A Mammoth Mess
The organization’s increased focus on the Web has required an internal shift, too.
“More people are aware that the site is not only a communication tool, it’s also a relationship-building tool, and this is a way of actually bringing revenue into the organization,” Conkerton says.
“New Orleanians, in general, have become a lot more comfortable using the Web for transactions,” she says, citing a rise in online banking and bill paying in the area post-Katrina. “Blogging became the way evacuees knew what was going on back home. So we’ve all become a lot more Web-savvy than we used to be.”
The number of people purchasing and renewing memberships online is up. As of July, ANI already had raised roughly $200,000 online for the year, more than it’s brought in through the Web in any prior year.
Conkerton says at the same time the organization reached out for gifts of all sizes via the Web, it touched base with its major donors — those who had given ANI $10,000 or more in a given year — by phone or e-mail as soon as it was able. Several of those contacts yielded additional donations, many from corporate donors whose companies had emergency funding available to organizations affected by the storm. Fundraising events were held in Aspen, Colo., New York and Cincinnati; and the entire zoo and aquarium industry embraced Audubon’s recovery during “Audubon October,” an awareness and fund drive held on site at facilities nationwide. A number of donors also joined ANI’s board as “huggers” to greet and — literally — hug the 66,000 guests admitted to the zoo for free when it first reopened Thanksgiving weekend.
In the months following the hurricane, giving to the Katrina recovery effort became less of a knee-jerk reaction and more of a thought process, as people began asking deeper questions about the future of New Orleans: Is it coming back? Will it survive?