For the second time in as many months, one of the remaining Grand Avenue Business Association volunteers has appealed to store owners to join the board of directors of the organization known for Grand Old Day, its 30 block summer festival.
Finances? Terrible. The current board list? Empty.
“The Grand Avenue Business Association currently has NO board members,” reads the October 7 email from Nelson Fox, a digital marketer who volunteers for GABA, who does employs more staff and does not maintain a physical office.
âFor this 50-plus-year-old nonprofit to continue serving the Grand Avenue business community,â Fox wrote, âthey need new directors to be able to move forward in ANY capacity”.
This is not the first emergency notice sent to business owners who pay dues. The association, which once employed three paid staff, has been rocked by high staff and board turnover, back-to-back event cancellations and even a federal investigation.
‘AT THE CROSSROADS’
On August 4, real estate agent and then board member Brian Wagner, who chaired the board events committee, emailed a similar call describing the association as ” at a crossroads âand finances weeks away from reaching zero.
âMuch like many businesses, COVID-19 has posed significant challenges to our operating budget, including the cancellation of the Grand Old Day which accounts for the vast majority of our operating budget,â Wagner wrote.
GABA’s financial forecast, he said at the time, showed enough resources to stay in business until the end of October.
In addition, the association’s statutes require at least five voting members of the board of directors in order to make key decisions. At the time, GABA’s board of directors, consisting of 13 seats, was reduced to four members.
âSeveral board members have resigned in the past month and a half,â Wagner wrote.
Since then, the organization’s dues-paying members have called for a full restart and the rest of the board have resigned.
âLet’s start from scratch with a new set of people, and we don’t have to worry about what happened or didn’t happen in the past,â said Jimmy Fritz, former president of GABA and owner. by Wedding Shoppe.
âAt some point you have to move on,â Fritz said. “A lot of the (most recent) board was the board that came to handle Grand Old Day 2019, and there was a lot of screaming when that was canceled.”
Eliminating the GABA office reduced monthly expenses to $ 400, buying up to a year of time. While the board is empty, many business owners continue to volunteer on individual committees, such as membership and events committees.
âInevitably, there are people who say ‘we should have done this (or that) differently’, but it doesn’t matter now,â Fritz said. âIt’s time to move on.
FEDERAL INQUIRY ON
Difficulties plagued the organization even before COVID.
Grand Old Day – the organization’s annual parade party that takes place 30 blocks each June along Grand Avenue – nearly ran aground last year amid a federal investigation into the shrinking finances of GABA.
The investigation, conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service, focused in part on the expenses of former employees, but ended last fall without charge.
A few days after the announcement of the cancellation of the Grand Old Day 2019, a public fundraiser last summer raised $ 100,000 to revive it.
This year, the event has been canceled entirely in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic and Governor Tim Walz’s declaration of emergency, which limits public gatherings.
Despite these challenges, GABA sponsored two blood drives this year and has remained visible on online blogs and social media. He also continued planning for future events, such as PAWS on Grand, Grand Meander, a memorial to those lost to COVID-19, and plans for a new Taste of Grand 2021.
Fritz works alongside Fox to spark interest in the once-legendary organization, whose iconic parade festival had long become too expensive and labor-intensive for a volunteer-led effort.
âThis is probably the time to sit down and ask yourself what a sustainable Grand Old Day will look like in the future,â said Fritz. âMaybe we could create a Grand Old Day that better fits the next 50 years. “
He wasn’t sure what it might look like, he said. “But the cost of doing the same thing every year, without charging people, relying mostly on bracelet sales, with other competing events in the area?” As the costs go up it is very difficult in an event where if it rains you are not making any money.
Other possibilities for the organization, he said, could include organizing corporate seminars on competing with Amazon, online marketing and home delivery, and other challenges that will continue. long after the pandemic.
The October 7 recruiting email says business owners must complete a self-nomination form by October 15. After that, there will be 10 voting days to fill 13 vacant board seats.
The email was sent from Fox’s email account because GABA’s paid subscription to its MailChimp newsletter software was at fault.