by Mitch Pomerantz

It's 2008, a brand-new year full of hope and expectations for better times. And so it is for the tens of thousands of us in the American Council of the Blind. For reasons I will explain, it does indeed seem that ACB's future is becoming considerably brighter, at least on one key area.

Before that explanation and some thoughts about this new year, Donna and I want to first wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. We also trust that you had a joyous holiday, whatever your personal beliefs and however you chose to celebrate the season.

So, why am I feeling so upbeat about ACB in 2008? Since last August, we've been incredibly fortunate in receiving bequests, two of them in six figures. These are unrestricted funds, meaning that they can be allocated as the board of directors deems appropriate. To my knowledge, receiving two such donations of this magnitude is unprecedented in ACB history.

By established policy, amounts received in excess of $75,000 are placed into board-designated reserves. Previously, ACB established $1 million as a goal for that reserve fund. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors over the past few months, we are extremely near to that goal. We're not quite there yet, but very close.

Let me interject a note of caution before going further. ACB members cannot assume that the aforementioned largesse will ever be repeated. This is why we must continue to grow the Monthly Monetary Support (MMS) Program and employ a development director to seek and procure corporate and foundation grants, as well as other revenue sources including additional bequests. We must not become complacent because of ACB's fantastic good fortune in 2007.

As a result, it appears likely that ACB will be in a position to do some things in 2008 we've not been able to in recent years. I should say for the record that ACB's budget committee will be presenting its proposed 2008 budget to the board at our midyear meeting to be held in conjunction with the presidents' meeting and legislative seminar Feb. 8-12 in Washington, D.C. As such, anything mentioned regarding the expenditure of funds is subject to the committee's recommendations and the board's approval. Notwithstanding this proviso, here are some things we should consider.

For starters, ACB must invest in ACB Enterprises and Services, the entity which oversees the operation of our thrift stores. A yearly contribution from ACBES provides the largest percentage, although no longer the lion's share, of ACB's revenues. However, trucks to pick up donated merchandise can't run indefinitely, and other infrastructure improvements have been deferred for far too long.

ACB has outgrown the telephone system in the national office which provides the Washington Connection and other valuable information to the membership. Additionally, one of the things I've talked about for some time is the need to begin offering the Connection in Spanish, in order to reach out to the large number of Hispanic, monolingual blind people residing in this country. To accomplish this, we need a major upgrade of ACB's telephonic communications system.

The board has already determined that some of the money ACB has received will be used to enhance our scholarship program. Scholarships are a vital recruiting tool to attract younger members to the organization and one of which we absolutely must take greater advantage. In the future, ACB will do far more, not only to bring students to our national conventions but to interest them in becoming active members.

What else might be on the table this year? Many ACB committees need funds to carry out new or existing programs and activities. One such committee is public relations. Doing more to promote the organization is something I frequently hear mentioned by our members. ACB must develop press kits for the media and other materials to disseminate to the broader blindness community.

I am sure that I've missed some crucial initiatives, but you get the idea. Once again let me assure everyone that the budget committee and board will be fiscally responsible with your money. Nonetheless, contemplating how ACB might expend some of our unexpected revenue is a refreshing and positive change from the recent past. This is why I'm so optimistic as we begin 2008. Feel free to join me in this upbeat frame of mind.

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