Karen Hanrahan on Warren Buffett, a unique GLIDE tradition, and the power of community
Tonight, we count down to one of the most unusual and powerful fundraisers any nonprofit might aspire to: the eBay for Charity Auction for Power Lunch with Warren Buffett. The story of how it came to be is often told and dear to us, since it starts with a much loved and missed member of GLIDE’s congregation and community named Susie Buffett, who took it upon herself to introduce a certain relation named Warren to the place that she had come to believe in so passionately. Her introduction worked. To the no-nonsense investor whose success has made him a household name, GLIDE was the real deal. And he has lent his name and time to the cause ever since. We asked GLIDE’s President and CEO Karen Hanrahan for her perspective on this singular tradition.
The Buffett Auction is a unique GLIDE tradition that has attracted the attention of people around the world. As someone relatively new to the Bay Area, does it stand out as distinct in your experience?
It really does. It stands out, like many things about GLIDE. It’s a unique relationship. On one side, you have the financial world. A man, a legend, who has built his entire success and reputation in a world of numbers and bottom lines and returns on investment. And on the other side you have GLIDE, which is an organization that’s known for its ability to transform lives in ways that are sometimes very hard to measure. We’re talking about really uncommon allies, people from seemingly very different worlds. And yet in coming together we demonstrate what we share, a common humanity. And it shows how GLIDE’s values and approach, the way we live our values, can attract anyone. It’s not just about the homeless and hungry, though we rightly prioritize for support the most in need members of our community. It’s also about people from all parts of society who are looking for community and meaning and love. That’s one reason it stands out as unique.
The funds from this auction will allow us to deepen and expand our impact and to implement some more innovative programs that will help the most marginalized people in San Francisco.
But another thing that really strikes me about this partnership: It’s this extraordinary gift, not just because of what it allows GLIDE to do—and it allows us to reach more people and transform more lives—it’s because Mr. Buffett gets GLIDE. It’s not just that he wants to give to a good cause. He has a deep love and appreciation for what GLIDE is, the approach we take to everyone. He believes in it so much that he lends his name and reputation and effort to make sure that this auction is successful.
What’s the contribution of the auction to GLIDE’s mission?
The success of the auction goes beyond the financial support it brings to the work we do, although that is a crucial measure of its significance: The funds from this auction will allow us to deepen and expand our impact and to implement some more innovative programs that will help the most marginalized people in San Francisco. GLIDE is in the process of evolving and growing to meet the rapidly rising demand for our services and our voice on social justice issues. We are taking a number of steps to deepen our impact, including more rigorous and creative programming that helps our clients move from crisis to stability and self-sufficiency. Among many other things, we will invest more in women and families of color; we will go beyond meals to invest in food security for the most marginalized; we will employ even more people from the Tenderloin and invest in their development; and we will continue to try new and innovative approaches to transforming lives in a measurable way.
We need imagination, we need innovation directed at solving these fundamental and wrenching challenges—and GLIDE is an innovator as well as a voice of conscience.
At the same time, the auction helps shine a light on what we do and amplify our work. We are known by people around the country and around the world—they reach out to us. This is in part because the challenges we deal with—poverty, homelessness, inequality and marginalization—are national and global; and GLIDE’s values and our approach have universal appeal.
In this context, I have to mention another major relationship that makes the Buffett Auction possible and that’s our partnership with eBay, whose people have brought such heart and commitment to this effort. They have made it what it is today, which is an international platform for talking about unconditional love and radical inclusion in action. GLIDE is fortunate to have many partnerships across the business community, and the auction highlights just how powerful these can be.
Speaking of the business world, you were recently named one of the “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” by the San Francisco Business Times. Two of GLIDE’s Trustees, Amy Errett and Paula Collins, were also among the women named this year. What does this honor mean to you?
It means a lot to me. I feel very welcomed and embraced by the city of San Francisco. And I think it’s a tribute to GLIDE’s long-standing role in this city among a very diverse group of stakeholders.
There’s such a desire for change right now, a desire to be a part of the solution. San Francisco is small enough—the Tenderloin and Union Square are side by side—that we are all acutely aware of the problems we face as a city. In some way or another we are all affected. We all see and feel the need, the suffering, the racial and ethnic divides, the gender and class disparities, the inequality that has grown far too wide and continues to grow wider. We need imagination, we need innovation directed at solving these fundamental and wrenching challenges—and GLIDE is an innovator as well as a voice of conscience. We know that success means everyone has to be at the table. Meaningful solutions will draw on the perspectives, experiences, and energies of the entire community, especially those who are most critically affected.
It’s an honor to receive this recognition in such esteemed company, especially as a newcomer to this community. I take it as a sign of support for, and belief in, GLIDE’s mission to make this an even more decent, loving and truly inclusive community for everyone.