Keep Growing 2020: The Ten-Year Strategic Plan
Chicago Botanic Garden

Keep Growing

Welcome to Keep Growing: The Chicago Botanic Garden’s 2010–2020 Strategic Plan

In December 2009, the Chicago Botanic Garden management team and board of directors set forth a strategic plan for the next ten years, 2010–2020. We are halfway through the plan and are pleased with the progress we have made, although we have more yet to do to complete our vision.

We have made this progress since 2010 partly because of the importance of our mission: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. Our mission is clear; it is based on three core beliefs, and its success is tied to fulfilling the changing needs of our customers.

Below you will find information on some of the background and overview of the plan.

What our plan is and isn’t

Our plan is a set of guiding principles and aspirations.
It is a way to focus the work of staff and volunteers and to communicate the
Chicago Botanic Garden’s priorities and vision.
It is the groundwork for the Garden’s annual operating plans.
The goals of our plan are achievable.

Our plan isn’t a business plan.
While our plan sets forth a few major quantitative goals, it does not set forth many.
It doesn’t intend to.
Management outlines business goals and quantitative measurements in annual operating plans and budgets.
These support the strategic goals.
Staff present annual plans to the board each year.

We are much more than a “pretty place”

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s work is important.
We have a strong foundation for the future.
We serve an expanding audience—on-site, online, and at our satellite locations—of millions of people each year.   
We are committed to delivering a sense of belonging to every person we serve, regardless of age, background, or ability.
Plants need informed and committed advocates.
The Garden embraces this responsibility.

To achieve the Keep Growing Strategic Plan we will need to do the following:

  • Sustain current momentum across all aspects of the Chicago Botanic Garden, in particular increasing and improving
    • horticultural excellence;
    • attendance and the visitor experience—across all four seasons;
    • education for students of all ages in science, urban agriculture, and horticultural therapy;
    • awareness of “behind-the-scenes” activities (science, the Garden–Northwestern graduate program, Windy City Harvest, horticultural therapy, and the Plant Conservation Alliance);
    • financial security and risk management; and
    • diversity of the Garden’s workforce, program participants, vendors, and boards.
  • Complete the fundraising and construction of the most significant features, outlined here, of our Master Site Plan.
  • Leverage distinctive local and regional conservation science programs into international impact and recognition.
  • Become known as a key spokesperson of the critical importance of plant life—in all its many facets—for greater public understanding and action.
  • Work with collaborators—garden associations (American Public Gardens Association, Botanic Gardens Conservation International), governments, universities, conservation organizations, and corporations—to take measurable steps to improve the health of our natural world for present and future generations and to support the Convention on Biological Diversity Targets, especially those outlined in the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.
  • Create a campus of buildings and gardens that is a model of thoughtful and sustainable systems management—healthy for pollinators and other wildlife— and has as neutral an impact on the environment (water, energy, herbicide, and pesticide use) as possible; broadly communicate our accomplishments (and failures) in this area.
  • Accomplish these goals while adhering to the highest ethical standards.

Why the name "Keep Growing"?

For our strategic plan, we have adopted the name "Keep Growing."
We feel this reflects both our need to grow and mature, and our commitment to help those we serve to grow and mature.

The words "Keep Growing" provide aspiration and a promise to all audiences, give the Garden and its plans an active voice, and position the Garden in an innovative light. The words "Keep Growing" are more than a tagline; they are a way to define who we are and where we are going.
We will achieve our goals only if we enable those we serve—every person, regardless of age, background, or ability—to achieve their goals.

The Garden’s plan is upheld by four program areas and six support areas that are interrelated:

Program Areas
Buildings, Gardens, and Living Collections
Visitor Experience and Business Development
Community and Education Programs

Support Areas
Financial Sustainability and Risk Management
Staff and Volunteers
Information Systems

Our philosophy with this strategic plan website is to create an open-source resource for all to use. We hope our Keep Growing Strategic Plan will help demonstrate who we are, what we stand for, and how we execute our work. We hope your organization will be interested in reviewing our plan, modeling or benchmarking your work with ours, and engaging in a dialogue with us for ways to improve our work and those we serve. Please use the website in this spirit and do not hesitate to get in touch with us directly: