John Ball Zoo welcomes new chief development officer

Kelli Smith Courtesy John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo announced that Kelli Smith was hired to serve on its executive team as chief development officer.

As a member of the zoo’s executive leadership, Smith will be leading the strategic vision for development, marketing, communications, community engagement and provide direction and support for the zoo’s priorities.

“As an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited organization, we are a zoo-based conservation center that engages the public to save animals from extinction,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo. “We cannot do this critical work without engaging the broader community that we serve. Kelli will lead our efforts to boldly enhance and build our development and community engagement initiatives. Kelli is a proven leader and brings a great level of expertise to the team.”

Smith, the former director of philanthropy for Saint Mary’s Foundation, has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising and donor relations, program development and marketing.

For nearly a decade, she focused on major and planned giving, leading the strategic approach to increase philanthropic support and visibility for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

Prior to that, she served in development roles for Beaumont Health Foundation, University Liggett School and Detroit Country Day School.

Smith currently is the chair-elect for the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners Board. She also serves on numerous community boards, including the Children’s Advocacy Center, East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation and Grand Rapids Chamber’s Create Great Leaders Council.

Smith earned her master’s degree from the University of Detroit Mercy and the Certified Fund Raising Executive credential.

“I am honored to serve and lead the philanthropic efforts of the zoo and engage our community in learning and connecting to the innovative wildlife and environmental conservation strides happening here,” Smith said. “This is an exciting time at the zoo, and I’m thrilled to work with an incredible team of professionals doing life-changing work to create a better, sustainable future for us all.”

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