ACB president Dan Spoone opened the March 9 meeting of the board of directors shortly after 9 a.m. Eastern. All board members were present, as were a number of staff members and guests. To listen to the podcast, visit https://tinyurl.com/575nb6vt.
The agenda and minutes were swiftly approved, and Dan moved on to the Mission Moment. This Mission Moment was particularly poignant for Dan and the board, as well as for Eric Bridges, who had recently announced his departure for a new position as president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind.
During Eric’s tenure, ACB’s staff expanded from six employees to 15. ACB’s budget grew dramatically, and corporate relationships flourished. Under his direction, ACB has become the undisputed leader in promoting audio description all over the nation, and in the world. He has supervised an efficient staff, every member of which is willing to go the extra mile for ACB.
Eric thanked the board, the staff, and members of ACB and assured the group that, under his leadership, AFB’s working relationship with ACB, and with other consumer groups as well, will grow even stronger.
Dan called on Gabriel Lopez Kafati to talk about ACB’s project to provide live Spanish-language translation for the virtual D.C. Leadership Conference events. Gabriel said that the Multicultural Affairs Committee focused on finding interpreters within ACB and the blindness community. He thanked Lucy Arguijo, Daniel Bertrand, and Joany Orozco for their excellent translation services. Translation was provided, both for people who participated on Zoom and for ACB Media listeners, and the project gained support from national and international organizations, including Spain’s ONCE.
Gabriel said that the MCAC Hispanic Subcommittee is working on providing Spanish-language translation for the ACB web site, and there are discussions about creating at least one Spanish-language community event each month.
Dan talked about what to expect at the accessible currency rally. He reported that ACB’s letter to the Biden Administration, as well as publicity surrounding the event, had apparently motivated the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to invite ACB to meet with them on the morning of March 10, to discuss making paper currency accessible. He announced that the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) was planning to join ACB at the rally, and the NFB had sent a letter in support of accessible currency.
Eric announced Kelly Gasque’s promotion to director of communications, and Kolby Garrison’s new role of development officer. He also noted that ACB had hired Rachael Hollatz as human resources/payroll specialist.
CFO Nancy Becker reported that ACB received 104 verified scholarship applications in 2023. Last year, there were 77 applicants. She attributes the increase to community calls which extended help to potential applicants, and to Kelly’s effective use of social media to promote the scholarship program.
Bill Reeder discussed the newly defined team approach to raising funds for ACB. The fact that ACB’s programs are growing faster than the funds needed to support them is an inescapable reality, he said.
ACB is building a mature fund-raising advancement infrastructure program. To keep up with funding sources that ACB has historically relied upon, and to assure that these revenue streams are not interrupted, the development team has created an annual calendar to track deadlines, challenges, and opportunities.
In addition, the team’s ongoing fund-raising efforts will be organized around building relationships with individuals, corporations, and foundations. Kolby Garrison will focus on individual giving and invigorating planned giving.
Jo Lynn will continue to work on grant funding. She noted that ACB currently focuses grant requests on five specific areas of support: general operating expenses, “The ACB Braille Forum,” ACB Media, the health and wellness initiative, and community and membership development.
Clark and Swatha Nandhakumar outlined several areas on which ACB has been collaborating with federal agencies and allies on the Hill, including consideration of our needs with respect to air travel and autonomous vehicles.
Clark played a recorded announcement from Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Duckworth said, “…Too many web sites and apps remain nearly impossible to use by Americans with vision disabilities. I am proud to have worked with American Council of the Blind to introduce legislation last year that would build on the promise of the ADA and finally make web sites and software applications more accessible for all users, and I’m ready to see that this gets done.
“… We shouldn’t have to keep pouring so much energy just into defending our most basic rights. But, until accessibility truly becomes a default – and not an afterthought – I hope you know that, along the way, I am going to be right beside you, working to bring up that tomorrow where we won’t have to work so hard just to lead our daily lives.”
Audio Description Project Coordinator Tabitha Kenlon told the board that, in addition to working to assure that the Communications, Video and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTAA) is reintroduced in the 118th Congress, she has been focusing on updating the ADP web site to assure that it is modern, useful and in line with the navigation and tone which govern the main ACB.org web site. She is assisting with soliciting nominations for several audio description-related awards, planning events, preparing to participate in a number of conferences, and responding to requests for information and suggestions.
