Eleven-month-old Kayembe, a western lowland gorilla, and 16-month-old Zaki, a Bornean orangutan, were both born at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2021. Kayembe is the first gorilla to be born at the zoo, and Zaki is the first successful orangutan birth since 2014.
Both males are doing well and growing nicely. Their good health and well-being, as well as that of other members of their species at the zoo, is due in part to Cleveland Zoological Society donors.
The nonprofit organization has historically reached out to donors who help provide food, enrichment and habitat enhancements to zoo animals all year round. But this year, some of the traditional fundraising events and programs were tweaked to reflect the changing faces of donors and to make financially supporting the zoo more convenient. Ultimately, of course, that benefits the lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!), as well as others that fly, swim, slither, hop or strut.
New Ways to Give
Support a Species is a new philanthropic program reinforcing an initiative that began in 2020 to help feed and care for zoo animals. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the zoo, cutting into its budget. The zoo was closed for people, but not for the animals, says Sarah Crupi, executive director of the Cleveland Zoological Society.
“What’s cool about Support a Species is its digital aspect,” explains Crupi. “Trends show that people are donating younger, parents are encouraging their children to become involved with philanthropy and more and more people are using digital for donations. Of course we still work to cultivate large donations in person, but digital is cost effective for nonprofits like us and it allows us to get our messages out to a lot of folks. Also, by watching the matrix of who is donating, it can help us tailor and refine the Support a Species for 2023.”
The ongoing Support a Species program highlights a different animal species quarterly (gorillas and orangutans have been spotlighted so far), and all donation amounts are accepted. Each donor receives a certificate for their generosity and a fact sheet about the species.
Honor and Memorial is another program that provides donors with a way to show financial support while also acknowledging personal life events, including memorials, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, marriages and retirements. Crupi says that as a mother, she particularly likes the idea that some families celebrate a child’s birthday by suggesting a donation for the zoo instead of giving the youngster a toy.
Animal Habitat Signs also help recognize donors. For dollar amounts beginning at $2,500, someone’s name can be displayed at a habitat of the donor’s preference. Fourteen locations/animals are available, including the habitats of the bald eagle, reindeer, elephant, tortoise and kangaroo. Signs remain at the site for 10 years.
In 2021, the Cleveland Zoological Society saw the additional memberships of 11,000 new families. Crupi finds that statistic particularly gratifying because the “population of Cleveland is not growing.” Crupi partially attributes new memberships and recent record-breaking zoo attendance as a response to the pandemic.
“We are outside where you can connect to nature, Crupi says. “And the zoo is pretty accessible compared to some other choices people have here.”
For more information about family and individual memberships to the Cleveland Zoological Society or any of its donor opportunities, visit clevelandzoosociety.org.