Society / Featured Parties

Houston Zoo’s Virtual Ball Sets Records, Raising an All-Time High of $1.2 Million

How This Nonprofit Defied the Odds to Pull Off Its Most Successful Fundraiser Ever

BY // 11.11.20

What: Houston Zoo Ball “Moonlight Soirée” (combined with the Wildlife Conservation Gala)

Where: The virtual event was viewed from patrons’ homes

PC Moment: Despite the COVID-19 necessitated virtual platform, Houston Zoo backers answered the call with deep pockets raising $1.2 million in proceeds for the zoo-based conservation organization, making it the most successful fundraiser in Houston Zoo history.

How did they do it, we ask.

“We approached everyone who traditionally supported both events (Zoo ball in the spring, the conservation gala in the fall) and really focused on promoting our mission and how this event would help us recover from the devastating financial impacts that COVID-19 has had on our Zoo,” Jackie Wallace, Houston Zoo senior director of public relations, tells PaperCity. “Many of our donors agreed to support the event and several even increased their support. Additionally, the auction and paddles up sections outperformed those of previous years.”

As soon as the pandemic caused widespread closures in March, organizers began rethinking both fundraisers. With Zoo doors closed for many months, the nonprofit lost millions in revenue and that knowledge inspired additional giving.

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The hour-long virtual program focused on the good works of beloved Zoo patron Jane Block, who has been at the forefront of Zoo volunteerism for decades. “Jane has helped the Zoo improve and flourish in ways that are too numerous to count,” the Zoo detailed in the presentation.

The program also spotlighted Zoo animals and the organization’s wildlife saving work programs around the world, those activities typically spotlighted in the fall Wildlife Conservation Gala.

While joining the virtual event, guests supped on full dinners, charcuterie boards and desserts, paired with wine and champagne, delivered by City Kitchen. Dinner servings included entrees of grilled prime age beef tenderloin and roasted hen and for dessert chocolate truffles, mocha brownies, dark chocolate and Dulce tarts with port meringue and caramel sauce, and more. After Party participants (there actually was not one) received playful cocktail kits with T-shirts.

Applause, applause for Zoo Ball chairs Sara and Randy Ortwein, auction chair Peggy Kostial, and After Party chairs Courtney and Zac Harmon.

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