Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
3777 Nolensville Road
Nashville TN 37211
Mission Statement
Nashville Zoo’s mission is to inspire a culture of understanding and discovery of our natural world through conservation, innovation, and leadership.
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Rick Schwartz
Board Chair Mrs. Robin Ingram Patton
Board Chair Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
History & Background
Year of Incorporation 1990
Organization's type of tax exempt status 501-C3
Financial Summary
Projected Expenses $11,541,157.00
Projected Annual Revenue $11,889,481.00 (2015)
Mission Nashville Zoo’s mission is to inspire a culture of understanding and discovery of our natural world through conservation, innovation, and leadership.
Background Nashville Zoo strives to create a world-class zoological park with appeal to visitors and a strong commitment to species conservation. Major goals include: providing an entertaining and educational experience, increasing the public's understanding and appreciation of the world around them, promoting public awareness of animals and conservation issues and providing the highest code of ethics in the humane care and welfare of our animals. The Zoo has grown from a small, start-up private operation in Cheatham County to its current status as an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited member facility with international conservation involvement. The Zoo has eliminated a historical $1 million deficit and has met the goal of creating a $15 million endowment to offset the ongoing operational shortage. In 2005, the Elephant Exhibit was opened and has been touted as one of the best in the country by AZA. Recent revenue-generating exhibits include the Wild Animal Carousel, Lorikeet Landing, The Wilderness Express Train and the temporary exhibit DinoTrek. Attendance for 2014 was over 830,000 guests. The partnership between Metro Davidson Co. and the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is one in which the land is city owned but operated by the Zoo. A total of 275.5 acres of land, passed down generations, ultimately became known as Grassmere. The Croft sisters, last of the descendents, gifted the land to the City and Grassmere Wildlife Park opened in 1990 at the same time Nashville Zoo opened in Joelton, TN. In 1996, Grassmere's financial difficulties and the Zoo's desire to relocate to Nashville were joined. The Mayor and Metro City Council believed the best plan to preserve Grassmere and meet the needs of the community was to turn over the management and development of the property to Nashville Zoo. City fathers also saw educational and tourism benefits in supporting the Zoo's relocation. The Zoo assumed management of the property known as Grassmere Wildlife Park as Nashville Zoo at Grassmere with a 40 year lease. With 84 developed acres and 104 undeveloped acres, we are one of the largest Zoos in the country by land mass and have the potential to be a top rated world-class facility. The Zoo's recent growth illustrates a successful trend and solidifies Nashville’s need and desire to support a world-class zoological facility. Media support, attendance, membership growth, and philanthropic support are only a few of the elements that make our zoo great.
Nashville Zoo strives to create a world-class zoological park with appeal to visitors and a strong commitment to education, species conservation and habitat protection. 
Major goals include: providing an entertaining and educational experience, increasing the public's understanding and appreciation of the world around them, promoting public awareness of animals and conservation issues, and providing the highest code of ethics in the humane care and welfare of our animals.
The Zoo has grown from a small, start-up private operation to its current status as a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 AZA accredited member facility with international conservation involvement and current annual attendance of over 830,000 visitors.

Nashville Zoo’s largest need is funding for development, renovation, operations, new exhibits and special event sponsorships to underwrite the cost of providing unique community experiences. Nashville Zoo is just one of a handful of the 223 accredited zoos that do not receive ongoing operational support from their local municipalities. Because of this, Nashville Zoo relies on private and corporate donors in addition to our earned revenue to fund all aspects of the day to day operations of the Zoo.

Other ways to donate, support, or volunteer From becoming a member, to volunteering your time, to making a donation, to sponsoring an event or habitat, Nashville Zoo offers countless ways to give back and help you become an integral part of the Zoo.
Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Animal Related / Zoos & Aquariums
Areas of Service
Areas Served
TN - Davidson
KY - Todd
TN - Bedford
TN - Cannon
TN - Cheatham
TN - Dekalb
TN - Dickson
TN - Macon
TN - Marshall
TN - Maury
TN - Montgomery
TN - Robertson
TN - Rutherford
TN - Sumner
TN - Trousdale
TN - Williamson
TN - Wilson
KY - Christian
Board Chair Statement Nashville Zoo’s Board of Directors have the responsibility for overseeing the operation of the organization and assuring conformance with the law. Unlike a board of directors of a private industry, our Nashville Zoo board of directors is entrusted with the care of the organization and is accountable to the public, not the private interests of shareholders.  Our board is an assertive and diverse body providing governance that assures our mission is fulfilled and the organization is held accountable to its main shareholders – those Zoo members, our daily guests, the City of Nashville leaders and the private donors who created the Zoo.
