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Zoos Victoria ‘Safe Haven’ and ‘Mali in the City’ Campaigns

The Challenge

Zoos Victoria is a Victorian charity which comprises Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary (The Sir Colin McKenzie Reserve) and Werribee Open Range Zoo. Melbourne Zoo celebrated its 150th anniversay in 2012 and this was an opportunity to leverage this anniversary as a key element of a major capital fundraising campaign with a target of $85million over five years, attracting $20million from philanthropy and corporate support.

By 2010, fundraising at all three zoos had become moribund with little fundraising or donor activity for more than a decade. The revitalisation of the Zoos Victoria Foundation and a restart of the fundraising strategy was vital to attracting philanthropic and community support

The Background

Zoos Victoria had already done a lot of work to reposition the zoos as conservation organisations focused on 20 of Victoria’s most threatened species. The idea of our zoos as a ‘Safe Haven’ for threatened species resonated with our constituents, staff and stakeholders alike and became the backbone of the fundraising strategy.

Still, many people in the community assumed that the zoos were government funded or were privately owned (which they definitely weren’t) and therefore didn’t understand why philanthropy was necessary.

The history of these organisations is long and it is worth a visit to the Zoos Victoria website for more info.

The Response

The ‘Safe Haven’ campaign and the associated celebration of Melbourne Zoo’s 150th anniversary were seen as key strategies to relaunch Zoos Victoria to the community. I was hired as the Director of the Zoos Victoria Foundation to kick start the fundraising strategy and launch the ‘Safe Haven’ campaign to the philanthropic and corporate communities.

Mali the elephant immortalised in sculpture – this is two of the fifty produced and were positioned outside the Melbourne Cathedral

Using the forthcoming anniversary, the ZV Foundation re-established relationships with major philantroopic partners such as trusts and foundations who had supported the organisation in the past but had been a bit forgotten.

Melbourne Zoo created an anniversary committee which created amazing events such as ‘Mali in the City’ to bring our baby elephant to the people of Melbourne in the form of 50 sculptures which were decorated by creative volunteers – including well known artists – and positioned around the city before being sold off for auction. Mali became an elephant super-star! Mali, born in January, 2010 to mother Dokkoon instantly became a media star and thousands of visitors flocked to the Melbourne Zoo to see her.

The premiere Zoos Victoria Gala Ball was another first for the organisation. Attracting the cream of the philanthropic sector each wearing black tie with a touch of wild, we attracted a fantastic range of people who bought tables and auction prizes resulting in a fun, memorable and profitable event.