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MHS in Transition

Wellesley, MA June 13, 2008

Dear Overseers, Friends, Supporters and Fellow Members of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society:

Thursday evening, June 12th, my fellow Trustees and I had the pleasure of hosting the annual MHS Honorary Medals Gala at Elm Bank. As has been our tradition for much of our 179 year history, MHS Medals were distributed to distinguished leaders in the art and science of horticulture. We have always been good at recognizing leadership in this area. As gardeners and students of our backyard environments, this is what we all enjoy. It was a lovely evening.

Sadly, times change. As The Boston Globe, on the front page of its Business Section reported just this past Wednesday, "a growing number of the state's non-profits, especially charities and social service groups, face financial strains from a slowing economy..." MassHort finds itself among this number. Arguably, few non-profits in New England have been as challenged by the shifting priorities of our traditional philanthropic constituencies, fading local corporate support and the rising cost of energy as MassHort. These factors, combined with our commitment to design, develop and maintain 4.5 acres of downtown gardens on the Greenway; diminishing returns from the Flower Show; a dose of poor hiring and our share of bad press have diminished our cash flow and created a current operating deficit.

Wellesley, MA June 13, 2008

Dear Overseers, Friends, Supporters and Fellow Members of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society:

Thursday evening, June 12th, my fellow Trustees and I had the pleasure of hosting the annual MHS Honorary Medals Gala at Elm Bank. As has been our tradition for much of our 179 year history, MHS Medals were distributed to distinguished leaders in the art and science of horticulture. We have always been good at recognizing leadership in this area. As gardeners and students of our backyard environments, this is what we all enjoy. It was a lovely evening.

Sadly, times change. As The Boston Globe, on the front page of its Business Section reported just this past Wednesday, "a growing number of the state's non-profits, especially charities and social service groups, face financial strains from a slowing economy..." MassHort finds itself among this number. Arguably, few non-profits in New England have been as challenged by the shifting priorities of our traditional philanthropic constituencies, fading local corporate support and the rising cost of energy as MassHort. These factors, combined with our commitment to design, develop and maintain 4.5 acres of downtown gardens on the Greenway; diminishing returns from the Flower Show; a dose of poor hiring and our share of bad press have diminished our cash flow and created a current operating deficit.

Since we became fully aware of the nature and scope of this challenge approximately two months ago, the Trustees together with financial and legal counsel have acted to examine every strategic alternative, ranging from affiliation/alliance to alternative revenue sources to expense reduction. And we, of course, continue to do so. We are committed to attempting to preserve our core programming and Mission, including, to the extent possible, Elm Bank, the Greenway, the library, and scheduled events.. However, we are also committed to fairness to our suppliers, vendors and consultants---all of whom we respect and value as partners in our endeavors.

Therefore, since salaries and related costs currently represent almost 60% of our expenses, the Trustees have made the decision, voted and we are currently in the process of significantly reducing paid staff associated with all elements of our operation. These reductions are effective immediately.

Our staff are dedicated, talented individuals with families and careers that will be impacted. We would not take this step unless it was absolutely clear that it was our responsibility as Trustees. We wish them the best of luck---and ask you to support them in their career transitions, if possible.

Every part of this message is difficult to communicate. We ask for your continued support as volunteers, friends and Members of the Society as we work together to move through this period of uncertainty.

Yours, Very Truly,

William McDonough
President, Massachusetts Horticultural Society Board of Trustees

About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

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