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Why We Give


A Lifelong Investment

Richard was just nine years old when he and his friends used to walk to the Cincinnati Zoo. He especially loved watching the enormous elephants.

Did he know one day he would bring his kids and even his grandkids to gasp at the size of the elephants? Maybe not. But he and his family have never stopped visiting.

As they planned their financial future, Richard and his wife Catherine reflected on how fortunate they have been in life. They first considered putting the Zoo in their will, but then realized how much they would enjoy giving back now — while they can still watch their grandchildren recreate Richard's own happy childhood memories. So he chose to direct the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from his IRA to the Zoo when he turned 70 ½.

Statue plaque

A plaque mounted on the lioness statue now honors their generosity. It reads, "To all children, especially our grandchildren."

When the time comes for you to make decisions about your RMD, please consider using it to support the Zoo. You'll help millions of Cincinnatians continue to make wonderful family memories.

To learn more please contact Mary Ann Remke, MBA at 513-487-3342 or

Mary Jo Peairs

Still Going Strong After Retirement

Mary Jo Peairs has ridden her bike around the entire perimeter of the United States since she retired, but she always finds her way back to the Cincinnati Zoo. This unstoppable former Wyoming Schools kindergarten teacher inspires others in her role as a volunteer educator at the Zoo. She especially likes talking about our efforts to rescue and rehabilitate manatees.

"I love seeing the awe that the Zoo inspires in people," she says, "Especially when they see that there are things they can do in their own lives to help protect species."

With her passion for the Zoo and for others, Mary Jo made a simple decision when her financial adviser told her it was time to start taking the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from her IRA. She directed the RMD to the Zoo. By law, an IRA owner must start taking distributions at age 70 &frac; so that taxes get collected on IRA monies that have never been taxed. However, by sending all or a part of the RMD to a charity, taxes are avoided on the portion given to the charity — up to $100,000 dollars! Qualified charities get the entire gift for their programs, would-be taxes included.

Mary Jo has only two states to go before she has cycled across every state in the U.S. She keeps going strong, and through her RMD, helps ensure that her beloved Zoo does the same.

When the time comes for you to make decisions about your RMD, please consider using it to support the Zoo.

For more information contact Mary Ann Remke, MBA at 513-487-3342 or

Ellen and Bill Camm

Ellen and Bill Camm with Sally Alspaugh

Ellen and Bill Camm were honored with Voices of Giving Awards for their estate gifts to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, represented by Sally Alspaugh. The Voices of Giving Award is an event sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Planned Giving Council and offers the opportunity for honoring planned giving donors by member charities in Cincinnati.

The strongest relationships are built on shared interests. Married 40 years, Ellen and Bill Camm share not only an interest, but a true commitment to protecting cats of all stripes... and spots, and any other pattern! From their generous support of our Zoo's cheetah program to the rescue of their own feline companion, Minette, they work as a team to protect their favorite animals.

"The Cincinnati Zoo has always prided itself on its big cats," Bill says, "lions, tigers, cheetahs, all of them." And he should know; he's been visiting for around 60 years. His parents brought him to the Zoo as a child. Years later, he listened to the roars of lions from the on-call room in a nearby hospital where he was a medical resident.

Today, Ellen and Bill want to help protect the animals they've come to love because of the Zoo. "Many of these species will become extinct unless zoos step in and try to save them," Bill points out.

Ellen moved to Cincinnati in the 1970s and earned her MBA at the University of Cincinnati. She soon discovered the Zoo herself and the two have enjoyed watching it blossom over the years. "It's been very meaningful to our lives, so we help and support them however we can," they say.

Now retired from successful careers, Ellen in publishing and software, and Bill as an MD, the two reside near Naples, Florida. They travel back and forth between a home there and one in Northern Kentucky, always with Minette along for the trip.

Meanwhile, they keep a close eye on the Zoo through the blog and social media. They watched with fascination as three premature cheetah cubs fought to survive in 2016. Ellen remarks, "There are fewer cheetahs even than we thought. It's so important for zoos to help keep them from becoming extinct. They're beautiful animals, and they certainly need to be protected."

Ellen and Bill's support for the cheetah program dates back many years. "Catherine Hilker (founder of the Zoo's Cat Ambassador Program) has been a mainstay," recalls Bill. "We remember when Angel was an ambassador cheetah and Catherine would bring her to Zoo functions."

Ellen adds, "We like that the cheetah program goes into schools, so children can see the cats live and learn about where they live in Africa. Some people in this city have never stepped foot outside the city limits, so seeing these animals at the Zoo is the only chance they'll ever have."

Their passion for cats doesn't stop with the Zoo. They helped Miami University, Bill's alma mater, collaborate with the Zoo to preserve the remains of a beautiful snow leopard named Olga. Bill recalls, "When this opportunity came up, we gladly jumped in." The Zoo donated her remains to Miami. Biology students got to take part in the preservation, which the Camms helped fund. The university's Hefner Museum of Natural History now displays the remains in a naturalistic setting that allows students to learn about this majestic animal.

The couple also volunteered together at The Scratching Post, a cat rescue in Cincinnati. Both grew up with pets, and Bill says, "I think that's what drew me to the big cats when I would visit the Zoo as a child. I think that's just part of my DNA." Since moving to Florida, they've also become interested in the plight of the endangered Florida panther.

