Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sustainable Giving: Heifer International

Everyone has that one person that frustrates them beyond belief during the holiday season.  

Whenever you ask this person what he or she wants for Christmas, the answer is something along the lines of,

"I don't need anything" 


"Whatever.  I'm not picky."

It makes you want to strangle them.  What do you do for these people???

Well, one option is donating to a charity in their name.  

This doesn't always work... some of those annoying "I don't need anything" people really do want some sort of physical item.  Donating may not be the best idea for them.

For the ones who truly don't care if they get a gift or not, though, finding a non-profit organization that they agree with, and making a donation in their honor may actually be a very good idea.

Heifer International is the one we'll talk about, today.

Heifer International Holiday Gift Catalog

I got a gift catalog in the mail about a month ago, and thought, "Huh.  Maybe I should check it out."

This one is the involved in sustainable community efforts across the globe.  It deals with helping families become self sufficient, which in turn effects the family's community as a whole.  We've all heard that saying,

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  
Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life."

This is one of the aspects of Heifer International's philosophy.  Rather than sending food to a community, Heifer International gives a family within a village a goat.  Or a cow.  Or some bees.  Veterinary medical kits.  The list goes on.

These animals become central to the community.

Rather than giving some food that will run out, or even spoil, Heifer International gives them a creature that can be used for years to provide milk, fiber, honey, etc.  The family does the work necessary to provide for itself, as well as the community, which gives people a way to care for themselves with only a bit of help in the beginning.

We're talking self-sufficiency, at least in part.  We're talking confidence.  Knowledge. 

That person that doesn't care about receiving a gift of his or her own?  Give this person the gift of knowing that in some small part (s)he has helped give a truly meaningful gift to someone else!

Granted, this isn't for everyone.  

Plenty of people scoff at an idea like this.  "Look, Honey!  For your  Christmas gift, I gave someone else a few chickens!" (Yeah... I totally heard that one a few days ago.)

But for the idealistic person that dreams of making a difference?  This is one small way for them to do it.

This holiday season is about hope... regardless of your theological assertions. 

It's supposed to be about helping others find peace and joy.  We may have turned this into a season of throwing money into corporate pockets, but it doesn't have to be that way.  We can change this, but we have to do it one person at a time.

We have to start with ourselves.

This one is easy.  For only twenty bucks you can provide a village with enough chickens to be able to feed them for years.  That seems a lot better to me than buying a single person an iphone that they'll only use for a year or two, and that costs way more, on top of that.

I went to Charity Navigator to check in on the organization, and saw that it was rated at 3 out of 4 stars.  Heifer International isn't perfect.  The majority of its funding, however, goes directly to program expenses (73.2%).  This is important.  The transparency rating is also high - another plus.

Indeed, I think the primary reason for the less than perfect rating comes from its deficit (almost $10,000,000), which is higher than combined administrative expenses (roughly $7.6 million).  Many people consider this a bonus.

Sometimes, though, better funded administration means smoother flow of activity.  I'm not trying to dissuade you from making a donation, of course.  I just want you to know what you're looking at.

Heifer International, from what I've seen so far, is a valid choice for donation.  

It gives you a chance to provide for more than a single person for years to come, and for very little cost to yourself.

If you have any information to the contrary, please leave a comment to let everyone know.  For that matter, if you've had a good experience with them, let us know that, as well!  The more information we have, the happier we are.

Remember to always research any charity you choose to give to, and always be sure that it's something that makes you comfortable.  Giving is good, but knowledgeable giving is better.

Do your research, and do something truly worthy of the meaning of the holiday season.

For me, this means sustainable giving.  It means helping both the earth and its people at the same time.  Donating to a charity that's essentially green helps more than just the people it was designed to aid.  It helps the world as a whole.

Sometimes taking baby steps and performing a single small action helps us navigate the trails toward being environmentally responsible far more than jumping over everyone else's boot tracks in an effort to tackle the largest issues.

Every step matters. 

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