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Chief Development Officer

Chicago Botanic Garden
Illinois, United States
Salary Not specified
Closing date
Jul 16, 2022

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Chicago Botanic Garden

Chief Development Officer

Glencoe, Illinois

The Chicago Botanic Garden cultivates the power of plants to sustain and enrich life.

The Chicago Botanic Garden opened 50 years ago as a beautiful place to visit, and it has matured into one of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers. Every year, more than one million people visit the Garden’s 28 gardens and four natural areas, uniquely situated on 385 acres on and around nine islands, with six miles of lake shoreline.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has more than 59,000 members – one of the largest memberships of any U.S. botanic garden. The Garden is one of only 25 public gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums. People of all ages, interests, and abilities participate in programs, take classes, and stroll the grounds year-round. Within the nine laboratories of the Garden’s Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, scientists and graduate students conduct a wide array of plant research. The Joseph Regenstein Jr. School of the Botanic Garden reaches more than 120,000 people a year. The Garden’s Windy City Harvest program is a national model for urban agriculture, and the Garden is a world leader in providing therapeutic horticulture experiences to its visitors and at facilities throughout the Chicago area. The Garden’s Lenhardt Library contains 150,000 volumes – including one of the nation’s best collections of rare botanical books. The Garden also has a renowned Bonsai Collection.

Immediately prior to the pandemic, the Garden achieved one of its most successful years ever in 2019: completing the 10-year “Keep Growing” capital and endowment campaign that raised $140 million; achieving global recognition as its conservation science research was published in the world’s most-cited and comprehensive scientific journals; growing community science, environmental STEM education, and urban agriculture programs; and propelling attendance to a record 1.275 million visitors, a 22% increase from 2018. In 2021, the Garden returned to its trajectory of growth and achieved increases in membership, contributions, sponsorships, and annual operating revenue compared to the 2019 baseline. In 2021, the development team delivered operating revenue of $19.78 million, including 26% growth in its unrestricted operating revenue compared to 2019.

This success notwithstanding, the Chicago Botanic Garden has continued to assess fundraising and identify opportunities for enhancement. The Garden is looking for a Chief Development Officer to strengthen and modernize its development operations while working collaboratively with the executive team to maintain, build, and re-envision systems capable of handling the Garden’s extraordinary growth. The Garden seeks to adopt a more ambitious and entrepreneurial approach to fundraising. Key goals include substantially increasing annual fund net revenue and leveraging existing relationships and aspirational visioning to increase contributions at the highest levels. 

This requires a candidate who understands both the art and the science of fundraising, and who is adept at personal relationship building and systems improvements. A new Board of Directors Development Committee will be established to formalize systemic processes for Board members’ participation in fundraising. And given the national and international preeminence of the Garden, fundraising will seek to capitalize on sources of support located beyond the immediate North Shore community and Chicago metropolitan area. The Garden is cultivating a fundraising program intended to match the exceptionalism of the overall institution.

The Chicago Botanic Garden presently seeks candidates for the role of Chief Development Officer (CDO). The CDO leads and guides the development and implementation of the Garden’s comprehensive fundraising efforts, assures alliance with mission and strategy, cultivates a culture of philanthropy, and motivates a team to deliver against short and long-term objectives in an evolving and growing organization. Reporting to the President and CEO, the CDO will oversee a team of approximately 34 individuals. The CDO will be a member of the Garden’s Executive Leadership Team and a key liaison to the Board of Directors.

The CDO must be an open-minded, diplomatic, collaborative, and creative professional who builds upon the historic strengths and record of success while motivating ambitious change and growth. They will possess the intellectual depth, maturity, and skills to work effectively with the President and CEO, the Executive Leadership Team, Board members, and staff at all levels.

While the Chicago Botanic Garden will consider a broad range of backgrounds, the ideal candidate will have the following qualifications/experience.

- Passion for the mission and programs of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Ability to inspire and engage others as a senior representative of the Garden.

- Ten or more years of development experience with progressive levels of responsibility, including broad knowledge of all functional areas of fundraising (major, planned, and annual giving; corporate and foundation giving; annual giving/membership; stewardship) and leadership in a major capital campaign, preferably within a major cultural institution, nonprofit organization, educational institution, or other environment of similar complexity.

- Demonstrated ability to provide strategic and operational management, leadership, and coaching, including creating and managing a budget.

- A strong record of recruiting staff, fostering a transparent and collegial work environment, and increasing effectiveness through established objectives, performance standards, quantifiable benchmarks, and mentoring.

- Proven ability to personally cultivate, solicit, and steward individual and institutional donors at seven to eight-figure levels through diplomacy, collaboration, and creativity.

- Demonstrated ability in planning and executing integrated, strategic, and innovative communications in support of achieving fundraising goals.

- Ability to extract and analyze data to make effective, efficient decisions about donor strategy and process. A working knowledge of modern data management practices and innovations that can streamline the development process and contribute to the integration of related functions.

- Experience assessing, modernizing, and improving fundraising relationship management tools.

- A forward thinker with a track record of utilizing new methods of donor engagement and connectivity, who will be driven by innovation in developing philanthropic best practices in the current and post-COVID-19 world.

- Ability to travel as necessary, consistent with public health guidelines.

- Bachelor’s degree required. 

The Chicago Botanic Garden is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a veteran, and basis of disability or any other federal, state or local protected class.

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the Chicago Botanic Garden does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its programs or activities, including in employment or admissions. Please call 847.835.8264 to contact the Garden’s Title IX coordinator should you have questions or concerns.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has retained the DSG Fundraising & Advancement Practice of the Diversified Search Group to assist in this confidential search process. Inquiries, nominations, and applications (current resumes and cover letters) should be directed via email to:

Gerard F. Cattie, Jr.

Managing Director and DSG Fundraising & Advancement Practice Leader

Diversified Search Group

The Chrysler Building, 405 Lexington Avenue, 49th Floor, New York, New York 10174 | 212.542.2587

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