Giving It All Away: The Doris Buffett Story


When she was a toddler in Omaha, her parents called her Mary Sunshine.

Warren Buffett's big sister Doris has never lost that quality, despite personal problems that would have soured others on the world. The "retail" philanthropist known as the Sunshine Lady derives such joy from helping others on a one on one basis that emotional abuse by a mother who may have been bipolar, a string of horrific marriages, nearly losing her home after the 1987...

See more details below
$22.36 price
(Save 20%)$28.00 List Price
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (4) from $9.99   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


When she was a toddler in Omaha, her parents called her Mary Sunshine.

Warren Buffett's big sister Doris has never lost that quality, despite personal problems that would have soured others on the world. The "retail" philanthropist known as the Sunshine Lady derives such joy from helping others on a one on one basis that emotional abuse by a mother who may have been bipolar, a string of horrific marriages, nearly losing her home after the 1987 stock market crash, two bouts of cancer, and, worst of all, estrangement from her own children, have never hardened her heart.

Instead, her own problems have caused empathy for others, evident since childhood, to deepen over the years. She has donated $100 million of her own money, mostly to individuals in trouble through no fault of their own, often taking the time to call them personally to determine the best way to help. At 82, her goal is to give away her entire fortune, which remains substantial despite her generosity and the stock market crash of 2008.

"She identifies with the underdog," Warren says.

Perhaps more important than the material gifts she bestows is her message, resonating through her own example: We can all write our own destiny. We can all maintain nobility, optimism and selflessness in the face of uncertainty and pain. And caring for others more than we do for ourselves is the most rewarding thing in life.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Doris Buffet, the 82-year-old sister of billionaire Warren Buffet, has a simple life mission: to give away her millions before she dies ("'My goal... is for the last check I write to bounce'"). The oldest of three, Doris was raised by an unstable, emotionally abusive mother and a frequently absent father (a businessman and four-term Congressman). Adulthood provided little relief: Doris dropped out of college dropout, embarked on four disastrous marriages, suffered from depression, and maintains stormy relationships with her own grown children. It wasn't until Doris's mother died in 1975 that Doris found her niche in "retail" philanthropy, giving away her inheritance ($100 million and counting) in large part directly to individuals who write to her Sunshine Lady Foundation seeking funds for any number of reasons: to afford a glass eye, start school, or simply furnish a new bedroom for a child. Though Warren declined to help Doris in lean times and holds some opposing views (especially regarding their mother), he speaks admiringly of her here. Zitz, a journalist befriended by Buffet, lets the dynamic philanthropist-who he describes as "a combination of Gandhi, Santa Claus and Lucille Ball"-tell the majority of her own story, making this more an oral history than a conventional biography, and a lively, inspirational read for fellow philanthropists and those who depend on them. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Inspiring story of a woman who is using her wealth for philanthropy. At 82, Warren Buffett's older sister, Doris, has contributed more than $100 million in support of battered women, sick children, the mentally ill and others through a highly personal style of giving that sets her Sunshine Lady Foundation apart from larger organizations staffed with trained professionals. In this admiring account-more tribute than biography-Zitz, a reporter with the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., where Doris Buffett lives, describes her difficult life and her success as a philanthropist since inheriting her mother's Berkshire Hathaway shares in 1996. Writing with Doris's cooperation, Zitz tells an upbeat story of charitable giving that has its roots in this bright and attractive woman's misfortunes. Emotionally abused by a mother who apparently disliked her children, Doris was made to feel stupid and unloved ("I never heard the words ?I love you,' " she writes). She struggled through four disastrous marriages and depression, nearly lost her home in the 1987 stock-market crash, had cancer twice and remains estranged from her children. Now, writes Zitz, she wants "poor children, sick kids and abused women to experience a little happiness" through her targeted gifts that help them weather crises and move ahead on their own. Friends and other nonprofessionals help her vet letters from the needy to select recipients. The book offers intriguing glimpses of young Warren Buffett-he provides a foreword-and describes how Doris became an anti-communist activist and Barry Goldwater supporter in the early '60s to have something to talk about with her dying father, a Republican Congressman. The author offers moving examples of Doris's philanthropy and rightly praises her support of prisoner education at Sing Sing and San Quentin prisons, among other causes shunned by most of her peers. Having learned what matters the hard way, she is determined to give all her money away to others who have also been unlucky in life. Despite some puffery, this is a readable portrait of a remarkable individual.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579622091
  • Publisher: Permanent Press, The
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 846,641
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Zitz has been a writer for Directors & Boards and Mergers & Acquisitions journals in Washington and is an award-winning newspaper reporter and columnist for The Free Lance-Star, a Virginia daily. He has known Doris Buffett since 1992, before she started to do philanthropic work with her Sunshine Lady Foundation. He studied journalism at the University of Arizona, the American University and Florida Southern College. He lives in Fredericksburg, Va., with his wife and children.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)