July 14, 2012 Board of Directors Meeting of the American Council of the Blind

The Post Convention Board Meeting of the American Council of the Blind was called to order at 10:05 AM at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, KY.  President Pomerantz welcomed the three new elected Board members, Sara Conrad, John McCan and Dan Spoone. 

At the call of the roll, the following board members were present:  Mitch Pomerantz, Kim Charlson, Brenda Dillon, Marlaina Lieberg, Carla Ruschival, Chris Gray, Ray Campbell, Berl Colley, Sara Conrad, Janet Dickelman, Michael Garrett, John McCan, Allan Peterson, Dan Spoone, Jeff Thom and Judy Jackson. George Holliday's absence was excused; Carla Ruschival joined the meeting from her hospital room.  Staff present were Melanie Brunson and Lane Waters. 
Pomerantz reviewed the agenda; Lieberg moved acceptance, Dillon seconded and that motion carried. 
Fall Board Meeting, Janet Dickelman.  The Fall Board meeting will be held on September 15 in Columbus, OH at the Hyatt Hotel.  Dickelman will reserve rooms.  Lieberg will be unable to attend, and Campbell will take minutes. 
Convention Committee Report, Janet Dickelman

  • Attendance numbers are up this year.   
  • There was discussion of providing seats in the exhibit area, as well as clarifying that volunteers are not permitted to provide any personal care assistance.  
  • The Convention Committee has been asked to make repairs to the pre registration online user interface a high priority.   
  • There was discussion of policies related to tours and waiting lists.  Dickelman will post the tour guidelines to the Board list.   
  • Other concerns raised resulted in a discussion of sales, including food and other items, from individual rooms.  The Board will discuss this issue and other general convention-related issues at the Fall meeting.   

Resolutions prioritization, Judy Jackson

Resolutions are prioritized by number.  Those with a number 1 typically have a 90 day turn around; those with a 2 are those where the turn around is expected in the coming year; resolutions with a 3 are those which are not time sensitive. 

01 Medicare open enrollment period, 2 
02 Medicare accessible formats, 2 
03 508, 2 
04 Resolution failed 
05 XM radio, 3 
06 Anne Sullivan Macy Act, 1 
07 Braille reform, 1 
08 Accessible military waiver, 3 
09 Hybrid vehicles, 2 
10 Lions commemorative coin, 2 
11 OPM retirement, 2 
12 Resolution failed 
13 RSVA, 1 
14 Treaty on rights for people with disabilities, 1 
15 Failed 
16-18 Thank you letters to hotel, host committee and volunteers, 1 

Campbell moved and Colley seconded acceptance of this report and prioritization, and that motion carried. 
ACBES, Michael Garrett

Management of stores is always an issue.  However, a couple of stores have new managers and they are turning sales around.  Garrett predicts the second half of the year will be our better half.  He told us that sometimes, stores sell unique and more valuable items on Craig's List.  Lieberg moved acceptance of this report, Gray seconded, and the motion carried. 
Resource Development Committee, Dan Dillon

  • The Committee is working on fundraising opportunities both within and outside ACB membership.   
  • Brenda Dillon raised issues regarding the pre registration website  for the walk/run; Pomerantz asked Dillon to draft a list of issues and he will ensure these issues are addressed by Nolan Crab and Annette Carter.   
  • Brunson suggested using the ACB Announce list to post information related to fundraising events, i.e. auction item submission etc. 

Gray moved acceptance of this report, Garrett seconded and that motion carried. 
Advisory Board, Mitch Pomerantz

Pomerantz reported that he has appointed Margarine Beaman to serve on the newly created ACB Advisory Board.  Pomerantz requested that Board members contact him by August 1 with names of individuals anywhere in the country whom we should approach about becoming members of this Board.   
Voting Task Force, Jeff Thom

  • The Task Force will be holding open calls to the membership to determine the level of enthusiasm for a mock telephonic vote before next year's convention.  While we are nowhere near settling the question of remote voting, it is important to the over-all organization that this possibility be carefully researched, discussed and considered.   
  • Kinks are getting worked out with regard to using secret ballot voting at convention. 

