Heifer International, in many ways, owes its current form to the guidance of Jerry Bedford, who insisted that the organization, whose mission he treasured, be placed on sure footing for decades to come. Bedford’s fundraising and communications efforts helped build Heifer into a well-regarded development organization whose impact has circled the globe.
Educated as both a businessman and theologian, Bedford understood that a nonprofit seeking to make a difference in the world would need both its values and its backing to be robust. Bedford worked diligently in service to both goals, first for 25 years as Heifer’s Director of Development and then as the head of the Heifer Foundation which he initiated in 1990.
In recognition of Bedford’s long dedication and many contributions to helping the world’s impoverished people, Heifer Foundation’s Trustees Emeriti have bestowed upon Jerry Bedford the 2012 Dan West Fellow Award.
“Heifer International and Heifer Foundation owe a great deal to Jerry,” said Ardyth Neill, president of Heifer Foundation. “He laid a strong foundation for the endowment, and everything that we’ve done since then was built on his careful work. His influence on Heifer’s growth has been exceptional.”
Bedford began working for Heifer International as Director of Development in 1966, a time when the organization had just a handful of employees. Bedford leveraged Heifer’s various regional offices to boost donations, which in those days still included hundreds of head of livestock.
Bedford and his wife, Anna Bedford, had experience with poverty in underdeveloped nations from their time as youth directors for the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. On their return to the U.S., Bedford learned about Heifer International, and saw it as an embodiment of the values he wished to promote – brotherhood, humanity and empowerment.
“As Director of Development, Jerry led successful fundraising and marketing initiatives,” recalled Rosalee Sinn, a former Heifer International fundraiser and 2011 Dan West Fellow. “Jerry had strong relationships with Heifer donors throughout the country. He was and is an articulate spokesperson and leader for Heifer International.”
Bedford traveled to many of the Heifer International country offices to help them form a fundraising base within their own countries. One of the accomplishments that gives Bedford the most pride is the development of the gift catalog, which would become the most reliable source of Heifer International donations. Bedford guided its progression from a simple black-and-white sheet, to a color flyer and then a full catalog.
“It made great sense,” Bedford said of the alternative giving concept. “You can make a gift in honor of someone who’s not in need to those who are in need.”
Bedford was anchored by the strong principles of Heifer International’s early leaders. “They were people of great integrity who valued the dignity of people, and lived their word,” Bedford said. “In the marketing materials, we always treated the subjects with dignity. We tried to build that sense of community and humanity.”
Bedford was instrumental in bringing Heifer International to Arkansas when the opportunity to buy a ranch in Perryville arose. He argued that Heifer, which then functioned out of a small St. Louis office, should have a permanent physical presence tied to its livestock aggregation. Bedford led the effort to raise funds for the purchase of the property, which would become the Learning Center at Heifer Ranch, for about $750,000.
But perhaps Bedford’s most notable contribution to Heifer International was the creation of Heifer Foundation. As Heifer and its work expanded, Bedford saw the need to further donors’ engagement with Heifer as they accumulated more assets and became receptive to including charities in their estate planning.
“Heifer had lots of donors. We just had to learn how to ask them to contribute a piece of their assets, not just their regular income,” Bedford explained.
Bedford became Heifer’s Director of Planned Giving and oversaw the creation of Heifer Foundation. From 1990 to 2000, when he retired, Bedford served as the head of Heifer Foundation. During that time, the Foundation’s assets grew from $4.3 million to $35.5 million.
“Just like individuals, Heifer needed to put something aside for a rainy day,” Bedford said. “If you have an endowment, it’s like ballast in a ship.”
Gary Cooper, a former Heifer Foundation trustee, sees the creation of Heifer International’s endowment as a priceless contribution to the nonprofit’s work to end hunger and poverty. “Jerry was an excellent financial advisor and was responsible for the early growth of the Foundation. He always had Heifer International’s mission as the central reason for growth.”
In his retirement, Bedford and his wife Anna split their time between California and Florida. He maintains involvement with the Arkansas Rice Depot, a statewide foodbank that he founded in the mid-1980s.
Over the course of nearly 40 years, Bedford has remained a passionate advocate for Heifer International’s work. He has educated millions of people about hunger and poverty, and about Heifer International’s model of creating self-reliance through gifts of livestock and training. His devotion to supporting this cause has yielded life-changing results for millions of families worldwide.