Warren Buffett, you may have heard, is hell-bent on giving his fortune away. In 2006, he pledged $30 billion in shares of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and billions more to charitable foundations operated by his three children. Today, the Berkshire chairman and chief executive officer’s 82nd birthday, he doubled his pledge to his children’s charities, promising an additional block of shares currently worth about $3 billion.
“It’s been six years since my pledge of 17,500,000 Berkshire B shares (adjusted for a 50 for 1 split) to each of your foundations,” Mr. Buffett wrote in a letter published in The Omaha World Herald. “I knew you would apply your considerable brains and energies in order to make the most of the funds from my gift. However, you have exceeded my high expectations. Your mother would be as proud of you as I am.”
Just where is the money going?
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation invests in the sort of projects you might expect a charity in the Gates-Buffett universe to invest in—per the foundation’s website: “Our highest priorities are agricultural resource development for smallholder and subsistence farmers and clean water delivery to vulnerable communities in Africa and Central America.”
The Sherwood Foundation, run by Susan Buffett, supports education and anti-poverty programs, with a heavy emphasis on nonprofits in Omaha … a town of about 400,000 where a couple billion bucks might go a pretty long way.
The NoVo Foundation, operated by Mr. Buffett’s son Peter and his wife Jennifer, is the aardvark of the bunch, stating its mission as “ending violence against girls and women and promoting gender equity worldwide,” which is not to say there’s anything odd about that goal, only that we were tickled by the reasoning Peter an Jennifer use to get there:
Due to hundreds of years of conquest and colonialism, we are deeply and unconsciously programmed to accept rampant competition, exploitation and domination, as the way of the world. Competition—at any cost—for scarce resources or over one another is accepted and rewarded. The powerful interests of a few over-ride quality of life and equity for all. The time is now to address the deep underpinnings of systems that are not nurturing humanity and life. We wish to shift to a world in which women and men work in respectful partnership and collaboration with one another and with the earth … In order to facilitate the transformation we seek, women and girls must be empowered in every sphere of society. We believe that once empowered, women and girls will play transformative leadership roles; and as women and girls become more equal partners with men and boys, a spirit of collaboration can better prevail in society.