Established in 2006, the NoVo Foundation was created from the core belief that humanity is at a crossroads and our current culture is deeply out of balance.

Historically, NoVo has had a reputation for being “at the margins”—speaking up when asked and amplifying wherever needed. Supporting the spirit and agency of girls and women (specifically Black, Brown and Indigenous) everywhere was a clear way to rebalance an intensely patriarchal global culture. We are grateful to an extraordinary team that helped bring so many of these voices to the center over the last two decades.

We know that this current moment has been created by a complex set of entangled systems that have subjugated, oppressed and ignored many for the benefit of the few. And continuing divisions—through political, social and economic means—only fuel the furthering of centralized power.

The edges now are where binary thinking dissolves. Complexity and ambiguity is embraced. Our senses and intuition are valued as highly as things quantified and measurable. Us vs. Them gives way to Us and We.

This time the margins are falling off the edge into a new (old) way of being. As the pandemic revealed the fragility of our supply chains, our education systems and our well-being, communities have come together in solidarity and a willingness to imagine together.

This cannot be scaled. “The next big thing will be a lot of small things.”

And we are not looking for “wins.” Ultimately, our work is not about what we accomplish, but what we set in motion for future generations.

NoVo believes that the next 500 years starts now.

Who is NoVo?

What does the name "NoVo" mean?

“Novo” is a Latin word that can mean to make anew, refresh, revive, change, alter, invent. It captures the essence of our mission, which is to create a more balanced world through collective imagination.

Who are Jennifer and Peter Buffett?

Jennifer and Peter are the Co-Presidents of the foundation. They also co-chair the Board of Directors. Peter Buffett is the youngest son of investor Warren Buffett.

How does the gift work?

Unlike most foundations, NoVo’s annual budget is tied directly to the stock market rather than a percentage of a corpus. At the time of the pledge, the gift was worth approximately $1 billion. The pledge was doubled in 2012. Because Warren has made a gift of stock that will be delivered over time, the value of the gift will be determined by the underlying value of those shares, which are delivered in annual installments of 5% of the total remaining shares. By law, we are required to spend 5% of the amount received. We have strived to spend 100%.

Were there any directives of the gift?

From Warren’s 2006 pledge letter:

“A couple of thoughts (but not directives): Focus the new funds and your energy on a relatively few activities in which NoVo can make an important difference. Concentrate your resources on needs that would not be met without your efforts. Conversely, avoid making small contributions to the multitude of worthwhile activities that have many possible funders and that would likely proceed without your help. Consider working with your siblings on important projects. Pay attention to your home community, but favor a broader view. Judge programs by how they fit with your goals and their chances for success, not by who makes the request. Expect to make some mistakes; nothing important will be accomplished if you make only ‘safe’ decisions.”

How long has NoVo Foundation been in operation?

Jennifer and Peter have been active philanthropists since 1997. NoVo was created in 2006 after Warren Buffett pledged to donate 350,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to the foundation.

How large is the Foundation?

We have a small, close-knit core staff of dedicated and knowledgeable people and utilize consultants and intermediaries where appropriate. This structure allows us to stay nimble and minimize overhead so that more dollars can flow back to communities.

How does NoVo decide what to fund?

Peter and Jennifer Buffett hold the meaning of the word “philanthropist” (“philo” – the love of, and “anthro” – human beings) as a core value.
In deciding what to focus on, they wanted to step back, look at the big picture, and address root causes to maximize their philanthropy’s lasting impact. They met with hundreds of “thought leaders”, and traveled around the globe to observe, listen, and learn. They sought to understand systems and interconnections (and history) so as to make catalytic, holistic, and thoughtful funding choices. Strong patterns became clear all based on systems of domination, competition, and exploitation. They looked for ways to support changes that fostered greater collaboration and partnership in all spheres of life.

Who is NoVo's leadership team?

NoVo’s operations, partnerships and finances are guided and led by a team rather than an executive director. The leadership team consists of the following individuals: Peter Buffett, Co-President; Jennifer Buffett, Co-President; Sangeeta Budhiraja, Vice President, Programs; Gary Schwartz, Vice President, Administration; and Matthew Tye, Vice President, Organizational Development.

Who are NoVo's board of directors?

Peter Buffett, Jennifer Buffett and Aaron Stern.

Why is the board of directors so small?

With the fundamental belief that most decisions should not be made from the top down—and oftentimes board members have specific agendas—NoVo feels that a small board with the commitment to learning from the ground up is a more effective and responsive way to move our resources.

Do you have an office?

At this time, NoVo’s staff works remotely and we do not have a central office from which we operate. Most of NoVo’s staff work and live in the New York Hudson Valley region.

Are you still supporting girls and women?

Our mission was always connected to rebalancing feminine ways of being throughout our culture and that got codified into an identity of a movement. A movement that created a dependence on funding that, over time, was more harmful than helpful. We are now reconnecting and realigning to our original mission that will always have historically and continually marginalized girls and women at the center.

Additionally, we have millions of dollars committed to the Adolescent Girls and Ending Violence initiatives through 2024. We are not rescinding those commitments (signed grant agreements). Our role within the women’s rights movements has been to build institutional strength. It hasn’t been perfect and was not taken up by others as we had hoped until very recently.

What has changed recently in relation to your portfolios?

