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Warren Buffett
Associated Press/Photo by Nati Harnik
Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett to teach giving lessons online

Education

A free online course that starts today will offer students the chance to learn about giving from Warren Buffett and help decide how to spend at least $100,000 of his sister’s money.

More than 4,000 people have already signed up for the one-month, six-class course that will also feature philanthropic advice from baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr., the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. The amount being given away could grow if more students sign up.

Warren Buffett is gradually giving away all of his $58 billion in Berkshire Hathaway stock while his older sister Doris Buffett has already given away more than $150 million en route to her goal of redistributing all her wealth before she dies. The Buffett family has long been liberal with its money, but also criticized for its beneficiaries—like Planned Parenthood, which received $53 million in 2008. 

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The Giving With Purpose online course is modeled after a class taught at more than 30 universities that allows students to give away $10,000 after evaluating several nonprofits and learning about effective giving. Course leaders with the Learning by Giving Foundation agree that giving away real money can make the lessons more powerful. Doris Buffett’s grandson, Alex Buffett Rozek, organized the online course, and he said he hopes this will be the first of many times it is offered.

“It’s an experience that gives profound insight into deciding how we meet the needs of our society,” said Rebecca Riccio, the Northeastern University professor who will teach the course. Riccio said the course will focus on individual decision-making in giving and will teach strategies students can use to make sure their donations are effective: “I’m trying to teach people about giving with their heart and their head.” Students will analyze charities’ worthiness based on relevance, impact, sustainability, and excellence. 

Why did I sign up for this class? Those four categories are often judged through worldviews. For many on the political left, the impact of government’s “philanthropy” is judged solely on numbers served, not encouragement of behavioral changes—and spiritual changes—necessary for a long-term escape from poverty. Western culture’s prevailing view of humanity is that society can change the human heart by changing material circumstances and solving social ills. Biblically, however, social ill’s are only a small part of an issue dominated by the problem of sin. 

So how does Warren Buffett, the Learning by Giving Foundation, and their 30 partner colleges judge these four categories? I’m about to find out. Watch WORLDmag.com at the end of August for my report. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Branch
Andrew Branch

Andrew is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. He was homeschooled for 12 years and recently graduated from N.C. State University. He writes about sports and poverty for WORLD. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewABranch.

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