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

Robert Finke

Robert Finke
Chairman of the Board

It is my great privilege to work with the dedicated boards, staff, volunteers, members, and friends of the Chicago Botanic Garden whose enduring efforts and support, as well as that of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, have made the Garden what it is today: one of the very few botanic gardens in the world recognized not only for captivating display gardens, but also for far-reaching scientific research, broad educational opportunities, and innovative urban agriculture jobs-training programs that benefit people in all areas of Cook County.

Last year, the Garden completed the third year of its ten-year strategic plan, "Keep Growing." In those three years, the Garden has made great strides to meet the plan's goals. More than $34 million has been raised to support the capital projects and endowment needs set forth in the plan, which is available on the Garden's website. Indeed, 2012 was the most successful year in the Garden's history—with $26 million raised to support the Garden's operations and programs. The Annual Fund, which is critical to the daily operating needs of the Garden, reached an all-time high of $3.1 million thanks to contributions from the Board of Directors, the Woman's Board, the Guild, and many generous members and friends of the Garden. The Annual Fund and continuing support from the Forest Preserve District are the lifeblood that enables the Garden to open every day. In addition, corporate and individual sponsorships of $630,000, Garden gala net proceeds of $640,000, and $7.7 million in gifts and government grants for specific programs also helped the Garden to serve its varied constituencies in 2012.

But the Garden cannot rest on past success. First among the Garden's needs are new greenhouses and nurseries. The existing facilities grow much of what is on display in the Garden and play a critical role in plant science research; older than the Garden, they lack the modern technology needed to meet increasing demands and ensure a vibrant Garden in the future. The Garden must raise $37 million to install new greenhouses and nurseries, and to complete an adjacent extraordinary new display garden designed by Peter Wirtz, who is known the world over for his uniquely beautiful and functional landscape architecture. This Wirtz garden, along with the new greenhouses and nurseries, will transform the southern part of the Garden into a destination point for visitors and scientists alike.

To address the growing need for environmental education, the Garden is developing a comprehensive Learning Campus. Its next phase is a new Education Center emphasizing children's learning experiences and including another new display garden, this one designed by Mikyoung Kim, also recognized throughout the world for her creative and innovative landscape design. The Learning Campus, located at the north end of the Garden and also comprising the Kleinman Family Cove and the Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden, will become a focal point for visitors of all ages. To complete the Learning Campus, $18 million is needed.

Together, these projects will complete the Garden's master site plan and provide visitors with exceptional opportunities to enjoy new display gardens, discover how the Garden grows what 2 you see, and learn about plants, the natural world, and how the Garden works to enhance and conserve them. Together, the Greenhouses and Nursery and Learning Campus projects will affirm the Garden's role as a world leader in horticulture, visitor engagement, environmental education, and conservation research.

More immediately, the Garden Café will undergo renovation and expansion beginning in November 2013 to enhance visitor convenience and service, with completion by spring 2014. A bike path that will connect the Garden entrance to the Braeside Metra station and the Green Bay Trail also will be completed in 2014. Finally, several long-overdue infrastructure projects will be completed in 2013.

A word about the Garden's endowment: a healthy endowment is necessary to ensure that future generations will be able to treasure the Garden as we do. The Garden's endowment currently stands at approximately $70 million; that may seem quite healthy, and the Garden is grateful to all who have contributed to the endowment, but the need to grow the endowment is ever present. The Garden's goal is to bring the endowment to $120 million by 2020, including return on investments. To help the Garden meet that goal and to encourage others to follow its lead, the Negaunee Foundation has very generously committed $3 million to endow the position of Vice President of Science. We are grateful to the Negaunee Foundation for this leadership gift, which recognizes the importance of science and research to the Garden and the role that gifts to the endowment play in sustaining institutions like ours. Congratulations to Greg Mueller, Ph.D., on his new title.

The Chicago Botanic Garden owes its very life to its many friends—government entities, corporations, foundations, and individuals—and on behalf of the Garden and the Chicago Horticultural Society, I thank each of them. The Garden's future is bright, but there are many challenges we must meet to secure that future. I am confident that the Garden will enjoy the support of existing and new friends and benefactors. Together we are able to serve the nearly one million people who visit the Garden each year or avail themselves of the Garden's many programs, and to fund the scientific research and education essential to our earth's future.

With gratitude and warm regards,

Robert Finke
Chairman of the Board