Heifer International is changing the way it works to end world hunger and poverty, and it will implement the changes with a slimmer staff.
Instead of having about 100 projects in its portfolio, the Little Rock nonprofit is moving to 20-30 programs in the upcoming months.
“Although the total number of projects will decrease, the signature programs that remain will be bigger in scale and reach, and longer in duration,” Chris Coxon, a Heifer spokesman, said in an email to Whispers. “At this point, we are not planning to end operations in any of our program countries.”
The typical international development project lasts between three and five years. But that isn’t enough time to make sustainable changes to end hunger and poverty in the communities Heifer serves.
In 2016, Heifer started a new strategy that not only works to solve a family’s hunger problems, but also other issues that the family might be facing, such as housing or education, Coxon said.
“That’s what you really need in order to be able to get out of long-term poverty,” he said.
He said that since 2016, Heifer has been building on that program to help more farmers and their communities earn a sustainable income.
There will be some job losses in connection with the shift, but Coxon wouldn’t say exactly how many of the 1,200 employee positions in 31 countries will be eliminated.
He said “a few” of the nonprofit’s employees at Heifer’s Little Rock headquarters, which has about 300 workers, were laid off last month. And more layoffs are expected as projects wind down. “We expect to complete a majority of the changes to our programs outside of the United States in the next few months,” he said.
The coronavirus also was a blow to Heifer. It temporarily stopped fundraising activities right after the global pandemic hit in the middle of March, resulting in a drop in donations. Coxon said he “can’t talk in exact numbers” about the decline in donations, though. He said that fundraising has slowly started again.
He said early last week that he didn’t know what Heifer’s balance sheet would look like as of June 30, the end of Heifer’s fiscal year.
“Obviously, I think not just for our sector, but for all sectors, it’s been a kind of a turbulent period,” Coxon said.
Still, “making these changes will enable Heifer International to emerge stronger from the global pandemic and support more families to close the living income gap, ending hunger and poverty in their communities,” he said.