The Letters Foundation works with many volunteers on a weekly basis who are integral to our success. Our volunteers donate precious time and invaluable skills to help make our grantmaking possible.
Operations Volunteer Operations Volunteers help the Foundation with administrative support around the office. Responsibilities range from scanning letters and application materials, to entering a constituent's general request into our database, to supporting the Foundation staff with other key operational tasks.
Letter Reader Letter Readers play an essential role in understanding each grant request. These volunteers review each initial letter mailed to the Foundation and determine whether or not to move a letter writer forward in the grants process.
Application Specialist Application Specialists serve as advocates for constituents once their request is approved for further review. They help applicants gather, review, and submit all necessary documentation to the Foundation in a timely manner, forging trust with applicants through an intense stage of the grants process.
Researchers Volunteers with diverse professional experiences and backgrounds make up our research team, helping Foundation staff at each stage of responding to grant requests. Among many responsibilities, researchers identify appropriate resources for constituent referrals, and use their personal or professional experiences to contribute to our shared Knowledge Base of relevant information and community resources.
With the help of our volunteers, we work to provide a hand-up to individuals and families across the country. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our grantmaking, and their tireless efforts ensure that we continually meet our mandate: Every Letter Read.
Here are some of their stories.
My name is Nell and I am a Letter Reader at the foundation. I volunteered as I had just retired as a teacher after 38 years and needed to put my energy to good use. I love Doris’s thought about helping the world, one person at a time. As a teacher, I knew my words and actions would and could be far reaching into the world. Hopefully, our grant recipients will go out into the world and share their hope and faith after receiving a hand up. I have been inspired by the young people I have met at the foundation, they give me hope for the future! My fellow readers are so beautiful and kind, and did I mention spunky!? Like a weathered and treasured family quilt, each patch has its own design and color, with its own story.
I am currently a researcher with the Letters Foundation, and I started as an Application Specialist. Being a part of the Foundation assists me with remaining humble and grounded. It’s easy to excel in life and lose focus on the difficult journey that was traveled, or forget the extended hands that provided help along the way. I know struggle. I know being ashamed. I know the fear of not being able to provide. I know the fear of being too proud for handouts. It wasn’t that long ago that I stood as a high school dropout, homeless, a young single mom, with limited ability to provide for my family. I was able to obtain stable housing, complete my degree, and secure employment as a senior manager. None of this would have been possible for me without the extended hands of others. Volunteering my time to assist an applicant is the least that I can do towards paying it forward. Many times, just hearing a pleasant voice with an understanding tone is the extra push that the applicant needs in order to move forward in his or her process. Being able to walk them through their processes and hearing about how their lives were turned around is the best reward.
I started in November 2017 as an Operations Volunteer and look forward to coming each week. I believe strongly that Doris, the Letters Foundation and all of the people who work and volunteer at the Foundation are there because they believe that they can make a difference in a person’s life. We all share in the commitment to extend a hand to our fellow humans. I find volunteering at Letters Foundation deeply gratifying!
I have been volunteering for The Letters Foundation as a researcher since January 2017. I started as a legal and insurance-related researcher and shifted my focus to researching Veterans’ related resources. I have two brothers who have served in the military and spent years away from family during their tours of duty, a personal experience that has raised my awareness of the sacrifices that veterans make for our country. I am honored to be able to focus in this area, and I am grateful that the Foundation recognizes the importance of providing assistance to veterans. I’ve had a very positive experience in this role, from meeting the wonderful and kind staff of the Foundation to being able to do two things I enjoy – researching and supporting veterans. My prior volunteer work over the years involved being away from home, so the flexibility of this remote role is also a bonus. I look forward to continuing!
In January 2018, I started as one of the six volunteers in our (then) newly created Applicant Specialist role. I am a self-proclaimed “consummate volunteer” with a passion for helping others. I was inspired to serve and spread Doris’ mission of hope to those who fall through the cracks, after surviving challenges similar to those experienced by applicants during the Great Recession. Although I am no longer able to contribute my time to volunteering due to caring for my newborn, I am wowed by the Foundation and how it delivers unique and deeply-impactful solutions to people in need.
Volunteering as a Letter Reader with the Letters Foundation provides me with an opportunity to be kind. Kindness has struck me as the overwhelming quality of everyone involved with the Letters Foundation and, in particular, of the Letters Readers group, which includes staff as well as volunteers. I look forward to our Thursday afternoon meetings every week, because each meeting is two hours spent with lovely people who are compassionate and eager to help others, hoping to ease the lives and worries of letter writers in small and big ways. At a time when kindness and compassion are not always evident, I am proud to be a part of the Letters Foundation, helping to fulfill Doris Buffett’s dream of extending a hand up to those who have nowhere else to turn.
When I read about the Letters Foundation in the Boston Globe over a year ago, I just had to write in and volunteer my services. I have been involved in many charitable organizations over the years and this one was right up my alley! I began as an Operations Volunteer in November, 2017. In this capacity, I see the steady flow of letters that comes in on a daily basis. It is a humbling reminder of the dire and rampant need of individuals across the country. The legacy of the Buffetts and the mission of the Foundation are admirable and inspirational! I feel privileged to play a small part and to be involved with such a dedicated group of employees and an impressive network of volunteers.
I began as an IT volunteer in January of 2017. Since then I have developed several technology solutions for the organization in addition to creating a number of policies and procedures, including the Written Information Security Program as well as Password Best Practices. I’ve volunteered at numerous non-profits over the past 15 years, including currently volunteering with Community Cooks and MABVI, but nothing beats the Letters Foundation. In my spare time,I enjoy a good scotch, a game of poker, and basketball. I look forward to continuing with Letters through the end of its lifespan in Boston!
Reading letters has been a life changing experience for me. Reading letter from different parts of the country is very interesting and an honor. You never know which states you are getting letters from during any given week, but you know that someone is sharing a part of their life with you. My favorite part is coming back to the letter reading team. We share thoughts about whatever we are struggling with, so that we can make a decision. The group is so helpful and supportive. It is such an honor to be a part of this process and experience. Groundbreaking work.
As an operations volunteer, I feel that the work I do is valuable at the Foundation because I help keep everything moving along. There are a lot of letters each week and they need to be scanned, read, and disseminated to the people involved in making decisions. Although the process takes time, if what I am doing makes it go more smoothly, then I feel I have helped in a small way get assistance to those folks in need. Volunteering has opened my eyes to the vast array of human experiences in this country. It’s made me more aware of the relative riches our family has in comparison to the sea of troubles facing the writers of these letters. When I describe the Letters Foundation, I talk about the amazing work the Foundation does on behalf of people who have nowhere else to turn and for things that people often have a hard time getting money for. I tell them that the grants may be small amounts of money, but it’s money that these people really need and they wouldn’t be able to get it anywhere else.
She just believes that a lot of people got short straws in life and she wants to help them.
- Warren Buffett