Book Stories

Thanks for helping me with my forthcoming book, Delusional Altruism, to be published by Wiley in early 2020.

The book is for all types of philanthropists (ultra-high net worth donors, foundation leaders, Fortune 500 companies, donor-advised funds, celebrities, professional athletes, family offices, giving circles) who want to use their philanthropy to change the world, but aren’t having the impact they seek. Why? They get in their own way. In the book, I show them how this happens, and steps they can take to transform their giving.

Right now I’m looking for examples and stories of both “good” and “bad” philanthropy. I’ve described each in a little detail below:

Bad philanthropy:

Your examples could be the egregious, arrogant and downright offensive behavior of some funders (one story is a family foundation trustee who insisted on lengthy application processes because he thought nonprofits needed to “work hard for their money” – I can’t make this stuff up!). But they could also be more subtle examples. Can you think of stories of funders who:

  • Are overwhelmed or fearful, and therefore are stuck
  • Have a scarcity mentality (e.g., refuse to invest in things that would really help them make a difference, including themselves)
  • Lack clarity on what they are trying to accomplish, and then don’t understand why they aren’t making progress
  • Allow their own policies and practices be a barrier to effective giving (e.g., can’t respond to a local disaster because the entire board must approve grants in person and they only meet once a year)
  • Believe that because they are wealthy or are experts in business, they know everything about philanthropy and the issues they are addressing (e.g. “I’ve made a billion dollars managing a hedge fund, let me tell you how to end homelessness…”)
  • Are trying to solve a problem, but don’t talk to or learn from the people impacted by the problem
  • Fund band-aid solutions, and refuse to address the underlying causes of problems
  • Are painfully slow

Good philanthropy:

These are the stories that make you want to jump up and down for joy and share as a best practice. Not just about amazing grantmaking, but also how the funder transformed themselves to have a greater impact. Can you think of funders who are any of the following:

  • Agile
  • Innovative
  • Speedy
  • Catalytic
  • Making significant improvements in HOW they give, how they organize themselves, etc.
  • Investing in their own capacity/talent/learning, so that they can be better funders
  • Learning from and involving the people they want to help in the development of the solutions
  • Escaping their “bubbles” and getting into the community
  • Embracing an abundance mentality
  • Making significant impact (especially with limited funding)
  • Developing a clear strategy and then actually implementing it

Turnaround stories

I’m also looking for stories where philanthropists made significant improvements, from being less effective to more effective. For example, a foundation that previously took 9 months to approve a grant but now approves grants on a monthly basis. Or a donor who previously worked in isolation but is now partnering with others for greater impact, etc.

If you have any examples to share, you can simply email it to me at kris@putnam-consulting.com or we can speak live — just send me an email and we can schedule a brief call, or you can use this link  http://meetme.so/KristenPutnam-Walkerly. You can also reach me directly at 800-598-2102 x1.

In the book itself, we can keep your examples anonymous. If it’s a negative story, I can mask the identity of the funder. If it’s a positive story, I’m happy to give them credit with their permission.

I will also acknowledge you in the book and send you a free copy once it’s published! Thanks so much for your help.

Kris Putnam-Walkerly

President, Putnam Consulting Group, Inc.