Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Firm That’s Working with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Retained to Make Recommendations on Most Effective Partnership Structure between Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo and its Future Fundraising Partner

March 27, 2019
Ariana Vruwink 608-267-8823
County Executive

        Henry Vilas Zoo Adds to Growing Team of Independent, Outside Experts to Inform Best Practices


Schultz & Williams, Inc. (S&W), a Philadelphia-based firm that’s worked with many of the country’s finest zoos and aquariums, has agreed to support the Henry Vilas Zoo in developing a new fundraising structure based on national best practices. S&W’s Rick Biddle, Managing Director of Strategic Management & Business Consulting, and his planning team work with the National Zoo and other leading AZA institutions to create viable and sustainable organizational and operating models and plans of action. The S&W team will provide recommendations on an organizational framework for the most effective means of cultivating and engaging the community in supporting the future fundraising initiatives for Dane County’s free zoo.


“Taking the opportunity to step back, see how things have been done, talk about what’s worked and what could go better, while reviewing how others do this type of work is important,” County Executive Joe Parisi said. “Out of challenge comes opportunity and we have the chance to make sure we are doing what’s absolutely best for the animals, our zookeepers, and our community’s shared values of conservation and education.”


Schultz & Williams (S&W) is the leading management, organizational, strategic and business planning firm for Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) institutions. The firm has worked with over 100 AZA institutions with budgets ranging from less than $1,000,000 to well over $85,000,000, and attendance ranging annually from 75,000 to over 3,000,000 visitors. S&W’s clients include the Bronx Zoo, Dallas Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, and Woodland Park Zoo.


The S&W team will partner with Mike Gill, a national zoo expert with over 40 years of experience who’s worked on roughly 80 zoo and aquarium projects—including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Milwaukee County Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, Bronx Zoo, and Central Park Wildlife Center. Gill has worked on several master plans for zoos and aquariums—including the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort in the United Arab Emirates and the Granby Zoological Gardens in Canada.


The consultants will review the organizational structure, financial success and the financial support allocations and strategies between comparable zoos and their respective support organizations. When this work is complete, Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo will have in-depth information on best practice structures and relationships between publicly-funded, free zoos and their support organizations.


The recommendations of these nationally renowned zoo experts will help the Zoo to seek proposals from those interested in becoming its support and funding partner. The county will issue this request for proposals, prepared by Schultz & Williams and Gill Consulting, LLC later this summer. The county has relayed its genuine hope to the Zoo Society that it will participate in that upcoming process.