Our principal function is to set policies consistent with the mission of the Nashville Zoo, select managers who can carry out the mission, and monitor the performance of those entrusted with day to day management.  Our Zoo guests’ (the public's) experience is maximized in a manner consistent with the Zoo’s specific mission. 
Our primary duties are to
  • Select the executive staff through an appropriate process
  • Provide ongoing support and guidance for the Zoo’s president and review his performance
  • Ensure effective organizational planning
  • Ensure adequate resources through direct and indirect fund raising efforts
  • Manage resources effectively
  • Determine and monitor the Zoo’s programs and services
  • Enhance the Nashville Zoo’s public image
  • Assess our own performance
CEO Statement Nashville Zoo is a dynamic and progressive zoological park serving middle TN, southern KY and hundreds of thousands of tourists and travelers each year. Nashville Zoo specializes in natural immersion exhibitry transporting guests into a multi-sensory adventure at each habitat, utilizing horticulture from the native geographical locations, soothing sounds from the region, and natural, invisible barriers whenever possible. Nashville Zoo is home to over 2500 individual animals that represent 347 different species. Nashville Zoo attracted over 830,000 guests in 2014 making it the #1 paid attraction in Middle Tennessee and the 8th largest in the state. More than a third of those guests come from areas outside Middle Tennessee, across the country, and around the world. Since the Zoo's move in 1996 from its original location in Cheatham County to its permanent location at Grassmere, membership has grown  to 36,800 households representing more than 147,000 people. The Zoo hosts more than 60,000 school children providing world-class animal habitats and programming for their educational curriculum. Last year 10,000 of those school children were Title 1 students who were able to visit Nashville Zoo for a significantly reduced admission. Nashville Zoo offers free admission to over 25 Metro Community Centers for children who are involved with after-school or summer programs. Our Outreach Department visited over 4000 Title 1 students providing animal presentations and educational materials. Nashville Zoo also partners with Nashville Public Libraries, Head Start Centers, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, Alignment Nashville, the Pencil Foundation, and Senior Centers in and around Davidson County. In addition to the educational and entertainment offerings provided for the local community, Nashville Zoo is also a leader in developing multi-national partnerships to support environmental and species protection in Asia, Africa, South America and North America.
Description It is the primary goal of Nashville Zoo to create a world-class zoological experience for Nashvillians and tourists while at the same time creating the best possible environments for our animal collection. When creating animal exhibits, Rick Schwartz, Zoo President, dedicates himself to create the best possible experience. As a ‘visitor’ he asks: Can I see the species clearly? What are the educational aspects? Is this exhibit accessible for people with special needs or disabilities? As a ‘donor’ he asks: How am I being recognized for my contribution & how is this project an asset to the community? How will this exhibit be maintained & will it be as beautiful in thirty years as it is today? How can I create a legacy for this donor? As an ‘employee’ he asks: Is my safety ensured with this design & how will I clean and maintain this space? As the ‘animal’ he asks: Am I safe? Comfortable? It is this type of attention to detail that has put Nashville Zoo in the forefront of zoos.
Category Animal-Related, General/Other
Population Served General/Unspecified, ,
Description Providing the foundation for all of Nashville Zoo’s efforts are the general operations of the organization. It takes a number of resources, a meticulous staff and painstaking effort to keep Nashville Zoo an attractive, safe, entertaining, and educational experience for families and children. Nashville Zoo is one of the few AZA accredited facilities in the nation that does not received ongoing operational support from their city. Because of this, Nashville Zoo relies on private and corporate donors in addition to earned revenue to fund all aspects of the day to day operations of the Zoo. A contribution toward the general operating budget is an excellent way to be involved with a broad range of zoo activities from providing the important upkeep of visitor amenities to feeding the 2518 different animals on property.
Population Served , ,
Description Committed to inspiring connections with nature, the Education Department realizes that people learn in different ways and leverages this knowledge with diverse programming. Every year, the Zoo's Education Programs reach over 460,000 children and adults. Starting as early as 18 months and carrying into adulthood, the department provides a progression where audiences can “grow up” with the zoo. Programs for individual age groups such as zoo camps, scouts, parent-child series, overnights and volunteer opportunities, are offered in fun, informative and engaging ways. School programs, aligned with State Standards feature live animals and activities are conducted at the Zoo or at schools. Outreach programs also travel to libraries, hospitals, nursing homes and daycares. Opportunities extend through internships for high school and college students and volunteer opportunities for adults. The zoo visitor is not forgotten through encounters with Docents, Zoo Teens, and popular Wildlife Shows.
