This is the 19th year that Warren Buffett has auctioned off a lunch for charity. Each year the proceeds go to the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that provides services to people who are poor, homeless, or battling addiction. Buffett was first introduced to the charity by his late wife Susan Buffett, who volunteered there.
Buffett has held the annual lunch auction every year since 2000. In the early years, bids were in the tens of thousands of dollars, then the hundreds of thousands before breaking the $1 million mark for the first time in 2008. That year the winning bid was $2,110,100 from an asset manager in China. In 2017, the bidding hit $1 million within one minute of the auction opening. In 2012 and 2016, anonymous bidders won with the same bid: $3,456,789. Those two years are tied for the highest bids yet.
The money raised at the lunch goes a long way to helping fund Glide, and Reverand Cecil Williams, co-founder of Glide and pastor of the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, said last year that Buffett’s involvement had a “tremendous impact” on the people they serve. The organization’s total annual budget is $20 million.
The auction has been held on eBay since 2003. That year the winning bid increased tenfold over the previous year, from $25,000 to $250,000. During this year’s five-day auction only six people bid. Still, they racked up 136 bids between them. Altogether, Buffett has raised $29.6 million for the charity through the annual auction, which allows the winner and up to seven other people have lunch with him at the restaurant Smith & Wollensky in Manhattan. He promises he’ll talk about anything other than what he’s about to invest in.