Purdue University Graduate School
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Examining membership benefit preferences and donation program attitudes in an urban zoo setting

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posted on 2019-10-17, 19:27 authored by Lin ZhangLin Zhang
The primary goal of this dissertation was to gain a better understanding of individuals’ membership benefits preferences and attitudes toward donation programs in the context of urban zoo settings. The first objective of this dissertation was to provide a background on membership and donation related research in the context of zoos and other relevant organizations. Based on the review of literature, the second objective was to empirically examine, through two independent studies, zoo membership benefit preferences and attitudes toward a donation program.

Despite a wealth of knowledge in the literature with respect to zoo visitors, animals, exhibits, and related programs, little research has been conducted on individuals’ preferences for zoo membership benefit packages and attitudes toward donation programs. To fill the gaps in these areas, the first empirical study examined factors that influence current and prospective members’ decision-making when choosing a membership package at an urban zoo. More specifically, the study explored preferences for selected membership program benefits and benefit levels, as well as how these preferences varied among visitors grouped by key segmentation variables. The study findings suggested that price of membership package was the most important factor, followed by the discount on food and beverage and the proportion of membership fees devoted to animal conservation. As expected, the visitors who scored high on place attachment to the zoo were more supportive of the zoo and less sensitive to variations in the specific options included in the zoo’s membership package.

In the second study, attitudes toward a donation program at an urban zoo were examined. In particular, this study investigated subgroups’ differences segmented by their membership status, place attachment levels, and attitudinal positions. A two-dimensional/bivariate attitude approach was employed to explore potential differences among attitudinal position groups. The study findings indicated while most respondents held positive attitudes toward the donation program, zoo members and nonmembers did not differ significantly. The likelihood of joining the donation program was significantly higher for those in the positive dominant attitude group compared to those in the negative dominant and equally ambivalent groups. Additionally, a qualitative analysis revealed that many respondents were concerned about the cost or affordability of the donation program; and perceived the benefits of the program as a poor value.

Collectively, the two empirical studies provide useful insight for managers and professionals charged with developing membership and donation programs in zoological parks and other relevant organizations. The study results also suggest a number of potentially productive directions for future research in these areas.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Health and Kinesiology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

David Klenosky

Additional Committee Member 2

Bonnie Blankenship

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