Zoos, Aquariums, and Non-profits: Here Are Three Top Tips to Fundraise Like a Pro

June 26th, 2018 by Search Influence Alumni

Based in a city known for its tourism and attractions, Search Influence is no stranger to digital marketing for zoos, museums, and other non-profits. We’re here today to pass on some of our knowledge to you! These three tips for fundraising through social media are sure to spark your creativity and help get donations flowing through the door.

Two hands holding a ball of money - Search Influence

1. Make Giving Easy

Even the most dedicated patron can get turned off if they have to fill out confusing forms or trudge to your office in person. Streamline the donation process by taking advantage of easy online giving platforms. Some user-friendly platforms and campaigns include:


MuseoBlogger points to the Boston Museum of Science’s success with FundRazr. This app is free to download and offers patrons a number of custom giving options. For example, they can either choose to contribute anonymously or to identify themselves via their Facebook profiles. Similarly, they can choose to give either by credit, debit, or PayPal. MuseoBlogger writes that FundRazr is “intuitive, convenient, and provides both instant gratification and recognition.” Maybe that’s why Boston Museum of Science raised over $1,200 from Facebook users alone—likely all donors who were not contributing via the traditional channels.

Text to Give

Colleen Dilenschneider, Chief Market Engagement Officer for IMPACTS Research & Development, highlights Cameron Park Zoo’s mobile giving campaign and Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s Adopt an Animal program as two nontraditional fundraising campaigns. As part of their mobile giving campaign, the zoo encouraged guests to donate $5 or $10 through a simple text message, making it easy for patrons to show support from home or say thanks after a great day at the zoo.

Adopt an Animal

The Adopt an Animal program at Rosamond Gifford Zoo is available to animal-loving patrons throughout the year, but in honor of National Adoption Day, the zoo ran a two-day promotion to spread awareness of the program. To reach a wider audience, they lowered the minimum donation requirement and created a smaller, custom donation package. This promotion generated an extra $350 and gave incentive to those who may not normally donate to the program.

It’s simple. The easier it is to give to your organization, the more likely people are to donate.

2. Establish a Brand

Having easy donation platforms is great—as long as people know about them! To make the most of any digital fundraising campaign, you first need a community of fans and followers. And the first step in building that community is establishing your own brand. This gives patrons a clear idea of who they’re engaging with and helps them feel a personal connection with your organization and its values. After all, no one wants to give away hard earned money to a stranger on the internet!

Complete branding should be an in-depth endeavor. It requires cohesion between your physical location, website, and social media platforms. If you’re looking for a place to start, think about visual branding: assure your color scheme, logos, fonts, and overall visual aesthetic remain consistent across all your on- and off-line locations. Or, you could start with brand values. Post clear causes or ideals that your organization believes in, and then provide evidence of those values through success stories and patron or employee spotlights. For an at-home example of establishing brand values, check out our About Us page and see how we communicate our dedication to optimizing business’ potential and the New Orleans community. Then, pop over to our pages about Success Stories and Company Culture to see those values demonstrated in action.

3. Get Inspired With Engagement Ideas

With your brand established and clearly communicating exactly who patrons support when they donate to you, it’s time to engage with the community! There are tons of great ideas out there, but here are some of our personal favorites.

First, make it very clear where donations will be going and how patrons will benefit by giving. Just like how people prefer to support trusted brands over internet strangers, patrons are more likely to donate if they know exactly what their money will achieve. Consider offering additional perks for high-dollar donors. For example, a newsletter with updates about their chosen animal or a plaque with their name by their sponsored exhibit.

Another popular engagement idea is live-streaming certain exhibits. Offer a night-stream that shows patrons what nocturnal creatures are up to when the zoo or aquarium is closed. Keep a 24/7 feed going on monkeys or other active and entertaining animals. Or, if one of your animals is expecting, consider broadcasting her pregnancy and birth, as well as her baby’s early growth. While this isn’t as directly tied to fundraising as animal adoption programs, it will nonetheless warm viewers’ hearts and get them engaged with and excited about your organization, building the meaningful connections that could turn into donations down the road.

Finally, appeal to photographers. Nothing gets people excited about zoos and aquariums like cute pictures of fuzzy animals, and encouraging visiting professionals to take photos means your organization gets all the exposure with a fraction of the cost and effort. Consider using your social media accounts to host fan photo contests, like the Shedd Aquarium, or repurpose the photos you already have with a caption contest. To go even further, consider hosting photographer-only after-hours events, like Aquarium of the Pacific. This offers amateurs and professionals alike the opportunity to take great pictures without the general public getting in the way. When they post their photos, it’s free advertising for your organization, and it’s a great opportunity to extend your network to include the photography communities.

Consult the Experts

We promised three fundraising tips, but here’s a bonus fourth! If you want to focus the majority of your time and energy on running your organization, Search Influence is here to help you with everything from content marketing to online advertising. Request your proposal online today.