadically throughout his life, but this time we’re watching them together and following the timeline in which the story takes place. So far, I’ve enjoyed the first five. Yet, not one movie has ended with a romantic kiss as fluffy snowflakes were falling gently to the ground. Bummer. Is that asking too much? But I was delighted to find many similarities in the Marvel movie magic that we get to experience every day working in the wonderful world of philanthropy at the Community Foundation. Check this out.
The Marvel formula has four essential elements that you’ll find in each movie, no matter who the villain or hero might be: (1) Each character deals with a big issue that is very real and very personal, (2) they always find a way to your funny bone, (3) the hero always chooses the moral path that reinforces the disdain of the villain and (4) each movie focuses on some kind of extremely powerful object that is central to the storyline.
So, what’s all this have to do with philanthropy? Maybe it’s because I live, eat, and breath Grant County generosity that it’s as clear as the Infinity Stone to me—but I’ll let you be the judge:
(1) Each character deals with a big issue that is very real and very personal: That’s where most philanthropy is born. Kind-hearted donors who care deeply about a specific nonprofit organization or a particular social cause and are truly dedicated to using the transaction of a donation to make a transformation in someone’s life. The beauty of this selflessness is that quite often they may never even meet the benefactor of their generosity. What’s important is that they utilize philanthropy to change someone’s life for the better and there is truly nothing more real or more personal.
(2) They always find a way to your funny bone: While Marvel uses humor often, we get to experience pure joy! There is a simple, unadulterated happiness that accompanies each act of generosity. It really makes no difference how big or how small the gift is or even if the donation will impact our community today or long into the future—there is still this almost giddy kind of excitement that complements philanthropy. And, just like a classic ‘dad joke’ that tickles your funny bone, charitable giving brings a smile to the givers, to the recipients, and to us as we are blessed to sit in the hub of generosity between these two entities every day. That’s the definition of joy, my friends. Philanthropy is fun.
(3) The hero always chooses the moral path that reinforces the disdain of the villain: There’s no doubt the world we live in is filled with both good guys and bad guys, on-screen and off. If only they could be easily identified by the color of their hats like we used to see in old western movies, watching Olivia Pope on Scandal (#whitehat), or if they actually wore capes! How cool would that be? However, you can always count on telling the good guys by their actions—actions do still speak louder than words. I’d even go as far as saying that great heroes, good leaders, and active philanthropists have the following in common:
- They feel a great sense of responsibility—after all, with great power comes great responsibility, right?
- They have a back-story that gives their mission meaning—when you care about something deeply and personally, your passion drives you.
- They work hard—the desire to improve the quality of life of others often requires knowledge, training, and the dedication to help those who might not be able to help themselves. They dig deep and it shows.
- They work as a team because it’s been proven time and time again that we’re better together—teamwork makes us stronger, edges out evil egos, and creates a healthy environment where plans are crafted so that we all win. The zero-sum game where one person or group wins only by causing another person or group to lose is old-school, archaic, stale, and, frankly, simply not true.
When you spot these hard-working, mission-driven responsibility warriors teaming up, you just know that honorable work is about to take place. It also makes it really obvious to identify the villains—they’re either not doing hero-work or they’re trying to thwart it. Community-building philanthropists exhibit hero-like behavior and it’s a privilege to help them achieve their charitable goals of helping others in our community.
(4) Each movie focuses on some kind of extremely powerful object that is central to the storyline: In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ll be introduced to the Infinity Stone early in the first movie, Captain America. But the stones eventually serve as a unifying force that brings the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Doctor Strange together with a common bond. The very fact that powerful objects like Infinity Stones exist raises the stakes and increases the intensity that keeps people coming back to the theater to buy that $8.00 movie popcorn.
Philanthropy has its own version of Infinity Stones. At first thought, you may believe that money is the extremely powerful object that plays the lead role, but you’d be wrong. Sure, money is a means to an end. But simply having funds doesn’t make one charitable. The extremely powerful tool that our donors wield is abundant, selfless generosity. From a $7 elf-on-the-shelf donation we once received to the surprise $5M check that randomly arrived in a generic white envelope in our mailbox—and everything in-between—the tool of generosity is potent—so potent that it positively impacts anyone near it—the giver as well as the receiver—and we never tire of seeing it’s remarkable power to transform.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, not all superheroes wear capes. And our donors are indeed superheroes. In fact, this week we’ll be deploying another round of grantmaking from our Give To Grant Collaborative Fund—the fund we mobilize that knits together multiple donations, of all sizes, to make grants up to $10,000 to local non-profit applicants. There is power in numbers and when multiple donors, including the Foundation, collaborate within one fund to pool our money together, big things can, and do, happen.
As I finish up this blog post, the snowflakes are flying, in April, in Indiana. It makes me want to watch a Hallmark movie and await the always happy ending where they smooch amid the flurries. So, I can’t help but wonder how cool it would have been to see some snowflakes falling in the background as Tony Stark announced to the media that he, in fact, was Iron Man. It would have been the perfect combination of classic Marvel movie heroism with a dash of Hallmark heart—sounds just like our donors to me…heroes with heart. I’d go see that movie. Fortunately, we get a front-row seat for this flick every day. It’s MARVELous.