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Teaching others how to give money

Born into wealth, Marion Rockefeller Weber uses her Flow Fund Circle to teach others how to give money wisely.

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The Flow Fund Circle, founded by Marion Rockefeller Weber, teaches philanthropists how to quietly give money to worthy projects.

Paul Van Slambrouck

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Marion Rockefeller Weber makes many of her philanthropic decisions accompanied by the music of two singing finches, the becalming presence of her Blue Heeler dog, and a cat named Hermione.

Not exactly the office décor of most philanthropic institutions. Then again, Ms. Weber is not your standard philanthropist.

Her minor menagerie is housed in her home office, a cottage on a wooded hillside overlooking the Pacific north of San Francisco.

Her journey here has been one of personal transformation. In the process, she has established a kind of outpost on the frontiers of philanthropic giving, one that puts a premium on intuition, relationships, trust, and discovery.

Born into wealth, Weber says she has been a philanthropist since age 21, deciding which worthy causes to support among the many that would come her way.

"The table would be like this," she says lifting both hands shoulder high to indicate the stacks of proposals piled high on her living room table.

It wasn't a pleasant process for her. Later, she took a one-year sabbatical, a time of self-reflection, in which she also made out her will. In the will, she gives her money to "visionary friends and associates" so they can, in turn, give it away.

And so the idea of giving money with the stipulation that it, in turn, be given away, took root.

Weber's brand of philanthropic giving has no offices, staff, or bureaucracy. It's called the Flow Fund Circle. Since its inception in 1991, Flow Funders have identified and supported projects all over the world, from orphanages in Uganda to reforestation in Sumatra to organic farming in Ecuador.

Some 500 projects have been funded, nearly 80 percent of the money flowing outside the United States.

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