Campbell moved acceptance of this report, Charlson seconded, and the motion carried. 
Election of 2012-13 Budget Committee, Mitch Pomerantz

Colley, Spoone, and Ruschival were elected to serve on the 2012-13 Budget Committee. 
ACB Radio, Larry Turnbull

  • Interactive has gained 8 broadcasters from where we were last year.   
  • Affiliates are beginning to put their newsletters up for airing.   
  • Mainstream has just begun a new series called Speaking Out For the Blind. 
  • Plans are being formulated to attract more mainstream market listeners by providing more generic content on a separate stream. 
  • Plans are being made for the Holiday auction which will benefit ACB Radio.

Campbell moved acceptance of this report, Thom seconded, and that motion carried.  
Officer Liaison Reports

Each officer reviewed the work of their committees during convention. Dillon moved acceptance of this report, Peterson seconded and the motion carried. 
Pomerantz requested that all the goal groups hold at least one meeting between now and the fall board meeting.  He asked the three new Board members to read the strategic plan and advise him on which group they might like to serve. 
The question was raised regarding future convention sites.  Dickelman reported that she has visited Sheraton sites, and is planning to visit Hyatt sites after convention.  She hopes to have firm recommendations by the Fall Board meeting so the Board can make a decision. 
McCann asked about the status of the implementation of the online database being developed by Chris Gray.  After discussion, Pomerantz agreed to put this item on the agenda  for the Fall Board meeting, and asked Gray to be prepared to give a full report. 
Charles S P Hodge offered to assist with Goal four.  Pomerantz explained that right now, the goals are being worked on by Board members, but that he would discuss Hodge's offer with Paul Edwards, the chair of the goal four working group. 
Spoone asked for information on the Donor Perfect Database as it might relate to a membership database.  Waters gave a brief summary of the Donor Perfect capabilities; Pomerantz stated that more information would be given at the Fall Board meeting. 
Lieberg moved and many seconded a motion to adjourn; the motion carried and the Meeting adjourned at 2:50 PM. 
Marlaina Lieberg 
Submitted:  08-25-2012 
Approved:  09-15-2012

ACB Development Office Report to Board

Below are the goals and action steps that I developed in June of 2011 to enhance ACB’s probability of obtaining outside financial support of its services and activities.  The following is a report of my progress in addressing them and a list of other activities accomplished during my tenure at ACB.
Goal 1:  To increase the rate of donations from our Membership to 6% of the membership by December 2012, with an average donation of $35.00.  (600 additional donors at $35/donation = $21,000)

Results to Date:  At the time of this writing, we have had a four percent (4%) response rate from our Fall, 2011 membership appeal (compared to a less than one percent response rate in 2010) with an average donation of $38.03. Of particular interest is that 3% of our members receiving large print appeals responded with donations compared to 13% of our Braille readers. This equates to 464 members responding to this year’s appeal compared to 97 members responding last year, or a 478% increase in member donors.
It should be pointed out that these response rates are based on members sending in their donations in a reply envelope included in the appeal package. I am certain that there are other members who have responded to the appeal, both in 2010 and in 2011, who have not used a reply envelope. However, it is currently extremely time-consuming to track member donations accurately due to the way our existing database is set up.

Also at this time, there are 211 members giving through the MMS program, down from 220 on December 31.
Goal 2:  To attain 500 new donors through prospecting efforts by December, 2012 with an average donation of $20.00.  (500 additional donors at $20.00/donation = $10,000)

Results:  Since November of 2011, we have mailed 30,000 prospect packages, yielding 231 new donors—a return of 0.7% and an average gift of $22.00. The appeal during the holiday season was more successful than appeals mailed in January and February. One reason might be that the lists we used in February were from organizations that usually included premiums with their mailings, e.g. note cards or return address labels.

Please be advised that a 7,000-piece prospecting package was to be mailed in November but never went out. Our Direct Mail House, Paul & Partners reported to us that the Post Office lost the mailing, which given the fact that the entire job was lost, it is questionable as to whether it was the Post Office or the DM house that lost it. Paul & Partners was asked to reimburse ACB for this lost mailing, but after stating that they would, never did. Also, a “soft appeal”, containing our Planned Giving brochure that I developed, was scheduled for mailing by Paul & Partners in April but was never mailed, nor were we billed for the job.

As a result of these and other errors related to billing and coding, I have ceased our relationship with Paul & Partners. They have been replaced with Lewis Direct, a Direct Mail service based in Baltimore. Lewis Direct is a family-owned business with more than 80 years of experience and has a number of clients providing services to people who are blind. They are slated to do a prospect mailing at the beginning of July, after which time, I will evaluate the results of their services to determine if we should use them for future mailings.

