by Deb Lewis
The American Council of the Blind board met in Alexandria, Va. on Feb. 24 in conjunction with the midyear meeting and legislative seminar. President Kim Charlson called the meeting to order at 9 a.m. with all members present, except for second vice president John McCann and board members Jeff Bishop and Sara Conrad, who were excused. The agenda was adopted, and minutes of the Nov. 27 and 30 meetings were approved.
Charlson moved directly into staff reports and incorporated her president’s report along the way. Executive director Eric Bridges reflected on ACB’s accomplishments in the past three years. In 2015, ACB had a financial deficit of $180,000; income increased 200% in 2016 and 52% in 2017. In 2018, the Alexandria office has added more office space. The new position, advocacy and outreach specialist, is being filled by former ACB scholarship winner Claire Stanley, who comes from the Mid-Atlantic ADA Technical Assistance Center. She has a strong background as an advocate for people with disabilities, and will assist Tony with ACB’s efforts in this arena. Eric reported that he will have traveled 27,000 miles between January and April on behalf of ACB. A joint press release is scheduled from ACB and the U.S. Business Leadership Network (BLN) announcing a strategic partnership for 2018.
Tony stated that the messages to Congress are that we need to fight for what is most important and we need to encourage government to spend smarter to offset the budget deficits. The Medicare Demonstration Bill and the Cogswell Macy Act are examples of encouraging smarter spending. Recent regulatory activity included work with the FCC Program Access Committee on Emergency Crawls, with a positive outcome being webinars on best practices for audio description of emergency broadcasts. Transportation issues continue to be important, with ACB actively involved in negotiating with Delta regarding changes to their recently adopted service animal policy. Tony thanked Ray Campbell for his involvement to ensure a positive outcome with United Airlines and their service animal policy. There was lengthy discussion of the OMB rule that requires states to get prior approval for program service expenditures above $2,500. Tony will continue to seek clarification and resolution of this matter in collaboration with the rehabilitation issues task force.
Kelly Gasque reported that the new website is scheduled to launch in late spring following rigorous testing from staff and volunteers. She noted that there has been specific input about features for low-vision users, and several enhancements have been made based on this feedback. All marketing materials are being redesigned for consistency, modernization, and to include the new logo. There are over 2,200 Twitter followers and 3,300 Facebook likes.
Tom Tobin began the development report with outcomes of the year-end appeal and discussion of the upcoming spring appeal campaign. He also reported on the Angels program and recent outcomes in planned giving. Jo Lynn Bailey-Page emphasized the importance of relationship-building as a component of successful fundraising. She read a letter from Delta Gamma announcing their continued support for “The ACB Braille Forum” as an example of ACB’s fundraising strategy of preparation, personal cultivation and persistence. She reviewed statistics for grants in 2018 and noted that ACB’s strategic planning, along with consistent data collection, make us a prime candidate for funding from small foundations, which will in time set us up to approach larger entities. She observed that our long-term funding success will likely come through corporate consulting relationships being cultivated by Eric.
Larry Turnbull, ACB Radio manager, said there were 95 stream listeners for the auction in December, with another 600 on the phone. Main Menu and Speaking out for the Blind have highest ratings on Mainstream. Treasure Trove continues to have the most listeners. There was discussion of improved access on the Amazon devices through Alexa, and discussion of the ever-changing phone numbers for Audio Now. Larry is seeking beta testers for the Android version of ACB Link, which will be available soon. Board members expressed concerns about the overall usability of ACB Link, which Larry will address through training opportunities and design review in collaboration with the marketing and communications team.
Nancy Becker reported that affiliates can opt out of receiving confirmation updates in AMMS, and Sharon can now automate acceptance of specific ones. ACB is transitioning from paper checks to electronic transfer for affiliate MMS payments, with 50% completed. Preparations are under way for the annual audit. Fixed assets are being transitioned to one database for better management and accountability. Nancy reviewed the balance sheet and explained how the information is derived. Staff were missing Dee and hoped her position could be filled soon.
The board voted to accept all staff reports. During lunch, the board met in executive session to discuss ACBES issues and other financial developments.
David Trott reviewed the December financials, investments and budget report in detail; the treasurer’s report was adopted. Then he and Nancy presented the proposed endowment policy. The board voted to name the previously authorized fund the Legacy Endowment. After discussion and revisions, the policy was adopted establishing how unrestricted contributions above $25,000 will be distributed between the Legacy Endowment and board-designated reserves.
Donna Brown introduced this year’s walk song for the walk’s 10th anniversary. Affiliates are encouraged to designate a local MMS coordinator to encourage participation at affiliate conventions. The resource development committee is developing a timeline for each fundraising activity, beginning with the Forum raffle, outlining program steps and monthly activities along with other program connections necessary to accomplish the goal. The auction will be part of convention again this year, and roll call was emphasized as an opportunity for affiliates to be publicly recognized for contributions to ACB programs. The board accepted the RDC report.
Arrangements are in full swing for the 2018 convention in St. Louis, with registration from May 15 to June 17. The print convention program is longer this year to meet the requirements of ACB’s new large print guidelines, and the convention committee is considering ways to make it more manageable, including possibly dividing it into volumes as is done with the braille version. The fall board meeting in Rochester will be Oct. 5, and the 2019 convention dates in Rochester are July 5-12. Janet announced that the 2020 ACB convention will be held July 3-10 in Schaumburg, Ill. A motion was approved at the fall board meeting for Omaha in 2021, but there are other possibilities in Las Vegas and Phoenix, so the board approved a motion authorizing the convention committee to consider all possible venues for 2021. Janet’s report was accepted.
The board of publications worked closely with the national office to eliminate both the cassette and CD versions of the Forum and to implement the cartridge version through a contract with Perkins. ACB podcasts are being added to the Alexa devices in collaboration with ACB Radio. The Editorial Policy Manual is being totally rewritten to reflect the BOP’s collaboration with other committees and groups within ACB as well as modernizing the language to be consistent and readable. This year the candidates’ forum will have a new look and feel as an online forum prior to convention, with a town hall meeting at convention. The writers’ workshop will focus on personal branding, which Deb hoped would be of great interest to affiliates and individuals. The BOP report was accepted.
Each of the strategic action teams reported on their progress. Eric’s overall goal for 2018 is to communicate progress on the 5 action goals. Each team will submit an article to the Forum highlighting their work in the context of the strategic plan. The membership team conducted focus groups at convention and is conducting an affiliate survey with a goal of increasing membership by 3 percent. Marketing and communications is developing a communications plan with a new logo, consistency across media, and coordination of communications among programs. The meetings and conventions team announced that many convention sessions have been approved for professional accreditation through ACVREP. There is also a focus on enhancing the convention experience for scholarship, DKM and leadership recipients through mentoring and guidance. The team reports were accepted.
Officer liaisons and committee chairs provided brief updates on committee activity, particularly focusing on planned convention programming. After completing all business, the meeting adjourned at 5:15 p.m.
Summary of the ACB Midyear Board Meeting
by Deb Lewis