Delusional Altruism with Kristen Putnam-Walkerly, Episode #74

Today’s guest on the Mitlin Money Mindset™ is Kristen Putnam-Walkerly, President of Putnam Consulting Group. Kristen Putnam-Walkerly is a global philanthropy expert who helps ultra-high net worth donors, foundations, and Fortune 500 companies increase the clarity impact and joy of their charitable giving. She is a trusted advisor to the world’s leading philanthropists for over 20 years, ultra-high net worth donors, foundations, Fortune 500 companies, celebrity activists, and wealth advisors have all sought her advice to transform their giving and catapult their impact.

Kris has helped over a hundred philanthropists strategically allocate over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts. Her clients include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, J.M. Smucker Company, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, and many others. Kris was named one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers and is the author of the award-winning book Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders. Listen in for some great takeaways on what philanthropy is, how philanthropists can change the world and the impact that you can make.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…

  • Kris’ path to being the President of Putnam Consulting Group [3:07]
  • Where does Kris’ passion for philanthropy stem from [5:29]
  • Where to start your philanthropic giving journey [8:29]
  • What drives philanthropy? [13:10]
  • How Kris assists families and foundations through the philanthropic process [15:19]
  • 4 ways philanthropists change the world [18:14]
  • What is transformational giving? [23:05]
  • Mistakes philanthropists make during a crisis [26:23]
  • 2 top practices for being an extraordinary philanthropist [30:31]
  • What is Delusional Altruism? [36:09]
  • What did Kristen do today that put her in the right mindset for success? [38:56]

How do you start the process of being philanthropic?

Kris says your philanthropic giving journey begins with asking the right questions and the three questions she suggests people start with—and in this order—are why, what, and how.

First is thinking about the why of your philanthropy? Why do you exist, what is your purpose—your philanthropic purpose, what stake do you want to have in the ground? Getting clarity on your why is important because once you have clarity on why you exist as a funder or as a donor, a lot can stem from that.

The second question is what. What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? What issues or causes do you care about as a family or company? What do you want to accomplish with your giving in a year or five years from now? Get clarity on where you’re headed and what you want to accomplish with your philanthropy, then and only then can you ask the third question…How?

4 ways philanthropists change the world

We’re in a world that’s constantly changing and that’s tough enough. How do philanthropists go about changing the world when the world is always changing?

Kris says it’s an interesting question because it feels like the beginning of this decade has been particularly turbulent and it feels like conditions keep changing. She says the reality is that the future is no more uncertain today than it was in the last decade or even century. Extraordinarily successful philanthropists do a few things, number one being that they change their mindset. They recognize that the future is uncertain, but it’s no more uncertain today than it’s ever been.

The reality is that disruption and volatility are the status quo. Rather than allowing the idea of an unknown future to paralyze them, they let it free them. You can’t possibly plan for every contingency. We don’t know what change is coming this year or the next. You have to change your mindset and let that free you. You must shift a mindset of scarcity and fear to one of abundance and confidence, knowing that you can create a plan and change it along the way.

The second thing is to create that plan. Despite all the constant change, identify what you’re trying to do in the next 12 months and create a plan. Thirdly, begin implementing it right away. Just get started! Don’t wait for more data, don’t wait for the next round of elections to happen. Just start implementing your plan. Lastly is to make course corrections. Create your plan quickly, begin implementing it right away, and change it as conditions change; because conditions will change.

What is delusional altruism?

Delusional altruism is being genuine in wanting to make a difference and change the world but getting in your own way and preventing yourself from having the impact that you seek. Delusional doesn’t mean crazy, it just means you’re clinging onto misguided beliefs and practices that actually hamstring yourself and the organizations that you want to support.

I love the book and if you’re thinking about selling a business, you’re involved in philanthropy, or you want to get involved in philanthropy it gives you a lot of food for thought on how to get started and what you should be thinking about and what you shouldn’t be thinking about.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Kristen


Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a trusted advisor to the world’s leading philanthropists. For more than 20 years, wealthy families, ultra-high net worth donors, foundations, Fortune 500 companies, and celebrity activists have sought and benefited from her advice to transform their giving and catapult their impact. As President of the Putnam Consulting Group, a philanthropy advisor, speaker, and award-winning author, she’s helped over 100 philanthropists strategically allocate over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts. Additionally, Kris works closely with estate planning attorneys, financial and wealth advisors, and family offices to serve wealthy families who wish to deepen their philanthropic commitments.

Kris was named the 2020 Philanthropy Advisor of the Year (LUX Life Magazine) and one of the Top 50 Philanthropy Blogs, Websites & Influencers in 2020 (Feedspot). She has also been named one of America’s Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers for the past three years. She is an award-winning author of the new book, Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail to Achieve Change and What They Can Do To Transform Giving (Wiley, 2020) and Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders and is a contributor on philanthropy. Kris’s clients include the J.M. Smucker Company, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, National Center for Family Philanthropy, Blue Shield of California, and the Cleveland Foundation.

Guests on the Mitlin Money Mindset Show are not affiliated with CWM, LLC, and opinions expressed herein may not be representative of CWM, LLC. CWM, LLC is not responsible for the guest’s content linked on this site.

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