Friends of the Zoo, Inc. of Kansas City, MO dba Kansas City Zoo
6800 Zoo Dr
Kansas City MO 64132
Web and Phone Contact
Telephone (816) 5951234
Mission Statement
The Kansas City Zoo connects people to each other and the natural world to promote understanding, appreciation, and conservation.


CEO/Executive Director Mr. Randy Wisthoff
Board Chair Mr. Chuck Caisley
Board Chair Company Affiliation KCP&L
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 1975
Former Names
Kansas City Zoological Gardens
Financial Summary
Revenue Expense Area Graph

Comparing revenue to expenses shows how the organizations finances fluctuate over time.

Source: IRS Form 990

Net Gain/Loss:    in 
Note: When component data are not available, the graph displays the total Revenue and/or Expense values.
Mission Statement The Kansas City Zoo connects people to each other and the natural world to promote understanding, appreciation, and conservation.


Background Statement

In 1909, the City set aside 60 acres in Swope Park for the development of a zoo, originally named the Kansas City Zoological Garden. In 1959, a group of civic leaders established Friends of the Zoo (FOTZ), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving and supporting Zoo facilities, animals, exhibits and educational programs. In 1975, Friends of the Zoo was incorporated by the state of Missouri. January of 2002 began a new era for the Zoo when a partnership between Friends of the Zoo and the City of Kansas City Missouri was formed. Today, the Kansas City Zoo is operated by Friends of the Zoo, while the Zoo’s property is owned by the City of Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Zoo has more than 1,700 animals and serves more than 900,000 visitors annually, including more than 60,000 children through educational programming and more than 30,000 Friends of the Zoo memberships. The Zoo holds nearly 100 public, family-oriented, special events and between 60-70 private events annually. As a leader in wildlife education and conservation, the Zoo participates in both local and global wildlife conservation and research efforts.

Impact Statement

As part of the Kansas City Zoo’s strategic plan, the Zoo will continue to develop our brand as a world-class destination and global leader among family attractions. In 2016, the Kansas City Zoo broke attendance records with 1,021,137 annual visitors from the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area, the region and beyond. The Zoo continues to serve nearly 60,000 children through educational programming and over 30,000 Friends of the Zoo Member households.

The Kansas City Zoo’s Postcard to Adventure program, designed to give residents of Clay and Jackson County four complementary visits to the Kansas City Zoo each year, continues in its second successful year as an attendance-driver for Zoological Tax District residents.

The Zoo continues to develop innovative experiential exhibits and first-rate guest amenities by implementing a capital improvement plan that supports 5-year growth and is consistent with conservation focus. Two renovated exhibits opened at the Kansas City Zoo in the 2015-2016 season, including the Koala Flats in the previous fallow deer feeding station. The Three Billy Goats Gruff Yard, opened in March 2017, allows guests to interact and form a connection with the natural world and educating them on the importance of respecting and understanding animals. The Zoo also improved current pathways in the area with additional concrete and rock work to ensure the area meets the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design.

As the Kansas City Zoo fulfills its mission to connect people to each other and the natural world, the Zoo’s conservation, education and scientific study initiatives will highlight signature programs that link to and promote the Zoo’s brand and strengthen its impact.

Needs Statement The most pressing support for the Zoo includes funding for capital expenses to continue to grow the number of animal exhibits and on-grounds visitor improvements; endowment; educational programming and community outreach; growth of the Friends of the Zoo membership program; and to further develop the Zoo’s efforts in local and global wildlife conservation and research.
Service Categories
Zoos & Aquariums
Protection of Endangered Species
Areas of Service
MO - Jackson County
MO - Clay County
MO - Platte County
KS - Wyandotte County
KS - Johnson County
MO - Eastern Jackson Co
MO - Jackson County Urban Core
KS - Wyandotte County Urban Core
CEO/Executive Director/Board Chair Statement

2016 was a year of many successes for the Kansas City Zoo. For the first time in the Zoo’s history, one million visitors passed through the gates in a single season. Out of the 235 Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ accredited institutions, only 25-30 reach or surpass the 1,000,000 attendance mark each year.

We strive to make annual capital improvements to maintain and enhance current exhibits each year starting with our remodeled Discovery Barn, Tropics Building and Promenade in 2006. Following these improvements, we added the carousel, the African Sky Safari, an additional Tram for transportation to Africa and overhauled one of the trains. Polar Bear Passage opened in 2010 and after the Zoological District passed in Clay and Jackson Counties in 2011, we added the Helzberg Penguin Plaza in 2013, the Tuxedo Grill in 2014, the Orangutan Canopy in 2015 and the Koala Flats/Swamp Monkey Exhibit in 2016.

