Keep Growing 2020: The Ten-Year Strategic Plan
Visitors view Alice

Robert F. Finke

Robert F. Finke, Chaiman of the Board
Chairman of the Board

By every measure, 2015 was a memorable year for the Chicago Botanic Garden—and a year in which we laid the foundation for a promising future. In December 2015, on behalf of the Board of Directors, I was very pleased to announce the appointment of Jean M. Franczyk as president and CEO.

Jean, a native of Chicago, brings strong science, education, and public programs expertise to the Garden. She has been in leadership roles with the Science Museum Group in the United Kingdom since 2006 and has served as deputy director of the Science Museum in London since 2014. She will continue the tradition of talented, visionary leadership at the Garden, following her predecessor, Sophia Shaw. Sophia served the Garden with distinction for ten years, and was president and CEO since 2007. We thank her for all she has accomplished.

Jean takes over a Garden in excellent physical and financial condition, thanks to the dedicated boards, staff, volunteers, benefactors, and all of our visitors who support the Garden as members or through gifts to the Garden. The Garden welcomed more than one million visitors for the third year in a row and remains on solid financial footing. In 2015, the Garden was recognized by Chicago Magazine as one of 20 standout nonprofits in Chicago, based on mission, value, community impact, and sound fiscal management. The Garden also received its third straight four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the country’s top charity evaluator. Only 14 percent of the charities that are rated have received at least three consecutive four-star evaluations.

The Garden’s primary source of funding—nearly $9.5 million—came from the Forest Preserves of Cook County, our valued partner in a long-standing public-private partnership. Also, in 2015, $28 million in total funds were raised, the third highest total in the Garden’s history, while grant awards and membership revenues both set records. Operating budget contributions hit an all-time high, with the Annual Fund supported by all three boards and President’s Circle members, and others. The Garden also enjoyed growth in corporate sponsorship, support from foundations, and profits from fundraising events.

More than $8 million of new government grants were awarded in 2015, an increase of more than $2.5 million, supporting programs in science, education, and urban agriculture. For only the second time, the Garden secured more than $1 million in corporate sponsorships.
The Garden also took major steps forward on the two most important projects of “Keep Growing,” a $125 million capital and endowment initiative. In April 2015, thanks in part to a $10 million gift from the Regenstein Foundation, the Garden broke ground on the final two phases of the $28 million Regenstein Learning Campus—the Learning Center and the Nature Play Garden, both of which will open to the public in September 2016. In August 2015, the Garden cut the ribbon for the plant production nursery on the Kris Jarantoski Campus. Additional phases for new greenhouses and a shade evaluation garden on the $40 million Jarantoski Campus will be undertaken when the remaining $5.8 million needed to complete the Campus is secured.

We need your help to ensure that the Garden remains a vibrant, living museum for generations to come. Every dollar of your support for “Keep Growing” projects will enable the Garden to continue to engage, educate, and inspire, and improve the health of plants and ecosystems close to home and around the world. Today, the Garden’s future is brighter than ever. With Jean, our boards, our staff and volunteers, and, importantly, your help, the Garden will continue to build new ways for people to enjoy the Garden and benefit from its varied activities, which connect all of us to the role that plants and healthy habitats play in helping to sustain our world.

With gratitude and best wishes,

Robert F. Finke
Chairman of the Board