With the 50th anniversary of the creation of the German Village Society less than one year away, it is time to take stock of our resources and how we do business.

With the 50th anniversary of the creation of the German Village Society less than one year away, it is time to take stock of our resources and how we do business.

In the last decade, the society, largely due to the creativity of our staff and volunteers, has supported numerous annual events. It has turned the Haus und Garten Tour and PreTour into signature events. All of this has been accomplished on a shoestring, nonprofit budget.

But the economy is changing and we can no longer afford to rely on weather-dependent events to drive our budget. The society has experienced net losses over the past several years. Preservation of the society over the course of this economic storm will come from focusing on protecting the investment of homeowners and businesses and insuring the lifestyle that attracted their investment in this special community.

The numbers cannot be ignored. From 2000-2007, the average net loss was $58,000 per year. This annualized loss is actually less than the $81,000 per year net loss from 2000-2006 because of actions taken by the board, an infusion of cash ($150,000) from the sale of the Third Street cottage and a weather-perfect Oktoberfest in 2007.

The New Business Model Task Force began work in 2007 to align the society with a new vision, mission and purpose.

The vision of German Village is to "be a celebrated, vibrant downtown neighborhood with historic integrity and a charming, pedestrian-friendly streetscape." The German Village Society plays a vital role in helping our neighborhood achieve this vision by providing:

Civic advocacy

Community engagement

A neighborhood hub

Support for historic preservation and architectural review process

Resources and leadership

After months of meetings, the task force created a plan that centers around reducing our reliance on fundraising from weather-dependent events. This will mean a need to broaden our base of funding and support through increased sponsorship, more focus on residential and business memberships and grant opportunities. The plan also includes re-engineering Oktoberfest.

Moving to a new business model is a transitional process that will happen over several years. The hard-working board and volunteers are being asked to support this new model. Our event chairs will have to take on more responsibility than ever before to plan and execute our events.

With our staff down to three because of these financial challenges, staff time is precious. Staff members will have to refocus from a emphasis on event planning to devoting more time to development, historic preservation and serving the needs of members.

As the new executive director of the German Village Society, I pledge, with our board and volunteers, to achieve these worthwhile goals.

My hope for this year is that members who have never volunteered before, or who haven't in a while, will step forward.

I hope that our residents who are not members will join our ranks. I hope new neighbors and old will work side by side to help steer our organization onto solid ground.

Erin O'Donnell is the executive director for the German Village Society.

Erin

O'Donnell