There’s no shortage of Bostonians interested in giving away Warren Buffett’s money.
So far, about 1,100 people have answered a call by the billionaire investor’s older sister Doris, who lives in the Back Bay, to help with their unique philanthropic sibling partnership: he sends her the thousands of letters he receives from strangers asking for money, she decides which ones to fund, and he provides the money.
As the Globe reported, Doris began looking last summer for people in the Boston area to help review those letters and evaluate their merit. The deluge is being winnowed down, and by end of this month about 100 volunteers are expected to be trained. Additional volunteer training will continue through the spring.
Volunteers are being divided into three categories: readers, who do the initial vetting; client specialists, who function as case workers overseeing a request; and researchers, who expedite the process by tracking down information. The letters are being digitized to make case files shareable online.
The operation used to be part of Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation, but it’s becoming a stand-alone nonprofit private family foundation called the Sunshine Lady Humanitarian Grants Program, or the Letters Foundation for short.
It also has three new staff members operating out of an office in the Back Bay: executive director Tevis Spezia, previously of Google; director of partnerships Amy Kingman, who doubles as executive director of Doris Buffett’s Learning By Giving Foundation and previously worked at Breakthrough Greater Boston, Mass Mentoring Partnership, and Strong Women, Strong Girls; and program development manager Leah Hong, formerly of the AIDS Action Committee.
They supplement three full-time case workers based in Maine, where Doris Buffett has a summer home.
From September to December, 35 requests were granted totaling $260,000. They ranged from a handicap van to hearing aids to a service dog’s veterinary bill.
“Even if we don’t fund requests,” Kingman added, “we hope to get people connected to the right support systems.”Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @SachaPfeiffer.