Many Americans are active in supporting a variety of charities at some level and, as such, Kris Putnam-Walkerly’s book Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail to Achieve Change and What They Can Do to Transform Giving will be a book they devour with great interest. The book is the product of Putnam-Walkerly’s two decades plus working as a philanthropic advisor to wealthy families, Fortune 500 companies, and other organizations on the front lines of charitable giving. She hits on the right length for a book of this nature, it clocks in at less than three hundred pages in ebook form, and does an outstanding job of covering a great deal of ground on the subject within a relatively limited framework. 

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She makes the book’s thrust clear early on. Putnam-Walkerly, over the course of two parts, intends to take readers on a tour of sorts of the errors people and organizations make when they pursue philanthropic efforts before transitioning into an examination of how to get it right in the book’s second half. The individual chapters are brief and to the point – Putnam-Walkerly eschews any overt self-indulgence during the course of this book and confines herself to imparting the best information she can to interested readers. 

The book’s aforementioned structure makes that possible. Even more so, however, her steady hand as an author helps illuminate the issues she tackles within these pages. There is no extragavant writing here and the conversational style she adopts is likely close to her tone as a public speaker on the subject. This is a book that ultimately seeks to establish a genuine connection with the reader so they come away from the text with a deeper appreciation of how their giving can be transformational rather than a waste of time and money. 

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She supports her stances with a wealth of research thoroughly documented and drawn from a wide variety of sources. She shows, in choosing those sources, the same intelligence defining the book as a whole. Philanthropy is obviously something she has taken some time to consider over the course of her two decades and change working with those who want to give back and variety of materials and experiences alike shape her thoughts on the subject. 

It is a clear labor of love. Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail to Achieve Change and What They Can Do to Transform Giving doesn’t spend its time putting the author over as some sort of oracle on the subject and it is obvious throughout its entirety that, in the end, Putnam-Walkerly is looking to help her readers make better choices above all else. It holds up under repeated readings and is a book you should read from beginning to end rather than diving randomly into it and it definitely rates as one of the better books on the topic you will likely ever read. Kris Putnam-Walkerly has put in the needed time and done the necessary homework to make this book a must read for anyone interested in philanthropic pursuits.

Michael Rand

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