Category Education, General/Other
Population Served General/Unspecified, ,
Description The Clouded Leopard Consortium (CLC) was initiated by Rick Schwartz, Nashville Zoo President, in collaboration with Thailand Zoological Organization, Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Asian Wildlife Consultancy and the Clouded Leopard SSP. This coalition of international partners is working together to develop a viable self-sustaining clouded leopard breeding program. Difficulty in pairing animals, which many times leads to serious injury or fatalities, high infant mortality, and limited breeding, have led to a North American captive population with diminishing genetic viability. Advancements have been made by the CLC to develop a viable breeding program out of the country of origin, create a long-term conservation plan in the country of origin and build capacity for husbandry, research, education and wildlife monitoring. This multi-disciplinary conservation project is unique and ambitious, yet still requires critical funds to stabilize the population. 

To date over fifty cubs have been produced in Thailand making this the most prolific breeding facility in the world for this endangered cat. As a result of this success Nashville Zoo was able to import new genetically viable animals for the first time in almost thirty years. After a ten year hiatus of there being no clouded cubs born in North America Nashville Zoo has been extremely successful in reproducing multiple litters from these imports. In 2012 we produced more cubs than all of the World’s zoos combined which has virtually saved the North American captive population from extinction. It is still critical to bring in additional founder animals to maintain a genetically divers population,  and we are looking now to work with the governments of India and Myanmar to develop similar cooperative breeding programs as has been accomplished in Thailand.

Population Served Other Named Groups, ,
Board Chair
Board Chair Mrs. Robin Ingram Patton
Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
Term Jan 2014 to Jan 2016
Board Members
Mrs. Cynthia Arnholt Community VolunteerVoting
Mrs. Kelley Beaman Community VolunteerVoting
Mrs. Kathryn Brown Community VolunteerVoting
Mr. Neely Coble IIINeely Coble Co., Inc.Voting
Mr. Kevin Crumbo Kraft CPAsVoting
Mrs. Jennifer Frist Community VolunteerVoting
Mr. Carl Haley Jr.Grand AvenueVoting
Mrs. Tracie Hamilton Community VolunteerVoting
Mr. John Howard River Investments & Hannah ConstructorsVoting
Mr. James V. Hunt Benefit Communications, Inc.Voting
Mrs. Sarah Ingram Community VolunteerVoting
Mr. Jeff Jacobs Stradis HealthcareVoting
Mrs. Daynise Joseph Urban Housing SolutionsVoting
Mr. Kent Kirby UBSVoting
Mr. David Manning AmsurgVoting
Mr. Richard McRae Dollar General CorporationVoting
Mrs. Robin Ingram Patton Community VolunteerVoting
Mrs. Sheryl Rogers Community VolunteerVoting
Mr. Charles Sonnenberg Frugal MacDoogalVoting
Mrs. Julie Walker The Bridge LadyVoting
Mr. Chris Whitson Sherrard and Roe, PLCVoting
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 20
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 11
Female 10
Unspecified 0
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Board Meeting Attendance % 67%
Does the organization have written Board Selection Criteria? Yes
Does the organization have a written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage of Board Members making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of Board Members making In-Kind Contributions 61%
Does the Board include Client Representation? No
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 6
Standing Committees
Board Governance
Development / Fund Raising
Risk Management Provisions
Accident & Injury Coverage
Automobile Insurance
Commercial General Insurance
Commercial General Liability
Computer Equipment & Software
Crime Coverage
Directors & Officers Policy
General Property Coverage
General Property Coverage & Professional Liability
Inland Marine & Mobile Equipment
Life Insurance
Medical Health Insurance
Special Event Liability
Workers Compensation & Employers' Liability
Umbrella or Excess Insurance
Additional Board Members
Mr. George Armistead New Business Development
Mr. Lee Beaman Beaman Automotive
Ms. Renee Chevalier First Tennessee
Ms. Kelly Crockett Community Volunteer
Mrs. Missy Eason Community Volunteer
Mr. J.D. Elliott Memorial Foundation
Mr. Rodes Hart Community Volunteer
Mr. Jamie Jones Community Volunteer
Dr. Arthur Laffer Laffer Associates
Mr. Jim Littlejohn Littlejohn Engineering Assoc., Inc.
Mr. Tom Loventhal The Loventhal Group
Mr. Frank McGrew Morgan Keegan & Co.