We have moved the Adolescent Girls Rights portfolio to Tides. Though we announced in May 2020 that this specific program area would not continue under our leadership, we immediately ensured that the funding would. The Adolescent Girls Rights portfolio is a seven-year funding commitment, launched in 2016 to build girls’ power and create communities supported by organizations and individuals that put girls’ needs, dreams and futures at the center. The transition of this body of work to Tides, renamed the Advancing Girls Initiative, was completed in October 2020, during the fourth year of our seven-year commitment.

We know that Tides will bring their full strategic thinking and donor engagement to this body of work to create more long-term funding sustainability. NoVo remains a dedicated funding partner and is committed to strengthening the institutional capacity and resources of movements to transition from NoVo’s funding.

Have you divested in Black leadership?

No. Our core values remain. The NoVo Foundation only exists because Peter’s mother passed away in 2004. To have known her is to know that a commitment to Black Leadership is in the DNA of NoVo.

I heard NoVo is shutting down. Is that true?

No. We are making a shift in how our resources move—bringing some areas of our longstanding work more into focus and being guided by a vision of a shared future, building rather than fighting, and breaking out of “silos”/identity and moving toward shared kinship through the slow process of healing trauma that is relational, generational and cultural.

What happened to the Women's Building project?

We know that The Women’s Building garnered incredible passion and excitement, but as the project progressed the budget was considerably over the initial estimate and our ability to build in that space became increasingly challenging. We would not have seen a building of any kind for many years and many hundreds of millions of dollars later.

NoVo committed $50M to the community of women impacted by the ending of The Women’s Building development. Over the past two years, the community has been meeting to create an organization to house and decide the best use of these funds. In addition, we understand the importance of physical space and have gifted our former Brooklyn office space on State St. as a women’s building that is ready for occupancy now.

Is NoVo still going to be funding Indigenous Communities?

Yes. Peter and Jennifer believe that you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve come from. Indigenous communities hold knowledge that can help lead humanity towards, once again, being in right-relation with the world we’re a part of.

Where can I learn about NoVo's work in Kingston, N.Y.?

Since 2013, NoVo has been working with a wide variety of community
partners to support Kingston to become a more resilient community. In
2023, NoVo established a new branch, NoVo in Kingston, which is
responsible for stewarding the Foundation’s local grantmaking and
special projects in the Kingston area, with a focus on Midtown Kingston.
For more information, visit NoVoinKingston.org.

General Grant Seeker Info, Grant Guidelines and Miscellaneous Questions

How does an organization get a grant?

In general, NoVo does not accept unsolicited proposals for funding consideration. New partnerships are formed by way of slow and trusting relationship building and through our own research and analysis based on specific strategic priorities. In addition, with NoVo’s team being quite small we are unable to manage an open process.

NoVo will occasionally launch emerging projects which require open or partially open Request for Proposals (RFP) processes. These are often related to moments in history (see Radical Hope grants); program cohorts (Move to End Violence program); to build out an initiative (Indigenous Communities); or for recurring annual awards (see NoVo and Education First’s SEL In Action Awards).

Why doesn't NoVo accept unsolicited proposals?

Unfortunately we have to make tough choices and are not able to fund all the organizations doing critically important work. Instead, we work in close consultation with people in the community and other experts whose deep knowledge we can draw upon to make our funding choices.

How does NoVo monitor and evaluate its grantees?

NoVo works with organizations that address challenging and complex social issues. We understand that our vision of a more just and balanced world often requires a long-term commitment. We measure success by identifying meaningful milestones along the path to lasting social change and provide supportive partnership as well-defined work unfolds and evolves. We also work with grantees to evaluate what they need to carry out their work and how they can make progress toward our mutual efforts.

In some instances, we work with outside evaluators to assess the progress of our grantee partners, especially as it might relate to NoVo’s overall mission and objectives. We also offer support to several grantee partners to evaluate their own advocacy and organizing work.

I do not want to submit a proposal, but I would like to tell NoVo about my organization's work. How can I do this?

NoVo is always interested in learning about new and innovative approaches to the issues upon which we are focused. If you wish to communicate about your organization, please do so through the Contact Us form on our home page.

Are you still making multi-year grants? Are you still making international grants?

Yes. When the pandemic began, we stopped multi-year granting out of concern for potential disruption to the economy (and therefore our ability to honor multi-year commitments). So far, the economy has been steady and we’re resuming our usual practice regarding multi-year grants.

Our international grants have been reduced slowly over time and that will continue.

Does NoVo give general support or project support grants?

We give both, depending upon a grantees specific request. Core to NoVo’s grantmaking philosophy is to provide grants that are both flexible and long term.

How many grantees do you have?

Nearly 900 grants globally.

How long will it take to get a response from NoVo staff?

Our small team manages close to 900 open grants across the globe, in addition to myriad intermediary and consultant partnerships. We do our best to communicate and be in conversation with grantee partners and keep close tabs on partnerships that are coming towards their end date to plan towards possible renewal or sunset funding. Given the sheer number of projects and grants we manage, we are not always able to connect for updates and sharing with partners.

We also believe it is important to move from a place of trust and encourage less administrative burden for our grantees. Sometimes this translates as “lower touch” partnerships which do not require frequent updates and lengthy reporting, rather relying on the renewal period or short reports as a way of learning. We know our partners’ focus and energy is best put towards their work and communities rather than NoVo’s “monitoring”.

How do I find out about NoVo's jobs and volunteer opportunities?

At this time, NoVo is not seeking new employees or volunteers.

Who do I talk to if I have a question?

General questions can be sent to the [email protected] inbox which is regularly monitored. Your question will be routed to the appropriate team or person for response.