Frequently Asked Questions about Heifer International

I'm a vegetarian/vegan and uncomfortable with the idea of supporting animal donations. Do people eat the animals that are given to them? What can you tell me about my concerns? What other options do I have for supporting your work to end hunger and poverty?

We share your concern for animal welfare, animal health and animal rights and have many vegetarian employees and supporters. But when people are living hand-to-mouth and livestock development will give them a future, we answer their urgent requests for help whenever possible. This stops the practices of destroying forests and ruining the land, and lowers the rates of starvation and death due to easily preventable diseases. We recognize that a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is a wonderful choice where it is possible, but must admit that oftentimes such a diet would not meet the nutritional and economical situation faced by our partners or be culturally appropriate.

We have many projects around the world where the animal does not provide any food directly to the family whatever, but rather is an integral player in developing various other sources of primary foods. The manure enriches the soil; draft power enables families to market excess vegetables, milk or other produce; additional income pays for schooling, clothes and food. In the case of smaller animals, however, many provide increased protein for impoverished families. Also, through careful management and record keeping, these project partners are increasing their income through the sale of offspring, eggs, furs, hair and so forth from these animals.

But we understand our responsibility and obligation to provide other options for earning your support if you cannot in good conscience go along with our animal donation practices and outlook. In addition to animals, many Heifer donors opt for a "greener" future by honoring friends and family who love the outdoors with gifts of trees. Trees are essential to life on Earth. They breathe out oxygen and breathe in carbon dioxide. They hold water in the soil and moisture in the air. They provide food and medicines for birds, animals and people. Planting fast-growing trees puts nitrogen back in the soil, serves as windbreaks and provides fodder, fruit, fencing and firewood.

Or consider honeybees! Honeybees are of great benefit to Heifer project partners as well. Honoring a friend or family member with honeybees is a gift that shows you cherish both people and the environment. The way bees work together is a lesson for us all. They produce food, care for the young, recycle waste and create an effective, efficient community. They pollinate fruits, flowers and vegetables in the process - a benefit for us. A package of Heifer International bees and a hive gives families better crops, candle wax, pollen for medicine and honey to eat and sell.

Does my money really go toward the purchase of animals?

As a donor, you are given the opportunity to designate gifts to specific country programs or for specific animals. Gifts are deposited into various animal accounts, such as "llama/alpaca," "tree seedlings" or "bees." We have different accounts for every type of Heifer International animal. When any animal fund becomes depleted and there is still a need, monies from any other animal fund can be used where needed most. Meeting the needs of hungry families always comes first, but we do our best to accommodate your wishes, too.

Every gift to Heifer International represents a gift to our total mission of purchasing and transporting food and income-producing animals, as well as providing intensive training in animal husbandry; environmentally sound, sustainable farming; community development and global education. Again, gifts designated for a particular project or animal are used as requested until that need is fully met. Any remaining money is put to use where it is needed most.

Why animals?

Many of the world's people have little or no land and are often faced with steep terrain; rocky, acidic soil and scarce water. They are likely to raise a few goats and plant grass and trees rather than plow up the land for grain crops. Heifer understands how important appropriate livestock are to these people, and we work with them to ensure that the balance of crops, livestock and trees remain consistent with good ecology.

We help our project communities improve their stock and teach them to protect the environment. The animals and training that Heifer provides to these families improve their quality of life in many ways. For example:

  • Income is generated through the sale of animal products such as milk, eggs and wool.
  • Byproducts such as manure can be used to power cooking stoves or used as fertilizer to improve crop production.
  • Multipurpose animals like camels, buffalo and cows are reliable sources of lifesaving milk and milk products beneficial in combating malnutrition. These animals also provide energy by hauling heavy loads and can be rented to neighbors for extra income.

Small animals such as chickens require little space and consume crop byproducts or insects unsuitable for humans.

What does Heifer do to ensure the long-term health and well-being of gift animals?

