7414 Mooncrest Way
Sacramento, CA 95831
- Question 1. What office are you seeking, and what are your qualifications?
My name is Jeff Thom and I am seeking the office of first vice president of the American Council of the Blind.
The first vice president of ACB must not only be able to perform the myriad of tasks assigned to him/ her by the president or that are part of the duties of a member of the ACB Board of Directors, but he/she must be prepared to step in on a temporary or long-term basis in the unlikely event that the president is unable to perform his/her duties. In addition to being a current member of the ACB board of directors and the immediate past president of the California Council of the Blind (CCB), I have served in virtually every office in my local chapter and have been president of a special interest affiliate. I have also served on numerous committees at the state and national levels. These positions enable me to understand the often similar, but sometimes differing, attitudes and perspectives that occur at the local, state, and national levels of ACB. This knowledge can be of great importance when making decisions that impact our entire organization. As a member of the board of trustees of the American Foundation for the Blind, I have come to learn not only more about the inner workings of other organizations in our field, but have gained important expertise in budgeting and other issues important to the management of ACB. I have had personnel responsibilities both as CCB president and as a supervisor for the California Office of Legislative Counsel. I have extensive advocacy and legislative experience, the importance of which cannot be overstated given the mission of our organization. Finally, I have a strong work ethic and am a consensus builder.
- Question 2. What would you do to strengthen the relationship between the ACB national leadership and state and special-interest affiliates?
There are a number of steps that I feel can be helpful in strengthening the relationship between the national leadership and state and special interest affiliates. However, before addressing this issue, it must be recognized that this is certainly not a new problem and there aren’t necessarily any easy answers. Moreover, we have a long history of strong, independent affiliates who are the backbone of this organization. Thus, our efforts at strengthening this relationship must not imperil, but should enhance, how our affiliates function.
There are two primary areas on which we need to concentrate in terms of our relationship with affiliates, the first being day-to-day affiliate concerns, some of which directly involve the national organization, and the second being instances where affiliates face crisis situations. With respect to the day-to-day concerns, including items such as fundraising, membership, advocacy, and concerns over conventions, etc., having telephone calls, at least quarterly, one for special interest affiliate presidents, and one for state presidents, would further expand communication beyond just the presidents’ meeting and the meeting at convention. In my view, more will be accomplished if these conference calls focus on a particular topic, but in a way that enables the national leadership to hear the concerns of affiliates, rather than merely providing information to affiliates or promoting the leadership’s agenda. I would also like to see each ACB board member act as a liaison to affiliate presidents. Such ongoing contact may help the leadership learn of crisis situations before they sometimes become seemingly insoluble. Finally, I think that a taskforce should be created, composed of ACB leaders, and both state and special interest affiliate leaders, to formulate recommendations on whether any structural changes should be undertaken to better enable the organization to handle affiliate crises.
- Question 3. In light of the current national economic crisis, how can long-term financial stability be achieved for ACB?
In addressing this very difficult question, the first truth we must face is that there is no magic bullet. Even before the current economic crisis that began in 2008, and that, although somewhat alleviated, is still impacting millions of Americans, most non-for-profits, including ACB, were struggling to avoid red ink. Thus, even under the most optimistic of economic assessments, obtaining long-term financial stability will continue to be an enormous challenge. Moreover, one of the keys to obtaining financial stability is for an organization’s board of directors to hold a tough line in making budgetary expenditure decisions. For the most part, the ACB board has done this. Thus, if we are to achieve long-term financial stability, it must come primarily through revenue enhancements that are not of a one-time nature.
In my view, no challenge facing this organization demands more “thinking outside the box” than does this one. The advisory board, which the membership authorized at our 2012 Conference and Convention, is a good first step, but we need to work far harder on coordinating personalized efforts at recruiting the appropriate individuals for this enterprise. Next, we need to refine our planned giving strategies, although the fruit from such an effort are not likely to be realized for a number of years to come. The two methodologies that might produce some ongoing income in the near term, albeit with a great deal of effort, are the so-called monetization of assets and entering into partnerships with other organizations. An example of the former is providing advertising space, or making endorsements, on our website. Partnering with other organizations can be used in engaging in activities that currently result in a net loss for ACB, or in joint fundraising efforts.
- Question 4. List three issues you plan to work on should you be elected and how you plan to effect change in those three areas.
The first issue on which I would like to work if elected as first vice president is that of helping to develop a long-term membership strategy for ACB. Like many organizations, our membership has, at best, flattened out in recent years. Although we have an outstanding ACB Membership Committee, the focus of this effort must be broader. We need to establish a taskforce that includes, among others, our Membership Chair, our Public Relations Committee chair, and state and special interest affiliate leaders. The goal of this taskforce should be to design a blueprint, for implementation at all levels of this organization, that will lead to future growth over the next decade and thereafter. This blueprint will take some truly visionary thinking, but we cannot afford to wait.
The second issue on which I would like to work is that of monetization of assets, as discussed in my answer above to the second question. I have worked on this issue as part of an ACB taskforce and in my AFB board of trustee capacity. There are a number of ways I would hope to pursue progress on this issue, including working with the Resource Development Committee and staff with respect to how we might optimize our assets as potential revenue sources.
Lastly, I’d like to work on ensuring that the movement toward an e-health records system includes accessibility for persons with visual impairments, be they consumers or health care provider employees. Because implementation of health care records regulation is largely handled at the state level, much of this work is occurring on a state by state basis. ACB staff, the Health Care Taskforce, and the Information Access Committee, must work together to ensure that our state affiliates have the information and assistance they need to work with state officials and provider networks.
This web page was last updated June 4, 2013.