Annual Report

Thank You Donors    Donate Now

A Message from the Chairman of the Board and the President & CEO

When we first wrote this letter, we simply wanted to thank you for delivering one of the most successful years ever at the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2019—and then the world changed. The new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak became a worldwide pandemic. We temporarily closed our beloved Garden, based on the recommendations of federal, state, and county officials. All classes, programs, and events were canceled.

What has not changed is our commitment to inspire and touch lives through the natural world. A growing body of research shows that people live happier, healthier lives when they spend time in nature. We will emerge from this crisis stronger and more relevant than ever to the health and well-being of the communities we serve.

As we write this letter, the scent of witch hazel lingers in the Sensory Garden, and thousands of sunny ‘Yellow Mammoth’ crocuses bloom in the grassy meadow of Evening Island. We send a message of hope for the future, as well as gratitude for the extraordinary achievements of 2019.

Here’s a quick recap of what we accomplished together:

New momentum
We completed the ten-year “Keep Growing” capital and endowment campaign. The campaign, which modernized and improved the Garden, raised $140 million, including $44.9 million in endowment.

New impact
The Garden achieved widespread recognition for its conservation science work. Our scientists published research on prairie plants in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most-cited and comprehensive scientific journals, and on green plant evolution in the prestigious journal Nature.

New reach
Our new holiday light show, Lightscape, sold out. More than 175,000 people attended—20 percent of whom were first-time visitors to the Garden. Lightscape, and other programs such as the pollinator-focused Bees & Beyond, helped propel attendance to a record 1.275 million visitors, up 22 percent from 2018.

Throughout 2019, we pushed ourselves hard, and you responded. You helped us achieve record levels of earned and raised revenues, and Annual Fund contributions. Facing substantial cuts in government funding, we doubled down on our strategic imperative to diversify and grow revenue, and to become more widely known and appreciated.

Thank you to our loyal staff, boards, volunteers, members, visitors, and donors, and to our partner, the Forest Preserves of Cook County. You help us improve lives, communities, and our planet.