By now, we’re all pretty familiar with giving circles as a way for smaller donors to collaborate and pool gifts—an approach that can be especially effective in mobilizing money for niche causes or in particular places.
But the Full Circle Fund isn’t exactly a giving circle, and it’s not really a traditional foundation either.
This is a network of professionals who use their time, talent, connections, and financial resources to accelerate change in Bay Area communities. It’s headquartered in Oakland, California and in San Francisco and has a very localized focus, making grants and supporting volunteer efforts. In addition to backing from over 200 members in its network, Full Circle Fund has received funding from a wide variety of places, including strategic partners like Cooley, the San Francisco Foundation, Trium, and the Salesforce Foundation. The lists of corporate sponsors and corporate supporters are impressive, and foundation support has come from The Laney Thornton Foundation, the Thomas & JaMel Perkins Foundation, and others. This funder typically selects 10-15 organizations per year to award grants between $15,000 and $20,000. Ultimately, projects are expected to be completed within six or seven months.
But what’s really interesting about this funding group is who’s involved. There are just four staff members at the Full Circle Fund, a CEO, program officer, director of membership & community, and director of operations. Then there are about 11 board members that come from prominent places like Cooley LLP, Better Food Ventures, Obindo, KPMG, LLP, and Junyo.
And finally, we come to the leadership co-chairs that drive the four funding areas: education, health, environment/energy, and economic opportunity. For example, the education circle is co-chaired by Nick Driver, the vice president of Charter School Management Corporation Inc., and the environment/energy circle is co-chaired by Carlos Garcia of the San Francisco Foundation. A couple program officers at the Koret Foundation, such as Ashley Rodwick, co-chair circles with this group, as well as corporate giants like J. Scott Bryant of Boston Private Bank.
This is just an overview the leadership, but you can also gain more insights into how this unique group works by browsing through its list of members. Here you’ll find big names around town like Sean Stannard-Stockton, the president/CEO of Ensemble Capital Management, and lots of other founders, attorneys, senior analysts, CEOs, and directors. There are various different professionals involved from different industries and walks-of-life, so take a look to see if you are already connected to this funding group in some way.
In the most recently published post on the funding group’s blog, Program Officer Fernande Legros shared that the members had been in the process of exchanging ideas and exploring Bay Area issues that need the most attention this year. Topics that have come up include homelessness, reproductive rights, access to renewable energy, mass transit, and 21st-century literacy as it pertains to media literacy, civic engagement, and workforce development. Other current areas of interest include access to healthcare, racial equity, renewable energy, climate education, and teacher training. As you can see, the funding topics are broad, but the geographic focus is quite narrow on the San Francisco Bay Area.
At this time, the members are narrowing their scope and starting to identify local nonprofits to work with. Recently, the group concluded a call for applications to the Full Circle Fund’s Rising Leaders Program from Bay Area change-makers under 32. This two-year program is a way to engage young professionals in local philanthropy and includes a $5,000 value on a subsidized membership.
Unless you’re already connected to this group of local professionals through one of its members or circle co-chairs, the best way to get on its radar is by filling out this form with some basic information about your nonprofit. To learn more about the Full Circle Fund and who the key players are, check out our full profile of the group in our Bay Area Funders Guide.
Related: Full Circle Fund