Oamaru Blue Pen­guin Colony: Adopt a penguin’

Exhibited by
Simone Owens
March 24, 2022
Medium of Communication
Online; direct mail
Target Audience
Regular givers
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
New Zealand
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

When Simone Owens enquired about adopting a penguin with Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony (OBPC) in New Zealand, their response epitomised what it means to provide a great supporter experience. Every communication was personalised and authentic, not to mention prompt. OBPC fundraiser Georgia went the extra mile for Simone and the welcome pack was full of information to inspire and excite the Owens family. 

Summary / objectives

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony has put the supporter experience at the heart of their ongoing adoption scheme.

Creator / originator

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony (OBPC)


In September 2019, before anyone had heard of coronavirus, I took a holiday with my husband and seven-year-old son to the South Island of New Zealand. At that time of year people visiting New Zealand are generally looking for a skiing adventure, but not us. We went in search of pink dolphins, seals and above all... penguins. 

New Zealand is home to the smallest species of penguin: the blue penguin. They live along the coastline of New Zealand and Southern Australia and over the years have had their population decimated by introduced predators like dogs, cats and foxes. A safe zone has been created in the town of Oamaru, with fencing to keep the predators out and the penguins safe. Thanks to the amazing work of Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, the population is now growing. 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, Australia went into lockdown and any plans we might have had to go back to visit the penguins again were put on hold. As our lives became more insular, we talked a lot about our holiday and started to engage more with OBPC’s Facebook page as a way of seeing the outside world.

Special characteristics

One day we saw a Facebook post saying we could adopt a penguin. I immediately sent OBPC an email to find out more. I’ll be honest, what followed wasn’t anything shiny or new. But it was a reminder that genuine, personalised communication with a donor is the key to the best supporter experience.

I emailed Georgia, a fundraiser at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, and she emailed me back the very same day addressing all of my questions. It was not a form email or part of a mass communication done through MailChimp – there was no default response to hearing from someone new. 

The email wasn’t signed by the CEO. It was written by Georgia in response to my specific message. She asked me what prompted me to get in touch, so I told her about our family holiday the previous September and shared some of our photos. She responded warmly with some comments about the photos, showing she’d obviously read my email.

Georgia informed us that we could name our adopted penguin – my son chose ‘Flippy’ – and told me that she would post our welcome pack that day. She was a little worried that wouldn’t arrive fast enough, so she popped out into the colony and took a photo of our new penguin and attached it to the email.


When the welcome pack arrived, it was so worth the near two month wait (not OBPC’s fault)! 

Enclosed was a personalised letter addressed to my son (including the name of our adopted penguin) a certificate of adoption that again included Flippy’s name, a cardboard-framed photo of Flippy, a fact sheet all about blue penguins (and one all about Flippy), a photo of where his nest is in the colony, and a thank you booklet with lots of information. Of course there was also a stuffed toy penguin which my son adores. 

This pack was not a glossily-produced brochure. Everything was A4 and everything was on normal printer paper. It felt like Georgia had printed it all out on the day I emailed her. We learned all about Flippy and how he and his mate has fledged one chick and were at that point sitting on two more eggs.

Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony regularly stay in contact with us to keep us informed. And if I ever have a question about Flippy or his partner, Pingu, I can just ask them on Facebook – we recently found out one of the eggs hatched!

Influence / impact

When I shared my experience of this wonderful welcome pack and the new addition to our family on Facebook, a friend asked if she could adopt Flippy’s mate, as we had the reference number for her. So, this fantastic experience has meant that not one but two blue penguins in New Zealand have been adopted by families in Australia.

Final notes

As fundraisers, our time is stretched in all directions. We live by the motto, ‘done is better than perfect’. It’s really easy to slip into the cycle of getting our ask done and on time without thinking about the broader supporter experience. 

We don’t all have cute penguins, but we all have a cause that people care about and we can all do what the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony has done for my family: engage with our supporters on a personal level, remember who they are and provide them with personalised ongoing responses. OBPC will have my family’s support for a long time to come.

Click below to watch Simone's full seven-minute presentation at I Wish I'd Thought of That (IWITOT): the supporter experience edition.

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Blue penguins are very small and very cute!
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Simone had such a wonderful experience at Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony that she wanted to do more to support them.
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The welcome pack sent by OBPC contained, amongst many other goodies, a certificate of adoption tailored to Simone’s son.
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The welcome pack included a map like this one. It also indicated where the adopted penguin lived and much more information.
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The adoption programme is part of the work OBPC does to keep the blue penguin population safe.