What Charities Can Learn From the Marvel Universe
6 September 2018 at 8:26 am
Charities wanting to grow their cause can learn a lot from Marvel superheroes, writes Hancock Creative director Alecia Hancock.
If you want to grow your cause’s impact, you could do worse than asking Spider-Man. And, for that matter, Deadpool… and Ant-Man, Wolverine, Captain America – even Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy!
Basically, if you want to grow your cause, you can learn a whole lot from Marvel.
Marvel, of course, are master storytellers. They have, over the years, nailed the origin story, using it to create multi-dimensional characters with flaws, imperfections and incredibly loveable traits. As a worthy cause, this is exactly what you need to do.
You need to give your cause an identity – one that your audience can relate to, laugh at and empathise with. Do this, and the hard work of brand-building is as good as done.
Sound too simple? Well,it is, but telling your story honestly and authentically – while also having the ability to laugh at yourself and admit to your mistakes – takes a fair bit of guts. This is where we can all learn from the characters created by Marvel.
Let’s break this down. Do you think we’d be cheering Spider-Man on if we didn’t know about his youth, his relationship with his aunt and uncle and his understanding that “with great power comes great responsibility”? Of course not! Without the back story, he’d just be a strange chap in a fancy-dress costume.
Would we feel an affinity to Hulk if we didn’t know that his Hulk-ness was the result of Bruce Banner being hit by gamma rays while trying to save teenager Rick Jones? Nope! And what about the genetically mutated Wolverine? It means so much knowing that James Howlett initially saw his wolverine status as a curse, but reframed the story so that his curse became a powerful tool for good.
That’s where you – the worthy causes, charities and not for profits – come in.
That’s where you can really learn from Marvel! That’s how you can tell your own story. Take a step back and consider the origin of your cause. HOW did it start? WHY did it start? WHY do you continue to fight for your cause?
Let’s take a look at a few superheroes I know. The Kids’ Cancer Project started on an ordinary day in the late 1980s, when Col Reynolds was driving his empty tourist coach past the Children’s Hospital in Camperdown, Sydney. After stopping to let two youngsters with bald heads cross the road, he parked and went into the hospital on the spur of the moment.
Touched by the spirit of everyone he met that day, Col started his personal mission to help kids with cancer in any way he could. THAT is an origin story, and it’s awesome. That is a story that needs to be told, over and over.
Then there’s Orange Sky Australia, the mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness. Orange Sky was founded in a Brisbane garage by two 20-year-old mates, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, who had the idea of restoring a bit of dignity to people doing it tough. In late 2014, the boys installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of their old van and visited parks around Brisbane to wash and dry clothes for free. Another brilliant story, another cause we will happily get behind.
And then there are the stories that come from the darkest of places. The Saba Rose Button Foundation was formed after 11-month-old Saba was left severely brain damaged from the flu vaccine. When Saba received compensation for her injuries, the Button family made the decision to create a foundation for other children who needed intensive rehabilitation. Today, they dedicate their lives to improving the lives of children like their daughter. From the darkness, came light.
Similarly, there’s the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation. Its own origin story is heartbreaking: eighteen-year-old Thomas Kelly was walking through Sydney’s King Cross on a night out with his girlfriend in July 2012, when he was hit in an unprovoked and cowardly attack.
His family were at home watching TV when the call came from St Vincent’s hospital. By that time, Thomas was already undergoing emergency surgery. Two days later, there was no choice but to switch off Tom’s life support.
As a legacy, The Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation was set up to reduce violence associated with alcohol in our community.
These organisations are able to make a huge impact to Australian families because of their willingness to share their story, however devastating. As hard as these stories are to tell, they’re incredibly important in growing a cause’s impact. The stories affect us, impact us, inspire us.
Every cause has a story to tell. Every cause has its WHY, otherwise it wouldn’t exist! The trick is to tell the story honestly and authentically. If you do this, we promise that you’ll have a Marvel blockbuster on your hands!
About the Author: Alecia Hancock is the director of not-for-profit educators Hancock Creative. Want to learn more about how to tell your story to raise funds and grow your impact? Come along to Change the World, a free marketing for NFPs – www.hancockcreative.com.au/ctw