We continue to develop innovative exhibits to provide our guests with a world-class experience and first-rate amenities. Behind the scenes we’re analyzing exhibits that are a part of our Master Plan and we hope to make an announcement soon on our next big project for the 2018 season. We continue to identify smaller projects to improve the guest experience, including the new Three Bill Goats Gruff Yard opened in March 2017. Thank you to the Kansas City community for helping us reach the goal of one million visitors. This milestone is a tribute to all the support this city and the region provides year-round. - Randy Wisthoff, Executive Director/CEO

The milestones reached by this 109 year-old institution are owed to the dedication of the leadership team and staff. We are very excited to announce that Sean Putney, Senior Director of Zoological Operations has been accepted to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP). The goal of the ELDP is to impart the Zoo & Aquarium Executive Director Competencies, which are the behaviors, knowledge and skills needed to be most effective in this role. We strive to ensure all our employees receive training that will provide successful leadership development and encourage career growth. We aim to be a workplace of choice in the region while we continue to develop our brand as a world-class destination and global leader among family attractions. – Chuck Caisley, Board Chair

Description This program includes the conservation and care of the Zoo's collection of animals. Included in this program are animal breeding programs, animal collection programs and animal training programs.
Program Budget $6,000,000.00
Category Animal-Related, General/Other Zoological Parks & Aquariums
Population Served General/Unspecified, ,
Short-Term Success Positive comments about animal exhibits by Zoo visitors; and staff research and educational programs that provide better diagnostics and better therapeutics for the animals in the Zoo’s care and in the wild.
Long-Term Success Through the positive health and well-being of the Zoo’s animals; increased attendance at Zoo; and staff research and educational programs that provide better diagnostics and better therapeutics for the animals in the Zoo’s care and in the wild.
Program Success Monitored By Zoo attendance, annual animal reports, publications and presentations by staff at industry conferences.
Examples of Program Success Continued AZA accreditation and USDA licensure; Staff research found in 6-10 publications annually; Education programs for 10-12 students annually in veterinary medicine, veterinary technology and dental hygiene.
Description Programs offered to the Friends of the Zoo members include free admission to the Zoo year round, member special events and discounts, a member newsletter, and invitations to special FOTZ Member only events.
Program Budget $230,000.00
Category Animal-Related, General/Other Zoological Parks & Aquariums
Population Served General/Unspecified, ,
Short-Term Success Reaching our goal of 30,000 members in 2016.
Long-Term Success Continuing to grow our annual membership by 5-10% annually.
Program Success Monitored By Increase or decrease in memberships purchased as well as the retention and renewal of previous year's FOTZ Members.
Examples of Program Success

The FOTZ Membership program has increased in member household numbers consistently each year. Since 2008 the FOTZ Membership program has nearly doubled in overall size from 15,636 households to 30,000 in 2016.

Description Education Programs are formal learning opportunities related to the Kansas City Zoo’s collection with an emphasis in conservation education and college and career readiness standards. More than 118,000 children and adults participate in these programs annually. Education programs are offered at the Zoo as well as offsite.
Program Budget $450,000.00
Category Animal-Related, General/Other Zoological Parks & Aquariums
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years), Adults,
Short-Term Success Evaluation results from electronic surveys.
Long-Term Success Increased program attendance and requests.
Program Success Monitored By A comparison between pre-and post-program tests determine success of informal programming. ZooED and after school programs have outside evaluation conducted by UMKC. Customer satisfaction surveys are conducted for all programs.
Examples of Program Success
"My child is a HUGE fan of the camp.  This was the first one we have signed up for, but I hope it is note the last.  We are lucky to have found you!" - Safari Day Camp parent
"The teachers can't say enough about the program...We like the curriculum because we are taking advantage of a quality resource that is local and is also meaningful to our students." - Michelle Schmitz, Shoal Creek Principal, about the ZooED program 
Description With 192 regular volunteers and approximately 1240 annual volunteers, our volunteer programs work with individuals, families, community groups and corporations to facilitate learning and engagement about the Zoo both on-grounds and off and assist with public special events, among others.
Program Budget $8,000.00
Category Animal-Related, General/Other Zoological Parks & Aquariums
Population Served General/Unspecified, ,
Short-Term Success Attrition rate under 20% per year for regular volunteers. Exceeding demand levels for volunteers at special events and education programs.
Long-Term Success Increase volunteer participation with current volunteers by 10%. Increase participation in new volunteers to 10% above minimum expectation.
Program Success Monitored By Periodic surveys of volunteers, volunteer attrition rates, and volunteer hourly commitments.
Examples of Program Success
“Just wanted to let all of you know how much my children and I enjoyed our visit to the zoo on the 9th of July. The koalas were especially neat to see, and the volunteer that was working in there overseeing the exhibit was especially nice and had a lot of information on the koalas that she shared with my kids…” – Zoo guest
“I had a blast. Wouldn't have missed it for anything. 15,000.00 people! WOW!!” –Boo at the Zoo Volunteer
CEO Comments As we move forward to build a great Zoo for a great City, the diversity of programming to ensure the health and well-being of our animal collection as well as programming to engage our public to enjoy and support the Zoo will be crucial for our current and future success.
Executive Director/CEO
Executive Director Mr. Randy Wisthoff
Term Start Nov 2003

