German Village Gazette

Village notebook

Budget process highlights Society's efforts come at a cost

Sunday December 30, 2012 9:20 PM

I've just passed my first budget!

It was a process, I'll tell you. Five drafts and countless meetings with German Village Society board members and the fine tuning of the Finance Committee to make it sing, but it is a work of which I'm very proud and that strives to demonstrate a balance of conservative forecasting and exciting new plans for our nonprofit organization.

So what's exciting and new?

On the income side, I'm expecting new dollars to be raised by renting out Brent Warner Fest Hall more often.

The space is going to be under renovation this holiday and I believe with that spit-shine and some discreet marketing, we can garner the attention of more brides, event-planners and party-makers while still offering plenty of availability to our members and community partners.

Our group tours exploded this year -- doubling over 2011. I'm not predicting that we'll double again, but the board has OK'd some significant advertising for group tours, so I expect to see healthy growth.

This is exciting far beyond the revenue upside -- tours are one of the truest ways we live our mission.

When people ask a volunteer docent to step aboard their motor coach, we have new ears to hear how and why we saved this neighborhood from the wrecking ball -- not to mention the myriad things we've done for the past 53 years to protect our treasure.

I am about to announce the hiring of some professional fundraising consultation, and the contract will call for increased sponsorship, advertising and contributions.

On the expenditure side, we will see a combination of new projects and increased fees.

For the past nine months, the committee chairmen and board have been working with me to create a critical needs list.

We'd like to hire more historic preservation expertise. We'd like to beef up our preservation education programs and offerings and put German Village back in the national spotlight as a leader.

There are many upkeep and repair issues in Schiller Park.

I'd like to broaden our field trip offerings for school kids.

This is where the fiscal discipline comes in: until we have success on the fundraising side of the equation, we won't make expenditures to the critical needs list.

New fundraising dollars, especially when they come in the form of credit cards incurring surcharges, can cost some money to attain so credit card fees are expected to rise.

In order to more efficiently run the increased number of group tours, we need to hire an administrator to offer the highest-level customer service and to build relationships with our volunteer docents and all of the people who open their homes for our Deluxe Tours.

The budget also prioritizes an investment in training for board members, committee leaders and for our Visitors Center volunteers to help them fully realize their value to this organization.

And, yes, Russ and I are getting moderate raises.

This budget also continues to "keep the lights on." That's an expensive prospect.

Throughout the course of my first year, I've been hit again and again with the reality of what lighting, heating, cooling and maintaining an historic property costs.

It is $9,000 a year to clean it, $1,200 for grounds keeping, $7,000 for insurance, $4,000 for routine repairs and maintenance (such as replacing a burned-out socket or repairing a ding in the paint), and a whopping $13,500 for utilities.

It is also the money for little things like Keurig coffee servings and copies and postage that are tiny at the moment of transaction, but don't take long to add up.

These are monies invested in maintaining the Meeting Haus as a gathering spot for the community and a showcase for visitors.

We invite our membership and affiliated groups (such as Actors' Theatre, German Village Garten Club and Village Connections) to use it for free, and we are very proud of it.

This, by the way, is where your membership dollars have such impact, as well as funds raised by our events.

Unrestricted income allows us to meet these costs, to market our programs, rent equipment and buy food for celebrations and -- thank each of you personally for this -- to pay Russ and me.

It isn't sexy to raise money for operations, but it is a critical piece of our operation and it makes you as a member a critical part of what makes us tick.

I'm so grateful to the Board and Finance Committee for endorsing this budget, and to former Treasurer Roy Bieber, for helping to coach me through my first budget process.

Every one of these people works as volunteers to this organization and their donated labor -- along with your financial and time contributions -- is how we thrive.

German Village Society Director Shiloh Todorov submitted the Village Notebook column.

Comments