Today is our eleventh birthday. We need your help.

by Executive Director Matt Maggiacomo

Over the past few years, my desire to reread the Harry Potter books has nudged at me on occasion. The only thing keeping me from doing it is a major shortage of free time. It’s only gotten worse with a baby in my life, because every spare moment is invested into meaningful interaction with the little guy. The last thing I want to do is miss time with him so I can read a series I’ve already read twice. However, the HPA’s Remembrall Readathon finally gave me the push I needed to at least give it a shot. I didn’t make it very far — just long enough to experience Harry’s first journey to Hogwarts for the third time.

Every reread of our favorite books reveals new layers of detail or meaning that we might have missed the first time around. Though it’s always been an aspect of the Potter series that’s resonated with me, the one element that really stood out this time around is that Harry — the Boy Who Lived, the young man who’d go on to defeat the most ruthless and powerful villain of his time — needed an immense amount of help just to make it to Hogwarts in the first place. He received help from Dumbledore in the form of a protection charm that kept him safe throughout his childhood. He received help from the post owls, who revealed their status as the magical creatures most dedicated to their profession. He received help from Hagrid, who first carried him to the Dursleys as an infant and then away from the Dursleys as an 11 year old boy. He received help from so many others, whose contributions wouldn’t become apparent until much later on in his journey.

Today, the Harry Potter Alliance turns eleven years old, and like our namesake hero, we need some help getting to Hogwarts. This year, we chose to build our annual fundraiser around our fall campaign, Wizard Rock the Vote. Our thinking was that a nonpartisan campaign celebrating the civic duty of voting might be just what our community needed, given how just about everything else related to this year’s election is terribly depressing and legitimately frightening. So far, our strategy is generating enthusiasm for the cause and engagement in the actions we’ve organized, but that’s not translating to the type of financial support we’ve seen during past annual fundraisers. The result? We’re falling far behind our goal, and at this pace we may fail to raise the funds we need to keep operating at our current capacity.

This is not something a nonprofit organization wants to admit publicly, but sometimes swallowing your pride and being honest about your challenges is the only way to get the help you truly need. On top of that, our history demonstrates that we’ve always succeeded largely because of the contributions we’ve received from our community. So, we are marking our eleventh birthday with a humble request. Will you throw your support behind us once again with a donation to our current fundraiser? Will you help the HPA get to Hogwarts?

The HPA’s legacy is intertwined with inspiring and determined leaders: Andrew Slack, Paul DeGeorge, Jackson Bird, Melissa Anelli. These folks have poured blood, sweat, and tears into making sure our methodology is implemented well and respected widely. However, each of these leaders has understood that being a catalyst for action is just one among many crucial roles, and that many other people must be involved in order to see a great idea come to fruition.

This is an underlying theme of all the HPA’s greatest victories. Lisa Valdez, an HPA member who saw Andrew Slack speak at the Boston Yule Ball in 2008, gave us the idea to organize Not in Harry’s Name, a campaign to end child slavery in the cocoa supply for all Harry Potter chocolate products. Six years later, we achieved our organization’s most defining victory; Lisa was the first of over 400,000 people to champion the cause and support our efforts. Esther Earl inspired thousands of Nerdfighters to support us during the Chase Community Giving contest in 2010, resulting in our winning a $250,000 grant that effectively funded Not in Harry’s Name and many other amazing projects. John Ssentamu, an HPA chapter organizer, worked with other leaders in Masaka, Uganda, to build a new elementary school for underserved children in his community. In doing so, he set the table for one of our most meaningful Accio Books campaigns of all time, facilitating our ability to build a brand new library for that school. Beverly Schreiber, another leader in our chapters program, joined HPA volunteer staff and conceived Granger Leadership Academy, which has become the crowning achievement of our leadership development model.

These accomplishments define our organization and we highlight them regularly — who wouldn’t? We’re very proud that we’ve moved the needle on so many important issues and challenges facing our world. We’re delighted that in doing so, we’ve also cultivated a global community of fans who have the confidence, resilience, and skills to organize impactful social justice campaigns on any issue. But we also know that these accomplishments can’t be traced to one single person or even a small group of planners. We can float any idea we want into the world, but its success depends on buy-in and investment from our members and chapters — and it’s often a fresh set of eyes and a visionary spark outside our core staff that ignites our most important projects.

Another aspect of Harry Potter that I find so compelling is that JK Rowling offers up a number of different types of heroes for readers to hold up against Harry. Dumbledore was an architect of change who held the defeat of Voldemort higher than any other priority, including his own personal relationships. Lockhart was a vain and egotistical public figure who was concerned mostly about his own legacy and how others perceived him, and he turned out to be only a shadow of what he claimed to be. Voldemort was a hero to his followers, and he used that admiration and dedication for his own benefit and power. All represent a leadership archetype; all have their own strengths and flaws that inspire a mixture of loyalty and criticism from others.

In Harry, we have a literary hero who is defined by his limitations as much as his strengths. He may occasionally try to go it alone, but ultimately his accomplishments are due in part because he is surrounded by people with talents that complement his weaknesses. Hermione’s steadfast focus and intellectual drive allows her to solve some of the biggest mysteries of the series, even when she’s petrified by a basilisk or juggling a superhuman course load. Ron is the heart of the resistance, showing loyalty to Harry and the cause even when fighting through internal conflicts with jealousy and self-doubt. So many other friends have their moments as heroes: Luna, Ginny, Neville, Fred and George. What would the movement against the rise of Voldemort and associated corruption of the Ministry look like without their involvement?

What about the adults in Harry’s life? He is an orphan with abusive foster parents, and yet he places his faith in Molly and Arthur Weasley, in Remus and Sirius and Tonks, in Mad-Eye Moody and above all in Albus Dumbledore. These role models shelter him, feed him, train him, and empower him to live up to his potential, in part because he welcomes them and embraces their help.

We are called the Harry Potter Alliance, but our work draws from all these heroes, and we see so many people like them across our global community. We see dozens of Hermiones, who run HPA chapters and lead local fan activist campaigns with energy and conviction. We see Lunas, who use their creativity and kindness to inspire others to do the right thing. We see Mollys and Arthurs, who serve as adult facilitators for our middle and high school chapters and help young people accomplish amazing things. We see Nevilles, who always stand up for what’s right and aren’t afraid to tell us when we’re wrong. We see scores of Marauders using their cleverness and audacity to challenge corrupt systems.

We’ve become so much more than a Dumbledore’s Army for the real world. Heck, we’ve even surpassed the Order of the Phoenix. The Harry Potter Alliance is a global community of heroes. Together, we are defeating more real-world horcruxes than we can even count. What’s not immediately apparent is that we are doing this on a shoestring budget. We have the structure and resources of a small, locally-oriented nonprofit, but every member who believes in our mission serves as a Sonorus Charm and expands our impact farther than we ever imagined possible.

Today is our eleventh birthday, and we need your help.

Give to Wizard Rock the Vote because you believe, like we do, that fans have the power to change the world. Give because you believe that our collective imagination and passion is stronger than the cynicism and gloom that defines traditional activism. Give because you want us to keep empowering new Hermiones and Lunas and Nevilles through our game-changing leadership development programs. Give not only because you’re capable of imagining better, but because you can envision the best — a creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.

Give to Wizard Rock the Vote because you believe in the Harry Potter Alliance and its global community of heroes.

Thank you so much.

Matt Maggiacomo
Executive Director, The HPA