Recognizing and Stewarding Donors

Over the past month, I have been able to wrap up two projects, present the work to my supervisors and begin to identify the next steps for my engagement with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The first project, focused on evaluation and recommendations for social media donor stewardship, has led to a number of follow-up projects that I hope will help the Zoo keep their donors interested and engaged. The second project, which involved researching and comparing the Zoo’s donor recognition practices with that of peer institutions, will enable me to be a helpful collaborator with our philanthropy team during the preparation for an upcoming campaign.

In order to create an effective social media donor stewardship program, it is critical to take the time to develop a thorough understanding of the Zoo’s current stewardship model on both an annual giving and major gift level. With this background informing my project, I was able to target key areas in which the Zoo can create social media content that is appropriate, timely and aligned with overall stewardship strategy. I found this project to be especially interesting because there wasn’t a clear “best practice” for social media donor stewardship at Zoos—I look forward to the Columbus Zoo becoming a thought-leader in this area.

The second project presented an excellent opportunity to engage with fundraising professionals at Zoos in Houston, Omaha, Denver and Saint Louis. From “Adopt-An-Animal” programs to plaque, bricks and benches, there are so many different ways Zoos recognize their donors on grounds. The goal of this project is to ultimately identify which methods of donor recognition best balance the need to properly acknowledge donors while remaining cost-efficient. We will be looking to incorporate my work on this subject matter into the planning for an upcoming capital campaign.

As always, I am continually impressed by and grateful for the intelligent and thoughtful Zoo philanthropy team. Learning from them is truly a privilege.


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