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Ganna Walska Lotusland-Chief Executive Officer-Wed, 06/10/2020 - 10:10am

Chief Executive Officer


Ganna Walska Lotusland
Montecito , CA 93108

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Job Description 

About Ganna Walska Lotusland

Located in the foothills of Montecito, Ganna Walska Lotusland, (“Lotusland”), is a globally renowned botanical garden encompassing the 37-acre estate of the late “Madame” Ganna Walska. Lotusland is a treasured masterpiece with an unforgettable and visually stunning experience – a garden of complex character and extraordinary horticultural achievement.
Lotusland is considered to be one of the world’s top 10 botanic gardens and is home to more than 3,500 different types of plants from all around the world. Many plants in the collection represent some of the rarest species on earth and in some cases are extinct in their native habitat. Lotusland is working to help save, propagate, and cultivate some of these most endangered plants for repatriation to their native habitats.

Lotusland has been featured in publications such as Martha Stewart LIVING, Financial Times, Garden Design Magazine, The Plantsman, Architectural Digest, the Los Angeles Times, Vogue, C Magazine, California Homes, 805 Living, Montecito Journal, Santa Barbara Magazine and countless additional publications.

Visitors today are able to tour Lotusland’s 25 gardens, each distinct in design while seamlessly transitioning to the next. Lotusland is not one garden, but a labyrinthine collection of many gardens, all somehow expressing the force of “Madame’s” unique sensibilities. Several of Lotusland’s gardens feature fanciful themes, including the Blue Garden, Theatre Garden and the classic topiary garden.

Lotusland boasts several extraordinary botanical collections, such as rare cycads, cacti, aloes, palms and euphorbias. “Madame’s” cycad collection is one of the world’s best, containing 147 of the 356 known varieties of cycads. Among the enormous array of plants, other noteworthy collections are the bromeliads, ferns, begonias, water lilies and the garden’s namesake – “Madame’s” treasured sacred lotus. Other “must-see” include the Japanese Garden, which was recently restored through a $9 million campaign, the horticultural clock and Neptune fountain, as well as Lotusland’s newest additions: a palmetum and insectary ‘pollinator’ garden.
Over the past 25 years, Lotusland has proven its commitment to the environment by applying cutting-edge sustainable horticulture practices and has become a model for other botanical gardens across the country.

Education & Scientific Role

Prior to California’s shutdown due to COVID-19, Lotusland provided educational programs and resources including environmental education resources for teachers and Lotusland’s Fourth Grade Outreach Program. Starting in 1998 with just 4 schools, Lotusland’s Fourth Grade Outreach Program was attracting 2,500+ public school students from and around Santa Barbara County each school year. This number was in addition to the 15,000 count of other visitors permitted by a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) under the governance of Santa Barbara County. The program emphasized the interrelationships of the natural world, including plants, animals and humans through classroom curricula, a docent classroom presentation, and a field trip experience at Lotusland. The hands-on field study of the botanical gardens of Lotusland is a critical component of the program and increases the retention of topics and learning objectives. With all schools now closed by mandate, it remains to be seen whether this program will be re-activated and when.

About Santa Barbara/Montecito

Lotusland is located in the heart of Montecito, an unincorporated community at the eastern end of Santa Barbara. Nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara offers sweeping ocean panorama. Stretching for approximately 110 miles along California’s Central Coast north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara has an appeal for its numerous coastal access points. A bounty of beaches allows for a range of activities, experiences and excursions, so do four of the closest Channel Islands – Anacapa Island, San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island and Santa Cruz Island - that are part of the County.

Santa Barbara has been a popular tourist and resort destination for many years. The city’s economy includes a large service sector, education, technology, health care, finance, agriculture, manufacturing and local government. Santa Barbara is home to four higher education institutions: The University of California, Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara City College; Westmont College; and Antioch University. Like all cities across the country, it will take time for Santa Barbara to recover from pandemic closures.

For more information on Ganna Walska Lotusland, please visit:

The Opportunity

In these times, a new engagement strategy and model will be required for Lotusland to continue to thrive. Given that, the Board of Trustees seeks a Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) who will look with fresh eyes at the institution and provide the next chapter of creative and visionary leadership in all areas of Lotusland's operations. While the senior staff and Board are giving this great thought, the new CEO will be expected to either embrace the model in place or develop a new one based on a recovery scenario built on reduced income to ensure perpetuity.

The CEO will spearhead the development of a Master Plan and work closely with Lotusland’s various constituents on the plan's successful implementation. The plan will broadly define the vision and direction for Lotusland over the next decade and will lead to plans for both programs and physical developments and improvements.

In partnership with the Board of Trustees, the CEO will develop the financial resources through philanthropy and earned income required to realize the vision for Lotusland. The next leader will need the ability to grow operating, endowment, and capital revenue and support to sustain Lotusland into the future.

The CEO will manage the overall operations of Lotusland, within an environment of efficiency and collaboration. The CEO will also work with the staff and the Board to set achievable budgets, develop and implement policies and procedures, and evaluate Lotusland’s performance against the strategic goals approved by the Board.

Additionally, maintaining and refreshing existing display gardens is critical to Lotusland's continued success. The gardens are at the core of Lotusland’s mission and revenue model and are critical to serving its customers (members and visitors).

