Innovation and Philanthropy: It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated!


business-5613871. Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake. All efforts at innovation should be in pursuit of a compelling reason. Further, that compelling reason should align with a foundation’s mission and vision. While funding a new app may sound fun, if the new app doesn’t directly impact an audience or issue you’ve targeted, leave it to someone else.

2. Innovation doesn’t have to be a big deal. Effective innovations can be small but brilliant internal changes. For example, redefining a grant process with the grantee in mind instead of staff. It can also be as simple as an effort to shift perspective and look at your work from the outside in.

3. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Funders who innovate almost always do so with at least one other partner, whether it be another funder, a private sector partner, a grantee or group of grantees, or, especially, representatives from the population(s) they wish to serve.

4. Innovate within. While it can be tempting for foundations to dip their proverbial toe into the innovation waters by funding grantees, truly embracing the idea of innovation means being internally focused as well. As grantees are working to find new and remarkable ways to provide health care access, what can your foundation do to provide better access for your health care grantees?

5. Innovative approaches can work better together. Quite often, funders interweave one kind of innovative approach with another — such as fostering design thinking through the use of an innovation hub in order to help create a culture of ongoing innovation. In doing so, they can leverage the benefits of each in a seamless way that moves them further along in reaching their goals.

Innovation may sound and seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. The ways in which funders can support innovation in their fields of interest are limitless – and the minimum investment required is simply the willingness to think creatively. There is, however, one warning to consider: Innovation is contagious. If you start to think innovatively and fund innovation, others are likely to follow!

For more ways to approach innovation, download the white paper “Fostering Innovation in Philanthropy.”

© 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 Fameand 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, visitPutnam Consulting Group.


Trusted Philanthropic Advisor

Kris Putnam-Walkerly serves as a trusted advisor to foundation leaders and high-wealth donors across the globe. As an advisor, Kris transfers learning to leaders and their teams so they have the ability to build their own internal capacity to be successful in their work. Kris’s clients report immediate and dramatic improvement in both personal performance and philanthropic impact.

Whether you are the CEO of a larger foundation, the sole staff member charged with decision-making, or a high-net worth donor, the questions Kris can address cover a broad spectrum of professional and personal issues. As an advising client, you’ll have unlimited access to Kris during regular business hours by phone, Skype, email and, when desired, face to face. With over 18 years of experience working with top global philanthropies, Kris understands how to build an impactful organization that integrates your philanthropic passions and the challenges that must be overcome to get there.

Learn more about this and other services offered or contact Kris today to begin a trusted advisor relationship.

Upcoming Speaking Events

Looking for a provocative yet practical speaker at your next event? Kris Putnam-Walkerly was named one of “America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers” in 2016 and 2017. Learn more or book Kris today for your next conference or event.

October 16, 2017 – CONNECT Conference, Exponent Philanthropy, Denver 

Out of Your Bubble and Into Your Community

October 19, 2017 – National Forum on Family Philanthropy 

Achieving Equity…How Exactly?

November 2, 2017 – The Michael Chatman Giving Show

November 10, 2017 – Forefront Webinar 

Poverty, Abundance, and Delusional Altruism

November 14, 2017 – Southeastern Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference, Trustees-Only Luncheon, Orlando, FL 

How Will Trustees Lead Into the Future?

Book Kris for your next conference or event!

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

Recent Posts

Follow Kris

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.