Summer Daydreaming is the Perfect Time to Re-Imagine Philanthropy


Young Girl Daydreaming Lying In Summer FieldSchool’s out and summer is here! Time to pursue that great American pastime – the lazy summer vacation. Be it at the beach, in the mountains, or somewhere in between, there’s actually a great value in taking time off and letting your mind daydream for a bit.

In fact, summer dreaming time is the perfect way to spark what could be a dramatic change in your philanthropy. All you need, really, is your own permission to do so.

While you’re miles away from the phone, co-workers, and day-to-day expectations, give yourself time and space to dream a little. Take a few deep breaths. Allow yourself to understand that any and all thoughts are welcome – even those that may feel unorthodox. Relax.

Now, pretend you’re starting with a completely blank slate. You’re taking the financial assets and the knowledge you’ve accumulated to date, and you’re starting from scratch.

Forget what you’ve learned about how philanthropy “should” be done. How will you go about it now? Here are a few questions to get your summer brainstorm started:

  • Would you make grants, or engage in something completely different?
  • Would you reorganize everything in your foundation, or would you even have a foundation at all? What other form could your philanthropy take?
  • Who would you most like to work with to make the world better? Why? What inspires you about that person? What do they do that you can’t? (And why can’t you?)
  • What’s holding you back? Why? How could a new approach move you past that obstacle?
  • What new developments or trends have you seen (inside or outside of the philanthropic sector) that have sparked your interest? How might those factor into your new approach?

As you may have surmised, the goal is to think big! Don’t worry about the details – there will be ways to work them out later. Instead, search for the new ideas that inspire and excite you.  Jot them down or record them electronically. Then, when vacation time is over, go back to them. If they still inspire and excite you, chances are they will inspire and excite others, too.  Use them to spark something new and different in your day-to-day world, and in the world your philanthropy serves!


Want more inspiration to spark your thinking? Purchase my new book, Confident Giving, now available on Amazon!


Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a global philanthropy advisor and was recently named one of “America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers.” For over 16 years, leading philanthropies have requested Kris’s help to transform their giving and catapult their impact, including designing strategies that achieve results, streamline operations, assess impact, and allocate funds. Her clients include the Robert Wood Johnson, David and Lucile Packard, Annie E. Casey, and Charles and Helen Schwab foundations, among dozens of others.  Learn more at

Read what your colleagues have to say:

We trusted the Putnam team to create an honest retrospective about our work with race, both inside and outside the Casey Foundation – and they delivered beautifully. They made our staff and partners comfortable talking about a sensitive subject and allowed the spirit of our work to shine through. Now we have a way to share our story and use it to launch a new era of race equity and inclusion within Casey and beyond.”  

 ~ Nonet Sykes, Director of Race Equity and Inclusion, Annie E. Casey Foundation 


© 2016 Kris Putnam-Walkerly. All rights reserved. Permission granted to excerpt or reprint with attribution.

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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