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Grantmaking Trends for 2021
Kris Putnam-Walkerly -- Global Philanthropy Expert Kris Putnam-Walkerly -- Global Philanthropy Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Cleveland, OH
Sunday, January 31, 2021


Eight philanthropy experts were invited by grants management software company Submittable to share their insights on grantmaking trends to expect in 2021. I am honored to be one of them! Below I’ve re-posted the trends I foresee. Be sure to read the full blog post to learn what Edgar Villanueva, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, Aaron Dorfman, Yolanda Coentro, Sam Caplan, Jen Bokoff and Adam Liebling] suggest you do (or avoid) this year.

This whole notion of getting back to where we were doesn’t exist. Disruption and volatility are the status quo.

According to Putnam-Walkerly, the events of 2020 increased the speed of giving, while improving the ease of giving (and applying for) grants. 

“So many funders have held onto tight practices and policies and expectations for so long—nothing like a major crisis to make you realize how silly some of them are.”

Putnam-Walkerly cites many examples of groups getting money out the door with amazing speed and dramatically reduced oversight, including Moses Taylor FoundationRobert Sterling Clark Foundation, and the Greater Cleveland Covid-19 Response Fund. She further commends the move in 2020 toward offering more core operating support.

“There is new recognition around trusting the nonprofit leader to know what’s going on and what’s needed and allowing them to make real time adjustments.”

She also points to new awareness and focus on racial justice and racial equity, noting that more abundant resources are available to support this, built on groundwork laid by groups like Policy Link with a long-standing focus on these issues.

“There’s so many more resources today compared to five years ago to help philanthropy address racial justice and racial equity issues. And after 2020, there’s a lot more readiness and awareness and understanding among funders.”

In 2021, Putnam-Walkerly urges grantmakers to avoid the strong pull towards “getting back to normal.”

The crisis has made it abundantly apparent that we can’t afford to spend a year on strategic planning because by the time you’ve created your plan, the world will have changed.

“You know, there is no ‘new normal’ because there really never was a normal. So this whole notion of getting back to where we were doesn’t exist. Disruption and volatility are the status quo.”

According to Putnam-Walkerly, strategy has emerged in 2021 as being especially important as a grantmaking trend for three reasons.

“First, I think any organization going into the crisis that had clarity on its strategy and its priorities fared better because they had a framework in which to make decisions and adjustments. Secondly, no strategy that existed before this crisis could possibly remain intact—pull out that strategic plan and see what still makes sense and what needs to be added, abandoned, and tweaked.” 

“Lastly, the crisis has made it abundantly apparent that we can’t afford to spend a year on strategic planning because by the time you’ve created your plan, the world will have changed. Rapid strategy development, with the assumption that you’ll have to course correct along the way, is the best approach,” she says.

This article was reposted from the blog Innovative Giving: Grantmaking Trends & Insight from 8 Experts.

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.

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Name: Kris Putnam-Walkerly
Group: Putnam Consulting Group, Inc.
Dateline: Avon Lake, OH United States
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