October 30-31, 2015 Meeting of the ACB Board of Directors

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) Board of Directors met on Friday and Saturday, October 30 and 31, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  President Kim Charlson called the meeting to order at 3:02 p.m. on Friday, October 30.  At the call of the role, all board members were present:  Kim Charlson, Jeff Thom, John McCann, Ray Campbell, Carla Ruschival, Mitch Pomerantz, Jeff Bishop, Berl Colley, Sara Conrad, Katie Frederick, Michael Garrett, George Holliday, Allan Peterson, Patrick Sheehan, Dan Spoone, and David Trott.  Board of Publications Representative Doug Powell was present.  Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Interim Executive Director and Lane Waters, ACB Controller.  Kelly Gasque, ACB Administrative Assistant, joined later in the meeting by phone.  Following roll call, several guests introduced themselves. 
President Charlson reviewed the Friday afternoon agenda.  Campbell moved and McCann seconded its approval as presented, the motion carried.
Much of the Friday afternoon meeting was spent listening to and discussing the results of the work that an organization called Huge, Inc. had done working with ACB to take a look at who we are, how we market ourselves, what our brand is.  The board listened to a presentation of their findings.  There were many strong points presented in both the presentation and discussion.  Highlights included:

  • Only 1% of some 21 million people who are blind choose to affiliate with organizations serving people who are blind like ACB.
  • ACB needs to develop a strategy for our website, to position it as a strong digital competitor in the non-profit world.
  • In general, blindness is ranked as one of the top three most feared conditions, along with Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • ACB needs to provide easily accessible platforms to share resources, inspiration and support.  This includes timely updates on important matters to members, donors and other interested stakeholders, sharing of resources and stories and encouraging collaboration across ACB and its affiliates.

Following the presentation, the board spent considerable time reflecting on and discussing what we had heard.  As part of the discussions, it was decided to form an ad-hoc committee to take an in-depth  look at ACB’s Information Technology infrastructure.  This committee consists of Jeff Bishop (Chair), Eric Bridges, Ray Campbell, Rick Morin, Dan Spoone, Larry Turnbull and Lane Waters.  Their first task will be to evaluate ACB’s web presence, using the Huge recommendations as a guide and develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) for possible re-design of the website.
McCann moved and Bishop seconded that the meeting recess.  The motion carried, and the meeting recessed at 5:50 p.m.
President Charlson called the Saturday, October 31 portion of the meeting to order at 9:01 a.m.  At the call of the role, all board members were present:  Kim Charlson, Jeff Thom, John McCann, Ray Campbell, Carla Ruschival, Mitch Pomerantz, Jeff Bishop, Berl Colley, Sara Conrad, Katie Frederick, Michael Garrett, George Holliday, Allan Peterson, Patrick Sheehan, Dan Spoone, and David Trott.  Board of Publications Representative Doug Powell was present.  Staff present: Eric Bridges, ACB Interim Executive Director and Lane Waters, ACB Controller.  Tom Tobin, ACB Development Director, did not answer the roll call but joined the meeting by phone when it was time for him to deliver his report.  Following roll call, several guests introduced themselves.
President Charlson reviewed the Saturday portion of the agenda.  McCann moved and Bishop seconded adoption of the agenda as circulated, the motion carried.
The minutes of the July 4, 2015 ACB Conference and Convention Board meeting were presented by Ray Campbell, ACB Secretary.  McCann moved and Holliday seconded adoption of the minutes, pending some cleanup and clarification of the language discussing quiet cars as part of the report on World Blind Union activities.  The motion carried.
President Charlson presented her report.  Highlights included:

  • We are close to having a package for ratification of the Marakesh Treaty ready to go to the United States Senate,  This should happen in the next four to six weeks.  She said the ask will be pretty simple once the package is out there, we want the treaty ratified quickly.  Thus far, 11 countries have ratified the treaty and conveyed their treaty documents to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) office in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • In January, Kim indicated she will be making a presentation to the Transportation Research Board at its conference in Washington, DC concerning the impact of Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft on people who are blind or visually impaired.  This ties in with the topic of a recently produced white paper by the ACB Transportation Committee, which Eric will disseminate to the ACB Board so we can strategize on ways to make it more widely known and usable by ACB leaders and members.
  • While in Washington, Kim and our Attorney, Jeff Levitkie, will schedule a meeting with representatives from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to get a status update on where we are with accessible currency.
  • During the upcoming Gala being hosted by National Braille Press on November 12, President Charlson will present their Hands On for Literacy award to a 14-year-old young man from Australia who after reading an article about ACB’s work on accessible currency, petitioned the Australian Government to pass legislation to develop tactile currency in Australia.  The gala event will be streamed on ACB Radio.

