Much to do at the Zoo

During this last month of my Fellowship with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, I have been focusing on researching and evaluating our “Adopt-an-Animal” program, familiarizing myself with gift acceptance policies, developing a donor survey and gathering options for matching gift program databases.

The Zoo’s “Adopt-an-Animal” program allows donors to symbolically adopt their favorite animal by making a donation at various levels from $50.00 to $1,000.00. To evaluate the structure and strength of our Zoo’s program, I researched similar programs at 10 other Zoos around the country. In terms of number of giving levels offered and the value of adopt program benefits (i.e. Plush animal toy, event invitations, etc.), our Zoo was generally in the middle of the pack—moderate amount of giving levels and benefits offered. Currently, I am working with partners at our peer Zoo’s to gather data regarding the revenue generated from these programs at each giving level offered. I am excited to complete this project soon and be able to share my findings with Columbus Zoo staff as well as the partners I have worked with at other Zoo’s—hopefully the findings enable each Zoo to make positive changes to their programs!

I was also fortunate to learn about Zoo gift acceptance Policies this past month. Researching the policies in place at other Zoos has helped me to build an understanding of the importance in having procedures in place for conflicts of interest as well as valuation and crediting of gift amounts. These policies help provide guidance and enable development staff to protect their organization’s financial security.

With the guidance of my supervisors, I have begun to develop a donor survey for the Zoo. The three main focus areas in this survey will be regarding gift solicitation, gift stewardship and donor background. The Zoo has not gathered this kind of donor feedback in the recent past. I believe that a better understanding of our donor’s feelings towards the frequency and types of solicitations as well as the methods used to recognize and thank donors could help improve our fundraising performance.

Finally, earlier this month, I researched which matching fits database option made most sense for use by Zoo staff and donors. Learning about services such as Blackbaud’s MatchFinder and HEPdata will certainly prove to be valuable information as I continue to work with nonprofit organizations in my career.

With a little less than two weeks to go in the Fellowship program, I am grateful for all that I have learned from Zoo staff, especially Cheryl Lesko and Mayme Norman. I am looking forward to a strong last two weeks and to continuing as a member of the fundraising community in central Ohio.

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