How Generous are Your Consultants?


give backA philanthropy consultant should live and breathe the principles of giving back.

Let’s make no mistake about it: philanthropy advisors and consultants are in business to make a living. They provide a service that delivers value to their clients in exchange for compensation. Good philanthropy consultants leave no doubt in the minds of their clients that their services are worth the investment. But I believe that philanthropy consultants also should live and breathe the principles of giving back with their own generosity and philanthropy.

I’m not only talking about consultants who make their own charitable gifts. I’m talking about those who go the extra mile to contribute deeply to the causes in which they specialize or to the field of philanthropy as a whole. Generous consultants make gifts of time, leadership and thought to the field. They do so in myriad ways:

  • Giving free speeches at conferences
  • Spending their own (unpaid) time writing articles, newsletters, blog posts
  • Spending their own (unpaid) time disseminating content they were paid to create (e.g., client reports)
  • Offering free webinars, teleconferences
  • Creating and offering free workshops, trainings, conferences and events (or those with low price tags that only cover expenses for space and food)
  • Offering discounts
  • Offering scholarships for people who can’t afford to take part in a training or event
  • Helping emerging consultants better understand the field and their work
  • Spending time thinking through important issues/problems to help create new solutions and ways of thinking
  • Taking time to respond to email questions or blog comments, even from organizations that will never be clients
  • Volunteering in their field, especially as board members of foundations or nonprofit organizations
  • Giving away free copies of books, white papers, and other proprietary material
  • Investing in technology to disseminate free content

I am sure that if you totaled up the contributions of time and intellect that philanthropy consultants have given to the field in just the past year, it would equate to tens of millions of dollars. As an example, over the last 12 months I’ve spent more than $60,000 of my own money engaging in almost all the activities listed above. I don’t say this to boast, but to make the point that investing in the field of philanthropy is important to me: I genuinely want to help advance and improve the field, to help funders transform their giving, be more effective, and have a greater impact. Simply put, walking the talk is an important value for me, and for many of my colleagues.

Yes, I enjoy making a living. And yes, I realize that all of the activities listed above could fall under the moniker of “self promotion.” But that would fall far short of the truth. I consider myself fortunate to be able to make a living in a field that incites a passion for me. I am honored and humbled every day by the work of the philanthropists I’m lucky enough to call my clients. And I am thankful to be able to contribute my own thinking and experience to the work of philanthropy. After all, if we can’t be generous with what we have – what’s the point?

Additional Reading: 

Three Ways to Keep Delusional Altruism from Undermining Your Philanthropy in 2018

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Respect In Philanthropy 

6 Ways to Advocate for Policy Change

© 2017 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.


Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, has helped to transform the impact of top global philanthropies for over 18 years. A member of the Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame and named one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers. Author of the award-winning book Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, which was named one of “The 10 Best Corporate Social Responsibility Books.” For more ways to improve your giving, visit Putnam Consulting Group.

“As my strategic advisor and sounding board, Kris is always there when I need a clear path forward or a reality check. I am grateful to have her as a trusted, unbiased, and experienced professional to turn to!” 

– Maureen Sheehan Massaro, Executive Director, Wilson Sheehan Foundation


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