Valentine’s Day approaches and that means many nonprofits will be running campaigns. Some fun ones, some lovey-dovey ones. But all in the name of connecting with supporters and raising money.

Then there’s the “Cry Me A Cockroach” campaign from the San Antonio Zoo.

Think It Through

The San Antonio Zoo team came up with a “fun” concept for a Valentine’s Day fundraiser: People can pay $5, name a cockroach after their ex lover/partner/spouse and zoo staff will feed that cockroach to one of the animals.

For the big-spenders, you can pay $25 to name a rat after your ex and have the rat fed to a snake.

But wait, there’s more!

The zoo will be live streaming the feedings on Facebook Live. Every “donor” will receive a certificate to share on social media.

Way to go San Antonio Zoo marketing team! You came up with a clever and fun fundraising event. People will be able to share it on social. And you’ll be incorporating live video into it, so people can watch the feedings (and presumably learn more about the zoo and maybe allow the zoo staff to “upsell” people on giving more donations). Heck, even CNN picked up the story!


Or not.

When launching a campaign, it’s always good to have some outside eyes take a look at it first to find potential pitfalls that will cause backlash and negative sentiment towards the organization. It would’ve been nice if the San Antonio Zoo had done this before publicizing the “Cry Me A Cockroach” campaign.

Why? Because it’s mean. Petty. Spiteful. Vengeful.

Taking The Fun Out Of Fundraising

taking the fun out of fundraising

There’s nothing fun about this campaign. At all.

As a sector, we champion those who need help most. Advocate for compassion and understanding. We work our asses off to ensure people get along and live in harmony and peace. We talk about kids in cages while also advocating for the rights of animals.

Apparently that compassion ends when it comes to naming a cockroach after your ex. That’s fun!

Lemme ask 2 questions:

  • I’m divorced. What if I named a cockroach after my ex and posted it for all to see on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? How would my kids feel? How would YOU feel if you saw me post that?! You’d consider me to be a petty and disgusting individual.
  • Let’s ramp it up: For $100, the zoo will feed baby penguins to seals. Great idea! Oh wait- then you have a problem with it??? Why- because it’s a penguin and not a creepy cockroach?!

Sorry folks. It’s just nasty. You might hate and despise your ex. But when we start calling people cockroaches…

Politics aside, all of you who railed against President Trump when he tweeted out about immigrants who “infest” the U.S.? When you hear the word “infest,” does the word “cockroach” not come to mind?!

Like I said, this campaign is not fun. It’s the opposite of what the nonprofit sector stands for and advocates for.

I Know How Tough It Is

To the staff at the San Antonio Zoo:

I KNOW how hard you work to raise money!!! I’m well aware of the day-to-day slog of trying to find funds to keep the zoo open, to pay staff and take care of the animals. I’ve been in the trenches and still am for my clients.

But just because an idea sounds like a great one doesn’t mean it is.

You might think I’m in “get off my lawn” mode. And some of you may have thought: OK Boomer. I’m fine with that. But I’m not ok with a nonprofit fundraising campaign full of hate, not love; full of heartlessness, not of compassion.

I’m just one person and just one voice. But I do hope that you’ll reconsider and remove the campaign.

Valentine’s Day is about love. “Cry Me A Cockroach” is about hate. You can do better.

P.S. Wanna see a campaign that shows love, compassion, togetherness and solidarity with our fellow humans? Maybe watch this video from the South Yorkshire Fire Department in the UK. Now THAT’S how you do a campaign!

Does your organization need a fresh set of eyes to analyze your current marketing strategy? Let us help! We’ll provide a spark for your social media presence, check-up on your communications and give your website a big boost. This is the marketing kickstart your organization needs!

Hey nonprofit pro! I publish an e-newsletter Monday-Thursday which delivers content to your Inbox that’s relevant for any nonprofit role you fill. Expand horizons with one click. Subscribe today!