After nearly eight years of leading an organization he created and expanded from nothing more than an idea, Des Moines Social Club executive director Zachary Mannheimer is stepping down from the organization's helm.

 

As for what's next, Mannheimer told the Business Record he plans to stay in Des Moines and currently is in discussions with the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the University of Iowa to advance the missions of both organizations in the Central Iowa area and beyond. He will remain in his role with the Social Club through the end of this year, and then become director emeritus on the Social Club's board of directors.

 

The Social Club board of directors will conduct a national search for Mannheimer's replacement this summer. A transition committee led by Chad Cox, general manager at Hillyard Des Moines who served as the 2013-14 board president, will launch the search June 1 and plans to accept applications through June 30. The transition committee consists of several board members, community leaders and Mannheimer, who said Social Club leaders hope to have his successor on board by Oct. 1.

 

Mannheimer said now is the right time to step away from the organization, which recently marked its first anniversary in its new $3.5 million home at the firehouse located at 900 Mulberry St., because he will leave it in the hands of a strong board of directors and at the height of what the Social Club has done -- at least for now.

 

"It's been eight years, and (the Social Club) needs some new blood," Mannheimer said. "But if I'm going to hand it off to someone else, I want to do it when we're doing well. ... It's not for lack of ideas, but we need to keep pushing the envelope."

 

Thanks to Mannheimer's leadership, the organization is well-positioned to transition to a new executive director, said Neil Salowitz, the Social Club board president and a retired marketing director at Principal Global Investors.

 

"Zack is one of a kind, and his vision for the Social Club is one of a kind," Salowitz said. "The new director will put his or her own stamp on the place after that. The Social Club has just gotten better over the years. That constant growth and improvement will continue under a new director."

 

The Social Club serves anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 people each month. Last year it hosted more than 700 events and 170 classes. Its first year in the firehouse was marked by the launch of a new culinary studio, after-school program and nonprofit record label.

 

Right now, Mannheimer said 45 to 50 percent of the Social Club's budget comes from earned revenue, a 5 percent increase from the same time last year. If revenue continues to grow at the pace it is, he said, earned revenue should land somewhere between 58 and 65 percent by the end of this year. The organization's goal is 80 percent earned revenue.

 

"(Our earned revenue growth from last year to this year) is unheard of for a nonprofit of our age," he said. "We're having a record year. We have cash reserves for the first time ever. We're seeing record attendance at events, and hosting a record amount of events. Everything is falling into place."

 

Suku Radia, president and CEO at Bankers Trust Co. and one of Mannheimer's mentors, said Mannheimer undoubtedly found a way to draw young people to a venue that is attractive, pleasant and safe.

 

"(When I met him), I was blown away by his bold thinking ... and I was absolutely convinced this young man was going to realize his dream," Radia said. "Zack has a way of persuading others to listen, and he impels them to action because he knows how to articulate the vision in a manner where it becomes a 'shared vision.' "

 

While many people were involved in the success of the Social Club, Cox believes no one is more responsible for that success than Mannheimer.

 

"He is genuine, honest and fully aware of his own strengths and weaknesses," Cox said. "I've seen him accept praise with gratitude and apologize with sincerity. He is invested in this community and goes out of his way to support local artists."

 

As director emeritus, Mannheimer will always be attached to the organization.

 

"It's impossible for me to not stay connected, and I want to stay connected," he said.

 

For now, though, he's looking forward to spending more time with his family and doing at least one other thing.

 

"Whichever direction the Social Club goes from here, I'll be here taking a culinary class and watching a show," he said. "I'm looking forward to making a night out of it."