From the Executive Director's Desk

A Path Forward

April 2, 2021

It's been an incredibly busy month for the FONZ team. Since we announced the dissolution of our partnership with the Zoo in February, we've been working to transition over some responsibilities, like our membership program, and we're cleaning out our office spaces at the Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

So much of the transition and departing work is filled with sadness—and with nostalgia. Sixty-three years in operation leads to quite a lot of memorabilia, which has slowed the clean-up process down as the team stops to reminisce about this event, or that camp, or a particularly heart-warming letter from years in the past

But this transition work is also energizing as we look ahead to the future of FONZ.

It's exciting to think about what this little organization can become to help save endangered animals and educate children and the community about wildlife conservation. We are working right now with McKinsey consultants, who have offered their time to us at no charge. I'm meeting regularly with conservation experts around the country to identify the best niche for our future that's unique, compelling and meaningful. And we've received some incredibly valuable input from you, our friends, in this process.

Here are some of the things we've learned.

    Our members have told us:

  • They loved us for our connection to the Zoo, but are excited about what we can become
  • They would like us to stay close to our legacy work of helping animals in need around the globe, and inspiring the children of D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and beyond
    • If we can keep putting on great events and educational activities, even outside the Zoo, they’d like us to continue

    Experts around the country have told us:

  • To make a meaningful impact while standing out from the crowd of current conservation and education organizations, we will need a distinct reason for being
  • There's a need to increase support for women and other underrepresented groups working in conservation science
  • There's a need and passion to help children see themselves as conservationists, both through day-to-day behavior and potentially through conservation science careers
    • This is particularly true for girls and for children in underserved communities
  • There's value in connecting supporters directly with the scientists in the field, emphasizing visibility, connections, and accountability

We're taking all of this terrific guidance and using it to shape the mission and strategy for the new organization, which is yet to be named. We'll tackle the name once we determine our path forward.

I will keep you posted every step of the way, and I am here and open to any of your ideas at

Meanwhile, I hope you and your families are safe and well.