Warren Buffett Makes His Largest-Ever Philanthropic Donation

The Berkshire Hathaway CEO has donated company shares to these five foundations annually since 2006.

Warren Buffett, the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) CEO known for frugality despite his wealth, made his largest-ever philanthropic donation earlier this week. He gave away $4.6 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway B shares, in accordance with his plan to eventually donate 99 percent of his net worth to charity.

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Warren Buffett plans to give 99 percent of his net worth to charity. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

The investor, who in 2006 pledged annual donations to five foundations in the form of Berkshire Hathaway stock, has since given out a total of $50 billion. A key stipulation of Buffett’s funds is that they must be used within a few years instead of staying in endowments. His latest gift saw 13.7 million shares dispersed among the non-profits, with the largest portion going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization, which just received a batch of 10.5 million Berkshire Hathaway shares, has received $35.7 billion from Buffett as of 2022.

What are the five foundations Warren Buffett supports?

Founded in 2000 by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world with an endowment of $67.3 billion. With a focus on healthcare, poverty reduction and equitable education opportunities in the U.S., it has given out $71.4 billion in grants since its inception.

Buffett, 92, worked closely with the private foundation for 15 years while acting as a board trustee until he stepped down in 2021, stating that “his physical participation is in no way needed” to achieve the group’s goals, according to a letter discussing his annual donations. He also joined forces with Bill and Melinda in 2010 when the trio created the Giving Pledge, which urges the wealthy to donate at least half of their wealth and has since amassed 241 signees.

Another grantee of the yearly donations is the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which was founded by Buffett in 1964 and received 1 million shares in 2023. The organization was renamed after Buffett’s late wife Susan in 2004 after she left $2.5 billion of her estate to the foundation. After helping fund Planned Parenthood in the 1960s, the foundation has largely focused on organizations centered on reproductive health, in addition to offering annual scholarships to college students in Nebraska.

The remaining three foundations, the Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation, are respectively run by Buffett’s children Susan, Howard and Peter. Each received 731,708 Berkshire Hathaway shares this year. The Sherwood Foundation funds social justice initiatives in Nebraska, with an emphasis on public education and poverty , while the more global aims of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation work towards food security, conflict mitigation, combating human trafficking, public safety and animal conservation. The NoVo Foundation, meanwhile, emphasizes initiatives supporting women’s rights and the city of Kingston, New York, where Peter is based.

Why do the Berkshire Hathaway donations keep rising each year?

“The mathematics of the lifetime commitments to the five foundations are interesting,” said Buffett in a letter regarding his recent contributions. His initial pledge to the five foundations stated that each organization would receive 5 percent less Berkshire Hathaway stock each year. But the rising value of his company’s shares has typically translated into a higher contribution to the groups year over year.

The total of $50 billion given to the five organizations is substantially higher than Buffett’s entire net worth in 2006, said the Berkshire Hathaway CEO, whose will states that 99 percent of his remaining company A shares, valued at $112 billion, will go to the foundations. “Nothing extraordinary has occurred at Berkshire; a very long runway, simple and generally sound decisions, the American tailwind and compounding effects produced my current wealth,” he said.

Warren Buffett Makes His Largest-Ever Philanthropic Donation