The Step by Step Process for Raising Money for your Zoo

The Step by Step Process for Raising Money for your Zoo

Zoo fundraising

Who doesn’t love the Zoo?! In a normal year, it’s estimated that nearly 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums worldwide. That’s an ENORMOUS amount of people, and an enormous opportunity for fundraisers, as your zoo attendees are your most loyal supporters.

The next time you want to raise money for a specific project in your zoo, follow these steps. Zoos are fun, family-oriented, exciting, and adventurous – with a polished strategy, you’re sure to raise the money you need to fund your next initiative.

9 Steps to Raising Money for Your Zoo

  1. Clarify Your Vision for the Zoo
  2. Plan Your Budget
  3. Find Sponsors for Your Project
  4. Set up a crowdfunding Web Page
  5. Build a Contact List
  6. Make Calls to Your Contacts
  7. Collect Donations
  8. Interview Your Donors
  9. Finish Your Project

Step 1: Clarify Your Vision for the Zoo

Zoo fundraising

What project are you trying to raise money for? Is there a multitude of projects you’ve had on your mind for some time? Clarifying what your zoo needs most now is one of the most difficult but necessary questions you, your staff, and your board will have to answer before diving into your campaign. When clarifying your shared vision, be sure to think about your vision not just in the near future but for the long term. Make sure that the choices you make now will align well with your overall strategic plan.

Consider getting buy-in not only from your staff and board but from your donors as well. What sorts of projects or renovations would they like to see happen at your zoo? Keeping campaign prospects top of mind and involved before your campaign even starts will help when you need to ask those prospects for donations.

Step 2: Plan Your Budget

zoo fundraising ideas

Before you can begin to raise money for your zoo, you’ll need to take the time to evaluate your budget. What are you wanting to fundraise for, exactly? Does your zoo just need some small renovations, or do you need to build a whole new animal exhibit?

By planning a budget for your project, you’ll be able to map out exactly what expenses you’ll need to incur and in turn, how much money needs to be raised. Knowing how much money needs to be raised will help you craft an effective fundraising plan with the right marketing, advertising, and outreach strategy.

Step 3: Find Sponsors for Your Project

zoo fundraising ideas

Corporate sponsorships are an excellent way to raise money for your zoo’s project. Zoos are open-concept, very visible environments with many opportunities for corporations’ logos and work to be seen by thousands of zoo attendees.

Turn to your existing corporate sponsors with the opportunity to fund your project, but remember to seek out fresh candidates, as well. Evaluate your zoo’s needs and go after corporations whose own missions align well with yours. For example, if you’re raising money for a new food court, reach out to large food corporations that can stamp their name somewhere in your food court. Offer naming rights to large sponsors.

Step 4: Set up a Crowdfunding Web Page

Crowdfunding is a way to raise money from a large number of people pooling together small investments in your project. Individuals, nonprofits themselves, and even companies can create a campaign for specific causes that anyone can contribute to.

You can create a crowdfunding campaign for your building projects or to fund something else that needs a lot of money. Usually, such projects have a definite timeline and there’s a sense of urgency. Crowdfunding works wonders for them. All you need is a goal thermometer, a simple user-friendly donation form, a dedicated tab to post updates, and a way for donors to spread the word through social media.

With Donorbox, you can set up a crowdfunding campaign like that. For example, Leibniz Institute for Zoo & Wildlife Research Berlin created one to support a Rhino recovery program. Look at all the features they’ve got there to make it convenient for themselves and the donors – social media buttons, goal meter, donor wall, updates tab, a great campaign description, and whatnot.

raise money for the zoo

Pro tip: Ask individuals or organizations to create fundraisers on your project’s behalf; it may turn out to be an easy sell – especially if there are exciting pieces to the puzzle, like incentives and fundraising competitions. Peer-to-peer fundraising can prove to be really successful among parents of kids who love visiting your zoo and other persistent supporters.

Step 5: Build a Contact List

fundraising ideas to build a zoo

First things first, turn to your donor database and existing supporters. Rather than targeting your entire contact list, you’ll want to prioritize who to contact. Start by examining your major donors. Has it been a while since one has given a big gift? Is there one in particular who may have a vested interest in the specific project you’re raising money for?

