Soldiers get a lesson in snake safety,” US Army Africa

February 9, 2020; Patch (Austin, TX)

This is the time of year when people look for that very special, very unusual gift for those they love…but what about for those they hate? When Valentine’s Day rolls around, and you stare at the frilly cards and heart shaped boxes of candy and cute stuffed animals—full disclosure, I have given a stuffed gorilla that sings “Wild Thing”—it is clear that this holiday is meant for those in love. But what about those that have broken up? And what about the recently dumped? Or un-amicably divorced? What’s in this holiday for them?

Fear not! The fundraising team at the San Antonio Zoo has the answer. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the zoo has launched its “Cry Me A Cockroach” event. This is a way for participants to share their feelings for an ex-partner in a unique way. For a $5 donation to the zoo, they can purchase a cockroach named for that very special person and watch it being fed to one of the zoo’s animals on Facebook Live. If a cockroach seems to be just a bit small for what you are feeling, you can up the donation and go for something bigger.

“If your ex was a snake, you can even name a rat after them, and we will feed it to a reptile for $25!” zoo officials wrote on social media to promote their higher-tier option.

Of course, there are privacy concerns here, so only first names will be used, and the names will be submitted anonymously. After all, even when feeding cockroaches and rats named for one’s exes, there are some feelings involved. But those who donate will receive a certificate that they can display on their own social media platforms to demonstrate their vengeful, despicable attitude toward rats and roaches and their former partners.

And what can the nonprofit community learn from all of this? After Valentine’s Day, it will be interesting to know just how profitable this vengeful venture was for the San Antonio Zoo. It might just spark some other creative fundraisers that bring in dollars without a lot of event planning. A few similar ventures come to mind. The International Star Registry is a bona fide company that will name a real star after you for a price. It fits into the same “naming” concept as the zoo adopted, but it is much sweeter than been fed to snakes. And then there was the beloved radio host in Chicago, Wally Phillips, who years ago raised money for a citywide children’s charity by having people pay for “naming rights” for the pigeons that wandered the streets and parks of the city. Certificates were included. It became perfect birthday, anniversary, or special occasion gift. Many a Chicagoan could be seen looking for “their” pigeon.

So, nonprofits, pay attention. Sometimes in the craziest and most far-fetched ideas, there lurks a way to draw attention to your organization and raise funds. And you may not ever have to touch a cockroach, rat, or pigeon!—Carole Levine