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10 Questions to Improve Your Philanthropy
Kris Putnam-Walkerly -- Global Philanthropy Expert Kris Putnam-Walkerly -- Global Philanthropy Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, June 22, 2021


If you want to quickly improve your philanthropy, start by asking yourself these 10 questions.

It’s hard to imagine something more inspiring related to collective learning and improvement than research and development teams working with university data scientists to predict COVID-19 hot spots and then placing clinical trials in those places to speed the creation of a vaccine.

But this kind of learning shouldn’t just be confined to premier data scientists working on the world’s leading problem. The work of philanthropy is just as vital and requires the same kinds of learning, agility, and innovation. And while this kind of applied excellence might feel out of reach, it’s actually not all that complicated.

The team involved in the vaccine trial project applied what they knew carefully and intentionally and made advancements. In the same way, you can advance your work by continually learning and applying what you learn. This happens by getting “learning” out of your head and into the workflow through documentation, discussion, and decisions so that you can quickly reach your philanthropic goals.

Where to begin? By asking questions. Here are 10 “learning questions” I share with my private coaching clients that you can regularly ask yourself to continuously improve your philanthropy:

  1. What are the top three things we have learned about our philanthropic strategy thus far?
  2. What has surprised us?
  3. What are some of our early accomplishments/wins?
  4. What progress are we making overall?
  5. Where are we not making progress? Why?
  6. What has been the most challenging?
  7. If we could do it all over again, what would we do differently?
  8. Have conditions changed externally or internally that impact our approach?
  9. At this time, should we make any modifications or improvements? If so, what are they?
  10. Are there any new opportunities we should take advantage of?

The key is incorporating continuous learning into your everyday, ongoing work. The best way to do that is to make it a habit by starting with a few simple, ongoing activities.

Chances are, you already have many kinds of information available to you that can inform your learning: grantee reports, grantee convenings, evaluations, dashboards, your understanding of changing conditions, and the observations and knowledge of your staff, trustees, consultants, and grantees. You could also seek new insights at minimal cost by conducting an online survey, convening all your stakeholders, soliciting outside perspectives, or simply asking questions.

Make learning part of your and your team’s work plans. You can even create individual learning agendas, for which you’ll hold your team accountable. And don’t forget that learning should always be a two-way street. Be clear that you don’t have all the answers, be honest about where you have questions, and be open to where you’d like to improve your own knowledge or capacity.

Lastly, don’t forget the exponential potential to learn through collaboration. Like the vaccine trial team, philanthropists who practice everyday excellence together and across sectors vastly increase their ability to work more effectively and make the kinds of change the world needs.

Need help learning from your experiences from the past year to quickly improve your giving? Schedule a free strategy call with me. I’m happy to share my best advice to help you assess what you’ve learned and identify changes to make so that you can focus on what’s most important!

About Kris Putnam-Walkerly

Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW is a global philanthropy advisor and president of Putnam Consulting Group, Inc. For more than 20 years, top global philanthropies have requested Kris Putnam-Walkerly's help to transform their giving and catapult their impact. Widely considered to be one of the most sought-after philanthropic advisors, Kris has helped over 80 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts. 

As a philanthropy expert, advisor and award-winning author, Kris's clients include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, J.M. Smucker Company, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Heising Simons-Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Walton Family Foundations, Avery Dennison, and Fujitsu, among dozens of others.

A thought leader in transformational giving, Kris was named one of America's Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers for two years in a row. She is the author of the award-winning book Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders and the forthcoming book Delusional Altruism (Wiley; February 2020); a regular Forbes.com contributor on philanthropy; a global content partner to Alliance Magazine; and authored a chapter on "Transformational Giving: Philanthropy as an Investment in Change" in a new book on impact investing, The ImpactAssets Handbook for Investors. Kris is also a frequent contributor in the publications of leading philanthropy organizations, including the National Center on Family Philanthropy, Exponent Philanthropy, Southeastern Council on Foundations, Foundation Center, PEAK Grantmaking, and Giving Northern Ireland. Kris also provides expert commentary about philanthropy in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Washington Post, Entepreneur.com, and other media. Most recently, she was featured on NPR's Marketplace Morning Report and in Bloomberg Markets magazine. She co-edited The Foundation Review's themed journal on philanthropy consulting. In 2017 Kris was inducted into the Million Dollar Consulting® Hall of Fame, one of only 75 consultants chosen world-wide.

Prior to forming Putnam Consulting Group, she was a grantmaker at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and an evaluator at the highly esteemed Stanford University School of Medicine.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Kris Putnam-Walkerly
Group: Putnam Consulting Group, Inc.
Dateline: Avon Lake, OH United States
Direct Phone: 510-388-5231
Main Phone: 800-598-2102
Cell Phone: 510-388-5231
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