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A Year of Crisis Forced Foundations to Change Bad Practices. They Should Never Revert to the Old Ways.
Kris Putnam-Walkerly -- Global Philanthropy Expert Kris Putnam-Walkerly -- Global Philanthropy Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Cleveland, OH
Sunday, May 9, 2021


Long before the pandemic hit, it was clear philanthropy needed an overhaul. But the health and economic crisis, combined with a national racial reckoning, forced grant makers’ hands. Foundations largely rose to the challenge by speeding up their grant making, increasing flexibility, and reducing funding restrictions.

But now it appears those changes may be short lived. In the most recent of its Foundations Respond to Crisis reports, the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that “most foundations do not plan to undertake these new practices in the future to the degree they are doing so now.”

How can that be during a time when people in and outside of philanthropy are speaking up every day about the need for such changes? Why wouldn’t foundations lean into this progress?

Because they are delusional — although not in the crazy sense. They are stuck in a mind-set I call “delusional altruism,” an almost-always unconscious state of being that leads them to hold on to deceptive and illogical behavior that undermines progress. These include a fixation on saving money, a belief that moving too quickly could send them down the wrong path, and a fear of losing control. To change, grant makers need to recognize the forms delusional altruism takes and then equip themselves to learn and chart new paths forward.

What follows is a roadmap for how to confront and overcome philanthropic delusions and permanently embrace the important changes made during a year of upheaval and crisis.

Delusion One: We need to save money so there’s more to give.

Foundation leaders and wealthy philanthropists operate under the assumption that their resources are scarce and that they need to save money to support the causes they care about. This scarcity mentality is one of the most destructive delusions in philanthropy because it results in a failure to make the investments grantees need to fulfill their missions and bring about long-term social change.

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
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