annual report 2010

PHOTO: Susan A. WillettsSophia Siskel, President and CEO

When I became chairman of the Chicago Horticultural Society in June 2009, I followed in the footsteps of visionary leaders whose investments of time and resources had enabled a degraded marshland to grow into a renowned public garden on land owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Then, as now, I embraced the opportunity to ensure our beloved Garden’s future is as successful as its past was remarkable.

Under the able leadership of the Garden’s senior staff, in partnership with the Society’s Board, the Garden adopted a new ten-year strategic plan in 2009. Entitled “Keep Growing,” the plan acknowledges the Garden’s mission can only be fulfilled if the Garden is financially secure.

While solidifying the Garden’s financial position is a long-term pursuit, in 2010 a laserlike focus throughout the Garden generated positive results that greatly strengthened the foundation on which the future is being built.

  • Membership revenue was the highest in Garden history, as were contributions to its Annual Fund. Growing these revenue sources provides a larger offset to annual operating expenses.
  • Sixty-one percent of contributions to the Annual Fund were from members of the President’s Circle, who annually give $1,000 or more. Unrestricted support from this loyal donor community underwrites plans supporting the Garden’s four operational pillars:
    Buildings and Gardens; Marketing and Visitor Experience; Science and Academic Programs; and Education and Community Programs.
  • The Woman’s Board continued its historic role by managing profitable events that now provide critical support of the Rainwater Glen and Green Roof Garden. Proceeds from the Guild’s Harvest Ball help to underwrite the Garden’s programs for children and teachers.
  • Revenue from corporate sponsorships grew by 25 percent. Diversifying our revenue sources over time will reduce the risks of future economic uncertainty.
  • The mission of the Garden as well as the successful public/private partnership between the Garden and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County contributed to the Garden continuing to receive the unique and essential resources that each of these partners provides.

During the next nine years, the “Keep Growing” strategic plan will shape the future of the Chicago Botanic Garden. I encourage everyone who belongs to the Garden or cares about its mission to join me in growing their own contribution to the Annual Fund. Together, with a nod to the past, we can help the Garden secure its future, as well as our own.

On behalf of the Chicago Horticultural Society,

Susan A. Willetts