The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World

Anna's four-month-old at Cradles to Crayons

Last year, The Hired Pens became the pro-bono copywriting agency for Cradles to Crayons. This means we help them write all sort of things, from fundraising letters to fun copy for their 2012 calendar.

It also means I have been much more attuned to offers I get from other nonprofits. Who moves me and makes me consider giving my time or money? Who annoys me and gets tossed (or deleted) without a second thought? What are they doing right or wrong?

One organization that’s getting it particularly right is Heifer International. A nonprofit whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability, their cheery red catalog probably shows up in your mailbox each holiday season.

Here’s what Heifer International is doing right …

1.) They aren’t afraid to have a little fun.

The cover of their catalog declares “The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World” above a picture of a dopey looking sheep. I had no idea who Heifer International was when I got this catalog, but it made me smile. And I was intrigued and amused enough to have a closer look.

Most nonprofits draw donors in by making them feel really sad — and guilty for not doing something to make the world a little less sad. I’m not saying this isn’t effective. It’s extremely effective. (That’s right, SmileTrain, with your cadre of adorable third-world, cleft-palated children, you get me every time.)

So it’s refreshing when a nonprofit with an equally heartbreaking cause — and it doesn’t get more heartbreaking than starving children — can move people to give by making them happy instead.

2.) They know how to tell a good story.

Upon opening the Heifer catalog, I got more than unique gift ideas. I got an interesting education about this unique form of philanthropy. Told through the lens of specific individuals who have benefited from the organization, stories were compelling, personal and accomplished Heifer’s goal: making me want to help. The authentic, candid photography and moving quotes added depth.

3.) They offer real value … and have a real sense of timing.

Giving feels good. In fact, I just read a study (that I’m too lazy to look up and link to here) that says giving feels even better than receiving. Sure, I might not have written the line, “If you are looking for a present that will leave your friends, family or coworkers squealing with delight this holiday season, look no further than a gift of a pig and training in its care from Heifer International.” But I’m going to let that slide.

While I may not love the play on words, the idea is spot on: For people looking for unique gift ideas that actually mean something, it doesn’t get much more interesting than this.

Nicely done, Heifer. I hope this blog gets you some orders.

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  1. Nancie Freitas says:

    Heifer International is my favorite charity – because of their self sufficiency and sustainability principles.  The actualize the ‘teach the man to fish’ concept. 
    What could be better?!

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