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ATL Business Chronicle

Column: Zoo working to raise $4.3 million for expansion by June 30 deadline

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 19, 2016

Zoo Atlanta has been hard at work raising money – announcing another $7 million in new gifts — toward its “A Grand New View: Elephants, Events and Expansion” campaign.

Zoo Atlanta has been hard at work raising money – announcing another $7 million in new gifts — toward its “A Grand New View: Elephants, Events and Expansion” campaign.

Zoo leaders are busy trying to match a $20 million challenge grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation before June 30. It still has to raise $4.3 million before it can declare victory.

The new gifts include a $3 million donation from an anonymous donor, which is the third largest capital campaign gift in the Zoo’s history.

And Zoo Atlanta has received four additional $1 million gifts. Those giving $1 million each include: the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; the Gary W. Rollins Foundation; the Marcus Foundation; and the Zeist Foundation.

They join previously announced $1 million donors: the Delta Air Lines Foundation, the Georgia Power Foundation, the Kendeda Fund and longtime Zoo supporters David and Cecelia Ratcliffe.

“I feel very good about where we are,” said Raymond King, president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta. “But I don’t want our donors to confuse our success with the finish line. We need the continued support of the community to reach our goal.”

To fully match the Woodruff challenge, King said the Zoo still needs to raise $4.3 million. He hopes gifts will come from donors at all levels — large or small.

Originally, the Zoo had a projected budget of $38.1 million to revamp the Cyclorama building into an event space overlooking a new African savanna, to expand the grounds for the Zoo’s African elephants and giraffes, and to transform the entrance by demolishing the administration building and creating a grand entry plaza from Cherokee Avenue.

Thanks to the Woodruff challenge, the campaign is now $40 million, and if that’s reached, the additional $2 million will go toward the Zoo’s endowment, which now stands at less than $6 million.

The campaign is a result of the Atlanta History Center receiving a $10 million gift that was aimed at protecting the Cyclorama painting, which is being restored before it moves to its new home in Buckhead.

“I’ve done a lot of fundraising in my career,” King said. “So far, this has been the easiest campaign I’ve ever done. It has resonated because it touched multiple parts of the city and multiple organizations.”

Meanwhile King said the Zoo is enjoying a record membership year with nearly 40,000 members, and its attendance is at 925,000, the highest level ever with the exception of the year when it opened the Panda Exhibit.

Hands on Atlanta

Gina Simpson, who has been president and CEO of Hands On Atlanta for the past eight years, will be stepping down in early March.

“I’ve been selected for a major leadership role in my home state of Alabama that will allow me to continue my passion of working to benefit children and families,” she wrote in an email. “I will be able to provide more details in the coming weeks. Hands On Atlanta is stronger and more vibrant than ever and will continue to be a major force in our community, positively affecting children’s education, youth development, and family self-sufficiency, through new and existing programing. It has been a great honor to be part of this amazing organization and this amazing community.”

Jay Bernath, board chair of Hands On Atlanta, wrote in an email that Simpson “leaves the organization in a very good place.”

Bernath said Hands On Atlanta “is stronger and more vibrant than ever.” He promised that the organization would continue to be a major force in the community — “positively affecting children’s education, youth development and family self-sufficiency.”

Simpson’s last day will be March 5, and the board already has named Cindy Abel, a current advisory board member and former board vice chair, to serve as interim CEO while it conducts a search for a permanent CEO. The board has hired Theisen Consulting to help conduct the CEO search and recruit candidates.

Carter Center Board of Councilors

Liz Blake, who retired as a senior vice president of Habitat for Humanity International at the end of 2014, has been named chair of the Carter Center’s Board of Councilors for 2016.

The board has 239 members, who serve as a leadership advisory group for the Carter Center.

“Liz has demonstrated a sincere commitment to our mission since she joined the Board of Councilors in 2012,” said Ambassador Mary Ann Peters, CEO of the Carter Center. “We look forward to working even more closely with her in this new leadership role.”

Blake will follow outgoing chair Martha Brooks, a board director of Bombardier, Jabil and CARE USA; and past chair Dennis Lockhart, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.


The board of Southface, a nonprofit leader promoting sustainable communities, has elected three new members to its board:

Tyrone Rachal, principal of Red Rock Global and president of Red Rock Global Capital Partners. Prior to joining Red Rock, Rachal served as managing director of redevelopment at Invest Atlanta;

MaKara Rumley, senior advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency, a presidential appointee. Previously Rumley was an environmental justice attorney and coordinator with Green Law; and

Jo Ann Herold, vice president and chief marketing officer of Interface Inc. Herold is the company’s brand champion, charged with harmonizing the Interface brand around the world and across multiple platforms.

Along with the addition of the three new board members, Southface has selected a new chair — Barry Goldman, senior vice president and general counsel at Acuity Brands Lighting, Inc.; a new vice chair — John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation; and a new treasurer — Chris Boyle, senior director of financial planning and analysis for Cox Automotive.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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