Pomerantz moved and Garrett seconded ratification of the board vote taken via email to approve ACB entering into a lease for new office space in Alexandria, Virginia.  The motion carried.
Spoone moved and Pomerantz seconded that ACB contribute $200 each to the retirement tribute funds as they are established to honor Carl R. Augusto, who is retiring as President of the American Foundation for the Blind; Dr. Tuck Tinsley, who is retiring as President of the American Printing House for the Blind; and Charles Young, who is retiring as President of the Hadley School for the Blind.  Pomerantz offered an amendment, regarded as friendly, to raise this amount to $250.  The motion carried as amended.
McCann moved and Trott seconded acceptance of the President’s report, the motion carried.
The Conference and convention report was presented by Conference and Convention Coordinator Janet Dickelman.  The Conference and convention theme for 2016 is “ACB, Land of 10,000 Dreams.”  Janet indicated preparations are underway in areas such as hotel orientation, tours and other things.  She indicated the 2016 Fall Board meeting will take place at the Nugget Hotel in Reno, Nevada, during the weekend of October 21-23, 2016.
The board then heard two presentations of potential 2018 Conference and Convention Bids from the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri; and the Hyatt and Radisson Hotels in Rochester, New York.  She also indicated the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis had expressed interest in hosting ACB, but she is concerned that this hotel may not be large enough to meet our needs.
After hearing the bid presentations and having some discussion, Ruschival moved and Holliday seconded that the ACB Board give the Conference and Convention coordinator the flexibility to negotiate conference and convention bids for 2018 and 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri and Rochester, New York.  The motion carried.
Janet read the language she is seeking board approval to add to the Conference and Convention RFP which would require ACB to hold conferences and conventions only in locations which have strong protections against discrimination in state or local laws or administrative practices.  Campbell moved and Spoone seconded adoption of this language as read.  Two amendments were made, both regarded as friendly.  One stipulates that similar language be added to conference and convention contracts starting in 2018.  The second amendment requires that out clauses be written into future contracts to allow ACB to get out of a contract should we find that there are not strong discrimination protections.  The motion carried with Immediate Past President Pomerantz and Director Garrett voting no.
Thom moved and Trott seconded acceptance of the Conference and Convention report, the motion carried.
Eric Bridges, Interim Executive Director began the staff reports discussing activities in the Arlington office.  Highlights included:

  • ACB Staff pulled together two annual reports in the past month, for which Eric publicly thanked them.  He also thanked Lane for enhancing our web profile for the Combined Federal Campaign.
  • Eric reported that there are significant cost savings to ACB with the new office space, and that staff is happy with the move.
  • Under Legislative Update, Eric indicated that H.R.3535, the Cogswell-Macy Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives.  H.R.729, The Medicare Coverage of Low Vision Devices Act has 12 co-sponsors.
  • Eric attended a celebration of the 5th anniversary of the signing of the Communications and Video Accessibility Act.  He also attended an event at the Federal Communications Commission celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, where he discussed what the CVAA means to people who are blind.
  • Finally, Eric indicated that the Blind Abilities video has been shown by Sprint, IBM and JP Morgan Chase as part of their ADA celebrations, with two using the video described version.  The video is on Microsoft’s intranet and has been viewed over 1,000 times.  JP Morgan Chase has been promoting it extensively, including showing it in a continuous loop for a week straight at their Park Avenue headquarters.  IBM has also blogged about it.  Jeff Thom will present the video during the annual conference of the National Council of State Agencies Serving the Blind.