We appreciate and share your concern about the well-being of animals within Heifer International. By teaching and example, we make every effort to see that our project partners around the world share it as well.

Our field staff is equipped with a variety of skills that help project participants prepare for the challenges and problems they encounter by providing training prior to receiving any animal gift. A significant component of this training (and of the follow-up evaluation) is that feed, water, shelter, reproductive efficiency and health care are the essential ingredients in successful livestock management. These must be available so that the livestock provided by Heifer International can be kept healthy and productive. The animals should be a vital part of the farm activities without causing an extra burden on family members or the farm resources in general. The species and breed chosen must be appropriate for the area. Our expectation is that our project partners will provide care for the animal in an environment that minimizes stress and satisfies its basic behavioral and social needs.

Moreover, since all recipients of Heifer International animals contract to "pass on the gift," (give their animal's offspring to another family in need), the whole community is attentive to the well-being of these precious and valuable creatures. Basically, these animals are the Project Partners' life blood: they do not want to injure them and often develop close bonds with them.

Additionally, most projects have an internal monitoring committee to ensure proper care. Heifer publishes several brochures on how this is accomplished; they are available by contacting Heifer's Donor Services at 855.9HUNGER (855.948.6437).

What do you mean by "Passing on the Gift?"

Our cornerstone of "Passing on the Gift" assures that each participant in the program becomes a donor and gives the animal's offspring to another family in need. This concept helps build community and enhances dignity and participation in each project. The families continually give to others ensuring self-sufficiency, one family at a time.

Heifer's key concept is that each recipient must pass on to others some of the offspring of the farm animals they receive. This practice ensures that each participant in the program becomes a donor, enhancing dignity and participation in each project. Passing on the Gift also helps communities to become self-sustaining.

What are "Heifer Cornerstones?"

The set of 12 essential principles that guides Heifer's work is referred to as the Heifer International Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, or more simply "the Cornerstones." Together, they form the acronym PASSING on the GIFTS, representing the quintessential Cornerstone and trademark practice that makes Heifer unique and its projects sustainable.

Does Heifer have any particular political affiliation?

No. Heifer International does not take political stands, but we do agree with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and support justice for all people.

How can I find out financial information about Heifer?

Detailed information on Heifer's finances is available through our website. You may also view how Heifer meets's BBB Wise Giving Alliance 20 Standards for Charity Accountability by accessing their current report here.

How does Heifer's spending on administrative costs compare with that of similar groups?

The independent evaluator Charity Navigator obtains information on charities from the IRS Form 990 which we file with the federal government. Charity Navigator uses a uniform rating system for all charities, applying formulas to numbers derived from Form 990. They look at two primary categories: organizational efficiency and organizational capacity. The current Charity Navigator for Heifer International in those categories may be viewed here.

Heifer meets's BBB Wise Giving Alliance 20 Standards for Charity Accountability; you may view their current report on Heifer here.

Please be assured that Heifer takes the stewardship of resources entrusted to us by donors very seriously. We are committed to our mission of ending hunger and poverty and caring for the earth and we know that you share that commitment. If you have concerns or further questions about our finances, we will be glad to talk to you about them.

Where in the world does Heifer carry out its project work?

Our staff currently provides valuable support and assistance for project partners all over the world

We have featured country projects that you can donate directly to located at Fund a Project. If you need further information call us at 855 9HUNGER (855.948.6437).

Does Heifer have projects in the U.S. or Canada?

Heifer USA focuses on two areas in particular that suffer from extreme poverty: the Appalachia region, which stretches from rural Pennsylvania to northern Alabama, and the Arkansas Delta, which follows the Mississippi River along the eastern half of the state. We are creating opportunities, improving access to markets for small farmers and providing environmental sustainability by supporting local producers.

Heifer Canada raises funds to support Heifer's development work around the world. There are no active projects in the country.

What is "agroecology"? Does Heifer practice it?

