Earlier in my career, I didn’t think the things I had to say were worth much to the field of philanthropy. I thought that others were already thinking what I’d thought, and that they carried more weight. It took some deep reflection with the guidance of a coach to help me realize just how wrong I was. It turns out that I did (and still do) have plenty to offer, and I’m making it my life’s work. I understand where and how I can add value to a world I care about deeply.
I’m so grateful for the time that I took to be introspective and reflective. If I had not done that, I would have missed so many opportunities to grow, to learn, to contribute, and to help others. My value, and the value of my work, would have been greatly diminished.
As consultants to philanthropy, my colleagues and I spend the vast majority of our time looking deeply into the inner workings of grantmakers. We explore their goals and strategies, give close consideration to their processes and procedures, examine the stories they have to share and the ways in which they tell them. We do all of this with an eye toward making grantmakers more effective and making the impact they achieve more dynamic — in other words, increasing their value.
But who examines the consultants and the value we bring to the field? Like every other field, the field of philanthropy consulting will grow stronger and more effective if we have ways to look at ourselves in the mirror and reflect on the effectiveness and impact of our own practice.
Most respected fields – including that of philanthropy – have at least one professional association that creates a common environment for mutual introspection and ongoing improvement. I’m proud to have served on the planning group that launched the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers (NNCG) in 2006 and I’m honored to chair this organization as it brings colleagues in both the consulting and philanthropic world together to examine our work.
With regards to the work of NNCG, I’m especially pleased to have co-edited the first-ever edition of The Foundation Review dedicated to exploring the field of philanthropy consulting. It’s the spring edition, available now via subscription and online, and in it you’ll find articles that examine our field from virtually every aspect – both quantitatively via Foundation Center survey findings and qualitatively through a number of perspectives (consultant and grantmaker) about the possibilities and best practices of consulting engagements.
I believe that NNCG is sitting on the cutting edge of introspection and reflection for this rapidly growing field. I’m looking forward to a time in the not-so-distant future when analysis and exploration of the value that philanthropic consulting brings to the table is much more common. As our field continues to incorporate regular and ongoing self-assessment and reflection into our practice, we will continue to amplify our work — and the work of the grantmakers we serve.
Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a nationally recognized philanthropy advisor. Join her on Sunday April 26th in San Francisco at the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers’ annual meeting and reception, where she will facilitate a panel discussion about philanthropy consulting and the forthcoming issue of The Foundation Review.
© 2015 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.