Letter from Robert F. Finke

Jean M. Franczyk

Chairman of the Board

As the Chicago Botanic Garden approaches the final stages of our “Keep Growing” capital and endowment campaign, we pause to review the progress we’ve made together:

In 2017, we finished major construction projects on the Kris Jarantoski Campus, including phase one of our new greenhouses, the first since the Garden opened in 1972. When the greenhouse project is complete later in 2018, the state-of-the-art plant production facilities will be triple the size of our current space, thereby enabling the Garden to expand its horticultural presentations with new and varied offerings.

We opened the Regenstein Learning Campus in 2016 as a place for people of all ages and abilities to explore the natural world and participate in a wide array of learning programs that improve both skills and quality of life.

In 2014, we completed a beautiful addition to the North Branch Trail and renovated the Garden View Café.

We completed the North Lake Shoreline Restoration Project in 2012 to stabilize the shoreline, enhance wildlife habitat, and create new scenic vistas. The restoration work paid off in July, following record flooding. Native shoreline plants were underwater for up to nine days without lasting impact.

We have raised $112 million of our $125 million “Keep Growing” capital and endowment campaign goal to date, including major gifts received in early 2018. There remain many wonderful naming opportunities throughout the Garden to recognize gifts to the Garden, and we need now to grow our endowment to sustain our future. Endowment income provides critical annual support, mitigates funding risks in the future, and ensures that the Garden will be enjoyed by generations to come. And it enables the  Garden to cope with unexpected financial needs, such as the recent project to protect the Garden’s irrigation and cooling systems from zebra mussels (about $900,000).

The Garden’s operating revenue remains strong, and net income is entirely reinvested in Garden operations. We enjoyed record levels in membership revenue ($4.7 million), the Annual Fund ($4 million), and corporate sponsorship ($1.7 million). The Summer Dinner Dance, our most successful fundraising event ever, yielded more than $900,000.

Now we must build on this position of strength in the face of fiscal challenges ahead. Local and federal government funding represents 40 percent of the Garden’s total revenue. We are exploring both revenue growth and cost efficiencies to minimize the impact of expected governmental funding cutbacks and to meet the demands of the Garden’s aging infrastructure.

We shall continue to be one of the finest public gardens anywhere and a world leader in plant conservation science because we
are on solid financial footing and will do what it takes to remain so.

Our Garden enjoys extraordinary and sustained success because of your continuing support and the skills and tireless efforts of the finest staff we could hope to have. Led by Jean M. Franczyk, president and CEO, and Fred Spicer, executive vice president and director of the Garden, the Garden staff works as a coordinated team every day to bring the best the Garden has to offer to all of its varied constituencies.

Thank you for your commitment and loyalty to this wonderful institution. Without you, we would not be able to deliver on our promise as a place of beauty, healing, plant science and conservation, and learning for the diverse audiences of Cook County and beyond. Finally, I am deeply grateful to our boards, staff, volunteers, members, donors, and partners who are second to none.