Organization: South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation

Location: Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA

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About South Coast Botanic Garden:

Unique from the start, South Coast Botanic Garden (SCBG) is one of the world’s first botanical gardens to be developed over a sanitary landfill. The Garden is a masterpiece of creative land reclamation and environment improvement for all to share. It is a living testimonial to the fact that land reclamation not only offers a practical solution to refuse disposal problems, but also beautifies and improves land values at the same time. The Garden has become a beautiful and restorative urban oasis among the hustle and bustle of a major mega-metropolitan area.

It’s amazing to think that at one point in time the South Coast Botanic Garden was covered by the Pacific Ocean. In the ocean were vast populations of single cell algae called diatoms. As the diatoms died they settled to the floor of the ocean and collected, leaving behind a sediment known as crude diatomite or diatomaceous earth. It has myriad industrial uses, such as for filtration and as an insulating or strengthening component in building materials.

During the early 1900’s the Dicalite Company began mining diatomaceous earth, but at this time it was mostly surface mining. By 1929, open-pit mining was being pursued. In 1944 the mine was sold to the Great Lakes Carbon Company and mining began in earnest. By 1956, production of the mine declined and the site was sold to the County of Los Angeles. From the very beginning, the County planned to utilize the best possible technology and to reclaim the land for future use. In the meantime, the site was used as a sanitary landfill to help meet the County’s growing landfill needs.

In 1961, private citizens, headed by Frances Young, prevailed upon the County Board of Supervisors to convert this site into a botanic garden. It was an exciting experiment in sanitary landfill reclamation. In April 1961, the first major planting took place with over 40,000 donated trees, shrubs and other plants. Since then, the Garden’s plant collection has significantly increased to more than 200,000 plants. This also marked the inception of the South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation. The Garden is jointly administered by the County of Los Angeles, Department of Parks and Recreation and South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation.

From open pit mine to sanitary landfill to stunning garden is the extraordinary history of South Coast Botanic Garden. This continuing experiment in land reclamation has drawn horticulturists from all over the world, including Prince Charles of England, to study the feasibility of similar projects. The success of the reclamation effort is apparent in the peaceful, shady groves and areas of spectacular color.

The South Coast Botanic Garden has come a long way. Bursting with color and varied plant and wildlife, the grounds are a spectacular sight. The Garden has much to offer: members have access to 14 Clubs and Societies to become informed about specific plant varieties, i.e. roses, cactus, geraniums, etc. At least twelve flower shows are hosted for the members and public annually. Lectures, classes, concerts and weddings fill the calendar seven days a week. All of this make South Coast Botanic Garden a year-round attraction and an “Inspiration Site” for garden ideas.

The founding membership of the Garden had a vision that has been realized with the cooperative efforts of Los Angeles County, the Foundation, and Community. The South Coast Botanic Garden is a treasure to be cherished for this and future generations.

The Opportunity:

At this exciting point in its growth, the South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation (SCBGF) seeks an experienced and bold Chief Development Officer (CDO) to join the senior leadership team to develop and lead all fundraising and marketing communications strategies and initiatives, and to prepare the organization for a progressive capital campaign. This is an excellent opportunity for a self-motivated and accomplished development professional to be part of an organization that will transform SCBG to become one of the top botanic gardens in the Southern California region. The Garden is poised to increase its annual operating budget exponentially which will lead to several capital enhancements and improvements throughout the property over the next five years.

The CDO will serve as a strategic partner to SCBGF’s CEO and Board of Trustees spearheading all fundraising activities. This position will shape and significantly enhance SBCG’s fundraising strategy, build development infrastructure, and will seize near-term opportunities for revenue, engagement and awareness, while building capability and capital for long term sustainability. The ideal candidate will have experience cultivating and stewarding a portfolio of six-figure donors, leading capital campaigns, achieving aggressive annual fundraising goals, and collaborating with and managing a team. S/he will be an effective and skilled communicator who will inspire and motivate others around fundraising endeavors at the Garden. The CDO will have a strong attention to detail as well as the strategic agility and the vision to move South Coast Botanic Garden forward in a period of fast-paced and transformational growth.

Key Responsibilities

  • Develop, lead, and execute a comprehensive fundraising program that enables sustainable growth, including individual, foundation and corporate donors as well as government grants. Build an infrastructure to support a progressive capital campaign in the next 2+ years.
  • Collaborate with the Board of Trustees, CEO and Director of Development to create a long term and annual fund plan which will increase revenues to support the strategic direction of the Garden.
  • Directly supervise a Development Director and direct all SCBGF fundraising activities to streamline and formulate a highly functioning development team.
  • Increase visibility of South Coast Botanic Garden as a destination point, through enhanced branding, targeted marketing strategies, innovative social media initiatives and other means.
  • Create development infrastructure involving the migration of donor information into a dedicated and centralized system.
  • Establish performance metrics, tracks progress, and helps the CEO and Board evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s fund development program.
  • Offers support, training, and direction to the Board of Trustees and CEO on donor prospecting, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
  • Keeps informed of developments in philanthropy and fund development in the nonprofit sector. Informs the CEO and Board on current trends and issues. Ensures ongoing communication and collaboration across the organization.

