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Development: 2020 Impact Report

All of us at the Duke Lemur Center have very much missed visits from our valued supporters since we closed to the public in March 2020. Our friends’ ongoing interest and support for our work has meant more than ever during such a difficult time in our world. The strong response to our new virtual engagement opportunities and special appeals and campaigns throughout 2020 was appreciated more than you can know! Thank you to Duke University for their continued investment in our operations and future, and to everyone who contributed during these challenging times.

New Development Initiatives in 2020

Our traditional gala was adapted into a virtual experience: a feature-length gala video Me and You and Zoboomafoo, featuring Martin Kratt. The video premiered on World Lemur Day, October 30, 2020. Our gala auction was offered as an online auction for the first time; sponsors joined in with their support and we promoted participation to our worldwide audience, offering a few small “perks” including special pullovers and face masks. More than $140,000 was raised from the gala promotion. In addition, this virtual event played a role in enlisting much-needed gifts through the remainder of the year.

Our first-ever virtual 5K fundraiser was a huge success, raising nearly $75,000 from 2,300 individuals worldwide primarily through social media promotion.

The DLC partnered with Duke Alumni Engagement and Development to provide a special virtual program via Zoom showcasing the DLC to its regional members from across the state of Texas. We plan to replicate this program for other regions and organizations in 2021.

The DLC worked with our Conservation team to produce and send a monthly conservation update, Madagascar Matters, by email to all of the DLC’s Madagascar Programs donors. It has been incredibly well-received as a way to keep supporters updated on our conservation progress in Madagascar.

Other Results

In total, private donations, sponsorships, and other non-grant support totaled just over $3 million during fiscal year 2020, ending on June 30, 2020. Click anywhere on the charts below for a larger view.

To see the DLC’s broader financial overview, including additional funding sources besides private donations, please see our 2020 financial overview.

We were honored to announce a new Duke Lemur Center endowment: The Barbara Colyear Parkening Lemur Care Fund, along with a legacy gift commitment from Barbara Parkening, a valued friend in California who has supported the DLC since her first donation through the DLC’s Adopt a Lemur program in 2005. In addition, two DLC donors established future-funded endowment agreements: Mike and Lexi Gordon, and M.J. Chapman.

Significant gifts to the DLC’s Madagascar Conservation Programs during 2020 are tremendous resources for our impact in Madagascar: General Mills, $100,000; Darren and Julie Harkness Cooke, $75,000; and Bob and Sue Knox, $100,000. M.J. Chapman’s future-funded endowment will also benefit the DLC’s conservation work in Madagascar.

We were honored to receive a special award of $30,000 from The Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

We were deeply honored to receive nine new commitments for legacy gifts from: Ashley and John Adams, Dominique Bideau, Meredith P. Bruns, M.J. Chapman, Jennifer Ganser and Andrew Haracourt, Mike and Lexi Gordon, Barbara Colyear Parkening, Hannah Moyer Salvatore, and Peggy Shropshire-Mobbs.

In addition, the DLC received two bequests: one from the estate of Susan Stillings and one from the estate of Mary Ann Mitchell Sikes We are thankful for these generous and incredibly special planned gifts to support the Duke Lemur Center. We are also appreciative of the expertise provided by our Duke colleagues in the Duke University Office of Gift Planning.

The growth of our legacy giving program is a beautiful statement of a special connection between the DLC and our donors, and the resulting significant gifts provide a truly remarkable source of support for the future of the DLC. In order to thank these donors and celebrate and encourage longstanding and generous support of the DLC, we are planning to launch a new recognition program: In 2021, we will establish a Circle of Life Society to recognize legacy commitments and lifetime, cumulative gifts totaling $10,000 or more.

Our sponsors mean so much to us! Their support for our gala has been an important part of our success. In FY2020, we received more than $27,000 from business and corporate donations, and we hope to enlist even more support from businesses in 2021.

The DLC’s beloved Adopt a Lemur Program was again a fundraising record-breaker. We were unable to have the traditional onsite Lemurpalooza events, but other promotions, such as our holiday plushie adoption package, made up for these lost events. This program serves also to further our education goals, sharing quarterly updates for one year on the adopted lemur and work of the DLC.

The DLC’s 2020 Magical Madagascar Ecotour in partnership with Duke Travels was unfortunately canceled due to travel restrictions as a result of the pandemic. The 2021 tour is full with a waitlist and plans are in progress for 2022. For more information, please visit the Duke Travels website.

Our traditional social media promotions were record-breakers, including our Valentine’s Day Video and Giving Tuesday campaigns, thanks to our communications team and to our many, many lemur-loving followers who responded with contributions at all levels. Learn more in the Communications and Engagement impact report.

A heartfelt thanks to these individuals for their assistance as volunteers with fundraising projects in 2020: Martin Kratt, for lending his time and name to our 2020 virtual gala video project; Bob Karp and David Haring, for their amazing photographs that tell our story and win over donors year-round; Lisa Hathaway, Joanne Vance, and Madeline Fitzgerald for their assistance with Adopt a Lemur Program mailings; Julie Byrne, for her beautiful paintings and artistic creations in support of special events and appeals; Alice McKenzie, the DLC’s gala auction superhero; and to everyone who helped us to prepare the 5K t-shirt packages.

Looking ahead

In 2021, we are hoping to reconnect with donors and the general public onsite at the Duke Lemur Center. We’re moving forward with plans for a virtual gala on October 1, including our online auction, and keeping our fingers crossed that we will be able to offer some in-person outdoor tour components during gala weekend.

In spring 2021, we’ll share our first annual “Impact Report,” a special DLC adaption of a traditional annual report, but presented entirely in an online format as a way to keep our stakeholders and loyal friends both informed and connected on an annual basis with our latest achievements and news.

We’ll also offer our first annual spring “Directors Forum” virtual event.

In closing, thank you to everyone whose contributions are critical to the Duke Lemur Center’s work. We could not do it without you!

The cover image above of our year-end 2020 holiday mailer to our donors says it all: They truly do mean the world to us! The support we receive from individuals and businesses is vital to the operations of the center, and to all of the Duke Lemur Center’s work.


Contact Mary Paisley, Development Officer at or 919.401.7252.

Please note that the Duke Lemur Center does not publish on our website a list of our individual donors, with the exception of individuals who serve as sponsors. We instead offer special benefits to our individual donors through our giving societies and offer early registration opportunities for our events to DLC annual donors of $250 or more. We do post a list of our Director’s Society, Circle of Life, and Corporate Sponsors on our Donor Recognition Wall in the Lemur Landing Gift Shop.