House File: Our Fall mailing of our House File has yielded a response rate of 9% (229 donations) with an average gift of $32.47. As mentioned, a soft ask was to be mailed in April but was not done by the DM house. If we fail to keep our name in front of our donors on a regular basis, they will lose interest in ACB and donate to other organizations.
Goal 3:  To raise a minimum of $75,000 from foundations and corporations by June 30, 2012.

Results:  Since last September, I have submitted 26 proposals (totaling $268,931) to foundations and corporations for funding either our Hotline services, our advocacy services or our convention. At this time, we have received no funding from these efforts. Of interest is that we have only heard from four foundations out of the twelve that were sent proposals prior to January 1. Since January 1, we have been rejected by all of the eight corporations to which I submitted proposals—all of which were submitted online—and one foundation that stated that they have changed their funding priorities, focusing now on research-oriented projects. Please refer to the attached “Proposal Log” for details.

I must also note at this time that I have concerns as to whether proposals were formatted correctly and included the necessary attachments when sent by the former Administrative Assistant, and/or whether they were sent at all. After the Administrative Assistant left in March, no record of proposals were found nor were any finished copies of proposals and attachments found, either in print or as PC files.

As reported in January, a current barrier to our success in receiving support from foundations and corporations is the lack of readily-available information about our programs and services, especially on our website.  Recent research shows that 80% of funders are now doing extensive, due diligence research of an organization before considering funding, and if information regarding the program and the program’s performance is not available, they will not consider funding an organization.  Recommendations to improve our success rate of receiving support from foundations and corporations follow.

Also previously reported is that another barrier to obtaining funding from foundations is that we do lobbying, and many foundations will not support an organization whose advocacy efforts include lobbying.  This, combined with ACB being a single-issue organization, disqualifies us from receiving support from many private and corporate foundations.  This reinforces the need to develop informational materials for the other programs and services ACB provides.
Goal 4:  To raise a minimum of $25,000 by June 30, 2012 through the development of a Corporate Sponsorship program, to be completed September 30, with defined benefits to the sponsoring entity and to ACB.

Results:  As reported above, I submitted proposals to eight corporations, with no success. These requests were all for conference sponsorships. The responses I received from three corporations stated that they were already giving to blindness-oriented programs (NFB and AFB), and/or they focus on community support. Also, a number of corporations I contacted said we were not eligible for their support because we were either a membership organization or we did lobbying. Both Margarine Beaman and I have also heard from corporations that their funding for a year is decided upon by the end of the following year; As a result, we will begin soliciting for conference support in September of this year for the 2013 conference.
Goal 5:  To make our website “donor friendly” ASAP, by meeting Best-Practice standards for the disclosure of information on websites by nonprofits.

Results:  As reported in January, we have made some progress on our website with meeting nonprofit standards for Public Disclosure and Public Education, including the development and posting of a Privacy Policy; including our IRS Form 990 on our “About Us” and “Support ACB” pages; and adding an electronic copy of our 2010 Annual Report on the “About Us” and “Support ACB” pages.

Unfortunately, little other progress has been made on our website. There is still a need to enhance the overall appearance and usability of the entire site; include information regarding our programs and/or services for which the Development Office is soliciting support; information about, and links to ACB programs not currently easily accessible from our website (ACB Radio); and the development of more attractive, more informative and compelling information for donors throughout the website.
Other Development Activities conducted since December 31, 2011 include:

  • coordinating the DCMP STEM Vocabulary project, supervising five Educators in the development of twenty lists of vocabulary words for use in audio description. Please be advised that this five-year grant was canceled by the Department of Education, effective at the end of this year.
  • overseeing the distribution of “thank you” letters to all donors.
  • developing a Planned Giving brochure for distribution to our donors and for use on our website.
  • developing new content for the website including information for donors, information about programs and services, and recommendations to improve the overall attractiveness of the site—all of which are still awaiting action.
  • creating promotional material for this year’s Walk, and rewriting ACB’s Walk website.
  • developing and submitting for approval a policy to create an Advisory Council to establish a group of corporate supporters for ACB and enhance corporate support of the organization.
  • submitting applications to seven State Employee Combined Campaigns (similar to the Combined Federal Campaign but on a state level) for inclusion in their workplace giving program. At the time of this writing we have heard back from Florida and Georgia, both of which have accepted our application.
  • initiating a Board “Thank-A-Thon” to increase support from our current donors. (Thank you very much!).
  • working with IRI (our telemarketing firm) to update their scripts for solicitation.
  • continuing to research foundations and corporations for possible funding.
  • selecting a new Direct Mail service to more effectively develop our donor base.
  • researching and submitting a recommendation to purchase a donor management system to more effectively and efficiently maintain our donor and membership information, and handle our donor stewardship program (Thank you very much for approving this purchase!).

