March 29, 2010; Christian Science Monitor | Being on the receiving end of a gift from Marion Rockefeller Weber is hardly an end unto itself. Instead, thanks to her novel form of philanthropy, Weber’s gifts are given to people whom she trusts will research causes and programs and then pass the money they receive on to ones worthy of support.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Weber established the Flow Fund Circle in 1991, and in the years since, money has flowed all over the world, supporting orphanages in Uganda, reforestation in Sumatra, organic farming in Ecuador, among other projects. Flow Funders—each of whom are personally chosen by Weber—receive $20,000 per year, for three years. They can’t fund projects of their own or family members and they don’t get paid to do this work.

Why would they do this? In addition to helping Weber ensure her money is put to good use, Flow Funders learn about giving—both the challenges and rewards. Helen Gunthorpe is one of Weber’s Flow Funders. In the spring of 2008 a letter arrived from Weber that Gunthorpe recalls said, “Here’s [some] money, and I know you will give it to the right people.” Gunthorpe used the money to establish a nonprofit business in Burma called Good Sleep, which make nets for protection from mosquitoes.

About the opportunity Weber gave her, Gunthorpe says: “She lit the candle. She makes us all a little larger than we could ever be on our own.”  If you see an envelope from Marion Weber, don’t toss it without looking inside.—Bruce Trachtenberg