Core Competencies:

The Chief Development Officer will be a collaborative, flexible, passionate leader, well-versed in development and communications best practices and committed to the overall mission of South Coast Botanic Garden. In concert with the CEO and Board of Trustees, s/he will be responsible for envisioning and executing on a strategic development plan aimed towards expanding SCBG’s reach and impact. The successful candidate will have a minimum of 7 years of experience in high-level nonprofit fundraising leadership and management with a proven track record of driving all major fundraising functions and strategy; building a strong development infrastructure and achieving results; and cultivating, soliciting, and closing significant major gifts from a diversified funding base (individuals, corporations, foundations, and government grants).

The ideal candidate will have the following core competencies and personal qualities:

Expertise in Development

The Chief Development Officer will be an experienced leader in the field of development with a measurable track record of success in generating and implementing a fundraising strategy, growing an organization’s development capacity, and leading a capital campaign. S/he will have demonstrated expertise with a wide range of fundraising channels with particular focus on major, principal, capital campaign donors, including individuals, foundations, corporations, and government grants. The CDO will be a flexible self-motivated team player who will strategically partner with and support the CEO, Board of Trustees, and development staff in identifying fundraising opportunities and strategies. With poise and gravitas, s/he will anticipate, understand, and respond to the needs of donors to meet or exceed expectations. The CDO will also have experience leading the planning and implementation of donor cultivation and fundraising events, budget management and accountability, and volunteer activities.

Entrepreneurial and Strategic Leadership

A natural change agent, the Chief Development Officer will be a strategic thinker with the vision, capacity, and experience to understand and balance a complex array of development needs and priorities. This executive will have the ability to implement clear, action-oriented, innovative growth and communication strategies that will elevate South Coast Botanic Garden’s profile and broaden their footprint regionally. A motivated and results-oriented leader, s/he will be focused on the outcome of a given strategy, able to adjust expectations, processes, and approach if necessary. S/he will have robust analytical skills and the ability to think creatively and collaboratively about SCBG’s broader goals, while continuing to actively solicit feedback. S/he will be a superior project manager, able to make practical, realistic and data-driven decisions in a timely, thoughtful way, effectively leveraging her/his resources when appropriate.

Skilled Relationship Builder and Manager

The Chief Development Officer will be skilled at building and sustaining excellent relationships externally with donors, funding partners, and volunteers as well as with SCBG staff internally across all levels of the organization. S/he will be a natural collaborator with an ability to work effectively across the organization to identify fundraising opportunities with a diverse group of constituents. The CDO will be a decisive, results-oriented leader with a collegial, team-oriented working style. S/he will have a proven record of visible and effective management and the demonstrated ability to build, nurture, motivate, and retain a strong team of professional fundraisers that is focused on impact, excellence, accountability, and efficiency. S/he will empower and cultivate staff through active and effective communication as well as honest and constructive feedback and delegation.

Persuasive Communicator

The CDO will be a superior and diplomatic communicator, adapting her/his choice of language and the presentation of ideas to fit the audience needs and perspective in a manner that energizes, educates, and inspires. The CDO listens intently and responds effectively to inquiries or challenges on a range of subjects. S/he makes effective and persuasive presentations on topics of importance to senior leadership, trustees, donors, staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders with complete transparency and accuracy. S/he will inherently understand the nuances of creating and delivering compelling and meaningful communications such as proposals, reports, and updates. Additionally, s/he will have excellent written skills with strong knowledge of marketing and communications tools/platforms.

Passion for the Mission

The Chief Development Officer will have a passion for South Coast Botanic Garden’s mission and be excited about the unlimited opportunities for the Garden. S/he will embrace SCBGF’s collaborative culture, and will have the character, dexterity and pioneering mindset to lead all development functions for SCBGF including the cultivation of a donor base and other marketing and communications strategies. The CDO will be a considerate team player, working closely alongside the CEO with the Board of Trustees and the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, to support the overall mission, and to position South Coast Botanic Garden to achieve the greatest possible impact for continued and future success. S/he will embody the values of SCBGF and will inspire and motivate others.


The South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. This search is being led by Michelle Bonoan and Medelene Beasley. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here or email Michelle and Medelene at the following:

Michelle R.S. Bonoan
Managing Director
Medelene Beasley

South Coast Botanic Garden Foundation is an equal opportunity employer. We encourage applications from all individuals regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, and evaluate all candidates based on merit.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital-consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit