14,000 people visited the Conservators Center in 2014.

14,000 people visited the Conservators Center in 2014, driving business to surrounding communities.

At the Conservators Center, we believe that educating the public about exotic animals—and introducing the next generation to the importance of protecting rare species that they may otherwise have never heard of—is a noble cause. As a nonprofit organization, we are proud of our mission, our goals, and the community that supports them.

Additionally, two of the most important hallmarks of a high-functioning nonprofit are active participation in (and benefit to) a larger industry, and the presence of an effective business model. The interconnectivity of the Center’s mission with its impact on our local and state economies ultimately provides the resources we need to care for our animal residents.

Every guest who purchases tickets to visit our conservancy and meet our animals helps us support our residents’ care and our educational mission. We have hundreds of amazing Lifetime Adopters, volunteers, and donors who help ensure that our animals have everything they need to be safe, healthy, and happy.

As a nonprofit, we are proud that we sustain most of our operations by serving as a popular education and tourism destination that reconnects people with wildlife.

Driving Resources to Our Local Community

Animal care requires enormous amounts of material, and we make it a point to elicit goods and services from our local community. Photo by Ron Smith

Animal care requires enormous amounts of material, and we make it a point to elicit goods and services from our local community.
Photo by Ron Smith

The Conservators Center has the honor of being the top-rated tourist attraction in Burlington, a city that acts as a geographic and economic hub between the Triangle and the Triad. The positive economic impact of our tour program to both Caswell and Alamance County is substantial. Many tour participants patronize local gas stations, restaurants, general stores, and other sites of touristic note on their way to see us or on their way home. When asked about other things to do nearby, or the best places to eat or shop, we always suggest locally owned businesses in the area. 

Over a hundred volunteers and interns from across the state also make regular trips to the Conservators Center via Highways 119 and 62, and similarly patronize local businesses in the process.

Even though the postal service has given us a Burlington address, the Conservators Center is proud to be located in southern Caswell County. The Department of Commerce has defined Caswell County as economically distressed, and it is ranked as 95th in total expenditures by travelers according to a study prepared for the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development by the U.S. Travel Association. The Conservators Center brings tremendous economic value to this rural, agricultural county (with just 23,000 residents) that has precious few other business types or tourist attractions to support it.

We are proud of the young professionals on our staff who have relocated to the local area. Photo by Dave Hattori.

Many young professionals on our staff have relocated from their hometowns just to be closer to the Center. Photo by Dave Hattori.

But it’s difficult to imagine a more perfect location for our organization. Our local officials, state representatives, and neighbors could not be more supportive of our mission, and the relationship we have with our wonderful first responders ensures comprehensive cooperation in the event of an emergency at our facility. We love being an integral part of this community.

In addition, many of our younger employees (and even some volunteers) are relocating to dedicate their lives to the animals at the Center; they are now living, eating, shopping, playing, and paying taxes in the area.

Our integration into this close-knit, rural community enables us to purchase materials from local businesses, whenever possible. We also have the privilege to develop relationships with our incredible suppliers and Partners of the Pride.

Contributing to the State’s Economy

In addition to attracting visitors to our city and county, the Conservators Center also attracts visitors to North Carolina from across the region and country, and even from around the world. Sometimes we are their sole purpose for travel, and other times we are part of a day trip or a longer traveling tour, which often includes visiting other sites and businesses in the state.

Thomas and Ra Lions greet tour guests who traveled from far and wide to see them. Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

Thomas and Ra Lions greet tour guests who traveled from far and wide to see them.
Photo by Stephanie Butzer.

According to the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, nonprofit organizations contribute $38.5 billion annually to the state’s economy. One out of every 10 jobs in North Carolina is in the nonprofit sector, and overall nonprofit employment grew by 18% between 2007 and 2013, a period when total employment in North Carolina declined. During that time, the Conservators Center more than tripled its number of paid employees in order to support our growing animal population and to extend the reach of our mission.

In addition to supporting a robust workforce in a rural setting, the Center contributes to the regional economy by employing local contractors and businesses specializing in areas such as construction, carpentry, fencing, auto repair, landscaping, and veterinary services. The ongoing growth of cross-promotion with local businesses, community groups, and other attractions across the state helps ensure that the Conservators Center is an active participant in and contributor to North Carolina’s economy. And while exempt from certain taxes because of our status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we create revenue by paying sales tax and payroll taxes generated by our business.

The Conservators Center supports a large community of volunteers, staff, and donors.

The Conservators Center supports a large community of volunteers, staff, and donors.

The total annual direct outlay by the Conservators Center and its visitors generates an economic impact of roughly $1.8 million, as calculated with multipliers using the standard model employed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Ongoing growth patterns (in both visitor volume and budget) since the Center opened to the public in 2007 indicate that the Center’s value to the surrounding community will continue to increase in coming years, and this growth will not only enhance the services we provide to our local and state economy, but allow us to further support our animal residents and increase the reach of our mission.

The citizens of North Carolina have shown us incredible generosity with their visits, volunteer efforts, and direct donations to our nonprofit. We are honored to show our gratitude by being an integral economic cog in our industry at the local and the state level.

Click here to read our 2014 Annual Report.

Click here to read our 2015 Annual Report.