Cindy Hollis noted that the ACB Community was just days ahead of celebrating their third anniversary on March 17. She wondered, “What if the community had never happened? Well, right now, we have two people on our staff — Kolby and Tabitha — who might not have been here. We have many people who are involved in our affiliates who found their way to ACB through our community. Our community has kept us in the forefront of the blindness community and shown other organizations that ACB is out here and constantly working on behalf of blind people, all of the time.”
She told the board that a group in South Carolina is talking about becoming an affiliate again.
Interim Executive Director
After the morning portion of the meeting, the board met in executive session. No motions were made or actions taken, but the board brought forward a recommendation, which was outlined when the meeting reconvened at 2:20 p.m. by first vice president Deb Cook Lewis. “In view of the fact that our executive director is resigning on March 21 to take another position, ACB has the challenge of appointing an interim executive director,” she stated. “The board reviewed four options, three of which would involve appointing someone already on staff.”
The board had considered appointing Nancy Becker, Cindy Hollis, and Clark Rachfal, and determined that all three are already involved in performing excellent support for the organization. The fourth proposal was to offer the position to Dan Spoone. David Trott moved that the board offer the position of interim executive director to Dan Spoone, with a starting date of March 22. Doug Powell seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.
Dan’s acceptance of the appointment meant that Deb Cook Lewis would become president of ACB on March 22. Ray Campbell would move up to the position of first vice president. The board voted to leave the position of second vice president unfilled until convention.
David Trott presented the 2022 financial report. The narrative summarized investment income, as well as revenues and expenses, as of Dec. 31, 2022. He noted that the New Year’s Eve Community-Athon was particularly successful, and the Braille Forum raffle raised more income than ever before.
To address cash-flow issues, David requested giving the CFO authority to move up to $250,000 from the board’s reserve fund, as needed to cover day-to-day expenses. The motion was approved.
Rachel Schroeder asked the board to approve the proposed ACB Media and Affiliate Engagement Policy guidelines, which the ACB Media Support Committee had developed in consultation with the ACB Media team, and which the Board of Publications had also reviewed favorably, and ACB affiliate presidents had seen.
“What we’re asking the affiliates to do as they consider booking future convention contracts,” stated Rick Morin, ACB Media Director, “is to consider how covering affiliate conventions stretches ACB Media’s resources. We’re willing to entertain dialogue with anyone who feels that they need to do something outside the parameters outlined in the guidelines.”
The board approved the policy guidelines.
Board of Publications
Penny Reeder encouraged members to contribute written, audio, video, and photographic materials to the ACB Voices blog. The BOP recently held a town hall meeting via a community call, and is planning a number of activities at the convention.
In his ACB Enterprises and Services report, Michael Garrett reported that the combined net profit from the thrift stores came in above budget in 2022. That, he said, was directly attributable to thrift store general manager Chris Sawyer’s excellent management of the stores’ day-to-day operations. He added that re-hiring a returning store manager for the Amarillo store is already boosting the profitability of that store.
Pat Sheehan, Jeff Thom, and Ray Campbell presented proposed convention standing rules for the 2023 ACB convention. Jeff explained that all parliamentary debate will occur over Zoom during the week before convention. Record votes will be held on Wednesday and Thursday of convention week. The board unanimously approved the proposed standing rules, which will be presented for approval at the convention.
Janet Dickelman reminded the board that the dates of the fall board meeting at the Hyatt in Jacksonville will be Sept. 29 and 30. Jacksonville convention dates are July 5-12, 2024. The dates for the 2025 convention in Dallas are July 4-11, 2025. In Schaumburg, the board meeting will take place on Friday, June 30. The 2023 banquet will be on July 6. Registration for this year’s convention will open on May 18 and run through June 16. Hotel reservations need to be made by June 8.
Nancy and Dan reported that all first-quarter goals have been either completed or are in progress and close to being met. With respect to several longer-term strategic goals for increasing ACB’s earned income, Nancy reported that staff have determined that opening a new thrift store is not realistically achievable this year. ACBES will continue to look toward opening a new store in the future.
Staff and leaders continue to investigate how ACB might monetize the data collected under the auspices of the Audio Description Project. Goals associated with leveraging the expertise which our ACB Community has fostered and developed; pursuing continuing education units for community programming; implementing a mentoring program; increasing equity, diversity and inclusion throughout all organizational programming; and increasing Spanish-language participation through ACB events are well under way.
The summer auction will be held June 17, with appetizer auctions on the 15th and 16th. Braille Forum raffle tickets are available for purchase. Plans for the ACB Brenda Dillon Memorial Walk are already under way. Leadership training events with the Berl Colley Leadership Institute are offered on the second Thursday of each month.