When discussing philanthropy it’s impossible not to include a certain Mr. Buffett, but it's not only Papa Warren doing work to make the world a better place.
We do business in a world where it’s not uncommon for the authors we promote and whose books we sell to share their expertise with groups for a speaking fee in the range of what most middle class families make in an entire year. Sometimes it’s hard not to scratch one’s head in disbelief that an hour keynote can demand such a high price tag and to ponder what value attendees take away from that experience. A similar head-scratcher is the fact that for fifteen straight years, Warren Buffett has auctioned off private lunches with individuals, bids starting at $25,000 -- and in recent years, bids have exceeded $1,000.000. Yes, $1,000,000 for the opportunity to dine with one of the richest and most influential people in the world. Now, unless you’re a close follower of Mr. Buffet, you may not know that the proceeds of his mega-event lunches help support the The Glide Foundation in San Francisco, an organization dedicated to feeding the hungry, offering healthcare to the underprivileged, and working to end the cycle of violence in the Bay Area. When discussing philanthropy, it’s impossible not to include Warren Buffett’s name in the conversation, but what I find most compelling about Mr. Buffett is that he’s worked diligently to instill those types of values in his children and grandchildren. Thus, this post isn’t about Warren Buffet, his achievements, and his impact, but about the important work that his son Howard G. Buffett and grandson Howard W. Buffett are doing to make the world a better place. This year, we were honored to work with author-son tandem Howard G. Buffet and Howard W. Buffet on the release of their New York Times best-selling book 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, which naturally introduced me to the amazing effort the Howard G. Buffet Foundation puts forth to improve the quality of life in impoverished nations. Howard G. Buffett’s mission is to help the world’s most vulnerable people who lack basic food security. He has tasked himself with the worthy charge of putting more than $3 billion to this cause over a period of 40 years. In 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, the Buffets share 40 stories that demonstrate that each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our life goals, a lesson that Howard G. Buffet learned through his passion for farming: "All farmers can expect to have about 40 growing seasons, giving them just 40 chances to improve on every harvest.” If we reflect upon this almost simplistic idea, we realize that the philosophy is quite applicable to all of us since we each have generally about 40 productive years to do the best job we can, whatever paths we take or choices we make in our lifetimes. His son and co-author, Howard W. Buffett, is currently a lecturer in International and Public Affairs at Columbia University; he teaches management techniques for improving the effectiveness of foreign aid and global philanthropy. At age 30, he is a trustee of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, having previously acted as the Foundation’s Executive Director. The younger Howard has journeyed to more than 60 countries, most frequently cultivating the Foundation’s humanitarian and agricultural education initiatives, and when not traveling to help those in need, he runs 400 acres of a no-till farm in Nebraska. Prior to joining the Foundation, he served in the U.S. Department of Defense, overseeing agriculture-based economic stabilization and redevelopment programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. For his service, Howard W. Buffet received the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award – the highest ranking civilian honor presented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff – at the request and approval of the Combatant Commanders. 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World outlines the Buffets’ dedication to making a difference in the world and reminds us that we can all accomplish great things in our productive years. While none of us may never even dream of providing even one-tenth of the funds the Buffets have challenged themselves to donate to their causes, we all have the opportunity to give what we can – be it money, ideas, time, or even a helping hand. Some of us may think $1,000,000 for a lunch almost laughably lavish or simply unimaginable, but I for one am happy that people like the Buffetts can demand this premium and put those funds toward their mission to help people who can’t help themselves.