Every July, the Women’s Board of the Lincoln Park Zoo hosts the Zoo Ball, a unique event where Chicagoans can support the zoo and gather for an elegant, black-tie evening complete with cocktails, dinner and dancing alongside the animals . As Lincoln Park Zoo’s largest fundraiser, the event requires meticulous planning and execution. Denise Stefan Ginascol and Karen Eisenbart are the event chairs of the 2015 Zoo Ball. These tireless members of the Women’s Board work year-round to raise funds that will keep the zoo free to patrons as well as support its conservation and education efforts. This year the Zoo Ball’s funds will be used toward the construction of a new state-of-the-art education center.
Joining the Women’s Board in 1989, Ginascol spent many years working to keep the Board’s mission alive, serving as Women’s Board president from 2001 to 2003.
“Putting the fun in fundraising is my mantra,” she says. To plan such a large-scale event, Ginascol says it is important to be organized, detail-oriented, cooperative, and—as one of her professors at the Kellogg School of Management taught her—to always ask questions.
Karen Eisenbart, Ginascol’s “partner in crime,” joined the board in 2009 and displays that same strong attention to detail and passion for the zoo’s advancement. With a career in special education, Eisenbart took her students on many field trips to the Lincoln Park Zoo, where she witnessed the zoo’s educational impact first-hand. She says the zoo has the power to inspire the next generation of scientists. As event chair for this summer’s Zoo Ball, she says her educational background has helped her to identify each of the Women’s Board members’ talents and to steer the direction of the committee.
Preparation for the Lincoln Park Zoo Ball started over a year ago. This year’s theme, “Artic Blast,” was one of the first things to fall in place. Once the theme was set, committees formed and everything from logistics planning to fundraising began in earnest.
The Women’s Board meets weekly to check in on event details and progress. These meetings also serve as a time to create a positive team environment .“Understanding and motivating people is key to a successful organization,” Eisenbart says. “Have fun! Your enthusiasm is contagious.”
While the planning of the ball involves many moving pieces, the women agree that securing silent auction items is crucial to the event’s financial success. Incredible silent auction items—ranging from destination vacations to exciting Chicago events—were donated by members of the Women’s Board, the Board of Trustees and many loyal contributors such as the Four Seasons Chicago. (Note: Attendees of the Zoo Ball will receive a discounted rate at the Four Seasons that weekend.)
Eisenbart and Ginascol say they are fortunate to have such faithful donors and such a spectacular board supporting their efforts. They reiterate that without their strong, cohesive team, the Zoo Ball would not be as successful.
Ginascol’s advice: “Make a timeline. Budget. Ask your friends for help.”
Eisenbart’s advice: “Pairing an experienced board member with a new member is how you grow and improve your organization.”
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