There’s a Philanthropy-Serving Organization for That!

Philanthropy Serving Organizations


Call ‘em what you want – in my 18 years advising foundations and philanthropists I’ve seen the terms “regional association of grantmakers,” “funder networks,” “affinity groups,” “philanthropy communities,” and more – and now the new term is “philanthropy-serving organization” (PSO). Whatever you call it, the value is
timeless – bringing funders of similar interests, types, sizes, and/or geographic locations together to network and learn from each other.

In my work advising foundation CEOs, I’ve noticed that as leaders transition to new roles and move to new organizations, and as foundation priorities and grantmaking strategies evolve, many funders fail to take advantage of – and sometimes fail to even notice – PSOs that might meet their evolving needs.

For example:

  • Consider the new CEO who moves from a large foundation to a small foundation. In his former job, he was highly involved in leadership roles in his regional association and some of the largest PSOs, but wasn’t even aware that there is a PSO specifically for small staffed foundations – Exponent Philanthropy. Using this PSO, he can discover and tap into resources that are tailor made for his new situation.
  • Or what about the foundation leader who quits to become a consultant? You might not be aware of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, but this PSO brings philanthropy consultants and philanthropy leaders together to elevate the best of the field. Also, many regional and national associations of grantmakers allow consultants to join as members, including Philanthropy Ohio, Philanthropy New York, Northern California Grantmakers, Council on Foundations, National Center for Family Philanthropy, Exponent Philanthropy, and many more.
  • Or maybe a high-wealth donor needs a network of philanthropic-minded people who share her interest in impact investing. There are many organizations and conferences that might be of interest, such as Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), Confluence Philanthropy, or the Global Impact Investing Network, to name a few. If there’s a common interest in the field, there’s probably a PSO to address it.

Luckily for us, finding PSOs doesn’t mean looking for a needle in a haystack. In the US, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers is re-positioning itself as the mother of all philanthropy-serving organizations and broadening its membership to include all manner of PSO members. Look for the launch of a new name at its annual conference in July. (While you are there, look for me — I’ll be leading a session!). On a global scale, WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support) is the home to PSOs around the world. These two organizations make it easy to find PSOs that may suit your purposes, simply by looking at their membership lists.

So, if you find yourself in a new role or your foundation is launching new grantmaking programs, take some time to look around and find some new philanthropy hangouts. If you simply ask colleagues at foundations already working in your interest area for suggestions, and spend two hours looking online, you will likely identify new organizations that can help you quickly advance your work and your role in it.

And no matter where you are, your state or region likely has a regional association of grantmakers, and you should seriously consider joining it.

Of course, joining a new organization doesn’t necessarily mean ending your relationship with one in which you’re currently a member. Take a moment to re-assess whether your existing memberships are still a good fit and how to maximize the value they bring to you (and you to them).  If it truly no longer aligns with your interests and needs, then it might be time to leave. But if you move from a large community foundation to a private family foundation in the same town, you likely will benefit from remaining in your regional association. If you left a large health foundation to take the helm at a new health legacy foundation, you likely will still benefit from membership in an organization like Grantmakers in Health. And if you left a program officer post to become CEO at a new foundation, you may want to look for different content-related offerings and networks for CEOs within your PSO. You also may want to re-assess the member list and reach out to the people you might not have paid much attention to before –those whose foundations or roles are similar to your new post.

Bottom line? For almost any situation you may find yourself in, there’s likely a philanthropy-serving organization that can provide great value and resources to support you and your work. Why not take advantage of all they have to offer?


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 Fameand 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.

“Kris has a refreshingly clear-eyed point of view on philanthropy. She can cut through the noise and keep things focused, which has made her both a valuable advisor and a good speaker for our members.”

~Tamir Novotny, Executive Director, Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy



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.

Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone.

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.

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