Mr. Larry Papel Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
Mr. Dick Ragsdale Community Volunteer
Mrs. Abby Trotter Hall Strategies
Mr. James A. Webb Freeman Webb Co. Realtors
CEO Comments

After a decade of inexhaustible building and construction at the Grassmere property, Nashville Zoo is forced to focus our immediate energies on upgrading and expanding our infrastructure and visitor amenities to accommodate our rapidly growing attendance. Since we reopened the park in 1997, our attendance has increased by over 1000%, and facilities that were designed and built in the late 90’s can no longer efficiently accommodate the over 830,000 visitors we experienced in 2014.  The Zoo is in the process of designing a critical new entry road that will take our existing two lanes to four lanes which will dramatically improve vehicular ingress and egress. We are also in the design phase for expanding our ticket booth and visitor services amenities to more efficiently handle the existing crowds and future anticipated  attendance in excess of a million visitors annually as major new exhibits  come to fruition. Additional infrastructural needs include additional parking, trams, expanded educational space, a new veterinary hospital, additional public restrooms  and concession facilities, office expansions and a new and enlarged gift shop.  Infrastructural improvements on this scale will require government support both on the local and state level so we can continue to create state of the art new exhibitry and maintain our status as the number 1 paid attraction in Middle Tennessee. The Zoo has an aggressive growth plan for capital projects that include a bear exhibit, penguin exhibit and our most ambitious project in the Zoo’s history that will immerse visitors into the African continent. This exhibit will contain some of the most charismatic and publicly recognized  species that include gorillas, rhinoceros, lions, cheetahs, hippopotamus, mandrills and numerous species of primates, birds, reptiles, and ungulates. This exhibit will more than double the number of animals currently exhibited and will catapult  Nashville Zoo into one of the top ranked zoos in the country and easily attract in excess of a million visitors which will create a strong economic impact on our great city.

Executive Director/CEO
Executive Director Mr. Rick Schwartz
Term Start Nov 1990
Experience Originally brought on board as a consultant, Rick Schwartz has been involved with Nashville Zoo since the planning stages of the original facility in 1990. His talents for planning, design and construction led to his appointment as the Zoo's first Director. Under his leadership, the Zoo has grown from a small, start-up private operation to its current status as an AZA accredited member facility with international conservation involvement and attendance of over 830,000 in 2014. In 1997, Mr. Schwartz led the effort to relocate the Zoo from its rural home in Joelton to the Grassmere site in Nashville. A unique opportunity for Nashville Zoo, it came with enormous responsibilities to work with Nashville government and to serve the people of the middle Tennessee community while continuing to grow the animal collection and build exceptional exhibits. Schwartz has successfully managed this process with more than $25 million in new construction work completed while also building an international reputation for his conservational work with clouded leopards, fishing cats, tigers and rhinoceros in Southeast Asia. Prior to his work with Nashville Zoo, Schwartz owned an exhibit planning and design firm along with numerous business ventures working with domestic and exotic animals including an endangered species breeding facility well known for its unparalleled success in breeding clouded leopards and other endangered species.
Full Time Staff 139
Part Time Staff 37
Volunteers 2600
Contractors 0
Retention Rate 83%
Plans & Policies
Does the organization have a documented Fundraising Plan? Yes
Does the organization have an approved Strategic Plan? Yes
Number of years Strategic Plan Considers 5
When was Strategic Plan adopted? July 2007
In case of a change in leadership, is a Management Succession plan in place? No
Does the organization have a Policies and Procedures Plan? Yes
Does the organization have a Nondiscrimination Policy? Yes
Center for Nonprofit Management Excellence Network2007
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce2002
Williamson County Chamber of Commerce2009
House Joint ResolutionState of Tennessee2004
Special Recognition AwardMetro Nashville Board of Education2004
Innovation in Action Award WinnerCenter for Nonprofit Management2006
Excellence in Communications FinalistCenter for Nonprofit Management2006
Board Member of the Year FinalistCenter for Nonprofit Management2006
Telly AwardTelly Awards2008
Area Beautification AwardNashville Area Chamber of Commerce Southern Area Business Council1999
Addy AwardAmerican Advertising Federation, Nashville2008
Brand Champion AwardNashville Convention & Visitors Bureau2007
Best of Show - Christmas ParadeFranklin Kiwanis Club2011
Public Works Award - African Elephant HabitatTennessee Concrete Association2006
CEO of the Year Award FinalistCenter for NonProfit Management - Salute to Excellence2012
Leadership Award FinalistCenter for NonProfit Management -Salute to Excellence2012
Senior Staff
Title Chief Development Officer
Experience/Biography Suzanne Iler is an accomplished Development professional with over 17 years of leadership experience in nonprofit organizations.  Proven track record of exceeding organization fundraising goals and building long term relationships with individuals, foundations and corporate partnerships.  Skilled in all aspects of non profit development including annual, capital and planned giving initiatives.