Agroecology is the sustainable use and management of natural resources, accomplished by using social, cultural, economic, political and ecological methods that work together to achieve sustainable agriculture production. Heifer is working within an integrated system of plant and animal production practices to satisfy human food needs, enhance environmental quality and natural resources and make the most of on-farm and renewable resources.

Does Heifer address gender issues?

Heifer's Gender Equity program seeks to ensure that men and women are equal partners in planning, work and benefits of a project. In many countries, women care for animals kept near the home but often have little access to technical training, resources, credit and decision-making. When women are able to receive animals and training, family nutrition improves and women gain new respect in their communities.

What does Heifer do to support the environment?

No matter where Heifer International is working around the globe, we find a biodiversity made up of people, wildlife, plants and habitats. As all are interrelated and woven tightly together, we must respect the needs and capabilities of each of these pieces in order to keep the ecosystem healthy. Heifer International's focus on environmental issues, therefore, is not just an ethical position but also a practical necessity. Some examples of how we confront this reality: 

  • We care for the earth's natural resources through training in livestock management, pasture improvement, soil conservation and reforestation, as evidenced by our Agroecology Initiative.
  • Our Headquarters building in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a model of "green building."
  • Heifer International uses recycled paper whenever possible: the paper stock is 50% sugar cane bagasse pulp, is 50% recycled fiber (including 30% post consumer fiber), requires no new trees and is elemental chlorine-free.

Heifer strives to excel in its role of good steward, not only of each other, but also of the earth that we share.

Can Heifer articles be reprinted?

Yes, provided the intent of the reprinting is to promote Heifer and its mission. You may reprint articles from World Ark magazine, Heifer's web site or any other Heifer printed materials. Please appropriately recognize Heifer with the following publication credit:

"Reprinted with permission from Heifer International -"

For any other use of Heifer articles other than to promote Heifer International, please contact us at

Can I get copies of brochures or pamphlets that explain Heifer's mission and purpose?

Yes, if you are in the United States or Canada, you can request Heifer materials be sent to you by emailing us at

What is Heifer's tax identification number?

The Heifer tax identification number is 35-1019477.

How can I change my preferences regarding e-mail and other communications I get from Heifer?

You can send us an e-mail or give us a call at 855 9HUNGER (855.948.6437).

Do you have opportunities for organizations to partner with Heifer?

Yes. Accomplishment of Heifer's mission is greatly facilitated through collaboration, alliance and support of like-minded, well-respected corporations. Unlike a sponsorship or a donation, our mutually beneficial marketing partnerships are designed to support business-building objectives and demonstrate corporate social responsibility, while Heifer gains increased public awareness and funding.

There are three ways you can get involved and support Heifer's Corporate Partnerships:

I would like to receive your magazine, World Ark, but would prefer not to have monthly mail updates. How do I make this happen?

Please send your full name, address, phone number and e-mail address to with your request. Note that changes to your mailing preferences, changes of address or removal from mailing lists require one or two mailing cycles to come into effect.

I would prefer to receive only email updates. How do I make this happen?

If you prefer to only receive e-mail updates, please send your full name, address, phone number and e-mail address to with your request. Note that changes to your mailing preferences, changes of address or removal from mailing lists require one or two mailing cycles to come into effect.

How are Heifer projects started?

To start, project groups contact their local country office expressing interest in becoming Project Partners. After this initial contact, Country Directors make decisions on how to respond to the request based on several factors; these include the viability (strength) and location of group, stability of the area, accessibility to Heifer staff, etc.:

  • Because of limited staff in Project Countries, the group has to be reasonably close to other projects and accessible to be a feasible project site.
  • The area should be relatively stable and free from war and other dangerous situations.
  • The request needs to come from an established group committed to working together (not an individual) and the group must have interest in using livestock to improve lives.

If these requirements are met, the Country Director or local Heifer staff will conduct a site visit to ensure the group has the minimum resources needed to make their project feasible (sufficient land, access to water, etc.). After the site visit, the Country Director or local Heifer staff will assist the project group in making their Project Plan.

