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Chief Financial Officer

Zoological Society of Milwaukee

The Zoological Society of Milwaukee County (the Society) was founded in 1910 by a group of community leaders who bought animals and raised funds for the Milwaukee County Zoo (the Zoo). Today, the Society is an award-winning nonprofit organization and a charitable business partner with Milwaukee County to support the Milwaukee County Zoo, a world-class cultural institution in Wisconsin.  The Society’s mission focuses on conservation, education and supporting the Zoo.  Notably, the Society provides annual operating support to the Zoo and shares the costs of major capital improvements, including new exhibits; directs all education programming at the Zoo; and also leads conservation programs. The annual revenue of the Society is ~$16 million, which includes an annual operating budget of $12 million, and a current capital campaign.  The Society’s many initiatives are supported by a staff of 51 full-time and 25 part-time employees, and 75-100 seasonal staff and interns.

The Zoo and the Society partnered together to develop a Master Plan to reimagine the Zoo over the next 20 years.  The first phase of this effort is Adventure Africa, which will transform 25% of the developed footprint of the Zoo and renovate some of the oldest areas of the Zoo.  The Society committed to share the costs 50/50 with the County and launched a $25 million capital campaign.  To date, the Society has raised $19.7 million toward this goal.  The Zoo opened the new elephant exhibit in 2019 and is on track to open a new underwater hippo exhibit in June 2020.  The Society is entering the final phase of the capital campaign which includes renovating the rhinoceros exhibit. 

Consumer expectations for zoos and aquariums are evolving and the Zoo and Society recognize the animals in our Zoo are ambassadors of the wild, here to educate the public about the importance of saving wildlife and wild places.   As such, the Society will launch a strategic planning process across the organization in partnership with the Zoo to elevate the profile as a conservation organization, along with being a premier Midwest attraction. The Society will engage outside resources to help drive and support the creation of a forward-looking, multi-year strategic plan to envision steps to grow the impact of the Society and Zoo in keeping with a changing world. 

This is an exciting and important time in the history of the Society and Zoo, a time of evolution, growth and opportunity.


The mission of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee is to take part in conserving wildlife and endangered species, to educate people about the importance of wildlife and the environment, and to support the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Each year, 1.3 million adults and children visit the Zoo, making the Zoo one of the most visited family venues in the region. The Society and Zoo work together to attract both a strong family base as well as diverse and inclusive audiences through free days, targeted school programs, evening concerts, special events, and other efforts. 

While raising funds to support the Zoo is central to the Society’s mission, the Society is more than a fundraising organization, contributing to the overall guest experience at the Zoo and also operating conservation and education programs to support the Zoo’s accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).


In the last quarter-century, the Society has made lasting contributions to conservation by supporting projects that advance wild populations of great apes, Grand Cayman blue iguanas, Humboldt penguins, migratory birds and beyond. In addition to education offerings, the Society partners on several conservation initiatives to further the health of animals in the wild and supports the Milwaukee County Zoo to maintain its position as a cherished community asset in the community.  At this time, the Society is seeking to reimagine conservation programs in order to better engage Zoo visitors and education participants in efforts locally, regionally and globally.


The Zoological Society Conservation Education Department reaches more than 250,000 people a year through its school programs, classes and camps, and Kohl’s Wild Theater, its conservation-themed theater group.

Zoo Support

The Zoological Society of Milwaukee supports the Zoo through funding, programming and support services. Half of all revenue raised by the Zoo Pass membership program goes to the Zoo as unrestricted funds to support the day-to-day operations of the Zoo. The Society’s education and conservation efforts help the Zoo maintain accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Society also supports the Zoo in the areas of sponsor recruitment, graphic design, information technology, veterinary residencies and projects funded through annual appeals.  Finally, the Society manages Zoo Pride, the volunteer initiative. More than 500 volunteers help support the day-to-day operations of the Zoo throughout the year.

Reporting to and partnering with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will play a critical role in developing and implementing the Society’s long-term strategy.  As a member of the senior leadership team, the CFO will be an advisor to the function leads, evaluating and assisting them with their annual and long-term financial plans. S/he will be responsible for overseeing all fiscal and fiduciary responsibilities for the organization working in conjunction with the CEO and relevant committees of the Board of Directors and the ZSM Endowment Trust, the Society’s endowment fund.

The CFO will work to advance the mission and support a culture that fosters open and frequent communication, proactive teamwork, best practices, internal alignment, and a passion for supporting the Zoo and its valuable contributions to animal conservation and the community.  The CFO will lead by example, with rolled-up sleeves, collaboration and transparency when possible. 

The CFO will help the Society accomplish strategic financial objectives across complex funding sources and a unique public/private partnership with the County of Milwaukee, serving as the public financial face of the Society. The CFO will possess strong business acumen to interpret financial information regarding the Society’s operating revenue, funding sources, and fiscal sustainability into the future, and to make recommendations concerning resource allocation and business operations to benefit the organization.  The CFO will have an advanced understanding of technology in order to support the many and evolving IT needs of the organization.

