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Fernwood Botanical Garden taps industry leader Chris Jabin as Director of Development

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KEES Executive Search Client Partner, Fernwood Botanical Garden, a 105-acre botanical garden, arboretum, and nature preserve located in Niles, Michigan, has selected industry leader Christopher “Chris” Jabin as Director of Development following a comprehensive search.

Currently serving in a consulting capacity through Dragonfly Advisors, Inc., Jabin offers strategic consulting to build philanthropic and investor networks, develop leadership and solid governance practices, and enhance development programs to nonprofits in Chicago and Michigan.

“I am deeply grateful to Carol, the Board, and the Fernwood family of friends and supporters for this wonderful opportunity,” said Chris. “Just as I strove to improve the quality of life in Chicago through my philanthropic work, I look forward to enhancing our new community in Southwest Michigan in this role with Fernwood Botanical Garden. Creating mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations has always been a focus of my professional efforts, and Fernwood has a wonderful foundation on which to build many new relationships. I am eager to get to work to help advance Fernwood’s environmental stewardship and conservation education activities. With Fernwood’s strong visitation and dynamic public programs, there is a great opportunity to help our many friends and philanthropic partners learn about making a positive impact on the natural world around us.”

Jabin and his family moved to Three Oaks, Michigan, in 2019 to pursue a vision and lifelong dream. As part of his passion and love for nature and gardening, Chris and his wife Thayer, a Master Gardener, have been redeveloping the gardens and trails on their 12 acres of Dragonfly Farm. Prior to his current consulting work, Jabin’s diverse fundraising career included serving many of Chicago’s top arts, culture, zoo, and aquarium institutions. Most recent of those organizations included The Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Zoological Society (CZS). Prior roles where he led and built philanthropic programs included John G. Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

“We were looking for an experienced and strategic leader to spearhead the development of a comprehensive fundraising plan that will ensure long term sustainability and support for Fernwood’s mission. We found that and more with Chris,” said Fernwood’s Executive Director Carol Line. “Chris brings a proven track record as an accomplished, nonprofit and development professional, and will contribute knowledge from over three decades of success in fundraising to our community. We proudly welcome Chris to the Fernwood team.”

In recognition of his many contributions to the field, Jabin received the Benjamin Franklin Award from the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2014. Additionally, as an active philanthropist, Jabin has served on several boards, including the Acorn Center for the Performing Arts, Cabinet of Curiosity, and Arts Alliance Illinois. Originally from Grand Rapids, Jabin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Albion College with a concentration in public service from the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Service.

Fernwood Botanical Garden retained KEES, a national executive search firm for nonprofits, as its executive search partner in 2022, launching a comprehensive search. Jabin was selected among a talented group of top finalists. Leading the search efforts included Executive Director Carol Line and Board Chair Mary Keefe.

“Congratulations to Chris and all those connected with Fernwood,” said Heather Eddy, CEO and President of KEES. “Less than 90 miles from Chicago, Fernwood is a gem of an institution in Southwest Michigan that is a leader among peer public gardens. As a growing organization, the KEES team is incredibly excited for the future success of Fernwood with Chris leading the philanthropic work. He will fit perfectly with the vision for its future. We applaud the entire Fernwood team on this appointment.”


KEES (formerly Alford Executive Search) is a nonprofit executive search firm that builds diverse teams with dynamic leaders in the nonprofit and public sectors. A woman owned and operated firm, KEES offers a full array of nonprofit consulting services including executive search, leadership development, interim staffing, and HR support. For more information, please visit


Fernwood Botanical Garden’s mission is to enrich people’s lives by awakening and deepening their appreciation of nature. The garden, just 90 minutes from Chicago’s downtown, is located in Berrien County Michigan, which is famous for its fruit production, wine country, and lakeshore communities. Fernwood comprises 105 acres of gardens and natural areas and is a birder’s paradise. The property features at least ten unique ecosystems and 36 plant species that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has deemed threatened, endangered, and plants of special concern. Visitors may enjoy Fernwood’s natural areas with miles of walking and hiking trails, garden paths that wind throughout special botanical collections, and a visit to the Sims Education Center for drop-in educational features and a bird viewing area at the wooded edge of the preserve. To learn more, please visit


Jamie Sheffler


Elaine Rowland