Movies for Grant Writers

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How Can Will Ferrell, a farming community and Legos Help Us Become Better Grant Writers


I was helping a friend develop a list of motivational movies for a sports team and began thinking about what movies would psych up a grant writer. What films would inspire and motivate grant writers during a busy grant writing season, or perhaps during a writer’s slump?  The following is a list of movies that I think have important perspectives and messages in them…..some more inspirational than others. So here’s a list of some films that I think can motivate, shift a paradigm, help a hard working grant writer polish their craft, relax and reflect:

  1. Narrative-If you are looking for clever writing and a film that demonstrates the power of a powerful narrative, look no further than Stranger Than Fiction. Starring Will Ferrell, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenthaal –the cast alone is reason enough to watch.
  2. Fair Representation of an Underserved CommunityBrother’s Keeper is a documentary about a family of farming brothers in upstate New York. The documentary chronicles a murder trial and how the community reacts and rallies around the brothers. The film tells the story through a fair and compassionate lens and really captures the personality of the family and the town. The film is an excellent example of providing dignity and respect to people/clients who may be disenfranchised and often portrayed playing off of stigmas and stereotypes. For point of reference, the brothers in the film kept in touch with the filmmakers for years after the making of the film.
  3. OverpromisingThe Money Pit-Tom Hanks stars in this humorous tale of trying to fix up a huge white elephant of a house. Seeing Hanks battle with the contractor is similar to the challenges we, as grant writers, sometimes face when trying to put together a realistic budget that will cover all that is outlined in the grant narrative.
  4. CompetitiveThe Hunger Games-In New York State we have the Consolidated Funding Applications season that starts in May and ends at the end of July. The grants are fairly competitive and the timeline relatively short. It pits region vs. region and makes municipalities and nonprofits compete for funding against their colleague organizations. The process has been dubbed the “Hunger Games” and one always hopes the odds are ever in our favor.
  5. Inspirational- Beautiful, compelling writing takes time and the willingness to revise. Harper Lee revised To Kill a Mockingbird for two years before it was published, won a Pulitzer, and was then made into a movie.
  6. Persistence-A classic, Twelve Angry Men Henry Fonda will help you find your inner peace, frame a compelling argument and inspiring you to write a brilliant needs statement. If you are looking for something a bit more contemporary and for a family friendly movie, The Lego Movie has a great message of grit and collaboration.
  7. What Happens When you are Too SuccessfulMisery. This suspenseful movie is a great way to scream out stress and appreciate the fact that there isn’t an NYT bestsellers list for grant writers.
  8. Data-Driven– The movie Magic Town portrays a town that has the demographic makeup to perfectly predict national trends. This comedy is a good reminder of how data is important but doesn’t tell the whole story.
  9. Portraying The Joy of a Community Vision-Set on the Irish seaside, Waking Ned Devine tells the story of friendship, a lottery ticket, and community decision-making at its best.


What other movies come to mind that you can connect to our work as a grant writer/grant professional? We’d love to hear your other film connections!

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About The Author
Amy has worked with and for nonprofits for over 20 years as a practitioner, researcher and consultant. She oversees the creative direction at Finch Network as well as business development. Amy has worked with local, regional and national organizations including the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the Corporation for National and Community Service and United Way of Tompkins County. She specializes in program planning, fund development and qualitative research. Notable projects include a fellowship she completed for the Corporation for National Service where she conducted an evaluation of program sustainability of AmeriCorps*VISTA projects, coordinating an allocation process that invested $1.3 million dollars annually to health and human service nonprofits in Tompkins County and leading the qualitative research portion for two evaluations conducted for City Harvest. Amy has a strong commitment to her own community and volunteers with her local Foster Care program, Plattsburgh Community Garden and in Plattsburgh City Schools. Amy holds a B.A. in American Studies and a teaching certificate from the University of Rochester and a graduate degree in Community and Rural Development from Cornell University.

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