Rotary Gardens launches capital campaign to raise $500,000

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, June 27, 2014

JANESVILLE—Mary Downing is a staunch supporter of Rotary Botanical Gardens.

She helped create the design and plantings of its English Cottage Garden and volunteers to toil in the soil at the award-winning, 20-acre nonprofit garden.

Downing also helps with children's programs, the annual plant sale and home garden tour.

“I've always liked being outside and projects with people who make things beautiful. Everything they have for people to do is very important and purposeful,” she said.

Downing and her husband, John, also financially support the gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive.

That's why the Janesville couple has made a contribution to the gardens' 25th anniversary capital campaign.

A soft launch led up to the gardens' Founders Day dinner June 8. Since then, board members, Friends of the Gardens, staff, volunteers, businesses and corporations have donated and pledged $120,168.

Now the campaign is in full gear.

“We want to ensure the community be informed and cordially invited to participate,” said Denise Peters-Kauihou, resource development director.

The campaign seeks to raise $250,000, which will be matched by the Janesville Foundation, bringing the total to $500,000.

“The board of the Janesville Foundation has generously approved a match for the campaign. Every donation will immediately be doubled dollar-for-dollar up to $250,000,” she said.

The campaign will continue through 2014.

Money raised will be used to create an operating reserve, dissolve debt and grow the endowment fund, Peters-Kauihou said.

Contributions earlier were used to grow, expand and enhance the gardens. Now the gardens need to plan for the future, Peters-Kauihou said.

“As we embark on a strategic business plan, the overarching theme evolved to focus on sustainability. It's responsible stewardship,” she said.

The actions of Mother Nature, such as the flood of 2008 and drought of 2012, can crimp the garden's cash flow and inflate costs, Peters-Kauihou said.

"Putting into place a policy-approved operating reserve would give the gardens secure financial footing and a contingency plan," she said.

Peters-Kauihou said the gardens operates with a line of credit available to compensate for seasonal changes in cash flow.

"We traditionally have been more flush in cash in spring and summer when we have many events, fundraisers and people visit. Then winter is slower when you see that decline," she said.

"Creating this fund would help us when we're in those nature-related crisis," she said.

Peters-Kauihou said the gardens is financially stable and the new fund is intended to implement a long-term plan.

"It is about fiscal long-term sustainability," she said.

Downing agreed that having money that grows and is self-supporting is important.

"It will make sure the gardens stay on track and keep improving," she said.

"If you give money to this organization, you know it's going to be well spent."

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