Doris Buffett Is Looking for a Few Good Volunteers

Doris Buffett, the sister of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is looking for people in the greater Boston area to help her read and assess the thousands of letters her brother receives seeking financial help, the Boston Globe reports.

In recent years, Buffett has had about a dozen volunteers in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where she previously resided and in Rockport, Maine, where she owned a summer home, to help her review letters. But she is looking to replenish her team with people from Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, where she now lives. Her gifts average about $4,800, and her goal, she told the Globe, is to provide what she calls "life-changing" grants to people who, for reasons beyond their control, have fallen on hard times.

"Bad things happen to good people, and sometimes, even if you try everything and keep plugging away, it doesn't work and you just have no options," said Noni Campbell, one of Buffett's original volunteers. "When there's rent or cancer bills that have to be paid, a thousand dollars when you're in a very, very bad position in your life is like a million dollars."

Doris Buffett's team-based approach to the Sisyphean challenge began in 2006, after her brother announced that he planned to donate the majority of his vast fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In no time, hundreds of letter poured into the offices of Berkshire Hathaway, the multinational conglomerate Buffett controls, and he reached out to his sister for help. After the creation of the Giving Pledge by Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010, the volume of requests increased. Today, Doris and Warren Buffett estimate they make at least two hundred and fifty gifts each year totaling about $1.2 million, although some years the total has exceeded $2 million. Funded through Doris Buffett's Sunshine Lady Foundation, gifts are made after her volunteers conduct rigorous background checks, including references supplied by the applicant. Applicants whose requests are turned down sometimes receive information on how to budget or apply for assistance from local nonprofits or government.

"There's no question the money I give away does a lot of good...but Doris is giving time, and time is the scarcest commodity," Buffett told the Globe. "No matter who you are, you have twenty-four hours a day, and when you give time up you're giving up something important."

Sacha Pfeiffer. "Wanted: Help Handing Out Warren Buffett’s Fortune." Boston Globe 08/13/2016.