Leave The Office And Break Out Of Your Bubble



Engage more deeply in learning about the issues you address and the places you serve.

Effective grantmaking rarely happens if grantmakers spend all their time behind their desks. Solving intractable problems requires that funders have a true understanding of the issue, a range of partners to join in the work and an ability to continually learn from collective actions and apply that learning to ongoing efforts. None of these three things is possible if funders don’t get out of their offices and into their communities, face-to-face, on a regular basis.

Here are four reasons for grantmakers to leave the office and break out of the bubble:

1. You learn more than if you’d stayed in the office. Imagine a program officer who wants to know about issues facing the elderly in his community. He receives reams of data about illness, clinical services, nutrition and mobility. But he doesn’t get out and talk to those who serve the elderly one-on-one, or the elderly themselves, so he misses the “ah-ha” moments of deep understanding that can come when one sees how local, state or national policies play out on the ground.

2. You identify new needs and opportunities. Too often, funders are not aware of needs in the community that may align with their missions. Nonprofits haven’t seen a connection between the funder’s mission or published guidelines and their own work — and the funder hasn’t asked, so the nonprofits haven’t shared. But strong communities are built on deep, multifaceted and intertwined interests. When you get out of your office and engage in conversations with grantees and others in the community, you’re more likely to discover new ways in which your funds can make a difference.

3. You and your team become better stewards of community resources. When your founding donors or current donors made their gifts, they put their trust in you to make the best choices to achieve their charitable intent. If you aren’t deeply knowledgeable about the issues you seek to address and the current situation(s) in the communities you fund, and you don’t continually learn and improve by getting out there, what value are you providing to those donors? Increasing your understanding of the issues, including the places affected by them and the players who are working to address them, will help you become a wiser steward and a more effective partner.

4. You increase your effectiveness and your ability to meet your mission. Developing a deep, firsthand understanding of your issue and community will allow you to achieve your ultimate philanthropic goals. It also will help you better use all your philanthropic tools — not just funding but also convening, information sharing, connecting, providing leadership and advocacy — to support the work of the organizations that address the causes most important to you.

There are many more reasons to break out of your bubble and engage more deeply in learning about the issues you address and the places you serve, whether that’s a single county or multiple communities around the globe. In fact, there’s no good reason not to. There may be excuses, but no good reasons.

To explore more reasons to break out of your bubble and effectively scan the field, download the free white paper Get Out of Your Bubble and Into Your Community.

Additional Reading:

This article was originally written for and published by Forbes.

© 2018 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

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Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, has helped to transform the impact of top global philanthropies for almost 20 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.


“Kris asked us questions about our strategic planning that we hadn’t considered. She challenged our thinking and helped us answer key questions around the identity and purpose of our foundation. At the end, we were able to clearly articulate our value in a way that attracted new funding.” 

Dave Henderson, Board Chair Stroke Awareness Foundation


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.

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