Duties & Responsibilities 

Specific responsibilities of the next CEO include:

• Provide leadership in strategic planning, fundraising, community relations, financial
management, operations and staff development;
• Ensure the mission and core values of Lotusland are put into practice throughout strategic planning and annual operating plan execution;
• Explore new avenues of potential expansion, including playing an increased role in conservation policy; collaborations with other institutions. Expand Lotusland's educational activities through collaborations with higher education institutions.
• Ensure successful fundraising from individuals, corporations, and foundations, as well as explore grantmaking from federal and state government. Cultivate new sources of revenue by creatively and strategically expanding and deepening the existing donor and visitor base;
• Expand and develop fundraising opportunities through new and ongoing strategic partnerships;
• Promote Lotusland through frequent public speaking, media interviews, writing opinion pieces, social media and by attending industry events;
• Navigate and operate within and the boundaries of the Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”) from the County of Santa Barbara, which limits the number of visitors to tour the gardens and attend programs. Today, 15,000 visitors may visit the gardens per year, along with an additional 5,000 K-12 students and their teachers.
• Work with elected officials and administrators at the local, state and national levels;
• Develop and maintain collaborative relationships with community members, organizations and educational institutions. Serve and participate on external committees, Boards and professional organizations, collaborating with local and regional partners to build and maintain strategic partnerships;
• Lead staff of 24 full and 7 part-time employees and more than 250 volunteers to serve visitors annually in accordance with Lotusland’s values and goals;
• Demonstrate outstanding financial management. Work with Lotusland’s senior staff to ensure business practices and plans meet all financial goals;
• Manage the successful completion of capital projects on time and within budget. Collaborate with senior horticultural staff to ensure that all aesthetic/design choices meet Garden standards and style;
• Utilize organizational development tools and methodologies to regularly assess and align organizational health, leadership team effectiveness, employee satisfaction and morale, to support and drive strategic objectives;
• Exercise best practices in governance and ethics and in all ways that will best serve the mission and goals of Lotusland;
• Utilize the expertise and relationships of the Board. Be open to ideas, new approaches and outside assistance in select areas while clearly separating governance from management in order to allow the staff to effectively function; and
• Communicate in a transparent, timely and effective manner. Provide accurate and timely financial and operating metrics.

Lotusland has been awarded a PPP grant. The new CEO will be required to comply with the terms beginning July 1st.

Education and Experience 

The ideal candidate will have the following professional and personal qualities, skills, and characteristics:

A Strategic and Visionary Leader

The CEO is an intelligent, innovative and enthusiastic self-starter who can think strategically about Lotusland's future. This leader can successfully leverage the skills and talents of a Board to develop a Master Plan, while working closely with Lotusland’s various constituents on the plan's successful implementation and evaluation efforts. The CEO understands and deals with complexities with ease and is able to creatively overcome obstacles to achieve Lotusland's goals. This leader actively and strategically seeks out partnerships and builds coalitions with local, regional nonprofit and community organizations and their leaders on behalf of the strategic vision of Lotusland.

An Enthusiastic Fundraiser & Ambassador

The CEO serves as Lotusland’s primary ambassador, sharing the mission and vision with the outside world and helping to expand Lotusland's role more broadly. This leader is energetic, creative, ambitious and experienced in establishing strong working relationships in furtherance of an organization’s mission. The CEO has exceptional interpersonal skills with the ability to build and sustain strong support across a wide range of stakeholders including staff, Board, donors, volunteers, the community and the public. The CEO inspires confidence in donors, builds collaboration and buy-in and generates support from existing and new stakeholders. The CEO is experienced in fundraising and can successfully convey the objectives of Lotusland to potential donors. This leader is a media savvy communicator who brings passion for Lotusland’s mission as its spokesperson. The CEO is politically astute and attuned with a sophisticated personal presence.

An Experienced Manager

The CEO is a technologically-savvy executive with strong staff, operational and financial management experience. The CEO has a proven track record of sound financial planning, oversight and accountability, with the ability to clearly communicate financial status to the Board. The CEO possesses the ability to inspire a staff with a diverse set of skills, provide a productive work environment and professional growth opportunities that result in team cohesion and camaraderie. This leader understands the importance of transparency in communications with the staff and Board. The CEO brings demonstrated leadership in implementing nonprofit best practices to ensure day-to-day operations are aligned with strategic goals. This leader also possesses the knowledge and ability to ensure that the Board is achieving its primary responsibilities of best practice governance and fundraising.

An Inclusive Leader

The CEO is an inclusive leader who will develop and support a culture of collaboration and engagement among Lotusland's Board of Trustees, staff, the Santa Barbara and Montecito community, donors, docents and volunteers. This leader will actively engage Lotusland's key stakeholders and build trust among the Board and staff, supporting a culture of consensus building.

A Passion for the Mission

The CEO will bring a true passion for public gardens and a commitment to bringing Lotusland’s mission to the residents of Santa Barbara and well beyond. This leader is innovative with the goal of helping Lotusland expand its brand and reach and deepen its work. The CEO will have a deep appreciation for Lotusland’s aesthetic, which has become a trademark. This leader exhibits humility, a capacity to listen and dedication to the mission. It is imperative that the CEO treats others with respect and always stays true to the values of Lotusland. Moreover, the ideal candidate is an individual of unquestioned integrity, ethics and values; someone who can be trusted without reservation.

While experience in public gardens, botanical gardens or horticulture is not required, an understanding of the importance of public gardens and the role they play in bringing people and plants together and their ever-important role in safeguarding global biodiversity and fighting/educating about climate change is critical.

A Bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree in a related field is preferred.

Application Instructions 

Koya Leadership Partners, the executive search firm that specializes in mission-driven search, has been exclusively retained for this engagement. Anne McCarthy, Alison Ranney and Alison Salisbury are leading this search. To make recommendations or to express your interest in this role please email All nominations, inquiries, and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

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Koya Leadership Partners