Giving circles have long been a philanthropic phenomenon, as groups of friends have convened throughout time in places ranging from living rooms to community foundations to support causes, organizations, or groups of organizations that are dear to their hearts. Some are organized, staffed and programmatic, while others are more informal.
Funding Circles are Threshold’s interpretation of a giving circle, a format first introduced in the Threshold community in 2007. They began as small collectives of donors convening for a limited amount of time to address a narrowly tailored social, environmental, or cultural issue. Threshold’s Funding Circles formed and disbanded according to the changing interest and financial participation of Threshold members. Whereas our two standing core committees prior to 2015 served as more permanent, institutional fixtures in Threshold’s philanthropic constellation, Funding Circles were authorized and re-authorized annually only if there was sufficient member interest and if their mission and strategy remained vital and of service.
In 2015 we sought to simplify Threshold's overall grantmaking structure and moved to an all Funding Circle grants program. Based on the fundamental collaborative and participatory nature of Threshold members' approach to grantmaking, we found Funding Circles to be the clearest vehicle for future Threshold grantmaking.
Funding Circles strike a balance between traditional philanthropic practices and more flexible, streamlined philanthropy. By forgoing lengthier grantmaking procedures, Funding Circles strive to respond swiftly to rapidly changing events and challenges facing our society and the planet.
We now envision Funding Circles as collaborative funding vehicles driving the philanthropic visions of the Threshold network. Funding Circle members contribute time and money to pooled funds, engage in dynamic decision-making processes inspired by Threshold’s culture and rich history of grantmaking, and engage the larger Threshold community to contribute funds to support the local, national, and global issues they are addressing. The Funding Circle structure enables members to increase their awareness of, and engagement in, the issues most important to the Threshold community and, in turn, share their stories of impact across the growing global Threshold network.
Threshold’s Funding Circles do not accept unsolicited letters of inquiry (LOIs), grant proposals, or applications for funding. General grant cycle guidelines and the current year calendar can be found on the Grants page.
Please visit each Funding Circle’s individual webpage to learn more about their focus, strategy, process, and timeline. Threshold’s five Funding Circles for the 2016-2017 grant cycle are: