How the NoVo Foundation Takes on Violence Against Women in Congo

Peter Buffett seems to be nothing like his father, the famed investor Warren Buffett. He's a musician and a composer, and decidedly hip in contrast to his rumpled dad. But along with his wife, Jennifer Buffett, Peter clearly shares his father's zeal to be really, really good at something. For Warren that zeal has been focused on making money; for Peter, it's been focused (outside of his music career) on giving away money through the NoVo Foundation that he runs with Jennifer.

Related: NoVo Foundation: Grants for Global Security

Jennifer and Peter Buffett received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for their “visionary leadership and sustainable, scalable work in solving pressing global challenges.” The couple has also regularly made Barron's list of the 25 most effective philanthropists. NoVo also recently won an Impact Award from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. NCRP wrote: "In just the seven years since Jennifer and Peter Buffett established NoVo Foundation, this foundation has become known as an exemplary grantmaker and leader among the country’s large private foundations."

In all, these are two people you definitely want to take on one of the most wrenching issues in the world today — violence against women in war zones. 

Beginning in 2009, the NoVo Foundation took steps to start a multimillion initiative to end violence against women, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after committing to this goal at the Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting. This first move consisted of two commitments:

  • A $2-million commitment to three organizations — the International Rescue Committee (IRC), V-Day and Women for Women International (WfWI) — to end violence against girls and women in and around the DRC
  • A joint commitment with Bloomberg Philanthropies to support Women for Women International’s work on poverty and sustainability for women in several countries, including the DRC, which came to a grand total of $24 million over three years.

The first commitment has included a number of actions and indicated a widespread interest in a number of programs. These include the IRC's work with social and emotional learning in war-torn regions, V-Day's "one billion rising" campaign to stop violence against women as well as its campaign in the City of Joy in the DRC to end violence, and WfWI’s work on providing women in the DRC with "business and vocational skills, rights awareness and health education classes, and emotional support."

For instance, the foundation recently awarded a grant — to the tune of $250,000 — to J. Lawrence Aber, a professor of psychology and public policy at New York University, for a project entitled "Impacting teacher performance and children’s academic and socio-emotional learning in the Democratic Republic of Congo." NYU will collaborate with the IRC to evaluate IRC's efforts to increase "opportunities for equitable access to quality basic education."

The second commitment was evaluated, and found that WfWI's programs had a significant impact on men’s attitudes towards women, domestic violence rates, health and wellness, children’s education, and empowerment — both gender and economic empowerment. 

The NoVo Foundation has some serious wealth at its disposal, especially given its low profile. More than initially expected after the senior Buffett doubled the amount of money he planned to give to his children's foundations. All told, Buffett has given, or plans to give, $2.1 billion to each of the foundations.

NoVo has given out nearly $150 million in the past three years, and listed assets of close to $250 million. So there's a lot more where that came from.