Lesson 11 For Grantwriters From “The Princess Bride”

Don't let others convince you to be unethical

Continuing with the series of what we can learn from the movie, The Princess Bride, here’s lesson #11.

Don’t let others convince you to do things you believe are unwise or unethical.


Vizzini: Finish him. Finish him, your way.

Fezzik: Oh good, my way. Thank you, Vizzini… what’s my way?

Vizzini: Pick up one of those rocks, get behind a boulder, in a few minutes the man in black will come running around the bend, the minute his head is in view, hit it with the rock.

Fezzik: My way’s not very sportsman-like.

In the course of my 30+ years writing grants and working with nonprofits, I’ve seen a lot of “stuff” come and go. Sometimes consultants suggest things to agency leaders that are at least somewhat shady or not really in line with the organization’s mission and values. I’m happy to say that in almost every case, the agency leaders rejected the advice because it wasn’t a fit.

Grantwriters may have the tendency to do something similar in pushing an agency to apply for a grant that might address a fiscal need for more resources, but is not really in line with what the organization does or sees as a strategic priority.

Plenty of people will tell you to inflate your outcomes in the grant proposal, or under-promise when you know you can do better. They’ll say “That’s the way things are done. Everyone does it.” Don’t play that game. Be honest and calculate things as transparently as possible. Be true to your best instincts and follow your organization’s mission and values. You may pass up a few “opportunities” but you’ll be far ahead in maintaining your reputation and integrity.

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