Volunteer army comes to ZSL’s rescue- 16th Aug, 2021
June 2020 was an exciting time for English zoos as the go-ahead to re-open outdoor areas was finally given by the Government after a three-month national lockdown and unprecedented enforced venue closures. Whilst a huge relief, it also presented logistical challenges for the team, who had to re-open under a necessary but very tight set of covid-safety measures and restrictions.
ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo re-opened on 15th June 2020 and international conservation charity ZSL was incredibly grateful to their loyal volunteers, who returned to support their visitors from day one. However, they soon realised that to ensure their visitors had both a safe and enjoyable zoo visit, they needed more help.
Their “Volunteer Heroes Needed! campaign” was launched, appealing to the nation for an army of volunteers to help keep the two zoos open. They used a range of PR and marketing strategies alongside existing and new partnerships with local education providers and local council to diversify their team and support their Diversity and Inclusion programme. They adjusted their volunteer engagement procedures and offered opportunities to appeal to a broader audience, but especially their local communities and those affected by the economic downturn. They worked more collaboratively than ever before. As such, they received unprecedented levels of interest from over 3200 individuals - more than they could accommodate! Their first new recruits were offering a welcoming and covid-19 secure experience for ZSL’s zoo visitors alongside the existing team within 6-8 weeks of re-opening. In the months after re-opening, ZSL received lots of positive feedback from zoo visitors on their experience and interactions with visitor-facing staff and volunteers.
ZSL submitted this project to the BIAZA Awards Professional Capacity Building category for 2021 and won a Bronze award.