Spotlighting Doris Buffett’s Unique Approach to Philanthropy in Omaha

May 13, 2019

In 2006 when Warren Buffett announced that he would be giving away the majority of his fortune to charity, he began receiving letters from people all over the world asking for his help. When the letters continued, he gave them to his philanthropist sister, Doris Buffett, who has been answering them ever since. Through their joint efforts the Letters Foundation was born, a foundation of last resort that provides humanitarian grants to people experiencing a crisis through no fault of their own when no other options exist. On December 7th, 2018 Doris Buffett published Letters to Doris: One Woman’s Quest to Help Those With Nowhere Else to Turn, a collection of 24 powerful stories from individuals who were grant recipients of the Letters Foundation, and whose lives were transformed by the philanthropy and generosity of siblings Doris and Warren Buffett. On May 2019, the Learning by Giving team traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to spotlight the philanthropic work of Doris Buffett. Joel Jaquez, the foundation’s Manager of External Relations and Partnerships, wrote about the team’s experience there.

Following the publication of Letters to Doris: One Woman’s Quest to Help Those With Nowhere Else to Turn, Doris Buffett’s two Boston-based philanthropic organizations, Learning by Giving Foundation (LxG) and Letters Foundation (Letters), collaborated together to launch her national book tour alongside the Creative Team that helped write the book.

After hosting successful author talks at the Boston Public Library in Boston, Massachusetts and Salida SteamPlant in Salida, Colorado, the LxG and Letters teams flew down to Omaha, Nebraska on May 2nd, 2019 to showcase Doris Buffett’s new book to the local community, and at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders’ Annual Meeting.

Omaha became a special place to spotlight Doris Buffett’s philanthropic achievements for it is the birthplace and hometown of Doris, her brother Warren, and their entire family. It also continues to be the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway Inc and its shareholders’ annual meeting.

During the evening of Friday, May 3rd, the LxG and Letters teams, in collaboration with the University of Nebraska Foundation, hosted “Exploring Doris Buffett’s Unique Approach to Philanthropy” at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. At the event:

  • After a brief introduction from Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, attendees and students heard from Amy Kingman, Executive Director of both LxG and Letters, on Doris Buffett’s lifelong accomplishments in philanthropy through the Letters Foundation and Learning by Giving Foundation.
  • The Creative Team spoke on their experiences in traveling across the country to capture the testimonials and photographs of the 24 client stories found within Letters to Doris.
  • Candy Henning, Chair of Women Investing in Nebraska, spoke on the collective giving work done by women to support local communities across the state.
  • Dr. Amber Messersmith, faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and LxG faculty, spoke on the creative ways her students use philanthropy to help fund nonprofits in the local area.
  • Lastly, Brian Hastings, President and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, spoke on the importance of philanthropy and the human values learned through the act of giving back.

On Saturday, May 4th, the LxG and Letters teams, alongside the Creative Team, attended the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders’ Annual Meeting at the CHI Health Center Omaha Convention Center to showcase Letters to Doris, one of 45 books on the list approved by Warren Buffett to be sold at the annual meeting to shareholders. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Doris Buffett’s Letters to Doris and Melinda Gates’ The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World were two books that Warren Buffett personally requested to be sold at the annual meeting.

Through out the day, attendees heard from staff members and the Creative Team on the work that went behind Letters to Doris and its connection to Doris’ and Warren’s testament to philanthropy. Many carried their new books back with them to the main arena to continue hearing from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. In a room filled with investors and business people, the book stood out as a symbol of philanthropy, charity, and giving.

It was truly an honor to travel to Omaha, Nebraska and speak on behalf of Doris Buffett’s philanthropy to the Omaha community, Learning by Giving students, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, and others to inspire them to give back. As Amy Kingman sums it up, “Doris sees her giving like a pebble. A pebble that when thrown into the right water, at the right place and time, and with the right level of lift, can cause ripple effects much larger and farther reaching than the size of that one pebble – that one moment, that one class, that one financial gift.”

Learning by Giving students, and individuals from the community attending “Exploring Doris Buffett’s Unique Approach to Philanthropy” at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center
Students from Learning by Giving’s class at University of Nebraska-Lincoln with Learning by Giving staff and faculty
Letters to Doris book cover stand during the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders’ Annual Meeting
Learning by Giving Foundation staff at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders’ Annual Meeting (from left to right): Amy Kingman, Joel Jaquez, Will Charnley