After considering your major donors, segment your mid-level and broad-based groups. Look at these groups from both a giving history and interest-based lens. Are there any lapsed donors who typically give that you can ask to contribute to this cause? Who’s contributed to similar campaigns you’ve run in the past?

Once you have a solid group of individuals from your existing database, make time to do some prospect research for new donors. Use prospecting tools if possible to identify who’s given to causes that are similar to yours, or who’s living nearby your zoo that has a large capacity to give.

Step 6: Make Calls to Your Contacts

fundraising ideas to build a zoo

Your contact list is built, so you’re ready to make some calls! Approach your calls strategically. Write and come prepared with a script, filled with responses to potential objections to donating. Take time to prioritize who needs to be called first, and assign responsibility to call certain donors to certain staff members.

Make your calling sessions fun! Consider hosting an in-office “Phone-a-Thon” with snacks and competitions to incentivize your staff members (e.g. Who’s called the most donors?, Who’s solicited the most money? etc.). Remember to follow up your calls a week later at most, especially if you leave a voicemail to your prospective donor.

Step 7: Collect Donations

There are a variety of ways to collect donations. If you’re spending time calling donors, you can ask them to mail you a check or visit your website to make a donation online.

Create a special campaign donation page for your website so that donors can give virtually (and so that you can track which donations came in for this campaign, specifically). On every marketing material, flyer, or email that’s sent regarding this campaign, be sure to include your mailing address and the fact that your zoo accepts Donor Advised Fund gifts (if it does) as this is not always the case for nonprofits. Make sure you’re on top of sending donor receipts to everyone who gives for their convenience and for tax deduction purposes.

A simple donation page like the one below can help you collect a lot of donations with utmost ease. Boo Boo Zoo has this page to collect donations that can be one-time as well as recurring (monthly/quarterly/annually). Their donors can easily opt-in for recurring donations, dedicate the donation in honor or memory of a loved one, and even leave a comment/feedback for the zoo. Consider making one like this and be ready to receive loads of online donations on a regular basis.

raise money for the zoo

Step 8: Interview Your Donors

raise money for the zoo

Once your donors have given and the project is well underway, don’t forget about them! Keep your donors updated on all project happenings! Send and post pictures and videos of the project coming together, and consistently remind donors how big of an impact their gift is having on your zoo and its animals.

Reach out to and interview donors, and post their feedback to your social media (if permitted). In these interviews, ask donors why they chose to give to your campaign, how they feel about how the project’s going, what it’s like to work with your staff members, etc. – anything that will make the donor feel like they have a voice and that they are appreciated.

Step 9: Finish Your Project

raise money for the zoo

Complete your project, and let the world know that you did. Update all of your donors and organization supporters, and make personal phone calls to your biggest donors or those who seemed to have the most vested interest in your work.

If you have the funds, host a celebration! Invite all staff, volunteers, and donors to come out and see the amazing work their contributions have allowed you to do. The celebration can be as simple as a picnic in one of your zoo’s plazas or green spaces, or near an animal exhibit.

Letting your constituents feel invested in and appreciated is what will inspire them to support again, and what will allow your zoo to thrive for years to come.


Zoo fundraising

Zoos are some of the most beloved places in the world for youngsters, seniors, individuals, families, and everyone in between. Believe in and plan out your project, contact those who care the most, make the ask, and celebrate with gratitude. You’re well on your way to building a FANTASTIC zoo fundraising campaign!

Donorbox is a powerful fundraising tool that also doubles as a donor management solution for nonprofits and individuals alike. Do check out our features on the website. If you’re into animal rescue, you may want to check this out too. If you’re looking for more fundraising tips and resources, here’s the rest of our blog.

Wagisha Jha is the content overseer and writer at Donorbox. She is a marketer specializing in early to mid-stage startup growth. In her free time, she can be found writing, caring for animals, or indulging in fine arts. Say hello to her on Linkedin or Instagram.

Join the Nonprofit Movement
Receive our free email updates to get nonprofit tips, resources and freebies sent directly to your inbox.

Join us in serving the nonprofit world!

Take your donor experience to the next level!
Join the 35,000+ nonprofits already raising funds online.
(No setup fee. Unsubscribe anytime)
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)