The Buffett Foundation is a charitable organization formed by Omaha, Nebraska investor and industrialist Warren Buffett as a vehicle to manage his charitable giving. It was renamed Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation in honor of his wife Susan Buffett when she died in 2004.
Allen Greenberg, the Executive Director of the foundation, was married from 1983 to 1995, to the Buffetts' daughter, Susie, who is Chair. The Buffett Foundation was set up in 1964 but had no director until Greenberg took the job in 1987.
Susan Buffett's will bestowed about $2.5 billion on the foundation, to which her husband's further gifts of $315 million have been added.
The Buffett Foundation does not accept unsolicited requests, preferring instead to seek out worthy recipients on its own.
Of the $17.6 million that the Buffett Foundation donated in the fiscal year ended June 30, 1999, nearly $3.8 million went to Planned Parenthood, among its top contributors. It also involves itself directly at the clinic level.
International Projects Assistance Services (IPAS), based in Carrboro, N.C., manufactures a handheld suction pump used in developing countries to initiate abortions. The Buffett Foundation has backed IPAS for years. Its 1999 contribution of $2.5 million is part of a five-year, $20 million commitment that will enable IPAS to double its capacity.
Currently, the Foundation provides grants to a large range of US and a few international organisations, including the Willows Foundation in Turkey (€2.3 million), the World Food Programme in Italy (€800,000), Marie Stopes International in the UK (€571,000); and Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elegida in Mexico (€196,000).
By 2008, the Foundation had nearly $4 billion in assets. In 2007, Omaha's Building Bright Futures initiative promised financial support to low-income students in the area who wanted to attend college. But the Buffett program is offering help across Nebraska. For years, the foundation capped the scholarship at about 100 students. Starting with the 2007-08 school year, the foundation lifted that cap. 770 students—including 400 new recipients this fall—held a Buffett scholarship. The foundation granted nearly $2.4 million during the 2007-08 year. Susie Buffett said she hopes the number of scholarship recipients, particularly students from the Omaha area, increases significantly next year.
His intention was originally to leave 99% of his estate to the Buffett Foundation, but in June 2006 he announced that he would give 85% of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation instead. Buffett stated that he changed his mind because he has grown to admire Gates's foundation over the years; he believed that the Gates Foundation would be able to use his money effectively because it was already scaled-up.
"Susan's Foundation" is to receive a bequest of about $3 billion over a span of many years.
Source of wealth
The vast bulk of Buffett's wealth consists of his personal holdings in the Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, a conglomerate of which he controls almost 40% directly, and which he has managed personally since the mid-1960s.
Giving away such a large part of his company holding could prove problematic in that much of the business of Berkshire Hathaway consists of stock-issuing insurance companies, such as GEICO and General Re. In the past, many state insurance regulators have had serious concerns about allowing for-profit insurance companies – as opposed to mutual insurance companies – to be ultimately controlled by non-profit entities. In a famous case regarding this, the MacArthur Foundation was forced to divest itself of Bankers Life and Accident.