In September 2003, the Kansas City Zoo hired Randy Wisthoff as Executive Director / CEO after an extensive, nationwide search. Prior to taking the helm at Kansas City’s Zoo Wisthoff served the highly regarded Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE, for 26 years. 

On November 17, 2003—Wisthoff’s first day on the job—he was immediately presented the first of several requests, all essential to a flourishing, world-class zoological park. One of the most challenging was a request by the Friends of the Zoo board of directors to present a balanced budget for the 2004 season, a daunting undertaking. The Zoo had been managed at a deficit for both 2002 and 2003.
However, Wisthoff was up for the challenge. In 2004—less than a year later—with the full support of a determined and dedicated staff, Wisthoff reported a balanced budget. He has done so every year since. The Zoo has budgeted for 915,000 guests during the 2015 season. This number is up by nearly 230% since 2003, when Wisthoff arrived.
In addition to stabilizing the budget and securing a measure of financial security (Wisthoff spearheaded the campaign which culminated in the Zoo being designed a Kansas City Zoological District), Wisthoff has accomplished more than $65 million in capital improvements:


  • 2006 Discovery Barn
  • 2006 Peek-A-Boo Tree House
  • 2006 Zoo Promenade (short-cut to Africa)
  • 2007 Endangered Species Carousel
  • 2008 New Front Entrance
  • 2008 River Otter and Trumpeter Swan Exhibits
  • 2008 Zoo Learning Center
  • 2009 Tropics – An Indoor Rain Forest
  • 2010 Polar Bear Passage
  • 2013 Helzberg Penguin Plaza
  • 2014 Tuxedo Grill
  • 2015 Orangutan Canopy
  • 2016 Koala Flats/Swamp Monkey
  • 2017 Three Billy Goats Gruff Yard


Wisthoff resides in Lee’s Summit, MO, with his wife of more than 40 years, Barb. He is a Professional Fellow with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Conservation Ambassador for the Missouri Department of Conservation and serves as a board member for Zoo Conservation Outreach Group (ZCOG) as well as the Convention and Visitors Association in Kansas City, Missouri.

Co-CEO/Executive Director
Term Start 0
Compensation Last Year
Former CEOs
Ralph Waterhouse Jan 1987 - Dec 1991
Mark Wourms PhDJan 1992 - Aug 2003
Senior Staff
Title Chief Financial Officer

Title Director of Living Collections

Title Director of Education
Title Director of Animal Health
Title Director of Human Resources
Title Director of Facilities
Title Director of Guest Services
Title Director of Marketing
Title Director of Development
Paid Full-Time Staff 443
Paid Part-Time Staff 256
Volunteers 1200
Paid Contractors 0
Retention Rate 77%
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Non-Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Non-Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Plans & Policies
Organization Has a Fundraising Plan Yes
Organization Has a Strategic Plan Yes
Management Succession Plan Under Development
Organization Policy and Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistleblower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
External Assessment and Accreditations
American Zoos and Aquariums Association - Accreditation2011
United States Department of Agriculture - Organic Certifying Agent Accreditation2014
Cornerstone Award - Polar Bear PassageEconomic Development Corporation2012
Best Kid AttractionKansas City Convention & Visitor Bureau2012
Best Family Outing VenueIngram's2012
Best Charitable Event - JazzooIngram's2012
Best of KC - Best Benefit Party - JazzooPitch2014
Midwest Travel TreasureAAA2010
Silver Award - JazzooIngram's2011
Gold Award - Kids AttractionIngram's2011
Government Licenses
Is your organization licensed by the government? Yes
CEO Comments

