by Ron Brooks
Each year, just prior to the ACB Presidents’ Meeting and Legislative Seminar, the board of directors holds a face-to-face meeting. This year, the meeting was held in Alexandria, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 25. This article summarizes the significant amount of work which the board, the ACB staff and committees are doing to advance ACB’s mission and all its goals.
After introductions and the approval of minutes from board budget conference calls held in November, president Kim Charlson presented her report, which included two significant items. First, the board discussed and approved new guidelines for the Durward K. McDaniel (DKM) First-Timers’ Awards, which are presented to two first-time convention attendees each year. The revised guidelines are available on the ACB website, or by calling the ACB national office. Second, Charlson introduced ACB’s chief accountant, Nancy Becker, who walked the board through findings of a detailed self-assessment, which was conducted in conjunction with the board’s ongoing work to develop a new five-year strategic plan. Becker then presented a draft policy which the board will utilize to conduct ongoing assessments of the organization’s performance. This policy was adopted and is available online or by contacting the ACB national office.
The board then turned its attention to a report from ACB’s executive director, Eric Bridges. Bridges’ report included the following highlights:
· ACB is transitioning to Office 365 and implementing a file-sharing system called SharePoint. The primary goal of these changes is to improve efficiency and facilitate sharing of information by ACB staff, committees and affiliates across the country.
· ACB and its website partner, Louisville Web Group (LWG) are working on a redesign of the ACB website. When finished, the site will be more responsive to all sorts of technologies, including mobile devices, be easier to navigate, less cluttered and more visually appealing. Work is expected to be completed during the spring.
· ACB is continuing to partner with a wide range of organizations and major companies (including Starbucks, Uber, Google and Microsoft) to improve accessibility for its members and other blind and visually impaired people throughout the country and beyond.
The board then heard presentations from director of development, Tom Tobin, and ACB’s grant writer Jo Lynn Bailey-Page. Tobin and Bailey-Page discussed ACB’s ongoing fund development efforts, which include annual giving societies, estate development and grant writing, each of which are growing in importance. Bailey-Page also mentioned a recent article in “Philanthropy Magazine” featuring ACB’s work in the area of structured negotiations as well as a new effort which the ACB board of publications is making to measure and report on the reach and effectiveness of ACB’s print, braille, recorded and online publications.
Tony Stephens, ACB’s director of advocacy and governmental affairs, spoke next. He stated that because of our ongoing advocacy efforts on the Workforce Investment Opportunities Act, ACB is recognized as a leader in the areas of employment and rehabilitation. Stephens reported that ACB is also working actively on the enforcement of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and we are actively working with the U.S. Department of Transportation on a wide range of issues, including airline accessibility and autonomous vehicles. He stated that with the new Congress in place, our focus will be on short-term, low-hanging fruit.
From legislation, the board turned its attention to a report from Larry Turnbull, managing director of ACB Radio. Turnbull shared that the ACB Radio team is working with Microsoft on a mini-series of six broadcasts on a variety of Microsoft-related topics. The Microsoft series will be aired on Main Menu. He described other enhancements being implemented at ACB Radio, including better tools which broadcasters can use to manage their own broadcasts, transferring of ACB Treasure Trove archives to the ACB website, and most significantly, the development of a new app for ACB Radio which will run on the Android platform. Larry told everyone that a number of ACB state and special-interest affiliates will be streaming their conventions on ACB Radio. Watch http://www.acbradio.org or ACB Link for more information on these and other broadcast items.
After an executive session which dealt with legal and advocacy issues wherein no actions were taken, the board heard a presentation from Nancy Becker regarding activities in the Minneapolis office. Nancy reported that several larger and smaller affiliates are now using the online membership management tool. She added that the transition to a new financial system with more functionality is also going well.
Following Nancy’s update, the board received two reports dealing with the organization’s finances. ACB treasurer Carla Ruschival reported that ACB took in slightly more revenue than it spent during 2016. She also described several opportunities for ACB state and special-interest affiliates to partner with ACB through the sales of products available in the ACB Mini Mall. Resource development committee co-chair Dan Dillon then went over the fundraising programs under the RDC, including the 2017 ACB Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk (Saturday, July 1) and the ACB Auction (Monday, July 3).
As the meeting moved into the home stretch, convention coordinator Janet Dickelman provided a brief convention committee report. Janet shared the 2017 ACB conference and convention theme, which is “ACB Sparks Success.” She also stated that this year’s international guest will be Dr. Aubrey Webson, United Nations Ambassador to Antigua and Barbuda. The NLS narrator will be Madeline Buzzard; and the banquet keynote speaker will be Jean Wick, part of the audio description team for the 2016 summer Olympic games.
Prior to the adjournment of the meeting, the board heard from Eric Bridges and from a number of committees, including the membership committee and each of the committees working under the current ACB strategic plan. Once the new strategic plan is finalized and put into place later this spring, the current strategic plan committees will be phased out, and their structure will be aligned with the new plan. Bridges reported that all the new committees are working hard, and the plan is nearing completion.