The Holden Arboretum – A Cordial Invitation

Experience, Learn and Preserve the Magic of The Holden Arboretum

Impact relations Practitioner


The (nonprofit) Holden Arboretum is an outdoor living museum that promotes the beauty and importance of trees and other woody plants to create sustainable and healthy communities in the Great Lakes region and beyond. Based in Kirtland, Ohio, Holden—one of the largest arboreta and botanical gardens in the U.S., encompassing more than 3,600 acres of diverse natural areas and ecologically sensitive habitats—seeks to provide a positive environmental impact through on-site experiences, community outreach and research. From 2010-2013, Holden had carefully evaluated its site and resources, to see how well they were meeting the interests of visitors and the needs of the community.

Campaign overview

Holden crafted a comprehensive master plan, the “New Leaf Plan.” This plan was the blueprint for new and improved gardens and facilities—Holden serves as an outdoor classroom of forests, fields, mountains, ravines, streams, wetlands, wildlife and more than 17,000 plants. To fund the New Leaf Plan, Holden began the silent phase of a capital campaign. While there was no public announcement about the campaign, board and staff were quietly approaching donors for funds to support the plan.

Holden leadership knew that its donors were aging and they needed to cultivate new donors. They hired Prosper for Purpose. Together, they decided to do something Holden had never done in its 82-year history: ask for support from members of the arboretum. Members had never been asked to contribute to Holden beyond their annual membership, which started at $55 per year.

Prosper led Holden in launching the public phase of its $8 million New Leaf Campaign. Holden hired Prosper to create communications to inspire donations from members. The communications plan culminated in a mailing that was an invitation to imagine what Holden could become.

Results & Impact

Holden surpassed all its campaign goals, and the mailing was more successful than anticipated. Nearly half the membership gave donations and Holden collected more than double what it dared hope for from members. Members truly felt they were invited to be part of something that would continue to enhance their experience—and the experience of their children and grandchildren for years to come.

The New Leaf Campaign finished at an impressive $9 million dollars, far surpassing its goal. It provided construction of the highly popular $1.3 million Murch Canopy Walk and Kalberer Family Emergent Tower, a rhododendron garden, tree allée and renovated library, as well as the ecological restoration of Corning Lake and Lotus Pond.

Holden is now the 12th largest public garden in the country. Combined attendance at both campuses is about 400,000 annually.

Thanks to a successful capital campaign and recently revised strategic plan, Holden is poised to continue to focus on their vision of biodiversity, green infrastructure, sustainable land use, and plant and environmental literacy.