T-Shirt Fundraising Helps Bring Hippos Back to the Cincinnati Zoo

Never Underestimate the Power of a T-Shirt!

A hippo in a t-shirt and a t-shirt with a hippo on it. A fundraiser for the Cincinnati Zoo
Hippos and t-shirts, a great combo. Photos Courtesy of Booster.

The Dream

Thane Maynard, executive director of the Cincinnati Zoo, had an ambitious and clear vision for the zoo when he first proposed an 8-acre exhibit called Africa.

“Africa is what most people think of when they picture wild animals in their natural habitat,” said Thane in a news release. “We want them [zoo visitors] to experience their own African safari – one that they can enjoy in the near future and remember for a lifetime.”

Throughout a multi-year effort to recreate the African safari, zoo supporters have had one crowning goal: to bring hippos back to the zoo. Hippos haven’t called the Cincinnati Zoo home since 1999.

Completion of the first four phases of the project has created new homes for lions, impalas, gazelles, ostriches, pelicans and many other animals.  But local wildlife lovers are looking forward to a large, new addition: two Nile hippopotamus.

The hippo exhibit is the last phase of the project, which will be completed next year.

Besides the hippo exhibit, there will be a play area nearby with rocks to climb, ropes to shimmy up, and hippo sculptures just waiting for their photo opp moments with happy kids.

The Challenge

As always, the challenge was money. The zoo was less than one percent from reaching its $34 million goal for the decade-long project.

In need of a creative way to motivate supporters to fund the play area, the zoo turned to Booster, a social fundraising platform that allows do-gooders to support their favorite causes by selling t-shirts they design.

The zoo promoted the shirts to its supporters on Facebook and via email. The response was as big as a hippo! Supporters bought 1,726 tees that raised $23,290.

“I think the design of the shirt really struck a chord with people,” said Andrew Moss, President of Booster. “Designers at Booster and the zoo worked on creating a family-friendly design.”

Because the tee supported the funding of a play space, the zoo chose several youth and kids’ sizes for all ages.

Could a hippo wear a tee when they return to the Cincinnati Zoo next year?

“That would need to be one skinny hippo,” said Moss. “Right now our largest size is 3XL. I think we’ll have to settle for a hippo on a shirt, instead of a hippo wearing one.”