Philanthropy Crisis Makeover


How to create, solidify and embrace the new you.


We’ve experienced plenty of challenge over the past few months. But what about the profound ways so many in the philanthropy sector have changed? What about the many ways you’ve streamlined processes and improved your responsiveness to the needs of your communities? How can you bottle those behaviors, learn from them and take them with you into the future? Just as important, how can you ensure that any of the old and less responsive ways of doing business don’t come back?

First, you’ll need to reflect on what happened. Maybe you removed funding restrictions, began making grants quickly, clarified your strategy, ensured that everyone knew your top priorities, swiftly executed, and developed innovative partnerships. Or your team learned how to use Zoom and other new technologies.

Then you’ll need to learn from those reflections. Consider that it’s not just the specific effort that matters, but it’s also the ways that your team had to change to make these efforts work, like becoming more agile and innovative.

Finally, you can act on this new knowledge by more broadly applying it to things like decision-making processes or professional development.

Getting Started

Use the following seven questions when you find yourself saying, “What just happened?” They can help you begin to make sense of who you were, who you are and who you want to be.

1. What did we do differently during this crisis? What was the result? Maybe you had a paper grant-making process before and then switched everything online, resulting in a faster giving cycle.

2. What did we put in place before the crisis that helped us later? One of my clients switched to online payments in January. It was a smart move and, in retrospect, incredibly helpful when the new reality hit.

3. What do we wish we had done before the crisis? Maybe your culture didn’t have enough trust built in to allow people to work from home. As a result, you had to set up all the components, from policies to technology, on the fly.

4. If we could do it all over again, what would we do differently? Did you fail to communicate with your grantees early and often, leaving them in uncertainty as they scrambled to make decisions?

5. What new things did we try that didn’t work so well during the crisis? Let’s say you waded into an area that wasn’t closely related to your mission or your expertise. Then you realized that others were better equipped to lead that effort. Don’t beat yourself up for the mistake. Congratulate yourself for taking risks and moving quickly. Only next time tighten your focus and reach out to collaborators when efforts you care about move beyond your scope.

6. What new practices do we want to maintain? Think carefully about this one, especially those that you might see as temporary but that dramatically increase your effectiveness. For example, can you continue removing funding restrictions and trusting your nonprofit partners with core support grants?

7. How can new ways of working be applied elsewhere? This is when you examine specific actions and efforts with a 30,000 foot lens. Did you have a program officer who did more than anyone else to stabilize and support the grantees in her portfolio? Try to figure out what behaviors made the difference and apply those more broadly.

Your unique answers to these questions can become your new best practices or “the new you.” Next comes the trickiest part. You’ll have to embrace these new best practices and make them part of your DNA, when everything will be attempting to pull you back into your old ways. It’s a matter of slamming the door behind you and sealing all the cracks to keep from falling back into old habits, a scarcity mindset, inertia and more. By doing this, you’ll emerge from this crisis transformed. Not only that, but you’ll position yourself to strengthen the civil sector when it needs you the most.

If you’d like to dig a little deeper on these and additional concepts, please register for my free webinar: “7 Ways to Increase Your Impact During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Also, many of the ideas mentioned here are in my recently-released book, Delusional Altruism. The book offers more in-depth information and examples of ways we hold ourselves back and how to achieve more significant impact in philanthropy.

Whether you are just getting started in philanthropy, want to refresh your giving strategy, or need to catapult yourself to your desired future, I can help. Let’s talk! Call me at +1-800-598-2102 x1, email me at or schedule a call.

© 2020 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

Ways I Can Help YOU During This Crisis


Free Strategy Consultations: For a limited time, I’m offering a FREE 45-minute Zoom consultation to discuss your current strategy and help you determine if it needs to be tweaked, adapted, or completely redone, in light of the new reality we are in. And if you don’t have a strategy, we can talk about how you can quickly create one. There’s no expectation or “pitch” at the end of the call—I simply want to help. I have limited slots, so if you are interested simply click here or reply to this email. I will get back to you within 24 hours (or sooner) so that we can schedule a call.

90-Day Coaching: I’ll help you respond, stay focused, and lead through this crisis with a weekly call and unrestricted email access. This is not a regular offering of mine, it’s intended to help you not just navigate your philanthropy through the storm but to find sunny skies, and to be part of your support system. Together we can discuss any aspect of your work, such as managing your team and board remotely, identifying and implementing top priorities, developing new approaches and partnerships, maintaining focus, not feeling overwhelmed, and preparing for the recovery. I have limited slots, so if you are interested, write me at to learn more and sign up!

Sentient Strategy®: If this crisis had taught us anything, it’s the futility of spending one year to create a three-year strategic plan. Sentient Strategy is a revolutionary approach to formulate strategy quickly, to be used immediately for as long as conditions warrant, and then to make changes rapidly as conditions change. It builds a flexible, adaptive strategic approach that creates a roadmap for change and holds people accountable for quick implementation. You’ll achieve faster results, and have a flexible template for adjusting course regularly. Sentient Strategy can be developed in person or remotely within a week. Contact me at if you’d like to learn more!

Free Webinar: My upcoming webinar, Giving Resiliently Through The COVID-19 Pandemic, with iWave on May 26 at 1PM ET is for all types of philanthropists—individual donors, foundations, corporate giving programs, giving circles, family offices, and donor-advised fund holders—who are looking for ways not only to navigate through this crisis, but increase their philanthropic effectiveness. Register here.

My New Book, Delusional Altruism Just Released!


With the globe in the midst of a crisis that cuts deep socially and economically, those who can give are looking to step up in any way they can. But for philanthropy to be truly effective, it has to be approached with clarity— and freed of the all-too common errors. And whether through regular donations to charity, a small family foundation, or an organization that’s responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, how we give is just as important as what we give.


“In Delusional Altruism, Kris Putnam-Walkerly shows you how to sidestep faulty thinking, so your resources create the greatest impact possible. I highly recommend this book!”

Daniel Pink, New York Times bestselling author of WHEN and DRIVE

“Putnam-Walkerly lays out a blueprint for how those with philanthropic interest can achieve transformational change through their philanthropic endeavors.”

The Hollywood Digest

About Kris Putnam-Walkerly


I’m a global philanthropy expert, advisor and award-winning author. I’ve helped hundreds of ultra-high net worth donors, celebrities, foundations, Fortune 500 companies and wealth advisors strategically influence and allocate over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts. I was named one of “America’s Top 20 Philanthropy Speakers” three years in a row, I write about philanthropy for, Alliance Magazine, De Dikke Blauwe and am frequently quoted in leading publications such as Bloomberg, NPR and WSJ.

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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