- Assets: $3,829,008 (2016)
- Grants Received: $2,070,155 (2016)
- Grants Awarded: $1,779,050 (2016)
The Threshold Foundation (TF) was established in 1981 by business consultant/social activist Richard Perl and heir/philanthropist Joshua Mailman. Together they convened, in a picturesque outdoor setting in Colorado, a group of 22 wealthy young activists like themselves to brainstorm how they could best utilize their financial resources to advance policies that would, in their estimation, promote the public good. The members of this group called themselves “The Doughnuts,” a name derived from a circular cloud that purportedly appeared above the meditation circle they had formed during their outdoor council. According to Ron Arnold, executive vice-president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, these activists “contemplated ‘the sacredness of the earth as a living organism’ and their duty to save it and its indigenous peoples through joint use of their inherited wealth.”
During TF’s early years, each “Doughnut” swore an oath to absolute secrecy about the projects they funded and the quasi-religious objectives they shared. Providing a window into the mystical mindset of TF’s founding partners, Ron Arnold reports:
“[T]he entire group attempted to buy a gypsum mine in Arkansas to provide crystals to encircle the U.S. White House and Moscow’s Kremlin in a magical crystal peace spell; one Doughnut … founded the Institute for Soviet-American Relations in 1983 to prevent World War III; Richard Perl … who was still in Columbia Law School (with a business card saying ‘Peace Entrepreneur’), would become CEO of Deepak Chopra’s holistic health corporation …”
In 1984 the Tides Foundation and its then-CEO, Drummond Pike, took over the management duties at TF and incorporated it two years later. From that point forward, Threshold veered away from its earlier mysticism and became a more businesslike entity.
Today TF describes itself as “a progressive foundation and a community of individuals” who “contribute their time, money and energies to support progressive social change through volunteer-based philanthropy.”
A member organization of the Peace and Security Funders Group, TF is housed in the Tides Foundation‘s San Francisco Presidio complex along with numerous other left-wing organizations, including the Jenifer Altman Foundation, the Columbia Foundation, and the Energy Foundation. In May 2012, Capital Research Center editor Matthew Vadum reported that TF “is run by the Tides Foundation,” having paid at least $1,813,162 to the latter since 2003, in exchange for “management and operations services”; moreover, Threshold’s financial books and records are in the possession of Tides.
TF seeks to “serve the social change movement” by funding national and international non-profit organizations focused on “social justice, environmental preservation, humane economic systems, and the peaceful coexistence of individuals, communities and cultures.” Directing the Foundation’s pursuit of these objectives are its two grant-making committees:
1) The Sustainable Planet Committee (SPC) asserts that human industrial activity is the major cause of potentially catastrophic “climate change.” To address this threat, SPC strives to “transfor[m] both human culture and technology to live within the physical limits of the local and global ecosystems … to preserve biodiversity and prevent extinction.” Key to this effort is the deployment of “new clean technologies”—i.e., wind and solar.
2) The Justice and Democracy Committee (JDC) supports organizations working to protect the “human rights [of] youth impacted by the [American] criminal-justice and drug-policy systems” that are allegedly rife with racial injustice. According to JDC, “The prison-industrial complex is a self-perpetuating system based on the subjugation of an increasing segment of our communities through racial and economic scapegoating,” creating “immediate material gain for corporations who build and manage prisons.” In particular, says the Committee, the war on drugs “has resulted in the institutionalized persecution of Black, Latino and Native American young people ushered into the criminal-justice system under the guise of fighting drugs.” By injecting cash into community-organizing and coalition-building initiatives, JDC also works to “expan[d] political rights for those who live in historically disenfranchised communities.”
Currently, TF has three active Funding Circles—i.e., interest groups that convene when there is both member interest in a particular issue area and an urgent need in the non-profit field to address it. One of these, the Election Integrity Funding Circle, is closely aligned with the aforementioned JDC and works “to eliminate voter suppression and barriers to voting.” Among this Funding Circle’s priorities are the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons, and the elimination of requirements that voters show proof of identity and citizenship at their polling places.
The Queer Youth Funding Circle, which has been housed at the Liberty Hill Foundation since 2002, makes multi-year, $100,000 grants to organizations “working to improve the quality of life among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (GLBTQQ) youth.”
The Thriving Resilient Communities Funding Circle supports “inclusive economic models” that emphasize wealth redistribution rather than free markets; “social interconnectedness”; and “vibrant health and well-being.”
Michele Grennon, a longtime Democratic Party contributor who gave $64,625 to Democratic and left-leaning causes from 2003-2012, has been the president of TF since 2008. Noteworthy TF board members include Jodie Evans (co-founder of Code Pink); Matthew Palevsky (son of Jodie Evans and godson of Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post once employed Palevsky as an editor); Terrence Meck (board member of the Queer Youth Fund); Laura Wasserman (left-wing activist); Craig Harwood (gay activist); and Allan Badiner (Sixties radical who claims to have been a Students for a Democratic Society “insider”).
Among the many recipients of Threshold Foundation grants are: the ACLU of Wisconsin, the Bill Of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Media and Democracy, Code Pink, Color of Change, Democracy Now!, the Earth Island Institute, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Friends of the Earth, the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, Green For All, the Independent Media Institute, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Institute for Public Accuracy, the International Development Exchange, Kids vs. Global Warming, the Liberty Hill Foundation, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the National Council of Churches, the National Network of Grantmakers, the New World Foundation, the Rainforest Action Network, the Ruckus Society, Teaching for Change, the Tides Center, the Tides Foundation, True Majority Action, and the Women’s Action for New Directions Education Fund.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Threshold Foundation, click here.