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Cleveland Botanical Garden

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Botanical Gardens & Arboreta, Environment

Mission: Cleveland botanical garden cultivates an enduring connection between plants and people so vibrant green communities will flourish and sustain life.

Programs: See schedule othe cleveland botanical garden is located on 10 acres in the university circle neighborhood of cleveland which encompasses two indoor glasshouses and outdoor gardens including the hershey children's garden designed specifically to engage our youngest audience in the natural world around them. Additionally, the garden manages four urban farms comprising three acres as part of our green corps program. The mission of the organization to advance and inspire a deeper understanding of plants to enhance life is achieved through science, education, and horticulture programs. The programs of the cleveland botanical garden are integrated with those of the holden arboretum following a merger of the organizations now d. B. A. Holden forests & gardens. The combined programming of two campuses with different geographies creates even more opportunity for impact in northeast ohio. The two organizations represent the 12th largest garden/arboretum in the united states. Organizationin fiscal year 2017 there was a change in executive leadership. Clem hamilton left the organization in february 2017, and a national search was conducted to find a new president and ceo. Paul abbey, formerly chairman of the board of directors, served as interim president and ceo from february to september. Jill koski was hired in late september 2017 serve as the new president and ceo of cleveland botanical garden and the holden arboretum, d. B. A. Holden forests & gardens. Ms. Koski has more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit field working cultural institutions. Prior to joining the holden arboretum, she worked at the morton arboretum in lisle, il for more than ten years, and at shedd aquarium in chicago, il for ten years. The cleveland botanical garden maintained attendance at 175,000 visitors in the last fiscal year. Signature programs designed around the seasons continue to be the primary drivers included glow during the winter holidays, big spring, and a number of fall programs. Member households also maintained at 20,000. Urban researchin fy17, research staff continued work on projects related to green infrastructure. Sandra albro performed extensive public engagement during the fiscal year. Sandra and paul abbey announced the cleveland tree canopy goal with mayor frank jackson, western reserve land conservancy, and others at citizens academy on arbor day, april 28. The canopy goal of 30% tree cover in cleveland by 2040 was created with chad clink and members of the cleveland tree coalition and was covered on local news this work was the culmination of sandra's efforts as co-chair of the cleveland tree coalition. Sandra signed a book contract with island press to develop a v2v book from the vacant to vibrant (v2v) program developed over the last several years at the garden. This program looks to use green infrastructure to treat storm water runoff and revitalize vacant lots. She also served as an environmental representative from holden forests & gardens to district 1 natural resources assistance council (nrac), part of clean ohio fund. Horticultureat the cleveland botanical garden during the spring and fall planting seasons, there were twenty-three trees and shrubs planted and over 2,039 herbaceous perennial plants planted. There are currently 2,208 taxa (species, varieties, cultivars) in the living plant collection, 874 of which are woody. Education cleveland botanical garden's educational programming engages individuals of all ages with plants and other aspects of the natural world to enhance fundamental learning, appreciation of nature and health and wellness. During 2017, our work with 8,879 students and teachers of northeast ohio focused on providing programming which addressed the ohio state science standards. Professional development opportunities are provided that offer teachers a chance to increase content knowledge in the natural sciences and that help them with pedagogy related to teaching science. These range from one week graduate level classes to after school sessions. In addition, workshops are presented at numerous teacher conferences each year. A total of 49 teachers from grades k-12 attended 4 separate workshops during 2017. A total of 100 adult classes in the areas of horticulture, gardening, art and nature, therapeutic horticulture, and health and wellness were offered on a quarterly basis to members and the community at large. These classes are for personal enrichment and often are of a practical, how-to nature with hands-on experience. 1,800 guests took advantage of adult programming in 2017. Family classes and programs are designed to engage children and parents in activities that encourage exploration of and learning about the natural world. Thirty-eight programs were offered through the class schedule for 300 children however the majority of experiences are offered as free drop-in" programs within the gardens, natural areas and indoor glass houses. Most programs and activities take place in the hershey children's garden, a half-acre playful garden space designed to teach children ages 2-8 about plants, gardening and the interconnectedness of nature. During the busiest summer months hundreds of children a week participate in a variety of these hands on learning experiences. Informal education also takes place as visitors take advantage of guided tours of the outdoor gardens and indoor glasshouse; animal meet and greets and butterfly releases into the costa rica biome; brochures, maps, and interpretive panels and labels. Special exhibit interpretation is created for seasonal exhibits to highlight featured temporary displays. The library collection focuses on horticulture and natural history and serves primarily as an information resource for staff, members, and people from the community. Members may check out books. The catalog is available online and available through the garden website.

Community Stories

3 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Client Served

Rating: 1

I happened to look at the reviews for the Botanical Garden and noted that one indicated the highest level and another indicated the lowest. in ratings. I thought that very interesting; usually the result of a disgruntled visitor or employee.

However, when I reviewed the file on Guidestar; the reviews submitted were even more interesting. When exploring the 990s for 2011 and 2012, it seems the Botanical Garden Board of Trustees has totally ignored their fiduciary responsibility for the fiscal viability of this historical and important local organization.

In 2011, the 990 for the Botanical Garden indicated a loss of almost $1 million dollars in their operating budget. More striking, was a loss of more than $2 million in 2012. Yet, when one reviews the compensation for highest paid employees - the Executive Director earned a salary of $117,287 in 2011 with an increase of 16% in 2012 to $136,074. How does that compute; a small nonprofit organization loses millions - more than $3 million in just 2 years on a budget of from $6 to 7 million and yet, compensates its senior executive with an increase of 16% from 2011 to 2012 - and, when customarily compensation increases in today's economic climate are from 1 - 3%.

This kind of behavior on the part of a governing body is unconscionable. This is an organization that relies upon our tax dollars, through the county Arts Tax, in part, to sustain its operations. The Board, as well as their highly paid Executive Director have clearly thumbed their collective noses at the tax payors and most importantly, at the organization for which they were appointed to lead and maintain. Shame!

Review from Guidestar


Rating: 5

The Botanical Gardens is a very great organization and I enjoyed being there. The Gardens are beautiful and it was fun and healthy to be around nature. Botanical Gardens focuses on their customer service and takes matters like that seriously. Everyone was very friendly and they never failed to put a smile on my face.


General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

This is an institution that epitomizes how non-profit organizations generate negative stereotypes for the sector. The compensation allocated to the 4 top employees indicates salaries that represent more than 13.2% of the operating budget. Typically the benchmark for non-profits is 12% of the operating budget allocated to the full/overall administration of the organization, but 13.2% to senior staff salaries is unconscionable.

One must wonder where is the Board in its fudiciary responsibility of an organization that is clearly experiencing financial difficulties, but continues to fund individual staff members rather than focus its resources on the mission and operations of a historical organization such as this.

Review from Guidestar