The Flow Fund Circle Structure

In this example of Flow Funding, Marion Rockefeller Weber acts as a Flow Fund Circle Initiator, in which she chooses her own Flow Funders, and gives each one $20,000 per year, for three years. Each Flow Fund Circle has five or more Flow Funders.

Together, the Flow Funders have discussions that lead to great insights for all who attend. Discussions in the Circle cover what inspired, challenged, surprised and moved each member, as well as stories about each person’s experience ,and reveal what has been meaningful and rewarding about the process.

As the Flow Fund Circle Initiator, Marion also chooses former Flow Funders to be Flow Fund Circle Holders. The Flow Fund Circle Holders choose their own Flow Funders and use the Flow Fund Circle Initiator’s money to give away to their chosen Flow Funders who then give the money away.

The Flow Fund Circle Holder (rather than the Initiator) is responsible for developing guidelines, collecting reports, sharing those reports with his or her circle, and organizing meeting times for all Flow Funders in the Circle to gather to share stories, celebrate, and learn from each other.

Guidelines for Flow Fund Circles

  • Twenty thousand dollars is given by the Flow Fund Initiator to a Flow Funder each year for three years.
  • Flow Funders cannot fund their own projects or that of a relative.    
  • The $20,000 cannot be used for personal projects, travel expenses or a stipend. Flow Funding is an opportunity not a job.
  • Flow funders disperse funds only on the basis of their own initiativeNo one applies.
  • The Flow Fund Circle Initiator chooses the Flow Funders, who become Flow Fund Circle members. No one applies.
  • The money is given through a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in order for the Flow Fund Initiator to receive a tax deduction.



The Flow Fund Circle has partnered with three collectives: Beyond Boundaries, The Tipping Point Network, and The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. Read more about these organizations here. Money was given to members of these circles for them to donate to the initiatives of their fellow members. The only rule was that no one could fund their own project. This was a powerful experience for the members, empowering new philanthropists and taking the responsibility for decision-making about grants away from the Flow Fund Circle Initiator.

See also:
How to get started, Challenges, Inspiration, Surprises, Advice


Excerpt from: American Foundations: An Investigative History by Mark Dowie (2001, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London England) Used by Permission


Flow Funding by Mark Dowie

Alongside the venturesome philanthropists who seek new ideas and projects for their money are a few that explore new ways to give away old money. Until 1991, Marion Weber, daughter of Laurence S. Rockefeller and granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller Jr., gave away about 90 percent of her income every year. Marion, like all the young Rockefellers, was indoctrinated into the philanthropic ethic by her grandfather. Junior, as he was known to the family, instilled in them a sense of stewardship over their inherited wealth, pointing out “that wealth implied responsibility. He taught us that to whom much is given much is expected.” But Weber, instead of following the traditional path by sitting of the board of one Rockefeller foundation or another and channeling money into large and powerful institutions, invented flow funding.

Though she was considered a maverick among the Rockefeller clan from the day she left home, before 1991, her philanthropic method was traditional. More...


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