Heifer International

Heifer International

Heifer International Logo
Founded 1944
Founder Dan West
Type Economic development charity
Focus Agroecology, Sustainable Development
Origins Church of the Brethren
Brethren Volunteer Service
Heifers for Relief
Area served
Key people
Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO
Arlene Withers, Chairman of the Board
Mission Work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.
Website www.heifer.org
Formerly called
Heifer Project International; Heifers for Relief (1944-1953)

Heifer International (also known as Heifer Project International) is a global nonprofit working to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable, values-based holistic community development.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] Heifer distributes animals, along with agricultural and values-based training, to families in need around the world as a means of providing self-sufficiency. Recipients must agree to “pass on the gift” by sharing animal offspring, as well as the skills and knowledge of animal husbandry and agricultural training with other impoverished families.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, Heifer International started with a shipment of 17 heifers to Puerto Rico in 1944.[16][17][18][19][20] Since 1944, Heifer International has distributed livestock such as goats, bees, and water buffalo, along with training and other resources, to 20.7 million families, or more than 105.1 million people in more than 125 countries.[16][17][18][19][20]

Origins and history

Heifer International began as Heifers for Relief in 1944.[16][17][18][19][20] Its founder, an Ohio farmer named Dan West, was a Church of the Brethren relief worker during the Spanish Civil War. Working with Quakers and Mennonites, West directed a program where hungry children were given rations of milk.[18][19][20] In 1938, West was ladling out milk to hungry refugee children and wrote later that he thought, "These children don’t need a cup, they need a cow."[16][17][18][19][20]

When back home in Indiana, West took the idea to his neighbors and church. This led to the formation of the Heifers for Relief Committee in 1939.[16][17][18][19][20] In 1942, West was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pursue the idea as a national project.[16][17][18][19][20] The charity was incorporated in 1944 and sent its first shipment of 17 heifers to Puerto Rico. Several local farmers who knew West donated the animals.[16][17][18][19][20]

The first cows were named, "Faith," "Hope," and "Charity," and recipient families had to promise that they would donate the first female calf to another poor family.[16][17][18][19][20] West asked farmers and church leaders to donate pregnant dairy cows due to calve soon so that impoverished families could have milk for years to come and not have to worry about breeding the cows.[16][17] Heifer International would eventually broaden its scope to distribute fish, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, oxen, water buffaloes, bees, llamas, alpacas, camels, frogs and rabbits to poor rural communities around the world.[16][17][18][19][20]

Heifer International’s first paid employee was Thurl Metzger, a member of the Church of the Brethren who started as an unpaid volunteer and served as executive director/program director and director of international programs of Heifer International for 30 years.[16][21][22][23][24] Metzger started his tenure as a seagoing cowboy. Seagoing cowboys volunteered to accompany the animals to their overseas destinations.[16][19] From 1951 to 1981, Metzger served as the executive director and director of international programs of the nonprofit and diversified the program’s offerings as well as the geographic regions Heifer International was serving.[16][21][22][23][24] Eventually Metzger guided Heifer to work in developing nations instead of war-torn regions.[16]

In the early 1970s, Heifer consolidated its U.S. distribution network by buying several large farms, including a 1,200-acre ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, as livestock holding facilities.[16] The organization moved its headquarters to Little Rock, near the Perryville ranch, in 1971. Livestock are now sourced from within country or regionally.

In 1992, Heifer International appointed Jo Luck to its helm as CEO.[16] Jo Luck is a former member of Bill Clinton’s Arkansas gubernatorial cabinet. Before serving as CEO and President, Luck was the Director of International Programs for Heifer International.[16] Heifer International’s budget boomed to almost $100 million under Jo Luck’s leadership.

In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Heifer International a $42.5 million grant to help poor rural farmers in East Africa double their incomes by increasing their production of high quality raw milk to sell to dairies. In 2012, the Foundation followed up with an additional $8.2 million.[25][26][27]

In 2010, Pierre U. Ferrari was named CEO of Heifer International. Ferrari became president and CEO after Jo Luck’s retirement.

Passing on the Gift

Passing on the Gift is part of Heifer International’s charitable model. The nonprofit grounds all of its projects in its 12 Cornerstones of Just and Sustainable Development.

