Hello All! I’m Connor Hooper and I have the pleasure of serving as the Fellow for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! I was incredibly excited upon hearing my placement with the Zoo—the organization has such a tremendous reputation locally and nationally for excellence and creating meaningful impact.
At the Zoo, I serve as a member of the Philanthropy team and report to Directors of Philanthropy, Cheryl Lesko and Mayme Norman, who focus on major gifts and annual giving, respectively. At the onset of the Fellowship, the following were identified as the primary goals to accomplish:
- Assist with creating a new social media focused donor stewardship program
- Create and explore new commemorative gift options for donors of certain levels
- Expand aspects of the Jack Hanna Legacy Society for planned gifts
- Focus on expanding appropriate donor recognition for capital campaigns
With the help of Cheryl, Mayme and Donna Zuiderweg, our Vice President of Community Engagement, I developed a timeline for the first month of my Fellowship which has helped guide my work and keep me on track. However, before jumping into these projects, it has been important, and valuable, to take the time to learn as much about the Zoo, its mission, its impact, its programs and services and its future trajectory. Understanding all these elements of the Zoo enables me to make more thoughtful recommendations in my work.
The first projects I have delved into as part of my Fellowship have been creating a plan for social media focused donor stewardship and assessing the greater donor recognition practices of the Zoo.
As I write this post, these projects are ongoing. In regards to assisting in the creation of a social media focused donor stewardship plan, I started by assessing the Zoo’s current social media presence and focuses and then performed a SWOT analysis which should help guide the development of the plan. I look forward to sharing more about the progress of this project as we move forward!
In assessing the donor recognition practices of the Zoo, I have been frequently touring the Zoo, exhibit by exhibit, detailing all of the instances of donor recognition and returning to compare them against giving levels and other exhibits at the Zoo. Although this project is ongoing, the goal is to deliver an analysis of current donor recognition in the Zoo with “best practices” and innovative options for future naming opportunities.
One of the most comforting aspects of the Fellowship thus far has been the willingness of the entire philanthropy team to check-in, provide assistance and lend their institutional memory to ensure that I am empowered to do the best work possible. With thoughtful planning, commitment and their continued support, this Fellowship will surely allow for me to grow professionally while providing a substantial contribution to a vital community anchor.