Essential Job Duties and Responsibilities 

Strategic Leadership

  • As a true business partner to the CEO and management team, the CFO is a hands-on leader. S/he will assess organizational performance against both the annual budget and long-term priorities. S/he will develop tools and systems to provide critical financial and operational information to the CEO and make actionable recommendations on both strategy and operations. Other duties:
  • Engage the Board finance committee and ZSM Endowment Trust around issues, trends, and changes in the operating model(s). Assist in establishing yearly objectives and meeting agendas, and selecting and engaging outside consultants (auditors, investment advisors).
  • Oversee long-term budgetary planning and cost management in alignment with the Society’s annual operating plan, capital campaign and upcoming strategic plan, especially as the organization seeks to reimagine its conservation program, grow operating revenue, and continues to evolve its relationship with and support of the Zoo.
  • Exemplify a commitment to the Society’s mission and serve as the financial face of the Society, building relationships internally with the staff, Board of Directors, Zoo Pride volunteers, Zoo management and staff, and key community stakeholders. Represent the organization at the Society’s major fundraising events and select community events.
  • Develop and refine key financial and operational performance indicators; provide ongoing financial analysis, evaluate ROI and conduct benchmarking to support the CEO and Board in upholding mission-focused work with fiduciary responsibility.

Financial and Operational Management

  • Oversee all accounts, ledgers, and reporting systems, ensuring compliance with appropriate Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) regulatory requirements and requirements outlined in the MOU between the Society and the Zoo. Maintain internal control safeguards and coordinate all audit activities.
  • Direct, develop, evaluate and enhance the Society’s fiscal and administrative function and performance. Oversee the daily financial activities of the Society, including purchasing and expense management, cost mitigation strategies, and cash flow management. Provide monthly reporting to the CEO and Board, and regular reports to Milwaukee County; establish, evaluate, and manage vendor relationships and contracts.
  • Lead and standardize annual budgeting and operational planning; monitor financial and operational progress and present metrics both internally and externally.
  • Manage and track the performance of ZSM Endowment Trust in keeping with the policies and investment guidelines established by the ZSMET trustees.
  • Oversee the management of all fiscal activities related to membership and educational program revenue, and all fundraising initiatives including capital campaigns, corporate gifts, major gift programs, foundation grants and the ZSM Endowment Trust.
  • Assess current financial reporting systems and assure attainment and management of technological resources necessary to ensure that financial information is accessible, timely, and informative across all departments to support a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Direct the Society’s risk management programs to safeguard assets, assure liability risks are appropriately insured, and manage legal/contractual relationships to benefit the Society.
  • Work in partnership with the Deputy Zoo Director regarding the financial considerations of the Zoo-Society partnership. Lead financial negotiations with the County when necessary and represent the Society on the construction committee for capital improvements.

Team Management and Support

  • Oversee Finance and Information Systems. This role reports directly to the CEO and manages a team including a Staff Accountant, IT Manager and IT Specialist. The CFO will also negotiate and manage human resources contracts, such as insurance and other employee benefits, as necessary.
  • Manage and support the Society’s IT team to ensure that up-to-date technology systems and record-keeping procedures are in place and operating effectively across the organization.
  • Advise the management team regarding the use of business analytics capabilities with the current customer relationship management system (Tessitura) for increased efficiencies and effective decision making.
  • Serve as staff liaison to the Finance Committee of the Society’s Board of Directors and the ZSM Endowment Trust. Partner with the VP of Development in the final stages of major gifts and capital campaigns.

Experience, Attributes, and Education

  • Record of success as a visionary executive, including the fiscal skills and acumen necessary to effectively manage a complex budget. Demonstrated strategic planning, business plan development, and financial planning and management.
  • High level of technical acumen to understand multiple software systems; project management experience leading selection and implementation of updated systems to create greater organizational efficiencies.
  • Excellent collaboration, communication, and consensus-building abilities, with a track record of successfully working with a board, staff, partners, elected officials, and the larger community.
  • Ten +years in a financial leadership position in a nonprofit or complex organization.
  • Ability to partner with the CEO to guide the organization in big picture strategy with accurate, timely and purposeful financial management.
  • Experience in a public/private partnership highly desired.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and CPA certification; MBA desired.
  • Ability to foster a healthy organizational culture by creating an environment characterized by high levels of employee engagement and high performance developed through teamwork and collaboration, personal accountability and high integrity.
  • Proven management skills, exemplified by a record of empowering teams, providing support and mentorship, and the ability to make informed, difficult decisions in an environment with competing demands and limited resources.
  • A servant leader who is both visible and approachable; portrays integrity, honesty, enthusiasm, sense of humor, open-mindedness, excellent listening skills, asks good questions, and possesses a willingness to dive into the weeds when necessary.
  • Must be willing to reside in the Greater Milwaukee area.