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Clapping Audience

Advancing the Greater Good



Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is an award-winning zoo that strives to connect communities with wildlife and wild places. The only walking safari in northeast Florida, this zoo is known for its  Animal Wellness team, Manatee Critical Care Center, and award-winning exhibits.

The Impact

The $50M goal was reached in Fall 2023.


With the $50M raised, the Zoo expects to:

  • build a new entrance and expand critical care habitat

  • expand services in the Manatee Critical Care Center, increasing total capacity from 5 manatees to 18—caring for 13 more manatees at a time

  • create a new Education Campus as part of phase 2 of the capital campaign

  • introduce new exhibits including new lion habitat, elephant habitat, and Asian area with Asian elephants and orangutans

Key Project Elements
  • Organizational Assessment

  • Policy and Procedure Review

  • Staff and Board Coaching

  • Fund Development Plan

  • Case for Support

  • Capital Campaign

  • Training

The Client

The Challenge

When Nikki Smith took on her new role as Director of Development at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in 2019, she was immediately faced with the daunting task of managing a capital campaign that started with a goal of $32M. During Covid, the campaign was put on hold until 2022, when they raised their goal to $50M due to an increase in building costs.


With no prior experience in philanthropy, running a capital campaign, or working with a board, Nikki was feeling nervous about her ability to lead the team to reach their goal. An existing capital campaign committee was in place with legacy members doing fundraising the way they’d been doing it for many years; she sensed that they had an opportunity to update their fundraising practices.


“I was on a downward spiral of stress and being my own worst enemy. I didn’t know where to start.”

The Collaboration Process

Around the same time, Nikki’s colleague met Kristin at a grant writers’ conference and recommended that Nikki contact her. The partnership began there.


“Working with Kristin, I was confident that we would hit our goals because she helped me focus in and understand what tasks needed to be done and in what order.”


From the beginning, Kristin provided Nikki with the support, coaching, and resources she needed to set up the campaign for success.


Kristin helped with:

  • Creating a Case for Support brochure

  • Building a donor pyramid and planning solicitation strategy

  • Producing a capital campaign video

  • Assembling a fundraising toolkit for the board

  • Leading philanthropy training for the team (board and staff)


She was also a reliable, supportive, and experienced partner who was available by phone, Zoom, and in person to support Nikki and her team with whatever was needed. Nikki felt that she had someone to bounce ideas off of and to give her simple tools to get started whenever she hit a wall.


Knowing that she had a friendly expert and ally in her corner, Nikki was vastly more confident about taking the steps required to run a successful campaign.

“I really feel like I owe her because everybody was impressed with her but they were also, by extension, impressed with me. They had greater respect for our work. The whole experience was life-changing.”

~Nikki Smith

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