ACB Controller Lane Waters presented several items under the Minneapolis Area Office Report.  Under Affiliate Member Management System (AMMS), he indicated that we are going to be making changes to the system to make it more accessible to those using assistive technology.  Lane presented a proposal for an AMMS Certification schedule.  After much discussion, the following schedule was approved:
All additions to AMMS will be due on March 15.
Certification reports due by March 31.
Affiliates notified of the amount of dues owed by April 10.
Dues payments due by April 22.
Ruschival moved and Frederick seconded entering into this certification schedule as a pilot in 2016, the motion carried.  Goal 1 and Goal 4 groups need to work this since there are communication and Governance aspects involved.
Campbell moved and McCann seconded that the board go into Executive Session for discussion of legal, personnel and financial items.  The motion carried, and the board went into Executive Session at 12:30 p.m.
The board returned to open session at 2:42 p.m.  President Charlson indicated that during Executive Session, two motions were adopted.  Secretary Campbell read these as follows:

  1.  McCann moved and Campbell seconded that the ACB Board of Directors authorize  the ACB National Office staff to continue their current  efforts to work with Microsoft to resolve accessibility issues, and give leeway for any future actions which may be necessary if current efforts are unsuccessful.  The motion carried.
  2. McCann moved and Bishop seconded that the ACB Board of Directors accept the recommendation of the Executive Director Search Committee that Eric Bridges  be hired as ACB Executive Director with an affective starting date of November 1, 2015, The motion carried.

Development Director Tom Tobin joined the meeting to present his report.  Highlights included:

  • The next issue of “Inside ACB” will go out on November 2, 2015.  This issue features a story about Linda Oldham, a nurse who is blind.  Ms. Oldham’s story will also be featured as part of ACB’s year end appeal.
  • Our back to school direct mail appeal thus far has raised $4,263 from 175 gifts.  The average gift is $30.07.  Tom believes there is still some more to come in from this appeal.  After expenses, we’ve netted $550.
  • ACB’s Year End appeal will go out on November 16, just ahead of the holidays.
  • Tom indicated that Lane has put together some statistics on how our direct mail has trended over the years.  We’ve doubled the pieces we mail which has lowered our cost.  While our return has dropped percentage wise, it’s a smaller return on a larger set of pieces of mail.  Proceeds from our direct mail campaigns are paying for Inside aCB.
  • We’re up to nine ACB Memorial angels, four added during 2015.
  • Thanks to Kelly’s help, ACB will be putting out some messaging starting early in November to promote ACB for Giving Tuesday which is taking place on December 1.  Messages will go out through all ACB communication channels.
  • ACB’s grant writing efforts continue on schedule.  Tom reported several grants are on their second or even third cycle.  Since in many cases we’re getting little or no feedback, we’re going to scratch several grants at the end of their third cycle.  We could be facing a large hole in our grant pipeline; so much research work will need to be done to rebuild this pipeline.

Peterson moved and Thom seconded acceptance of the Development director’s report, the motion carried.
Lane presented three proposed changes to ACB’s Investment policy.  These are aimed at clarifying what our objectives are with regard to our endowed accounts and to tighten things up with regard to what we want to see in terms of investment performance.  Campbell moved and Bishop seconded adoption of the investment policy changes as proposed, the motion carried.  Lane will post the updated policy to the ACB Board list.
Lane discussed the proposed ACB Capitalization policy.  This has been recommended both by ACB’s auditor and by organizations with which ACB is rated.  It puts into writing how ACB will capitalize assets, what records of asset purchases we will maintain and how depreciation will be computed.  Pomerantz moved and Frederick seconded adoption of the capitalization policy, the motion carried.
Lane discussed board self-assessment.  ACB’s board does not do a self-assessment, and this is the only standard in the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Guidelines we do not meet.  The questionnaire as proposed was referred to Goal Group 3 for evaluation.  The objective is to have a self-assessment questionnaire out to the board, with responses due back in mid January, 2016 so the results can be tabulated and a report presented at the mid year board meeting.
Colley moved and Frederick seconded that the ACB Controller be given the flexibility to explore pricing levels either for our current auditor or a new auditor.  An amendment was offered and considered friendly that this be done in consultation with the ACB Executive Director.  The motion carried.
The board discussed renewing our contract with Integral Resources Incorporated (IRI).  Revenue has been dropping, while margins have been increasing with this company.  There is also increasing regulatory burdens surrounding telemarketing, particularly in the states.   Trott moved and Thom seconded that the ACB President and ACB Controller continue discussions of renewal of the IRI contract.  The motion carried.
Campbell moved and Frederick seconded acceptance of the staff reports, the motion carried.
The Treasurer’s Report was presented by ACB Treasurer Carla Ruschival.  She touched on three major things:

  • She discussed highlights, both in terms of revenue and expenses in the 2015 Conference and Convention financial report.  We continue to see good increases in several revenue areas, and are doing good work to keep costs as low as possible.
  • The year to date ACB Financial report through August, 2015.  Total support and revenue: $641,938.  Total expenses: $865,333.
  • ACB Mini Mall had a very successful convention.  The mini mall served as a place where people can come and buy all things ACB, even things for other groups.  Holiday products will be up on the site soon.  There are only 10 Durward K. McDaniel coins left. Some products which were popular sellers are no longer available, looking for things to replace them.  Gift certificates to the Mini Mall will be offered, while they can be purchased either by phone or on-line, they can only be redeemed by phone.