Ellen and Bill express pride in the Zoo's contribution to the city and to the world at large. Looking back, Bill notices, "Over the years the exhibits have changed... they're more environmentally friendly. The zoo is ever more dedicated to the health of the animals."

And, they're inspired by other supporters. "I look back at some of the major donors who have made the zoo even better than it was when I started going 60 years ago," Bill says. "There have been many generous Cincinnatians who have made a difference while they were alive and even after they passed away."

The Camms travel to other zoos whenever they can, and they'll continue to visit the Cincinnati Zoo regularly. "Last fall we had a wonderful tour behind the scenes," Ellen recalls. "The keepers were so generous with their time." Bill adds, "The Zoo has a lot of amazing employees who have dedicated their lives to helping animals have a better life."

We're grateful that "cat people" like Ellen and Bill care so much about giving those animals better lives, and about improving life in Cincinnati.

Diane Brown

1978 Zoo High School Graduate Wants to Give Back

I received a very pleasant message back in August from a 1978 graduate of what is now called our Zoo Academy. This is a program for juniors and seniors in high school to achieve their high school diploma through the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. She was in the second graduating class and recently came to tour the Zoo with me. She said so much has changed for the better including that the Zoo Academy’s program is now a college readiness program whereas when she attended it was more of a vocational program. Now we have designated classrooms, laboratories and even lockers for the students who attend! Back then, it was a very new offering through the Cincinnati Public School system and it is still going on today. We should be very proud of our program both for the Zoo’s foresight in this and for our community.

"I'd like to discuss estate options. I was a student of the Cinti Zoo Academy's 2nd class and would like to include the zoo in my estate planning. Although I have always had this in mind, I want to offer my whole hearted support of the zoo in light of the devastating loss of Harambe and excruciating decision the zoo staff had to make to save a child. I got to know a lot of the zoo staff as a student there. I know this was the worst conceivable option for them to make. Please feel free to contact me to discuss further. – Thanks."


On a recent trip to Naples, I called on two Zoo donors to say ‘Hi’ and to bring news from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Betsy and I enjoyed a lovely waterside lunch and we will stay in touch into the future.


A Story of Two Sisters

Marcella was born in 1918 and died ninety years later in 2008. She married but had no children. Her sister Marion was born in 1919 and passed away this year at age 97, never having married. Both sisters established Charitable Remainder Trusts with themselves as the income beneficiary for life and each other as remainder income beneficiaries. So when Marcella died in 2008, the income from her trust continued to pay to Marion until her death. They both listed the Zoo as one of three charitable beneficiaries to receive the proceeds upon the passing of the second to die. In addition to the Charitable Remainder Trusts, they set up revocable living trusts that also left income and assets to the remaining sister and ultimate distribution to the same three charities. So a month or so ago, the Zoo received four checks representing the final distributions from these four trusts from these two generous women.

Unfortunately, we never knew them. They must have come through our gates at some point in the past, but we were unaware of them. The moral of this story is that we will continue to strive for excellence in all we do so that our guests, like Marcella and Marion, will take note of the exceptional place that this is regardless of whether we meet them or not. We may never know when we are sharing our hospitality with unknown future benefactors.

donor couple

"Bill, our trust officer, spoke to us numerous times about setting up a charitable lead trust that would ultimately benefit our grandchildren. He suggested that we could fund a trust that would pay income each year to our favorite charities for the next 20 years and then distribute the principle to our grandchildren. This would help us to know that we have done something significant for our heirs, as well as for the charities that mean so much to us. From a tax benefit standpoint, we are moving significant assets to our grandchildren in a very tax favorable way. That made a lot of sense, so we did it, and possibly will do it again if the circumstances are right. We love this idea."
—Joe and Mary Brinkmeyer

I recently got a call from Sam who asked about a gift annuity for his wife who believes deeply in the mission of our Zoo. In fact, according to Sam she spends more time on the Zoo's web site than any other site! Sam just retired and has a deferred compensation plan from his employer that will end in nine years. He also had some highly appreciated stock that he knew would make a great gift to the Zoo. By gifting the stock to the Zoo for a charitable gift annuity, he could utilize 100% of the value of the stock to fund the gift annuity for his wife's benefit. He also gets to use 53% of the value of his gift as a tax deduction on next year's taxes. By deferring the payout of the stock for nine years to coincide with the end of his compensation plan, the payout percentage was much higher (7.8%) than if he took an immediate payout (5%)*. In 2025, when the annuity payment begins it will last for the rest of his wife's life and the amount is guaranteed! It won't matter what the stock market does over the rest of her life or even between now and then. This set of circumstances is perfect for this type of arrangement. Contact us for other unique ideas.
*Both rates are based on the age of the annuitant, the current government mid-term, and the American Council on Gift Annuity rates.

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Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
3400 Vine St.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
(513) 559-7716

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I [name], living at [complete address], give, devise and bequeath to the Cincinnati Zoo Foundation, a not-for-profit Ohio corporation supporting the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (the "Zoo"), [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] to be used by the Society in such manner as is deemed most useful for the purposes of the Zoo."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to the Zoo or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the Zoo as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the Zoo as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and the Zoo where you agree to make a gift to the Zoo and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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