This year, Como Friends celebrate its 15th anniversary as the behind-the-scenes fundraising force at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. From raising the roof on the Visitor Center that first united the historic Zoo and Conservatory, to improving animal care in progressive new habitats like Polar Bear Odyssey, Como Friends has raised more than $35 million in private support to preserve Como while protecting the “open door” policy that provides free admission to millions of Minnesotans every year.
Did You Know?
- Como Friends was created by the merger of several different community and docent groups, all committed to preserving Como’s unique resources for the next generation.
- The most recent Como Friends capital campaign raised $8.45 million from the community to create the award-winning Polar Bear Odyssey habitat, and to unveil The Ordway Gardens wing.
- Como Friends’ advocacy efforts at the Legislature helped to leverage $500,000 in funding for Como from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund over the next two years.
“That commitment to free admission says so much about this community,” says Ann Mulholland, Vice President of Grants and Programs at The Saint Paul Foundation and a former deputy mayor of St. Paul. “At a time when there are so many disparities and barriers to access, it’s nice to have one place in the heart of our community that absolutely everyone can experience, and where everyone can be equal.”
As a supporter of Como Friends, you can take credit for everything that’s growing at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory—including community support that’s increased the capacity of our fundraising organization by 50 percent in the last five years alone. In 2014, Como Friends enjoyed a record-breaking year, investing more than $1.9 million in priorities at Como—an annual contribution that rivals our yearly investments during our most recent capital campaign.
“If Como were simply reliant on city funding, incremental things would occur. But if you want to be creative and do something really bold like building The Ordway Gardens wing, or Polar Bear Odyssey, you need the drive to come from the community itself,” Mulholland says. “Como Friends is bringing together public and philanthropic investment to transform Como and keep it relevant for another 100 years.
“Como is one of the great jewels of the city, and Como Friends, I do believe, is the campus’s greatest asset.”