Campbell moved and McCann seconded acceptance of the Treasurer’s report, the motion carried.
Under board elections, Katie Frederick was elected as Board representative to the Public Relations committee.  John McCann was elected board representative to the Credentials Committee.  George Holliday was elected Board Representative to the ACB Membership committee.  Berl Colley, Carla Ruschival and Dan Spoone were re-elected to the ACB Budget Committee.
Elected to serve with President Charlson on the Executive Committee were First Vice President Jeff Thom, Second Vice President John McCann, and Directors Katie Frederick and Pat Sheehan.
The ACB Board agreed to meet by conference call for review and approval of the 2016 ACB Budget on December 3 and December 10, 2015, with both meetings starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Dan Spoone presented the Resource Development Committee report.  He thanked the board for its support of the RDC fundraisers, and gave a recap of how much ACB earned from these efforts.  Dan discussed a proposal from the Advisory Board working group to create a structure for the ACB Advisory Board.  This centered around development of a mission statement for the advisory board, identification of projects which the advisory board could help with and other things.  After some discussion, it was agreed that the original constitutional language would be sent to the board so we can compare it with the presented proposal. 
Carla Ruschival next discussed and read through the ACB Radio Affiliate Fundraiser policy.  This policy seeks to offer a platform for affiliates to conduct fundraising events on ACB Radio, while not competing either with the ACB Conference and Convention Auction or the ACB Holiday Auction.  It sets reasonable limits on the number of fundraisers that can be conducted while helping ACB Radio defray costs for conducting them.  Thom moved and McCann seconded that the policy be approved as read, the motion carried.
Doug Powell presented the Board of Publications report.  The BOP is developing language for the ACB Editorial Policy to address concerns about reflecting our organization’s diversity in our publications.  Doug also brought forward a concern that the BOP has regarding publishing information in the summary reports of the board meetings written for the ACB Braille Forum which may contain information from minutes which are not yet approved.  ACB Secretary Ray Campbell committed to getting draft minutes out so they can be voted on either at the December 3 or December 10 ACB Board Conference Calls.
Jeff Thom and John McCann provided an update on the dissolution of the National Education and Legal Defense Service.  Language has been crafted which will go to the NELDS board and if passed, will come back to the ACB Board for final action.
The leaders of Goal Groups 1 and 2, which may have items to report will send out reports on their activities via email to the board list.
John, Ray and Carla will assist President Charlson with planning of the 2016 ACB Mid Year President’s meeting agenda.
Berl Colley indicated that the ACB Leadership Institute Task Force is proposing to conduct leadership training during the upcoming conference and convention on Saturday, July 2, from 2:45-5:30 p.m.  Proposed topics include the nominating process, advocacy and personalities and how they interact, including conflict resolution.  Berl also indicated that the task force will pull together training modules from leadership trainings which have been conducted and make them available on the ACB Website. 
Carla Ruschival indicated that the Durward K. McDaniel First Timers Committee is looking for ideas on how to get more applications for the first timer awards.  Perhaps criteria needs to be evaluated, and once set, the first timer opportunity needs to be marketed more widely.
Dan Spoone discussed the report on assistive listening devices at the Dallas Conference and Convention.  Several issues were highlighted in the report including communication, training, testing and usability.  President Charlson asked that the SASI committee help map out a plan to make more equipment available for the future.
Jeff Thom updated the board on the work of the Voting Issues Task Force.  They have identified a two-pronged approach to remote voting, consisting of a President’s meeting discussion of what remote voting would mean to ACB and perhaps using the ACB Leadership List to conduct a mock vote.
Bishop moved and many voices seconded that the meeting be adjourned.  The motion carried, and the meeting was adjourned at 6:11 p.m.
Ray Campbell,
Date submitted: 11/25/2015
Date approved: 12/03/2015