Title Chief Operating Officer
Title Chief Financial Officer
CEO Comments After a decade of inexhaustible building and construction at the Grassmere property, Nashville Zoo is taking a break from exhibit construction to focus on infrastructure and visitor amenities before moving forward on ground breaking exhibits that will immerse visitors in the rainforests of South America and create lasting adventures in the vast plains of Africa. In 2001 The Zoo conducted its first Management Plan in cooperation with the Center for Non-Profit Management (CNM). Hitting nearly every benchmark in this 5 year plan, the Zoo once again has completed a new strategic plan that reflects goals and objectives for the next 5 years (2007 – 2011). Part of the new plan illustrates the need for government support both on the local and state level in order for Nashville Zoo to continue to grow. Grassmere Wildlife Park was not designed to accommodate current crowd levels or Nashville Zoo’s anticipated growth. Infrastructural needs include animal hospital renovation, office expansion, restroom and concession additions, and ongoing water reclamation projects. Capital projects include an amphitheater and pavilion, off-exhibit breeding facility, new gift shop, an education center and a park-wide train system.
Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year Start Jan 01 2015
Fiscal Year End Dec 31 2015
Projected Revenue $11,889,481.00
Projected Expenses $11,541,157.00
Endowment Spending Policy Income Only
Endowment Spending Percentage (if selected) 0%
Detailed Financials
Revenue and ExpensesHelpFinancial data for prior years is entered by foundation staff based on the documents submitted by nonprofit organizations.Foundation staff members enter this information to assure consistency in the presentation of financial data across all organizations.
Fiscal Year201320122011
Total Revenue$15,042,510$11,872,496$9,625,722
Total Expenses$10,688,381$10,154,770$9,225,210
Revenue Less Expenses$4,354,129$1,717,726$400,512
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 Year201320122011
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$304,487$23,350$237,553
Individual Contributions$4,461,219$817,959$721,409
Investment Income, Net of Losses$572,110$466,917$378,851
Membership Dues$2,678,473$2,640,576$1,930,674
Special Events$872,872$1,013,079$669,053
Revenue In-Kind$0$0$0
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201320122011
Program Expense$9,475,350$8,991,305$8,050,721
Administration Expense$857,332$909,992$961,080
Fundraising Expense$355,699$253,473$213,409
Payments to Affiliates$0$0$0
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.411.171.04
Program Expense/Total Expenses89%89%87%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue6%14%13%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201320122011
Total Assets$39,206,196$33,510,551$32,146,885
Current Assets$6,427,340$2,877,195$794,507
Long-Term Liabilities$50,000$0$1,400,000
Current Liabilities$510,167$660,808$568,878
Total Net Assets$38,646,029$32,849,743$30,178,007
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201320122011
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities12.604.351.40
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201320122011
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%4%
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201320122011
Top Funding Source & Dollar AmountContributions, Gifts and Grants $4,461,219Program Service Revenue $4,189,057Program Service Revenue (Earned) $3,311,982
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountProgram Service Revenue $4,099,796Membership Dues $2,640,576Membership Dues $1,930,674
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountMembership Dues $2,678,473Other Income: Vending, Parking, Misc. $2,721,558Vending (Other) $1,151,447
IRS Letter of Exemption
Capital Campaign
Is the organization currently conducting a Capital Campaign for an endowment or the purchase of a major asset? Yes
Campaign Purpose Nashville Zoo has experienced tremendous growth since moving to Grassmere in 1997. To continue to be a top Nashville tourist attraction, as well as a leading resource for education and conservation, we need to expand our capabilities: * Developing a wonderful experience for 1 million+ visitors each year * Expanding exhibits, creating world class habitats for many new species * Providing quality care for the valued animal collection through a new veterinary hospital
Capital Campaign Goal $160,000,000.00
Campaign Start and End Dates June 2014 to June 2019
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount $36,390,000.00 as of Dec 2014
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit
TN Charitable Solicitations Registration Yes - Expires June 2015 Financial Comments
Financials taken from the 990 and the audit.
Foundation and Corporate contributions may be listed in the Individuals sum.
Financial documents completed by Frasier Dean & Howard.
Comments provided by Laurel Fisher 7/11/14.
Nonprofit Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Address 3777 Nolensville Road
Nashville, TN 37211
Primary Phone (615) 833-1534
Contact Email
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Rick Schwartz
Board Chair Mrs. Robin Ingram Patton
Board Chair Company Affiliation Community Volunteer
Year of Incorporation 1990

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