Proposed Activities for Next Six Months
In addition to addressing the goals stated above, I plan to work on the following activities during the rest of this fiscal year:

  • Implement and coordinate staff training for Donor Perfect, our donor management system, scheduled to begin in mid-July.
  • Work with Lewis Direct (our new Direct Mail provider) with prospecting and Fall donor and membership appeals. We are mailing a 25,000-piece prospect package in July, to make up for the lost time due to Paul and Partners, our previous DM house, that will test our current prospect package against a package developed by Lewis Direct. With our new donor management system in place in September, we will for the first time, be able to accurately determine the “payoff” of our prospecting by tracking how many new donors make a second donation to us.
  • Oversee the creation and publishing of ACB’s 2011 Annual Report.
  • Continue to submit applications for inclusion in State Employee Combined Campaigns (SECC) through the Neighbor to Nation program of Human Services Charities of America.
  • Complete the application for involvement in the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign, due on October 1, 2012.
  • Develop a Speakers Bureau of ACB members for participation in CFC and SECC events throughout the country.
  • Work with the Board to recruit members for the newly established ACB Advisory Council.
  • Continue to work with IRI (telemarketing) to ensure they have fresh material for their solicitation scripts.

Other Needed Action
In order to effectively raise outside funds to support ACB, we need to show potential funders exactly what we are doing to address our mission (programs and services), and how we are effecting those whom we serve (impact). To accomplish this, ACB needs to have defined activities with definitions of how we are making a difference in the lives of our members, other blind people, and the general public.

My grant writing proposals have focused on our National Information Hotline and our Advocacy program because I was able to define those services (thanks to input from Eric and Barbara), and create impact statements for these services. Our Hotline services will continue but the objectives I have for Advocacy have been met, primarily the prescription drug labeling issue. New objectives now need to be developed for this program.

We also need to be able to showcase our programs and services that funders are apt to support in our written material, our telemarketing appeals and of course, on our website. If we cannot and do not provide this public disclosure, we should not expect foundations, corporations and individuals to support us.

Our strategic planning session began to address these issues but the goals developed primarily focus on developing our infrastructure. These goals are essential as we need to develop a solid foundation for the entire organization to continue, with or without funding. However, this is only the basis of developing accountability of our organization for both our members and the general public--both of which that provide the financial support needed for ACB to survive and advance; Also essential is the recognition that our programs are services to people, and that goals and outcome measures need to be developed for these programs to effectively attract financial support for ACB.

I am therefore recommending and requesting that the ACB Board of Directors and Staff continue its planning, and consider addressing the following issues by developing goals and action steps to ensure that ACB will receive the outside funding that it needs to continue:

  1. Commit to reconstructing our website (both ACB and ACB Radio) to make it more attractive and more user friendly for both blind and sighted users. This has been in the works but there has been no progress now for a year. It is my recommendation that we seek expertise in website design to develop a foundation from which our Website Manager can work, rather than depending on our manager to do this. If solid goals and objectives are developed, it will enhance the potential to find outside funding through a Capacity Building proposal.
  2. Define ACB’s programs, establish goals, objectives, action steps and impact statements for these programs, and show how they are related to ACB’s mission. Right now, we have programs and activities that have been mandated by the Board and the Membership but have no direction for the future, nor no definition of how it meets our mission or meets consumers’ needs. These include both ACB Radio and the Audio Description project. If ACB wants outside entities to consider funding these programs, it must demonstrate how they fit our mission, and how they are meeting consumers’ needs. Any program to which funds are directed should have goals, objectives and a rationale for why our resources are being directed to them.

Respectfully submitted by Steven Obremski, June 26, 2012

This webpage last updated March 15, 2013