I am privileged to be on the Arts & Cultural team here at Blackbaud as an account manager for accounts in the western region of the U.S. I love meeting with our customers and hearing about their missions. Most recently I was able to meet and learn from several of the best and brightest at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums annual conference in Salt Lake City. I left so inspired that I wanted to share a few of the learnings I picked up:

Apart from chatting with old and new friends at our booth in the expo hall, my favorite part of the event was getting to attend sessions about member loyalty presented by Steve Sullivan, Associate Director of Membership and Digital Sales at Woodland Park Zoo and social media by Alyssa Pacaut, Membership Manager at Aquarium of the Pacific. (And I’m especially proud that both of these innovators are members of the Blackbaud Arts & Cultural family!)

Steve’s session was entitled A Different Kind of Member Loyalty Program. Here are the top things I learned:

  • Why do traditional loyalty programs SUCK? Because they are based on transactional connections, when they should be based on emotional connections.
  • Who does it well? Harley Davidson, Apple and sports teams.
    • Example: Seattle Seahawks / Texas A&M’s “12th man” – this type of messaging makes the game about the fans.
  • Whatever your organization, look to create joy: like the feeling you got as a child when you saw your favorite animal at the zoo.

So with that in mind, Steve shared how his team at the Woodland Park Zoo created joy through a simple email and call campaign. He shared that their research shows that unless members have visited at least 3 times in the past year, they often feel that they’ve not gotten enough value out of the membership and may not renew. Solution? Make them want to visit more!

  1. First, they emailed first year members to let them know what was going on at the zoo.
  2. Second, they found a POS that allows them to track member visits.
  3. Third, they picked up the phone & started making appreciation calls. No ask, just thanks!

It was as easy as 1-2-3!

And I can’t forget my other favorite session, Getting Social with Social Media , which I thought was a nice compliment to capturing the “joy of being a member”. At Aquarium of the Pacific, they’ve created a social media campaign that champions their members, completely sourced by member photos! They simply asked members to post photos using their hashtag.

Check out these results:

  • 30,000+ likes
  • 14% increase in member visits year over year
  • Over 1,000 photos that capture the joy of visiting the aquarium!

Both of these sessions reminded me why I love the arts and cultural market. I am so privileged to work with (and learn from) such JOYFUL organizations!

As you can see, it was certainly an impactful and motivating conference! And next month, the learning continues when MaryBeth McNamee, Annual Giving Coordinator at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium shares her crowdfundraising tips for success! Make sure to put this on your calendar (register here!). See you there!


Amanda Jarvis, Arts and Cultural client Account Manager at Blackbaud, is passionate about helping her customers leverage technology to achieve their missions. When you can’t find Amanda mingling with the giraffes or admiring the Chihuly installations during customer visits, you can likely find her painting her own Charleston sunsets, running half-marathons, or jumping at every opportunity to travel and immerse herself in other cultures.

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