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Park District to Hire Fund Development Director

Park district will hire a fund development director to generate revenue for Cosley Zoo Foundation, DuPage Historical Museum Foundation and the park district.

The Wheaton Park District will look to hire a fund development director after board members gave the green light for a one-year contract Wednesday night.

The park district in December proposed the fund development director position to generate revenue for the district and its partners, the Cosley Zoo Foundation and the Foundation.

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, said Mike Benard, executive director of the Wheaton Park District.

Director of Marketing and Fund Development Margie Wilhelmi and her team currently handle the responsibilities the Fund Development Director would assume, according to a staff 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. 

Commissioners at the December board meeting requested staff explore the option of hiring a contractor to do the work of the development director.

Benard told board members Wednesday the development director would be charged with developing and maintaining contacts throughout the community and DuPage County to create a donor list that would be a "valuable asset" for the zoo foundation, museum foundation and the park district. "(If) we hire an independent contractor to do it, that information leaves with them," he said.

"These foundation boards have done a tremendous amount of work, and they're ready to grow and expand, and we need in-house, full attention assistance to make it happen."

Consulting firm Pratapas Associates, LLC faciliated a three-year strategic fundraising plan and board/volunteer leadership development program for the Cosley Zoo Foundation and the DuPage Historical Museum Foundation, according to a memo from the firm's president Steve Pratapas. During the fundraising plan process, it became apparent to both foundations that a development professional with five to seven years of experience, "would need to be engaged in order to effectively execute the new strategic plans," Pratapas wrote.

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, Benard said.

Commissioner Phil Luetkehans motioned to approve the position with a one-year contract. After one year, the board will revisit the need for the position and justify its existence, Luetkehans said.

Commissioner John Kelly said while he was in favor of hearing information about a contractor, he feels the board owes it to staff to support the one-year contract. "If staff feels that strongly that they want to hire from within, I think we kind of owe it to them to try."

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