I live to give. Since inheriting money from my mother in 1996, I have given away nearly $35 million. I’m 78 and I’m pedaling as fast as I can to give it all away before I die.
I was lucky not to be raised in a wealthy family. I know what it means to struggle. But the luckiest day of my life was August 30, 1930, when my brother Warren Buffett was born. His ability to create wealth has made it possible for me to live with great purpose and joy.
When Warren received media attention after his pledge to the Gates Foundation, he sent me a stack of about 3,000 requests for help from individuals. With the help of my friends, we sorted through the letters, responded to them, and sent money to those who were most in need. A “hand-up,” not a “hand out” was our guiding principle.
The world of giving has a corrupt side. It’s hard not to be changed by O.P.M. (other people’s money), whether you’re asking for money or helping to give it. I try to leave the politics of philanthropy at the door and focus on its power to change lives.
Truly smart people understand the state of the world: we’re in serious trouble. Warren is working on the nuclear threat. I focus on alleviating hardship and providing opportunity. I give to people who need some good luck for a change as they deal with major problems, abuse, health, and lack of education. I write checks directly to pay for what they need and support projects that do the same.
Besides a wonderful staff, I rely on my “sunbeams”: 65 volunteers who each have $10,000 per year to give on my behalf to people and projects they think will use it well. Sure, we take risks, but I’ve developed good business sense about giving. I view it as investing in people who will make the gift count.
| South | 60 plus Years Old | $10-$25M | at least 50% | Inheritance |
| Children/Youth | Health | Social Justice | Impact |
Posted on June 15th by Rick Brooks
Doris, Love the idea of "sunbeams." I have some acquaintances who have given me money to then give away, and it has been a genuine pleasure. It's been wonderful to give it to my students and ask them to think about the best techniques to identify ways to make the most of the $10 or $100 or $1000 they might give. Of course I am always on the lookout for models of compassion, action, kindness and effectiveness to receive and give funds to. It's nice to have a selection of lots of projects to give to as well. You've inspired me. Sunbeams...We're building little libraries and all of them will need some sun.
Posted on March 17th by Sondra Shaw-Hardy
More reflections on last week's "Women and Philanthropy: The Time is Now" (see my earlier posting).
Lisa Witter did an outstanding job leading the forum discussion. One of her questions to the panel was how they felt about making micro-loans. Although all thought it a good idea, Barbara Dopkin cautioned not to have too high expectations. She said that as important as they are, women can't support their families with micro-loans.
This led into a discussion about giving abroad or giving at home. Jackie Zehner said that she has three strategies for giving and one is global.
I personally have always felt that it's important to take a look at our stock portfolio and see how much of our investments are abroad, and then ask ourselves how much we are or should be giving abroad. It's usually quite shocking to discover just what that investment number is. It seems to only make sense if we truly consider that philanthropy is investing in the future, than most of us probably should be giving more globally.
Because we know that women like a personal connection in their giving, Lisa pointed out that she likes to use KIVA when giving abroad because of that personal connection.
Barbara Dopkin said that no matter where we give, we should use a gender lens and ask how many women are on the board of the organization. Beyond that, it is important to find out if it's a museum, how much women's art is featured. Oftentimes not focusing on women is more of an oversight than an intentional slight, and all that needs to happen is to have the situation called to people's attention.
Posted on March 14th by Margaret May Damen
You are so in the moment with your insight into the energy post-menaopausal women are channeling into good deeds for a more sustainable and just world. In our book, "Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation", Niki and I refer to Margaret Mead's quote regarding "post-menaopausal zest" as one of the hallmarks that identify women who lead our philanthrpic movement by the discerning, responsible and passionate choices they make as how and where to invest their precious time, talent, and treasure.
Listening to the diverse and inspirational stories from the women panel members in the NY Times webcast, it was refreshing to hear the freedom of choice each of these women has to express their values through the passion they commit to the issues they believe will make a difference in the lives of women and girls. Only in America, and only in this time as the tide turns and "She who hold the gold will make the rules."
We have reached the tipping point to a new spirit of contagious compassion as a generation of women move away from conspicious consumption and live a more meaningful life to leave a more purposeful legacy of values and valuables to re-set the ethical and moral fabric of our society through philanthropy done by the world's nurturers - women.