Board Chair
Board Chair Mr. Chuck Caisley
Company Affiliation KCP&L
Term Oct 2014 to Oct 2018
Board Members
Ms. Karen Begelfer Sprint
Mr. Chuck Caisley KCP&L
Mrs. Sharon Cleaver Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City
Mr. Rod Crawford Glazer's Distributor
Mr. Wes Dixon Keywest Technologies
Mr. Chris Egan Service Management Group
Mr. Wesley Fields Bryan Cave LLP
Ms. Hayley Hanson Husch, Blackwell, Sanders
Mr. Howard Jacobson Paragon Capital Management, LLP
Mr. Mark Killen American Century Investments
Mrs. Gayle Krigel Community Volunteer
Mr. Todd LaSala Stinson Leonard Street, LLP
Mrs. Yvette Miceli Construction Broker, Inc.
Mr. Sal Montalbano PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP
Mr. John Myers Research Medical Center
Mr. Jim Rine UMB
Mr. Dean Rodenbough Hallmark Cards
Mrs. Melissa Roe Community Volunteer
Ms. Cici Rojas Central Exchange
Ms. Carla Sanders AMC Theaters
Ms. Trish Sexton Polsinelli, PC
Mrs. Kathy Smith Community Volunteer
Mr. Tom Waggoner 360 Architecture
Mr. Tom Wright Tom Wright Consulting
Mr. David Yeamans Burns & McDonnell
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 3
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 20
Hispanic/Latino 2
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 15
Female 10
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Board Meeting Attendance % 60%
Written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 6
Standing Committees
Advisory Board / Advisory Council
Board Development / Board Orientation
Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
CEO Comments The Zoo will continue to build a highly motivated Board of Directors and management team to provide direction in programming, animal management and conservation, visitor services, fundraising and financial management to ensure the successful growth of the Zoo.
Fiscal Year Start Jan 01, 2017
Fiscal Year End Dec 31, 2017
Projected Revenue $27,608,306
Projected Expenses $27,584,245
Endowment Value $962,115
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage 80
Form 990s
IRS Letter of Exemption
Foundation Comments
  • FY 2015, 2014, 2013: Financial data reported using IRS Form 990.
  • Foundation/corporate revenue line item includes contributions from individuals. 
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available) and revenue sources may not sum to total based on reconciliation differences. Revenue from foundations and corporations may include individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201520142013
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$11,267,004$11,763,627$12,809,411
Individual Contributions------
Investment Income, Net of Losses$381,339$555,350$428,797
Membership Dues$0$0$0
Special Events$694,640$607,266$575,149
Revenue In-Kind$18,229$18,229$116,202
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201520142013
Program Expense$23,633,779$22,654,284$29,092,851
Administration Expense$1,717,772$1,588,669$1,498,733
Fundraising Expense$775,443$782,900$590,958
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.041.070.85
Program Expense/Total Expenses90%91%93%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue6%5%4%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201520142013
Total Assets$12,424,960$12,043,843$12,340,221
Current Assets$3,777,525$3,308,147$4,173,322
Long-Term Liabilities$175,000$0$0
Current Liabilities$1,473,733$1,803,473$3,721,988
Total Net Assets$10,776,227$10,240,370$8,618,233
Short-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities2.561.831.12
Long-Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets1%0%0%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201520142013
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount -- -- --
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? Yes
Campaign Purpose The primary goal is to provide capital for new exhibits. The second goal is to raise funds to protect wildlife. The third goal is to secure the future of the Zoo by funding an operating endowment. The fourth goal is to provide funding to education efforts.
Goal $40,000,000.00
Dates Jan 2014 to Dec 2019
Amount Raised to Date $8,064,045.00 as of Apr 2015
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years Yes
Organization Comments

Organization Name Friends of the Zoo, Inc. of Kansas City, MO dba Kansas City Zoo
Address 6800 Zoo Dr
Kansas City, MO 64132
Primary Phone (816) 5951234
Contact Email
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Randy Wisthoff
Board Chair Mr. Chuck Caisley
Board Chair Company Affiliation KCP&L
Year of Incorporation 1975
Former Names
Kansas City Zoological Gardens