Park District Considers Hiring Support for Museum, Zoo Foundations

Wheaton Park District considering jointly-funded position for fund development director to support the Cosley Zoo and DuPage County Historical Museum foundations.

The is proposing to hire a fund development director to generate revenue for the district and its partners, the Cosley Zoo Foundation and the Foundation.

The two foundations are "energized and active" in fundraising more than ever, according to a park district staff report, and need more focused attention paid to fundraising and fund development, said Mike Benard, executive director of the Wheaton Park District.

At its staffing capacity, the park district would—with the two foundations—jointly fund the new position as park district staff saw a greater need for staff support of the two boards, Benard said.

Director of Marketing and Fund Development Margie Wilhelmi and her team currently handle the responsibilities the Fund Development Director would assume, according to the report. Benard told the park district board of commissioners at a Dec. 14 meeting the fund development director, "would allow both foundations to have a greater level of success in generating capital dollars, which relieves the park district's capital expenditures as you’ve seen repeatedly over the past 24 months with .”

Benard said the district's major expenditures related to Cosley Zoo have recently included the new pigs and chickens exhibit, land acquisition, a current storm water management project and the upcoming bobcat exhibit. 

The employee would be expected to raise his or her salary and benefits—$65,000 plus $22,000 to $33,000 in benefits—in the first one to two years of employment, he said. 

Both the Cosley and Museum foundation boards are “in favor” of the position, according to the report. The two foundations would pay the employee's salary and the park district would cover benefits.

At the Dec. 14 meeting park district officials suggested staff research the option of hiring a development director as an independent contractor, as opposed to a full time employee. 

Commissioner Terry Mee said hiring a contractor might be appropriate, "If they don't deliver you can cut them loose."

Commissioner Mark Schobel agreed, "In today's economy people are just not adding people to staff. If you can outsource something like this... There's a whole lot of benefit to it," he said. 

Benard said he would follow up with the idea of hiring a contractor and provide the board with further information regarding the job description, the potential development director's initial goals and a formal source of funding for the position at the Jan. 18 board meeting.

The board meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18 at , 303 Wesley Street, Wheaton.


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