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3 Philanthropic Lessons We Can Learn From Doris Buffett

by | Philanthropy

As a selfless philanthropist, Doris Buffett’s goal was to ensure that the last check she ever wrote would bounce. After amassing wealth through lucrative investment shares, Ms. Buffett definitely had the means to dole out large donations to her favorite organizations. However, her heart belonged to everyday individuals. Instead of following in the footsteps of her peers who pursued traditional philanthropy, Ms. Buffett established several foundations of her own that made a habit of cheering for the underdog. Throughout her lifetime, she gave more than 200 million dollars to people in need. She was a trailblazer in the world of philanthropy, and there are many lessons to be learned from the way she gave. Here are three philanthropic lessons we can learn from Doris Buffett.

It’s Ok to Be Eccentric

By normal donor standards, Ms. Buffett’s habits were considered eccentric. However, she didn’t let that stop her. When her brother started receiving thousands of letters requesting aid, written by people from all walks of life, she stepped up to the plate. Ms. Buffett optimistically rounded up a group of volunteers and got to work sifting through piles of financial pleads from the general public. Most ultra-wealthy philanthropists don’t spend their time tending to working class strangers who are in a financial bind. But Ms. Buffett made it her mission to do exactly that. She enjoyed learning about people’s stories and giving them a hand-up when they had no other options. Like Doris Buffett, you can break the mold with your philanthropy and chart your own path. Be true to yourself, even if that means standing out.

Microphilanthropy is a Worthy Cause

When most people think of philanthropy, they imagine a large check that is gifted to an organization. But surely, there is more than one way to serve the community. While traditional philanthropy focuses on a macro-scale, microphilanthropy works on a smaller spectrum. Warren Buffett often drew a distinction between the two by comparing his style of ‘wholesale’ grants (large and indirect) to Ms. Buffett’s style of ‘retail’ grants (personal and one-on-one). And although many of us are understandably impressed by news headlines that detail massive donations, it’s important that we also acknowledge the power of microphilanthropy. 

It was clear that Ms. Buffett’s time, care, and small philanthropic gifts meant the world to those who received them. Through her example, she taught the public that even the smallest of acts can hold significant meaning. Professional baseball player, Leon Brown said it best: “Never underestimate the valuable and important difference you make in every life you touch. For the impact you make today has a powerful rippling effect on every tomorrow.” 

Diversify Your Giving

Doris Buffett established the Sunshine Lady Foundation, the Learning by Giving Foundation, the Women and Girls Fund, and The Letters Foundation. Her heart was drawn to various causes, and her philanthropy reflected that. Ms. Buffett’s varied contributions show that you don’t have to limit yourself to only one foundation or enterprise. Diversify! If environmental matters, education reform, and community building resonate with you, do all three. Fortunately, when it comes to giving, you aren’t required to pick a lane and stay in it. Let Ms. Buffett inspire you to follow your passions and remove the boundaries that limit your philanthropy. 

The world would be a better place if everyone embraced the same generous principles that Doris Buffett lived by. Although she is no longer with us, her legacy lives on. With these three philanthropic lessons, we can begin to make a difference in our communities. 

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