Volunteer Job of the Day: Help Determine Who Gets Warren Buffett’s Money

The Buffetts are committed to giving funds to people in need—and they need your (unpaid) help to make it happen.

Photo credit: Steven Depolo, CC BY 2.0.

From the Boston Globe:

Each year, Buffett, the billionaire investor, receives thousands of letters from people asking whether he would pay their mortgages, medical bills, credit card debt, and more. Through a unique sibling partnership, Buffett forwards the letters to his older sister, Doris, who decides which ones to fund. Over the past decade, at least 22,000 letters have crossed their collective desks, and they have given away more than $12 million.
And now, in what might be Boston’s most unusual volunteer opportunity, Doris Buffett — who moved to the city last fall — is looking for people in Greater Boston to help her read a backlog of those letters, as well as new batches that continually arrive.

Two thoughts, and I bet you can already guess what they are:

  1. How generous of the Buffett family.
  2. WHY ARE THEY NOT PAYING THOSE VOLUNTEERS?

The Boston Globe explains that volunteers are required to conduct background checks on potential gift recipients, as well as contact their references. They shop for, and ship, items that recipients have requested. They also serve as financial educators, providing advice on budgeting and other life skills as necessary. Volunteers must also be available for in-person meetings at Doris Buffett’s home.

The Boston Globe also reports that Doris Buffett “expects a lot from volunteers,” and that she “usually chooses older volunteers” for their “life experience.” I have to wonder if older people are also just more available to take on what sounds like a substantive volunteer position. Do those meetings take place during the day? How many hours do volunteers put in every week?

I get that some foundations get pushback for spending too much of their funds on overhead costs, but this feels like it’s on the other extreme. It would have been just as generous to turn these volunteer positions into well-paid jobs, right? Or am I not thinking like a charitable organization?