Margaret May Damen, CFP, CLU, ChFC, CDFA
co-author: Women, Wealth & Giving
Posted on March 11th by Sondra Shaw-Hardy
I was able to attend yesterday's webcast forum sponsored by the Women's Philanthropy Institute and the New York Times Knowledge Network. The course, "Women and Philanthropy: The Time is Now" is very enlightening and I am delighted to be able to participate. I believe the course will continue to be available to those unable to attend this week. Do check with the Women's Philanthropy Institute.
There were some interesting comments made by the forum panelists: Jacki Zehner, Michele Minter, Angelica Berrie, Hali Lee and Barbara Dopkin with Lisa Witter as the moderator.
One of the most fascinating was the hesitancy by the panelists to identify themselves as philanthropists. As the discussion ensued, they all promised to do so in the future. This feeling was expressed following a question about the differences between women and men's giving. Some of the panelists said that women are more modest about putting their names on buildings and have less of an ego. These feelings apparently made them reluctant to talk about themselves as philanthropists. Or to even talk about their philanthropy with their friends. One woman suggested that philanthropy should be a part of women's conversations such as, "what do you support with your philanthropy?"
My question to all of you is, do you acknowledge yourself as a philanthropist?
A point that all considered important was women's financial literacy--that you can't be a philanthropist without having control of your finances. The importance of starting this at a young age was stressed and Muriel Siebert (the first woman on the NY Stock Exchange) was credited for working to get financial literacy into the New York City's school curriculum.
The book, "Raising Financially Fit Kids," by Joline Godfrey was mentioned as a good resource. Are there others you know about?
Posted on March 11th by Sara Hall
I'm a philanthropic consultant working with highly-engaged women philanthropists on both coasts and I frequently give a presentation on what makes women's philanthropy different. So I thought that this is a conversation where I might chime in!
In my experience, the short answer to "is women's philanthropy different" is that we're more about creating relationships than operating hierarchically. Women learn though connecting with other funders, with thought leaders, with grantees. The information they gain from these relationships, including relationships with grantees, is grounded in their own judgment of character and leadership qualities and less in reports and metrics. Which is not to say that women donors aren't rigorous, they are. It's just that they're more holistic in their decision-making process. Bill Sommerville, of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation talked about this in his wonderful book Grassroots Philanthropy. He urged philanthropists to get out of the office and into the field to identify good leadership and then to support it wholeheartedly. Women seem to do this naturally.
--Both men and women are often moved to philanthropy by an intense and meaningful personal experience, but in my unscientific survey, I've come to feel that women do this even more than men.
--Women also aren't afraid to be beginners in philanthropy and they jump in with both feet and open minds. They ask questions, go to conferences, read books and blogs on issues, visit sites, talk to their friends about what they're learning.
-- Women are also drawn to mentoring and being mentored, and they actively seek opportunities to do this.
--Women are particularly eager to involve their families in their philanthropy, creating opportunities for children to participate in meaningful ways that reinforce family values and provide memorable family experiences.
--Women are willing to trust their intuition, particularly about leadership. This is one reason women want and need to meet the leadership of projects they consider funding.
So these are a few of my observations. One last thought: I've met with a number of other consultants--wealth advisors, family lawyers, philanthropic advisors--and many report that when a couple comes for a consultation the woman is often very quiet and lets her husband speak for the family. But they also report that if the women comes alone, perhaps to a follow-up meeting, she opens up and talks at length and in detail about her philanthropic vision for the family. I mention this so we can all be sensitive to this and create situations in which the values and mission both men and women are heard and heeded.
Lots more to say on Women's High Engagement Philanthropy, but am guessing you, Anne, will give us all another chance to weigh in. Thanks for creating this forum for discussion.
Posted on March 11th by Anne Ellinger
OK, so I'm replying to my own post. I didn't attend the course (I want to spend LESS time on the computer, not more!) but I am starting to get butterflies in my stomach about the potential power of women's giving -- both our money and our talents.
This memory is key: A week after Obama's election, I was sitting in a circle of about 35 women -- most of us post-menaopausal--at Women Donor's Network conference. The talent in that room! The commitment and force for good! Not only had most of us contributed significant money to the campaign, but many had given months of their fulltime energy. Perhaps it was women who got Obama in office?
And just last week I attended Half the Sky -- a one-day film event shown simultaneously in thousands of theaters around the country. It spoke to a growing world-wide movement, focused on empowering women and girls across the globe,especially in impoverished areas. Pursuasive and inspiring, it showed that the uplifting of women is the most powerful way to address poverty and even the quickest way to counter terrorism. Surely, there can be a connection between this "half the sky movement" and the growth of women's philanthropy?