If approved, the group will receive appropriate training and resources to prepare for the animals before the animals are delivered. This process can take six months to two years before animals are delivered.

How are Heifer Project Partners selected?

With sustainable community development in mind, we fund projects that have been approved by committee and that meet specific guidelines as described in an information-gathering packet. There must be a solid commitment by the group to ensure all project members will work together for the benefit of the project. The group also enters into an agreement to "Pass on the Gift" -- each recipient of an animal will give the first female offspring of that animal to another family so as to allow others in the community to benefit from the original gift.

How would my group or I apply for Heifer assistance?

Heifer's publication, "Becoming an International Partner," will be beneficial to your group, as it lists step-by-step procedures for applying for a project with Heifer International. You may request a copy by calling 855 9HUNGER (855.948.6437).

The group's initial application needs to be made with the local Heifer office. Applications e-mailed to will be referred to the group's local country office.

Heifer does not accept requests from individuals.

What sort of training is provided to project groups?

Some examples of the training we provide to project groups include: planting trees, building pens, animal husbandry/management (including animal nutrition, breeding and healthcare), record keeping and marketing. We also teach group-building skills and gender relationships. Much of the training is provided through cooperation with local extension services, community animal health workers, universities, colleges and other local organizations.

How can I contact Heifer?


Phone: 855.9HUNGER (855.948.6437)
Fax:(501) 907-2902
Mailing Address:
Heifer International
1 World Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72202


Allison Stephens
Public Relations Manager
Heifer International
(501) 907-2952

I'm with the media. Who should I contact at Heifer for questions and information?

Please contact our public relations office for information about Heifer.

Allison Stephens
Public Relations Manager
Heifer International
(501) 907-2952

How do I change my address?

Please e-mail your address changes to or mail your correct address label from your Heifer publication to: 

Heifer International 
Attn: Donor Services 
P O Box 8058 
Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-8058 

Note that changes to your mailing preferences, changes of address or removal from mailing lists require one or two mailing cycles to come into effect.

Can I visit some of your projects while on my own travel?

We welcome your interest and would like to be able to accommodate visits from people traveling on their own. However, to respect the dignity and privacy of our project participants, and in light of the limited time and resources of our field staff, we do not encourage unscheduled visits to our projects.

Can I sign up for your newsletter?

Yes. Signing up for Heifer's email is one way to deepen your commitment to ending hunger and poverty. You'll learn about Heifer's work through inspiring stories, and we'll send you information on how you can help move a family from poverty to self-reliance.

What is the difference between Heifer International and Heifer Foundation?

Heifer International and Heifer Foundation are separate non-profit charitable organizations with distinct purposes; however, both exist to serve the mission to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth.

Heifer International performs the day-to-day work of implementing projects and programs by providing appropriate livestock, training and related services to small-scale farmers and communities worldwide. Heifer International fundraises to provide the annual budget which provides for the immediate needs of the organization and mission.

Heifer Foundation's purpose is to build an endowment to generate long-term support for the work of Heifer International in perpetuity and to educate people on how planned charitable giving supports Heifer International's work. This education includes a variety of planned charitable giving instruments, such as endowments, annuities, trusts and more.

Both organizations work closely together to support a common mission while meeting the unique individual needs of donors.

How do animals and people work together?

Animals provide families with draft power, financial security, manure, wool, transportation and protein from milk, eggs and meat. Heifer project partners take great pride in owning livestock and consider their well-being as a primary responsibility. They provide their animals with protection from predators, clean water, food, exercise space, comfortable housing and humane treatment.

What are the 7 M's of livestock?

The 7 M's of livestock represent the valuable benefits that farm animals supply to people. Our 7 M's are milk, manure, meat, muscle, money, materials and motivation.

Does Heifer International offer lesson plans for my classroom?

Yes. Our global education resources are based on national educational standards for Pre-K through the 8th grade and put a new spin on courses like English, Geography, Science and others. View Heifer's school resources including free lesson plans, classroom activities, videos and games.