3 Ways to Prepare for an Unpredictable 2023


3 Ways to Prepare for an Unpredictable 2023


How to navigate change with confidence to shockproof your philanthropy.


We’ve all entered a new landscape for philanthropy, one where volatility and disruption are the status quo.

Many philanthropies have done exceptionally well navigating these changes. They responded to COVID and other recent crises with speed and generosity. They collaborated with new partners, dramatically simplified grantmaking practices, and listened to the needs of community members. They are thriving. Others are reeling from their battle scars, succumbing to the gravitational pull to return to the old ways of doing things and struggling with the impact on an economic downturn.

Regardless of your response during the past three years, the world needs you now more than ever! Beyond surviving, what are three behaviors philanthropy leaders can embrace right now that will help their organizations leap into 2023 stronger than ever?

1. Refine and execute your strategy

Stay true to your mission. It’s the reason your organization exists. However, your strategy is your North Star. Strategy helps you navigate an ever-changing world. Conditions are continuously changing – in the world and in our organizations. As a funder you must habitually reevaluate your strategy so you can quickly adapt and adjust. Strategy can’t be static. It must be sentient and perceptive – developed quickly, used immediately for as long as conditions warrant, and adapted rapidly as conditions change.

Don’t have a strategy? You need one! If you hit the pause button on strategy development because you were waiting for “things to calm down,” you are wasting money and reducing impact. The world will only continue to change. You can quickly (in a week!!) create a strategy by asking questions like: Who do we want to be a year from now? What kind of philanthropic family or company do we want to become? What impact do we want to have on our community?

Then take an honest look at where you are today and ask: What are the three most important things we should do next, to move us from where we are today to where we want to be in 12 months? Those are your new top priorities.

Once you have a strategy, be sure everyone on your team is aware of your top priorities and hold them accountable to achieving them. Be sure to build in time for updates, troubleshooting, and celebrations of success.

2. Embrace an abundance mindset.

Many people assume high-net-worth families, foundation leaders, and corporate donors feel abundance. After all, they have big money, big ideas, and big passion.  And we assume their mindset reflects this abundance.


While it’s true that they do have an abundance of resources and desire to do good, that doesn’t mean that they themselves have a corresponding abundance mindset. 


Instead, funders often feel guilty about investing in themselves, their organizations, and their philanthropy. They think all their money should go directly to help others, and not be frittered away on “overhead.” Their mindset is one of scarcity, not abundance. 


Funders must embrace abundance. An abundance mind-set is a belief that the more you put into an organization, the greater the return. That means never skimping on such basics as a well-compensated and cared-for staff, up-to-date technology, and diverse and innovative leadership. It also means recognizing that thinking small won’t lead to significant social change. I firmly believe adopting an abundance mindset (the antithesis of a scarcity mindset), leads to better outcomes and greater change in the world. The greater your abundance mindset, the greater your impact velocity. 


Of course, adopting an abundance mindset doesn’t mean flying foundation trustees to exotic resorts. What it means is believing that you not only deserve to strengthen, grow, and improve so that you are best positioned to help others, but that you must. That you can continuously improve, despite adversity. It means investing in the people, technology, operations, and expertise that help you and your team deliver value on your mission—and therefore to the grantees and communities that you serve. You think big. 


In the next few weeks ask yourself: What investments can we make in our philanthropy to exponentially increase our impact in 2023? This could be learning about an emerging problem or upgrading your technology. Deepening relationships with key grantees. Retaining a trusted advisor to help you make critical decisions and stay accountable to implementing them. Strengthening your board. Developing an executive succession plan. Or taking time to reflect on accomplishments and refresh your strategy.


Remember, you must put your oxygen mask on first before you can help others.


3. Strengthen your agility muscles

Let’s face it. Every single one of you reading this article was forced to become adaptive and agile in the past two and a half years. Some of you went kicking and screaming, while others celebrated philanthropy’s wake-up call forced upon us by COVID-19.

Regardless of your experience, you developed agility muscles. While the pandemic might be declared “over” by some, don’t let those muscles atrophy! Now is the time to maintain — and strengthen — our agility muscles.

This means intentionally seeking and capitalizing on new opportunities quickly. Agile funders do this by looking for innovation from any source, acting quickly on new ideas, and remaining flexible.  As the past three years have shown us, over the next decade a rapidly growing percentage of all grantmaking will focus on solving problems that do not currently exist today or that we aren’t yet aware of. Solving these problems will mean using data that has not yet been collected, applying technologies that have not been created or thought about thus far, and engaging a workforce in jobs that do not currently exist.

To be positioned to identify and tackle tomorrow’s problems—and to respond to them in an agile way when they arise—I suggest you ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Are we continually scanning the field, community, and environment to notice changes and opportunities?
  2. In what ways do we regularly expose ourselves to new ideas and thinking, especially outside of philanthropy?
  3. Do we routinely review our human capital and leadership and make strategic investments in their development?
  4. Do we intentionally stay abreast of technology and identify ways to leverage it?
  5. Do we ask ourselves how can we begin, today, to create our future?

We don’t need to be able to look into a crystal ball to respond with agility. But it does help to determine what could be likely to happen, what we envision with respect to those anticipated events, and what we can do now to prepare ourselves to respond quickly

So much is at stake. While tremendous progress has been made, the nonprofit sector has not recovered from the pandemic. The world needs you to change how you operate and lead, so the sector becomes more resilient. By transforming your work and leadership to focus on your North Star, embrace abundance, and stay agile, you can position yourself and your grantees to increase your impact velocity in 2023!

If you need help implementing any of these ideas, let’s talk! Whether you’re developing your strategy for the first time, looking to refresh an existing one, undertaking a dramatic shift, or need to rapidly implement your strategy, I can help. Just schedule a call with me today! And to learn more about my strategic services, click here.

© 2022 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

Download a Sample Chapter of Delusional Altruism Now!

Just provide us with your name and email and receive this sample.

Download the Article Now!

Just provide us with your name and email and receive this article.