Nonprofit Spotlight: Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo (FOSAZ)

Nonprofit Spotlight: Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo (FOSAZ)


We recently interviewed Cathi Decker, Executive Director of The Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo (FOSAZ). 


Read our Q & A below!  



Tell us more about Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo?   

FOSAZ is a nonprofit corporation organized to develop financial support, growth and community awareness for the Santa Ana Zoo.

The Friends of Santa Ana Zoo (FOSAZ) was founded in 1972 by a group of volunteers who bonded with the common goal of enhancing the Zoo’s services and providing financial support for the needs of the animals. We handle fundraising for the zoo, manage the Zoo’s membership program, gift shop, rentals, rides and events in order to raise funds for Zoo improvements and animal care. We also write grants and provides public relations and marketing for the Zoo. 

Over the years, the Friends have raised and provided funding for Amazon’s Edge, the $4.5 million dollar Crean Family Children’s Farm, the Colors of the Amazon Aviary, the $1.2 million dollar Tierra de las Pampas Exhibit, and raised the roof on a variety of primate exhibits. The Friends also fund items that are not included in the City budget such as tree-trimming, medical equipment, staff development and animal enrichment materials. 

Why did you decide to open an endowment fund with OCCF?   

We created an Endowment Fund at OCCF because as a nonprofit, we wanted to build operational sustainability. We needed to separate our long-term funding efforts from our annual budget, so opening an Endowment fund provided us with a perfect vehicle for savings and generating funds through prudent investments. 

What challenges have you faced in building your endowment? 

It took some time for us to determine the best way to build our endowment and promote those options to potential donors. Our primary endowment funding sources have come from large estate gifts and from revenue generated from our operations put back into the endowment.  

Do you have any strategies in place to continue to grow your endowment fund? 

We take a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 approach with large gifts, placing 1/3 in our operating budget for immediate needs, 1/3 for projects that are 1-5 years out, and 1/3 into our Endowment.  Through the years, we have built a system that works and has increased our Endowment from our initial contribution of $1,000 to almost $1M at this time.  

What do you see as the biggest opportunities for building your endowment? 

Our focus on legacy gifts continues to be our priority. We have a Legacy Task Force who oversees the program for our Zoo Heritage Society. Board Members are actively involved with our endowment fundraising efforts and lead the group. 

What kind of marketing materials have you used to share the opportunity to invest? Have you used OCCF’s customized tool, Endowing Our Future? 

We have a brochure that is used to market our Endowment through our Zoo Heritage Society and have placed signage throughout the Zoo. We also promote the endowment on our website which you can view here 


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