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Nonprofit life

Movies that are all about the nonprofit life.

March 22, 2023

There are movies about lawyers, chefs, publishers, bank robbers, teachers, politicians, astronauts (fair enough), journalists, musicians, bankers. The list goes on. But, there aren’t that many movies overtly about nonprofits and those who work for them. And, believe it or not, there isn’t a single movie about Zeffy—the only 100% free fundraising platform for nonprofits. There are numerous excellent documentaries out there, but what about the blockbusters? The big budget films that glamorize the #nonprofitlife? Mysteriously missing. So, while we wait, we’ve come up with a few movies that, at first glance, don’t appear to be about nonprofits but, when you take a second look, they really kind of are.

This list is in no particular order.

A one-person animal rights nonprofit. Kind of.

AKA Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This may not be blatantly about nonprofit work, but the whole movie is arguably about one activist’s (Newt Scamander) fight for animal rights. He’s so passionate about his cause that he does his best to ignore any of the movie’s other issues. He ultimately fails at this because he’s a good person who just wants to help. (Sound familiar?) And fine, there is some magic involved here. But honestly, that’s probably because someone involved in the making of this movie knew that most people who work in the nonprofit industry perform miracles with their limited resources—aka they perform a kind of magic everyday.

Every nonprofit organizations dream come true.

Or Pay It Forward

A teacher who gives his students an assignment to come up with an idea that will change the world for the better. Which is basically the purpose of every nonprofit everywhere. And really, if Trevor had come up with his “Pay it Forward” idea today, it’d probably be a successful nonprofit or, at the very least, a startup or an app. Anyways, not to spoil the movie or anything, but Trevor’s goodwill movement ends up catching on, growing into a wave of human kindness that spreads across the US.

Your community-focused nonprofit.

Better known as Robin Hood

Robin Hood as in Robin Hood Men In Tights? The Story of Robin Hood? Disney’s version? Yes. They all tell the story of a group of people coming together to form an organization dedicated to fighting poverty and injustice in their community. Their leader is a bit extreme and their methods are questionable. But, hey, it’s a movie that inspires and encourages us all to take up the good fight.

The mysterious world of philanthropy.

Richie Rich

A wealthy kid who, through his philanthropic endeavours, realizes that money is awesome, but friendship AND money are way better. Okay so this one is a bit of a stretch. But, we couldn’t just leave it off the list. Especially with the wave of wealthy philanthropists who are using a fraction of their enormous personal fortunes to make the world a better place.

How nonprofits help local sports teams.

Or: Angels in the Outfield

You may or may not have heard of this gem of a movie. And if you haven’t, it’s worth a watch. Or rewatch if you have heard of it. The story: A struggling sports team is given a much need boost by, you guessed it, angels that can only be seen by two boys looking for a family. So, basically the story of a booster or parent group that’s working behind the scenes (the real stars) to make sure their favourite sports team has everything they need to compete at their best. Oh, and there’s the side story of the two boys who get to hang out with the head coach in a classic Big Brother and Big Sister moment. This movie has got it all.

The battle for equal rights for all.

Red, White and Royal Blue

Okay, so this isn’t a movie just yet. But it will be soon. What’s it doing on a list of MOVIES that are all about fighting for a cause you believe in? Hear us out: A group of young adults leading by example in the fight for equal rights and representation for all? Check. Concern for the state of the world? Check. A world where the President of the United States of America is finally a woman from Texas? Check. Plus, there’s a president’s bisexual son and a gay prince. So, yes we included Red, White and Royal Blue.

Nonprofits and their longterm relationship with the environment.

Avengers: Infinity War

You were probably thinking: “Finally a list of movies that doesn’t have a Marvel superhero movie in it.” We get it, they are everywhere. But this one has earned it’s place. Why? Because of Thanos. Marvel movies aren’t new to environmentalism: trash planets, questionable mining practices, unlimited, renewable energy—the “whole Marvel Cinematic Universe story arc wrestles with resources, energy, social equity and long-term survival”.1 Avengers: Infinity War is different. It puts the environment and sustainability front and centre and gives us, not an antihero exactly, but a misguided villain or bad guy we can understand—someone fighting with all their, and the universe’s, power to force all our worlds back into a sustainable balance. We know from experience, and the sheer number of environment-focused nonprofit organizations, that sustainability takes more than a click of your fingers. But, Thanos did get us all talking and that’s no easy feat.

The fight for equality in the workplace.

As told by The Devil Wears Prada

We’ll let Sayara Thurston, longtime activist, take this one on. (I tried, but got yelled at via text when I suggested the film was a commentary on fast fashion.)

It’s a good example of how societal perceptions have changed over time. When the movie came out, Miranda was clearly understood to be the villain. In recent years, however, this has been re-litigated to the point where almost everyone I talk to agrees that Andy’s needy boyfriend and friends were the villains because they couldn’t deal with her being busy for a year while trying to establish her entire career.

Sayara followed that up with:

It’s not a movie about fast fashion, LOL.

So, The Devil Wears Prada and its commentary on society’s unjustified problem with ambitious women—and Miranda and Andy’s very personal fight against it—are obviously, and rightfully, on the list.