Rapid Strategy Development In Times Of Crisis


Strategies guide philanthropists during tumultuous times 

Philanthropists are most effective when they have a strategy. And, formulating that strategy is easier than you think. With a strategy ready to guide decisions, givers save time and increase impact. 

What is a strategy?

A strategy is a framework for making decisions that influence the nature and direction of the enterprise. That “enterprise” could be you and your spouse, a family office, your foundation or a corporate giving program. In other words, it’s a tool to help you make decisions that are congruent with the direction of your philanthropy. Strategy provides the guardrails that keep you on the path to your desired future.

Strategy has two parts … formulation and implementation. First you develop it, then you implement it. Both are necessary for success. Too often, philanthropists lump them both into a single, lengthy “strategic planning process.” It’s far better to separate strategy formulation from strategy implementation.

How do you create your strategy?

To formulate your strategy, you first need clarity on a few things. You need to know: 

  • Your Mission— why you exist.
  • Your Core Values— your beliefs. 
  • Your Vision— your picture of the future. 

The role of strategy is to take the current state of your philanthropy and move it to your desired future state as quickly as possible. 

When you develop your strategy, you identify what you want your desired future to be. This might be the change you want to see in your community or the type of philanthropist you want to become. This is informed by your mission, vision, and values. It also might be informed by data, such as demographic trends, needs assessments, and the perspectives of the people you are seeking to help.

You can identify your desired future state by asking yourself questions such as: 

  • Who do we want to be in a year?
  • What is the impact we want to have on our community? Or the world? 
  • If we could achieve our ideal outcome, what would it be?
  • What do we want to look like, sound like, feel like, smell like a year from now? 

How do you implement strategy?

To implement your strategy, you determine how to get from your current state to your desired future state. What are the three or four most critical strategic factors that will help you make the most progress? Steps include aligning your people, your systems, your structures, your operations and your grantmaking.

If the role of strategy is to move you from your current state to your desired future, it needs to be part of your everyday life. At every meeting, with every decision, for every employee performance review, strategy should be on the table. It should set the parameters, Remember, strategy is a framework (or a tool) that helps you make decisions that are congruent with where you want to go.

Can this be done quickly? Remotely?

Philanthropists spend too much time developing their strategy—often up to a year, and sometimes two years—when a speedier process is better. If you take 18 months to develop a three-year plan, half of the time is over before you start. If the COVID-19 pandemic is showing us anything, it’s the futility of lengthy strategic planning processes and the expectation that you can plan for the next 5 years!

Instead of strategic planning, think of “strategic sprints.” You want to formulate strategy quickly, for as long as conditions warrant, and then make changes rapidly as conditions change. With the right preparation, a strategy can be developed in as quickly as a day or a week, and can be done remotely

What should funders be doing right now?

All philanthropists should be reexamining their current strategies now. Strategic plans from last year ago were based on different conditions, and now we’re living in a new world. Some things will be constant, some will need to adapt, and some will have to radically change. A revised strategy allows funders to create the right framework for decision making during this time. And if you don’t have a strategy, now is actually the perfect time to create one. Don’t get lulled into thinking you should wait until “things calm down.” Conditions will continue to change. You can revisit your strategy quarterly to determine if you need to make course corrections.

To help as many philanthropists as possible during this time, I’m offering a free 45-minute Zoom conversation to discuss your current strategy and help you determine if it needs to be tweaked, adapted, or completely redone. 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 email me at kris@putnam-consulting.com or click on this link to schedule a call

This article was originally written for and published by Forbes.

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

About Kris Putnam-Walkerly

I’m a global philanthropy expert, advisor and award-winning author. I help ultra-high net worth donors, celebrities, foundations and Fortune 500 companies dramatically increase the clarity, speed, impact and joy of their giving. I’m the author of Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail to Achieve Change And What They Can Do To Transform GivingandConfident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, was named one of “America’s Top 20 Philanthropy Speakers”, I write about philanthropy for Forbes.comAlliance MagazineDe Dikke Blauwe and am frequently quoted in leading publications such as BloombergNPRand WSJ

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 kris@putnam-consulting.com or schedule a call.


I’ll share best practices and help you with philanthropic, professional and work-life balance issues 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 kris@putnam-consulting.com to sign up!

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.



“A candid and credible look at why ‘how’ we give is just as important as ‘what’ we give.” Kathleen P. Enright, President and CEO, Council on Foundations


How Can I Help You?

I serve as a trusted advisor to foundation leaders and high-wealth donors across the globe. My clients report immediate and dramatic improvement in both personal performance and philanthropic impact.

If you or someone you know could use my help, please send them my way. Contact me directly at kris@putnam-consulting.com or call me at +1-800-598-2102 x1 and we can work together to make your giving matter.

Want to learn more? Visit my website to learn how I help funders, access free resources, and read client testimonials.

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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