Imagine if Marvel made a movie about nonprofit superheroes

[Image description: Silhouette of a figure in shorts standing in front of a body of water, their hands on their hips. It looks to be sunrise or sunset. Image by Steve Halama on Unsplash.]

Hi everyone, I’m back from a month of not writing. Thank you for your patience. During this time, I was able to find myself, rethink my life, and finally understand what it means to truly live. And by that, I mean hung out with the kids and when they were at summer program or asleep, I watched Sweet Tooth, The Queen’s Gambit, Superstore, Mare of Easttown, Pen15, House of Flowers, The Crown, The K2, Castlevania, Kim’s Convenience, and whole bunch of movies. I learned very little.

Anyway, I’m back, and my brain can’t manage a serious column yet. While I was watching Loki, I thought, You know, our sector barely has representation in popular media. This is too bad, considering how exciting nonprofit and philanthropic work is. You know what we need? Marvel to make movies about our work. Here’s some random scenes of what one might look like.

Random Scene 1

Evil-looking man: Finally. After all these years of searching. The Sustainability Stone. With this and the Scalability MacGuffin, the Strategic Plan for Total World Domination is complete!

Voice: Oh man, you gotta find a new hobby, Mission Creep.

Mission Creep: Capacity Crusader! And who else did you bring to this little party? The Consultant? Two against one? Doesn’t seem fair.

The Consultant: Well, actually, I’m just here to advise. I’ve developed an agenda for this encounter. Mission Creep, why don’t you come down so we can all talk. Let’s start with some check-ins.

Mission Creep: You can check my fist into your pie holes! [launches attack] [They fight. Capacity Crusader expands and contracts in size as befits his superpower. The Consultant takes notes. Mission Creep is defeated]

Mission Creep: You think you beat me? Hahaha. This was just a ploy to keep you and the others occupied. You’ll never see what’s coming in a gazillion years. [Laughs maniacally, then dies]

Capacity Crusader: We have to gather the others

Random Scene 2

Mara: Naima. You and Mama eat dinner without me, OK sweetie? I’ll be back soon.

Naima: Are you saving the world again?

Mara: I’m trying to, baby. Now go set the table.

Faith: Is that what you tell yourself? Saving the world? Since you became Advocacy Angel, Naima and I barely see you. You come in late each night, reeking of cheap hummus. I gave up that life. Why can’t you?

Mara: I know you’re frustrated. But I’m doing this for our family. Faith, please. Look at me. Donor Advised Funds are out of control; I had to be there at the—

Faith: You missed her recital. Again. You know how important recitals are to children in movies.  

Mara: I’ll make it up to Naima. I’ll buy her a new case for her viola.

Faith: She switched to the cello. [shakes head slowly] I don’t even know you anymore…

Random Scene 3

Capacity Crusader: I’ve asked you all here because a great evil is afoot—

Man: How could one foot be evil?

Capacity Crusader: Sigh. Thank you, Logic Model, for your dry sense of humor. As I was saying, something bad is coming. We need to figure out what it is. Advocacy Angel, The Grantwriter, Frontline Fighter, Logic Model, and Well-Meaning White Ally, thank you for coming. Please help yourself to hummus and baby carrots.

Advocacy Angel: Hummus again? Can’t we get some decent food? Also, when will we get a real headquarters instead of this abandoned church basement with these milk crates for chairs? And where is SWOT Analysis? He used to come to these meetings.

Frontline Fighter: Who?

Advocacy Angel: SWOT Analysis? Rodney? He had the power to…identify threats or something…

Well-Meaning White Ally: Oh yeah, Rodney. Whatever happened to him?    

The Grantwriter: Let’s focus. What did Mission Creep say before he died?

Capacity Crusader: Something about how we’ll never be able to see what’s coming in a gazillion years.

Logic Model: Gazillionnaire Guy. He’s been building a rocket. A massive one. We can’t stop him without more resources. We need to send Data Dude to talk to The Council. He’s the only one they might listen to.

Well-Meaning White Ally: Can I just play Devil’s Advocate for a minute? Maybe we should just be thankful for what they gave us. I mean, it is their hard-earned dollars and no one is forcing them to give us anything.

Random Scene 4

Data Dude: Gazillionaire Guy is planning to build a giant phallic-shaped rocket.

Faceless, shadowy figure, taking a long drag on a cigarette: How does this concern the Council? Have not there been many phallic rockets?

Data Dude: This one is different. We don’t know why he’s building it, but it’s massive and has a 50 percent chance of knocking the earth off orbit if it launches, killing all life forms. We need the White Council to release more funding. We don’t have the resources to stop—

Council elder: It is the rule of the Council to release 5% of the endowment each year. We must save 95% to thwart nefarious plans in the future

Data Dude: If the earth is knocked off orbit, there WON’T BE a future.

Council elders: We must discuss. [Inaudible whisperings among council members, amidst swirling clouds of smoke]. We have decided the payout rate stays the same. However, we will release a rapid response fund of $25K. The RFP will be ready in eight months. Good luck saving the world.

Random Scene 5

Gazillionaire Guy: Get ready to launch on my mark.

Henchman: Yes sir. [A rolled-up annual report flew into the henchman’s head, knocking him out]

Frontline Fighter: Stop right there, Gazillionaire Guy.

Gazillionaire Guy: The Social Justice League. I was expecting you. I have a proposition for you.

Capacity Crusader: We are not here to negotiate. Shut down your rocket.

Gazillionaire Guy: Join me. I know how tired you are. Look at yourselves. The wrinkles. The grey hair. The barely-concealed yearning for a career in real estate. I see the burnout. You are in no condition to fight me. I mean, seriously, your superhero costumes are literally duct-taped together! I don’t want to fight you. Join my team. I can offer you the things you’ve been craving, things you could only imagine. Health insurance with BOTH dental AND vision. A retirement plan with 10% matching. A 3-month sabbatical! Ergonomic chairs!

Advocacy Angel: Just shut down the rocket and pay your taxes, asshole!

Gazillionaire Guy: Are you serious about taxes again? To do what? Have our broken and corrupt government handle things? What has government done for the people except for schools and roads and forests and stuff? No, without the bureaucracy of government, we philanthropists can solve society’s problems. I mean, just this week I donated 100M dollars to end homelessness. And with this rocket, we can start colonizing Neptune!  

Well-Meaning White Ally: You know, he has a good point. Government is so ineffective. And 100M is a lot of money. And with climate change and everything, a colony on Neptune doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

Advocacy Angel: Government is not perfect, but it’s still more democratic than letting wealthy jerks treat the universe like their personal playground! He owes literally 38 billion dollars in taxes and his underpaying of workers caused a lot of homelessness in the first place! And this rocket might kill everyone on earth!

Well-Meaning White Ally: I’m just saying, I can see both sides.

[Gazillionaire Guy summons his army of minions, and a fierce battle breaks out, with, like, tons of special effects. Just when it looks like our heroes are about to lose, The Organizer arrives leading an army of people with signs saying “Pay Your Taxes!” which they proceed to use to beat the crap out of Gazillionaire Guy and stop his phallic-shaped rocket from launching.]

Advocacy Angel, weakly: Faith. You came.

Faith, aka The Organizer: Yeah, well, I guess no one completely leaves this life behind. [They kiss] And besides, you’d miss another recital if the world ended.

Post-credit scene

[A dark, dank cave with barely enough light to reveal that the cave walls are covered with easel paper. A disheveled-looking man is furiously writing something on the wall using a marker].

Man: So, they think they can just forget about me. I will show them. I will show them all! No more opportunities and strengths! They will only know threats and weaknesses!

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