Green Bay Botanical Garden is a 100% community supported nonprofit organization that connects people with plants in an environment that engages, inspires and refreshes. First opened in 1996 and now featuring 47 acres of display gardens and natural areas, the Garden touches the lives of more than 140,000 visitors annually from Northeast Wisconsin and beyond.
This summer, Green Bay Botanical Garden will be the first and only Wisconsin venue to feature Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks by Sean Kenney, an award-winning New York City artist. The exhibit features larger-than-life plants and animals crafted entirely from LEGO blocks. In total, 16 nature-inspired sculptures will take up residence throughout the Garden— from a hummingbird on a trumpet flower made with 61,107 LEGO pieces, to a peacock created with 68,827 pieces.
“Nature Connects fits perfectly into our mission with its focus on educating visitors about the natural world through these amazing sculptures,” says Executive Director Susan Garot. “Not only will the exhibit provide visitors the opportunity to see the larger-than-life sculptures, but we will be providing interpretive programming that allows people to connect with nature on a deeper level by giving them a greater understanding of the role of plants, animals, pollinators and themselves in protecting our world.”
Susan Garot has served as the Executive Director of Green Bay Botanical Garden for 10 years and has held nonprofit leadership roles in prominent organizations that include the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau.
We took the opportunity to ask Susan about some aspects of being and becoming a nonprofit leader.
What are some things you know now that you wish you knew when you first started as a nonprofit leader?
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a strong relationship between the Executive Director and the Board. Board recruitment and development is probably one of the most important roles of a nonprofit leader. And it is ongoing.
What has been your biggest source of pride as executive director?
My greatest joy is in developing the 47 acres of beautiful gardens. We are only about half-way there, but the visioning, planning, fundraising, construction and programming of this fabulous piece of land has been so much fun over the past ten years!
What are your three biggest accomplishments in your career as a nonprofit leader?
First is building a team of professionals and volunteers that have taken Green Bay Botanical Garden from its founders’ early dreams of attracting 20,000-30,000 annual visitors to closing in on 150,000 visitors this year, and 200,000 by 2020. Then, leading that team to continue to grow and evolve the Garden and its programs to meet the needs and expectations of our community. Finally, providing opportunities for everyone in our community to enjoy the benefits the Garden offers, without the barrier of admission fees. We offer free event days throughout the year, removing any reason people may have for not enjoying this community asset.
What are the dominant challenges that you see nonprofit organizations facing and what do you think would be viable solutions?
The dominant challenge of all nonprofits is finding the resources needed to resolve the problems we were created to solve. Being able to effectively tell your story and finding ways to engage with your community, especially those with the resources to assist in achieving your mission, are essential tools a nonprofit manager must master.
What aspects of nonprofit accounting do you find most challenging?
Everything! But I have a wonderful finance manager on staff and excellent volunteers on our Finance Committee that have helped me learn and understand what I need to know.
We are happy to work with this incredible community resource, and we encourage you to visit the Green Bay Botanical Garden! Learn more at: https://www.gbbg.org/