External audits

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator scores Heifer International as a 3-star (out of four) charity with 82.51 points out of 100. Heifer International’s financial performance is rated 2-star while its transparency and accountability is rated 4-star. For the period included in the September 5, 2015, income statement, Charity Navigator showed Heifer's non-program expenses (amount spent on salaries, fundraising, and other non-program services liabilities) encompassed 23.4% of all charitable donations.[28]


GiveWell has argued that while Heifer International is 'commonly perceived as a way to “give a cow to a poor family as a gift,”... this is in fact a donor illusion - donations support Heifer International’s general “agricultural assistance” activities. We have concerns about this general area and concerns about giving livestock specifically. Neither Heifer’s website nor its grant application have provided the kind of information needed to address these concerns.'[29]


In 1986, President Ronald Reagan recognized Heifer with the Volunteer Action Award and in 1990 President George H.W. Bush granted the organization the Presidential End Hunger Award.[8][16]

In 2003, Heifer International was named one of Forbes magazine's top 10 charities.[30]

Heifer International also received the 2004 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for its efforts to eliminate hunger and help communities become self-sustaining. It was the first U.S.-based organization to win the $1-million award since 1997.[31]

Heifer International received the 2006 and 2008 Social Capitalist award from Fast Company magazine.[32][33]

In 2007, the Heifer International Headquarters building was named one of the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Projects.[34]

In 2008, the Heifer International Headquarters building was named a National AIA (American Institute of Architects) Institute Honor Award Winner.[34]

In 2010, Heifer International President Jo Luck was named a co-laureate of the World Food Prize with David Beckmann of Bread for the World.[35]

In 2012, Heifer received Kiwanis International World Service Medal.


The American Institute of Philanthropy gave Heifer International an “Open Book Credit” for making complete financial documentation available on request.[36]

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) reports that Heifer International meets all of its standards for charity accountability.[37] The WGA found that Heifer International is truthful in its representations of how money is spent, does not allocate an excessive part of its budget for fundraising or administrative expenses and makes its financial statements readily available to the public.[37]

The Charity Navigator rates Heifer International with 78.72 out of 100, a combined score of Heifer's 70.06 for financial and 97.00 for accountability and transparency performance.[38]

See also


  1. Kristof, Nicholas D. (2008-07-03). "The Luckiest Girl". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  2. "Why Heifer International is Rolling in Dung". Counter Punch. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  3. Ferrari, Pierre (2013-10-15). "Rural Women Take Power Over Poverty". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  4. "Bill Gates: United Nations Needs To Be 'More Efficient' To Help Poor Farmers". Huffington Post. 2012-02-23. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  5. Ferrari, Pierre (2013-07-15). "We Must Close Gaps in Inequality and Poverty". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  6. "StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity" (PDF). USDA. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  7. "Secretary Vilsack Launches USDA "StrikeForce" Initiative to Boost Rural Economic Growth and Opportunity". USDA. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  8. 1 2 "Life Lessons". Memphis Magazine. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  9. Kristof, Nicholas D. (2012-12-05). "Gifts That Change Lives". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  10. "Does Helping the Planet Hurt the Poor?". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  11. Ferrari, Pierre (2013-09-18). "If We Fail Women Farmers, We Fail the World". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  12. Lateef, Asma (2013-03-18). "Why Development Works". Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  13. "Heifer International". Forbes. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  14. Waghorn, Terry. "Pierre Ferrari: Taking Stock at Heifer International". Forbes. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  15. "Food industry exec leads hunger-fighting nonprofit". NBC. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Moser, Margaret L. (2010). Derek Jacques; Paula Kepos, eds. ""Heifer Project International." International Directory of Company Histories". 112. Detroit: St. James Press: 207–210.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Kerby, Rob (2006). M. Odekon, ed. "Heifer Project". 2. Encyclopedia of World Poverty: 476–477.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Heifer Project". Brethren Historical Library and Archives. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Seagoing Cowboys and the Heifer Project". The Civilian Public Service Story. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Seagoing Cowboys and the Heifer Project: The Maryland Story" (PDF). Catoctin History. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  21. 1 2 "Thurl Metzger, 90, Who Led Heifer International, Dies". New York Times. 2006-08-01. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  22. 1 2 "Thurl Metzger, Heifer's leader for 30 years, dies". South Bend Tribune. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  23. 1 2 "Thurl Metzger, 90; Ex-Leader of Charity Heifer International". LA Times. 2006-07-31. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  24. 1 2 "Thurl Metzger". Mississippi Civil Rights Project. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  25. "EAST AFRICA DAIRY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT" (PDF). Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  26. "Clinton, Gates Enlisted in Heifer Chief's Hunger Fight". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  27. Nsehe, Mfonobong (2012-07-06). "Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grants $8 Million To Help African Dairy Farmers". Forbes. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  28. "Heifer Project International". charitynavigator.org. Charity Navigator. Retrieved 23 Dec 2015.
  29. http://blog.givewell.org/2009/12/28/celebrated-charities-that-we-dont-recommend/
  30. "Genuinely Needy". Forbes. 2003-12-08. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  31. "List of Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize award winners". Hilton Foundation. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  32. "Social Capitalists: Heifer International". Fast Company. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  33. "Heifer International". Fast Company. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  34. 1 2 "Heifer International Headquarters". The American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  35. "2010 World Food Prize honors grassroots leaders David Beckmann, Jo Luck". The World Food Prize. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  36. "Heifer International". Charity Watch. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  37. 1 2 "Heifer Project International". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  38. "Charity Navigator Rating - Heifer Project International". Retrieved 16 Dec 2015.

External links

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