Whose zoo is it, anyway?

Our Atlanta correspondent writes:

The Nonprofiteer might (and then again might not!) want to know about the story [September 18] in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch…about Anheuser-Busch commandeering the local zoo for a full-day private party, a Sunday no less.  [For an apology from zoo leadership, click here.  For citizen responses–ranging from "Who cares?" to "Anyone complaining had better be a donor to the zoo him/herself"–click here.] The company paid an estimated $80,000 to $600,000 for this privilege….[It turns out to have been $500,000.]  Zoo staffers have kindly been assigned to turn the public away before they pay $9 to enter the parking facility.  Apparently this particular corporate-donor grab is unprecedented in the history of municipal zoos: Lincoln Park Zoo, the National Zoo, and others will occasionally let corporados have a couple of hours before closing at the end of the day, but that’s it.  The St. Louis zoo gets some government subsidy, part of a newish property tax assessment, but runs mostly on ticket revenue and contributions.

This is a fine (because extreme) example of the unavailability of free lunches (or free beers), as well as an example of the disadvantages of having a public good like a zoo provided by a private entity, even a nonprofit one.  Whose job is it, anyway, to make sure that anybody’s children, and not just those of corporate employees, get to see animals?

As for the question whether it’s worth closing the zoo for the $2 million raised by its annual benefit event but not for the $.5 million generated by the Anheuser Busch event, we’re reminded of the old joke: a man asks a woman, "Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?" and she says, "Sure!"  "How about for a dollar?"–"What kind of a girl do you think I am?" she answers, outraged.  "We’ve settled that," he says, "now we’re just arguing about the price."

Find a nonprofit that doesn’t have its price, and The Nonprofiteer will buy you a beer.  Budweiser, of course.


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