Streamlining is Simple…Start Small


Start SmallThere are many reasons why philanthropy should streamline – excessively long strategic planning processes, grant proposals that take 8 months to be funded, board meeting dockets that measure 3 inches high – and the task can seem daunting. However, there is a way to quickly streamline…by starting small. Let me give you an example:

I recently stayed at the Marriot Marquis in Washington, DC and ordered room service. You know the routine:  Order food, wait, hotel staff brings it in your room, they hand you a bill, you sign it while they stand around, and they leave.  Not anymore. The Marriott has eliminated futzing with the bill! Instead they deliver you the food, and promptly walk out the door. No more awkward moments for hotel guests wishing they had worn better pajamas. No more awkward moments for hotel staff trying to make small talk while wondering how someone who can afford a 4-star hotel can’t afford better pajamas.

I don’t know why the Marriott has switched to this approach. Maybe they did time studies and discovered that by eliminating those extra few minutes waiting for guests to sign the bill they saved 346,203 hours of employee time worldwide. Maybe they conducted focus groups with customers on ways to improve room service. Whatever the reason, I was glad they did it and the woman delivering me pizza seemed relieved too!

The point is that they streamlined the room service function by starting small. They took one aspect of it that everyone assumed was sacrosanct – signing the check – and eliminated it.

What might happen if you did the same thing?

What is one activity in your operation that you never question?

  • Weekly staff meetings?
  • Full day board retreats?
  • Staff writing 2 sentence summaries of proposals for board dockets?
  • More background information in board dockets than board members actually want to review?
  • Complex grant applications?
  • Cumbersome internal forms or reports?
  • Requiring three consultants to submit proposals each time you want to hire one?

Now, think about what you could do to eliminate them, or cut them in half.  Instead of weekly staff meetings hold them bi-weekly. Shorten them by eliminating round robin “report outs” and instead focus on results. Ask grantees to incorporate those two-sentence descriptions as part of their proposals. Review documenting and reporting practices to eliminate needless steps.

Sometimes, just one small change can kick-start an entire wave of streamlining activities that can save your staff, board, partners and grantees hours of time and headaches. Need help? I’m happy to get you started with my new 6 Hour Streamline service to  create immediate solutions to help you streamline, speed up, and improve your grantmaking and operations.

Let’s get started!


Kris Putnam-Walkerly, MSW, is a  global philanthropy advisor, author of the new book Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, and was recently named one of  America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers.   Want more ideas, tips and tools to improve your giving? Read an article,  listen to a  podcast , or check out a  case study .

“Since working with Putnam Consulting Group we have a far more streamlined grantmaking process, and we get all the answers we need to make sound grantmaking decisions. If we ever need to undertake a similar project, Kris will be at the top of our list.”

~ Merle Gordon, former Director,  Community Benefit Kaiser    Foundation Health Plan of Ohio
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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