Giraffe FAQs

Who are you guys?
The Giraffe Project is a national nonprofit organization, registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3), headquartered on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle. The Giraffe Board & key Staff are here.

Why giraffes?
Because they work with the motto “Stick your neck out,” because they make people smile and look again, because they’re a great way to sneak up on you with a serious message.

What’s your mission?
To move people to stick their necks out for the common good, and to give them tools to succeed. We achieve that by finding and commending real heroes, by creating and delivering Giraffe workshops, books & speeches, curricula & trainings for schools, a database of heroes around the world, OpEds, blogs, & a monthly e-zine, Heads Up. (A delightful fallout of the honoring-heroes process is finding how inspired the Giraffes themselves often are, telling us that being acknowledged has given them the boost they need to keep going.)

How’s the work funded?
By private philanthropists, foundation grants, individual donations, and earned income from products and services, which include workshops, and a kindergarten-through-high-school curriculum called The Giraffe Heroes Program. We also pick up a few bucks from “Giraffenalia”—T-shirts, buttons—the usual array of stuff but cool, because there are these red giraffes on everything.

What’s the quick description of Giraffe Heroes?
People who stick their necks out for the common good.

Going a little longer—Giraffes tend to be involved in long-term efforts they’ve initiated, rather than in-the-moment physical heroism or in volunteering in efforts started by others. People who are fulfilling their job descriptions don’t make it through the Giraffe choosing process—the person has to be going above and beyond. People who are just famous, talented or gorgeous don’t make the cut either. Here’s the full Criteria of Giraffedom.

Who decides on all this and when?
A volunteer jury of friends of the Project, some of them Giraffes themselves. They meet three times a year.

How many Giraffes are chosen?
As many as there are among the nominees. If all the nominees qualify, all are commended; if none do, none are chosen. There are no quotas involved and each nominee is considered in relation to the criteria, not to each other. This is not a competition—there are no bigger or best Giraffes. You just are one or you aren’t.

What do they get?
If you mean money, nothing—we don’t have any. (And we’re not a grant-making entity). We send each new Giraffe a commendation and we tell their story in our materials and in the schools. Being written up in newspapers, magazines and books, featured on radio and television, or talked about in classrooms has brought many Giraffes support from the people who find out about them through our efforts. We’ve also nominated Giraffes for cash awards from groups that do have money. Giraffes have received almost a million bucks this way—not the Giraffe Project—the money went directly to individual Giraffes. We still don’t have any. Whether or not they achieve snippets of fame and fortune, Giraffes consistently tell us that the benefit to their spirits is enormous. Many of them have never been praised for what they do; some have even been vilified. It’s heartening to be told you’re a hero when you’ve been hearing you’re a fool, a villain or a crazy.

How do the nominations come in?
Supporters of the Giraffe Project are constantly encouraged to keep an eye peeled for potential Giraffes, and everyone who thinks they may have sighted one— including you—is welcome to make a nomination. The flow of nominations matches the amount of press the Project has gotten. When we get a page in Parade or a feature on Good Morning America, lots of people send in nominations.

How many Giraffes are there?
Over 1,000. Because commendations have gone to groups, naming each member a Giraffe, we can’t give you a precise head count. Some Giraffes have died since being commended and every once in a while we lose touch with one, so our active files are fewer than the number of commendations that have gone out. See our online database of heroes.

Where are they?
In every US state and in 27 countries.

How long has this been going on?
The Project was officially recognized by the IRS in 1984. The first Giraffes were named in 1983, while the Project was “sheltered” in another non-profit.

1 Way to Help


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Stay Informed & Inspired

From time to time, Ann Medlock, this Project's founder, does a brief but inspiring email called Heads Up. You can check out past copies here. They're so good (and so free) we bet you'll join the Heads Up circle and send them on to friends & family.

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