Looking for Impact? Don’t Overlook the Ripple Effect



Grantmakers are always looking for impact. We define the quantitative outcomes we want to achieve with our funding. We collect qualitative evidence through stories of those whose lives are changed as a result of our work. But we often forget to look for and capture the “ripple effect” of the grants that we make.

Here are two examples:

  1. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation recently gave a grant to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County to update its business model. As part of that updating process, the Community Foundation is collecting and curating data about the business models of other community foundations across the country. They will share that information widely with their peers, who are hungry for it. Hence, they will help elevate awareness of working business models for community foundations everywhere.
  2. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation hired my firm last year to conduct a field scan of foundations that were working to incorporate equity not only into their grantmaking, but into their internal operations as well. RWJF allowed us to publish the findings of our scan and share them with the field, and I’ve been asked to present and discuss those findings twelve times in the last ten months. The work that RWJF commissioned has rippled throughout the field.

In the cases above, the ripple effects stretch well beyond the original intent of the grant or contract being made. And if the funders in question weren’t watching for those ripples, their impact might not be captured in their own grant evaluation and reporting.

Ripple effects can also emanate from more than just your financial investments. It may be that your presence, voice, shared knowledge or convening of others created a ripple effect as well.

Once you begin to look, I bet you’ll find ripple effects everywhere! If you want to start capturing the ripple effects of your work, be sure to ask your grantees, advisors and partners what they’ve seen. They’ll likely be able to point to positive impacts that ripple far beyond what you ever thought possible.

© 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.


CEO Springboard Program

Whether you’re a first-time CEO, a new CEO at an established foundation, or a board member who’s made a new CEO hire, you’ve got high expectations. New leadership means a chance to strengthen practices and implement change. It’s an opportunity to build a solid foundation for generations of philanthropic impact.

Kris Putnam-Walkerly will provide confidential strategic assessment, advising and coaching to help new CEOs navigate all aspects of starting a new foundation or leading an established one. Because no two foundations – and no two CEOs – are alike, Kris tailors her approach specifically to the needs of the individual and foundation in question. All activities are designed with the foundation’s ultimate purpose and goals at the forefront.

Learn more about the CEO Springboard Program and how I help donors and foundations dramatically increase their impact.

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

Poverty, Abundance, and Delusional Altruism (Webinar)

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.