17 must-watch documentaries for fundraisers

If you are passionate about fundraising, you can find inspiration everywhere. In books, films and documentaries. These seventeen documentaries are about people making a positive impact on the world.

Do you know of a documentary that is missing from this list? Let us know.

Enjoy. 🍿

1. The White Helmets (2016)

‘To save a life, is to save all of humanity’

Several determined first-aid workers risk their lives to pull victims out of the rubble during the daily attacks on citizens in Syria. The volunteers of the White Helmets are always first on the scene after a bombing. Their work is as dangerous as it is important. While the bombs continue to fall around them, these real-life heroes search for survivors amid the destruction.

2. He Named Me Malala (2015)

Pakistani girl fights for the right to education

2012. Twelve-year-old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan is nearly killed when a member of the Taliban shoots her in the head for speaking out against the Taliban and their ban on education for young girls. She survives the attack and continues her fight for justice. In 2014, she is awarded the Nobel Prize for her efforts.
In this documentary, Malala talks about her family, her relationship with her parents and younger brothers, her fight for the right to education, the attempt on her life and her reason for not giving up.

3. The Cove (2009)

Dolphin trainer raises awareness of animal cruelty in cove

Ever since Flipper became the hero of his own TV show, people have been crazy about dolphins. Dolphins are seen more and more as a tourist attraction. People want to see the animals perform tricks or go swimming with them. This has given rise to a multi-million-dollar industry and has put many species of dolphins on the endangered-species list.
The Japanese town of Taijii is the world’s largest supplier of dolphins. However, no one knows or is even allowed to see what actually happens in that cove. In this documentary, renowned dolphin trainer Richard O’Barry and his team attempt to enter the area, armed with state-of-the-art equipment. The results are shocking.

4. Virunga (2014)

Courageous park rangers protect nature reserve

Virunga National Park is heavily affected by the political upheaval in the east of Congo. With one civil war raging after another, people and wildlife alike feel the impact of excessive poaching and deforestation. A small yet courageous group of park rangers desperately tries to protect this UNESCO Heritage site against poachers, armed militia and other dark forces out to exploit Congo’s natural riches.

5. Period. End of Sentence. (2018)

Women fight to end the stigma surrounding menstruation

In rural India, menstruation is still a stigma. As a result, generations of women have been denied access to the provisions they need. In a small village, women use a new machine to produce cheap sanitary pads. At the same time, they fight for their own (financial) independence.

6. Mission Blue (2014)

Life in the oceans

Ocean life is rapidly dying out as a result of pollution, overfishing and acidification. According to Sylvia Earle, a renowned American oceanographer, deep-sea researcher and author, this will result in an ecological catastrophe with a devastating impact on all life on Earth, including humankind.

7. Chasing Ice (2012)

Stunning images of melting ice caps

Chasing Ice shows the effects of climate change like never before, while also telling the story of a man with an unstoppable passion and drive.
James Balog, a photographer for National Geographic, has a mission: to capture the melting ice caps on film. Together with a group of adventurers, he pushes the boundaries of what is technologically (and humanly) possible. He manages to capture this frozen world in a magnificent manner. Using time-lapse technology, years pass by in mere seconds. This lets us see centuries-old icescapes change before our very eyes.

8. City of Joy (2016)

There is life and strength after pain

This documentary is about Congolese women turning their pain into strength. These women and girls were raped during the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the City of Joy, they learn to cope with their past, love themselves again and ultimately become leaders in their community.

9. Batkid Begins (2015)

One child’s wish touches millions of people

One child. One wish. Batkid Begins tells the story of how the wish of five-year-old Miles touched millions of people. The young leukaemia patient wished to be Batman for one day. No one expected his wish to transform a city and even an entire country for a day. Not his family. Not his friends. Not the thousands of volunteers who came from all around to help make Miles’ wish come true. But it did happen.

10. Biking Borders (2021)

A one-of-a-kind fundraising campaign

Former classmates and best friends Max and Nono plan to cycle from Berlin to Beijing to raise money to build a school in Guatemala. They hardly have any idea what they are in for and neither of them has any experience with long-distance cycling. What follows is a unique 15,000-kilometre journey.

11. Bending the Arc (2017)

What do real heroes look like?

Thirty years ago, a group of doctors and activists fought to save lives in a poor Haitian village. Their work led to the foundation of a global organisation that strives to provide health care to the poorest people on the planet. This documentary tells their story through interviews with doctors and patients.

12. How to Change the World (2015)

The foundation of Greenpeace

In 1971, a group of friends sails into a nuclear test area. Their protests capture the imagination of many. In this documentary, the film makers shed light on the pioneers of Greenpeace and the modern-day green movement in general. It also contains previously unseen archive footage.

13. How to Survive a Plague (2012)

An untold story about HIV/AIDS

A group of activists without any scientific training infiltrated government institutions and the pharmaceutical industry. As a result of their efforts, promising drugs and new treatments for HIV/AIDS were introduced in record time, putting a stop to a modern-day plague and making the disease manageable.

14. Living on One Dollar (2013)

How can you survive on only one dollar a day?

Living on One Dollar follows the journey of four friends. Together, they travel through Guatemala for two months while trying to survive on just one dollar a day. Along the way, they fight hunger, parasites and financial stress, while experiencing the struggle that millions of poor people around the world face every day.

15. Gleason (2016)

Video diary of an ALS patient

At the age of 34, former NFL-star Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, a deadly muscle disease that affects all muscle groups in the body one at a time. Doctors told Gleason he only had two to five years to live. Gleason recorded a video diary for his son. The documentary shows how he and his wife, family and friends try to raise money for ALS patients.

16. Poverty, Inc. (2014)

About the unintended side effects of development aid

How can you compete with something that is for free? This is one of the major problems that small entrepreneurs in developing countries face. While they try to sell their food or other products, the market is flooded by aid organisations handing everything out for free.
This is one of the unintended side effects of development aid that this film explores. While the documentary exposes quite a few problems, it also shows that there are different, better ways.

17. Budrus (2009)

Small-town leader brings divided people together

Ayed Morrar has given up his comfortable job with the Palestinian government when he hears that the Israelis are planning to build a dividing wall straight through his small rural village of Budrus. He organises a meeting at the town hall. He invites Israeli citizens and forms a movement whose motto is ‘We can do it’. To everyone’s surprise, Ayed becomes the leader of the first unarmed resistance movement to successfully preserve and even expand Palestinian territories. This achievement is made possible in part by Ayed’s fifteen-year-old daughter Iltezam.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get fresh insights to help your charity grow.

More fundraising blogs