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

Robert Finke

Robert Finke
Chairman of the Board

Every year, more people come to the Chicago Botanic Garden than the year before. People come because the Garden’s beautiful display gardens and natural areas, and its compelling programs offered in Glencoe and throughout Cook County, respond to the needs of real people. The Garden’s offerings are possible only because of the extraordinary talents of its management, staff, and volunteers. Their passion for the Garden and those they serve drives them to excel in their work. We who enjoy and benefit from the Garden are deeply in their debt.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is the product of a uniquely successful public-private partnership between the Forest Preserves of Cook County, on whose land the Glencoe campus sits, and the Chicago Horticultural Society, which built and has operated the Garden since 1968, opening the Garden gates in 1972. Even as the Garden works harder each year to serve the citizens of Cook County, its stature grows within the United States and around the world. As one of the most vital and vibrant living museums anywhere, the Garden attracts people from every walk of life, many of whom become members of its extended “family.” 

Last year, during the fourth year of its ten-year strategic plan, “Keep Growing,” the Garden made significant strides toward realizing the plan’s objectives. This is important because only by meeting the plan’s goals can the Garden continue to cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards, plant scientists, urban farmers, and horticultural therapists, and expand the Glencoe campus to include both new and improved display gardens.

With funds primarily from bonds issued by the Forest Preserves, the Garden renovated its café and reopened it as the Garden View Café earlier this year, with an expansive new look, streamlined service, and locally sourced menu. With generous support from the Forest Preserves, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Litowitz Family Foundation, the Garden completed plans for an addition to the North Branch Trail, construction of which began this spring.

The Garden also moved forward on the two remaining principal capital objectives of the strategic plan: the Kris Jarantoski Campus, named in honor of Executive Vice President and Director Kris Jarantoski’s guiding vision, and the Learning Campus. The Jarantoski Campus, on the south end of the Garden, will provide badly needed new greenhouses and nurseries; the Learning Campus at the north end, with an innovative Education Center, will enhance the Garden’s ability to teach students of every age, ability, and background about plants and environmental science. Both campuses will feature interactive and aesthetically prominent new gardens to engage visitors and promote horticultural excellence and education, respectively.

Last June, the Garden embarked upon Plants for Life 2020, a fundraising campaign to raise the funds necessary to complete the Jarantoski and Learning Campuses and grow the Garden’s endowment to four times its operating budget. Spurred by a matching grant from the State of Illinois, the Garden’s friends in the private sector already have committed enough funds to enable work to begin this year on new nurseries, and go a long way toward achieving the total amount required to complete both campuses. But $39 million remains to be raised: $9 million for the Learning Campus and $30 million for the Jarantoski Campus. Only when sufficient funds are in hand (80 percent of the capital cost of each project) can construction begin.  
Gifts to the Garden, in any amount, are needed and valued. The Garden may be supported through current gifts, pledges, and planned giving, and there are many opportunities to recognize those gifts. The Garden's development staff welcomes the opportunity to respond to requests for information. The Garden's achievements in its relatively short history, and its promising future, have inspired the continuing support of its many friends among individuals, families, foundations, corporations, and governments. That support, along with support from new friends, is essential if the Garden is to fully meet the goals of its strategic plan. We cannot fail to do so.

Many public gardens do one or two things well. Very few do everything the Chicago Botanic Garden does well: offering inspiring gardens and natural areas, engaging in plant conservation science and research, and providing a lifetime of opportunities for people to learn about and appreciate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to complete the new Jarantoski and Learning Campuses, and to grow our endowment, so that our Garden will continue into the future, second to none anywhere.

All three of the Garden’s boards—the Board of Directors, the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society, and the Guild of the Chicago Botanic Garden—work very hard throughout each year to sustain the Garden’s present and future. I know that I speak for all who enjoy and benefit from the Garden when I extend unbridled thanks to the Garden’s boards and the entire Garden family—staff, volunteers, members, and donors—for all they do every day to make the Garden preeminent among public gardens everywhere.

With gratitude and warm regards,

Robert Finke
Chairman of the Board