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Zoo bags donor support

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By Todd Cohen

ASHEBORO, N.C. — Despite the bear economy, the N.C. Zoological Society in Asheboro is bullish on fundraising.

The Zoological Society, fundraising arm of the N.C. Zoo, generated a record-high $4.5 million in 2002 from donors and special events.

The Zoo Society has big plans for its annual drive this year and for two capital campaigns over the next few years, and expects huge totals from planned gifts over the next 25 years.

Last year marked the Zoo Society’s 16th straight year of record fundraising, included a $2.5 million bequest from the estate of T. Walker Lipscomb of Alexandria, Va.

The Zoo Society also raised $77,000 through its annual drive, up from $50,000 a year earlier, and $326,000 from special events, down from $357,000 a year earlier.

Membership fees grew to nearly $1.2 million from $1.1 million in 2001.

In addition to $4.3 million in direct contributions, up $700,000 from 2001, the Zoo Society generated $250,000 from its retail stores.

Now, the Zoo Society is gearing up to launch a $6 million capital campaign next year to expand its exhibit areas and holding facilities for elephants and rhinos.

It has begun the quiet phase of the campaign, with the public phase to kick off in 2004.

A separate campaign to raise another $250,000 to help develop an Australian exhibit already has generated $180,000.

The Zoo Society also is starting to reap the fruits of a concerted planned-giving effort it began in the early 1990s, says Russ Williams, director.

Starting with two bequests totaling $40,000 in 1995, the group’s Lion’s Pride Fund has received 46 more gifts totaling more than $6.2 million.

The Zoo Society, which last year made $1.7 million in grants to the zoo, now has $10 million earmarked for zoo projects, including $4 million in restricted gifts and $6 million in unrestricted gifts.

The Lion’s Pride Fund, which accounts for $5.4 million of those unrestricted gifts, now has 220 individuals or couples who have told the Zoo Society they have named it in their will or other gift plans, Williams says.

Deferred gifts through wills and planned giving, he says, should total $100 million over the next 25 years.

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