Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Download PDF
Arts and Cultural Organizations
North America

Cincinnati Zoo builds virtual audience during COVID-19, grows donors by nearly 500% in 10 days.

When Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden closed its doors during COVID-19, the Ohio attraction quickly created a daily virtual experience that immediately drew millions of virtual visitors—and new donors—from around the world. 

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden works to inspire every visitor through wildlife every day. When the Ohio attraction shut its physical doors to ensure social distancing during COVID-19, it upheld that mission by flinging open virtual doors instead.

Visitors not only showed up; they also reinvigorated Fiona the hippopotamus’ international acclaim, when she became the first animal featured in the zoo’s Home Safari series.

Every day at 3 p.m. local time, Cincinnati Zoo takes to Facebook Live for a streaming video with a featured animal and zookeepers, plus an activity for viewers to try at home—such as wallaby hopscotch or hatching ostrich art.The zoo welcomes 1.8 million visitors per year, on average. But within the first 10 days of Home Safari, the zoo garnered 44 million views and continues to reach 20 million active viewers from around the world on any given day.

“It was a matter of trying to assess what the need was while keeping in mind who we are and what our mission is,” said Director of Donor Engagement Krista Powers. “With kids being at home, that was an area we could definitely serve—and it caught on.”

By partnering with Blackbaud for marketing and fundraising and relationship management, Cincinnati Zoo spun up a donation program in just 72 hours to capture gifts from current and new donors alike. The donation page integrates with the zoo’s donor database to pull in information on new supporters. In just the first three weeks of Home Safari, the zoo experienced a 487% increase in donors.

“We wanted to remain relevant while also offering a message of transparency and hope,” Powers said. “We will get through this together. We are a creative, resilient community.”

As comments of gratitude poured in from around the world—from parents, children, even essential workers on break together—zoo staff also appreciated the opportunity to interact with virtual visitors during the attraction’s closure.

“We really hang our hat on hope,” Powers said. “We want to provide a little seed of joy and brightness in people’s lives, and this is allowing us to do that.”

Download PDF
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Powered by

Ready to power your passion?

Request a customized demo to see how Blackbaud is made for your unique challenges and needs.

All fields required

Thank you for your inquiry.

A Blackbaud representative will be in touch with you shortly.

Prefer to chat now?

Click here if you’d like to speak directly to a Blackbaud representative, today.