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Heifer International

Social Capitalists

Heifer International

Little Rock, Arkansas

President and CEO: Jo Luck

What it does: Heifer provides livestock to poor families in developing nations to use for farming, food production, and fertilization. It also teaches animal husbandry and skills for flexible and sustainable rural farming. The idea: Self-sufficiency is a better long-term solution than handouts for fighting hunger. Heifer's Passing on the Gift program requires recipients to share the offspring of their animals as well as resources and skills with other farmers, creating an ever-expanding network of self-reliance.

Results: Heifer served more than 3.1 million people in 2004 and hopes to extend its reach to more than 16.6 million by 2008.

Social Impact: A
Aspiration and Growth: A
Entrepreneurship: B+
Innovation: B
Sustainability: A-

Winner's Statement

It started with a cow.

In 1939 Indiana farmer Dan West was a volunteer relief worker handing out cups of powdered milk to orphans and refugees on both sides of the Spanish Civil War. Moved by their plight, he had an idea: Give suffering families cows so they could produce their own milk and not have to rely on temporary aid. From that simple idea Heifer International was born.

By 1944 West had returned to the states and organized "Heifers for Relief." The first cows sent abroad were donated by West's neighbors. The project grew and thousands of cows were distributed throughout Europe following World War II.

Using livestock and training to alleviate hunger proved to be enormously successful. In 1953, the charity became the independent, non-profit organization known today as Heifer International. And now, more than 60 years later, Heifer has expanded its mission, continuing to innovate and improve, just as it has expanded to the more than 25 types of animals it now provides--from goats and geese to bees, silkworms and water buffalo, even tree seedlings to improve the environment and combat erosion. Today it rarely ships animals abroad, improving breeds in the countries where Heifer works and buying them there to help local economies. It also has projects to help the hungry in the U.S., with regional offices and three learning centers scattered across the country.

Its mission is to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth through livestock development and training in agricultural practices that protect and improve rather than deplete the environment. These goals have inspired Heifer's work in 128 countries.

A cornerstone of Heifer's philosophy is "Passing on the Gift." Each family Heifer assists agrees to provide offspring of their animals to other families in need, multiplying the impact of every income-producing animal donated by Heifer. Each new family does the same--and on and on until an entire community is able to lift itself out of poverty.

The end results are lasting self-reliance for families and sustainability for the environment. Government agricultural officials in Nepal, Rwanda, Uganda and China have adopted the model and used Heifer's methods in their own development projects. The comprehensive training Heifer offers is powerful and transformative. Participants receive training in topics ranging from animal care, environmentally sound farming practices, gender equity, as well as to how to market the milk, wool, and other products derived from their animals.

From Appalachia to Zambia, millions of hungry and impoverished families have been directly affected by Heifer's work. But the benefits do not stop when Heifer's support ends. Through passing on the gift, it truly becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

For years Heifer operated as a small organization helping families through its proven model. But 10 years ago, under the new leadership of President and CEO Jo Luck, Heifer began to grow.

The organization began to actively spread the word about its work and the public began to respond. Today Heifer is recognized as a leader not only for effectiveness in the field, but also in direct marketing and how nonprofits use the Internet. Donation income has grown from $8.5 million in 1995 to $82.9 million last year. These changes have helped Heifer International grow its national and international projects through many small gifts from hundreds of thousands of donors. Since 1944 it has helped 7 million families (38 million people) in 125 countries become more self-reliant for food and income. The organization is in the midst of its new Hope for the Future Campaign that has as the ambitious goal of helping 23 million families move toward greater self-reliance in this decade.

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The above Winner's Statement was provided by the profiled organization.