What's the Hippo in Your Nonprofit?

Photo via the Cincinnati Zoo Blog

Photo via the Cincinnati Zoo Blog

“We tell people, you have to find your Fiona, whatever that may be, and just tell the story.”

Source: New York Times

Like all the great divas (e.g. Madonna, Adele, Beyonce), the newest social media star only goes by a first name: Fiona. However, this female is a bit different as she's a baby hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Weighing in at 500 pounds - and growing - she's a BIG star. And it's reflected in her following.

“We have tried to say we are going to stop posting about her every day, but we get 100,000 commenters telling us they must have updates," the zoo told the New York Times. "Everyone is so invested now.”

There's so much we can learn from this young superstar and the team of people at the zoo that are following her every move.

We all have a hippo. But it's not always, well, a hippo. “Now we are getting asked at conferences about how we did it,” said a zoo spokesperson. “We tell people, you have to find your Fiona, whatever that may be, and just tell the story.”

Finding your hippo leads to opportunities you never thought of. Fiona has appeared on The Tonight Show, has her own fat-shaming ice cream (Chunky-Chunk Hippo), t-shirts with her face on them, a children's book and the list goes on and on. She even has her own beer. After pledging to donate 25 percent of all beer sales to Fiona’s treatment, a brewery has now raised over $30,000. A national brand may be on the horizon. Would you wear a polo shirt with a hippo logo on it? Yeah, so would I!

Finding (and promoting) your hippo doesn't happen by itself. The Cincinnati Zoo has a staff of five that captures Fiona's every move. You may not need five people, but you won't accomplish much without staff and resources.

Hippos aren't forever. Fiona almost didn't survive as she was born six weeks early. Even if you find your hippo, it doesn't hurt to have a spare to the heir. Still, the zoo documented the good and bad on social media. Don't stop telling your hippo's story - even if you hit a few bumps.

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